Final Conclusion: A Summary of BA2a, BA2b, BA3a & BA3b

Through this two years of intensive research and development of my photographic practices has finally (almost) come to an end. I love my course. I love photography. I loved the people and environment. Most importantly, I loved doing what I do. Thus concludes all the experiences I have accumulated and all works I have done thus far. I have divided my thoughts into six key areas to look into.

  • The Provocative Landscape

  • Photographic Practices

  • The Industry 
  • Self Promotional and Business Plans
  • Collaboration
  • Post University Plans

The Provocative Landscape

In my BA2 works, I explored colours and structural elements in my body of works and “A kaleidoscope of colours” was the result. As I developed my focus into landscape photography later on in BA3, it developed into “The Provocative Landscape” and much of my research had revolved around it.

In my essay, “The Provocative Landscape”, I have proposed that there could be three approaches to reading provocative landscape images: The controversial Image, The Dialectical Image and The Rhetorical Image. These approaches have been helpful in identifying what landscape images can be considered provocative, though sometimes images do not fall into a single category. Thus, I have decided to use many landscape photographers’ works to further elaborate on my point.

I  not only look at landscape photographers, but also at art installations, films and listen to music, and to an extent, the photography works I have done have been a response to those influences over the two years of my course work. It is not a matter of straightforward references but rather a subconscious accumulation of experiences which finds its way into the pictures.

As artists and photographers have engaged with a wide variety of techniques and continuously sought to evolve their photographic practices through time, I have found that for some landscape photographers, it is not the technique that makes an image provocative, but the interaction between the image (how it was created) and the audience (what kind of emotion does it evoke) that makes the image provocative. Provocative landscapes could also be from a religious point of view, as though a sign from the heavens, since the chances of encountering such phenomenon are very rare. How these research has informed my photography works was through my two series, “Allenmanstretten” and “Pandora’s Box”.

In the pursuit of better quality in my photography,  I have sort of evolved from full frame cameras though exposure of other works and understanding the limitations when I consider for large prints. Though I have not used a medium format camera for most of my landscape works due to logistical constraints, but that should not stop me from dreaming bigger.  I think I am ready for medium format cameras!

Photographic Practices

Just like the many photographers before me who set out to explore the potential of landscape photography. We wished, for a number of reasons, to work against, or at least question, some of the accepted conventions of landscape photography, and I certainly realised that there was much ground for me to explore. As my experience in research and planning continue to evolve with my knowledge of the landscape constantly with paradigm shifts, This has grown into a sort of personal preoccupation, to a point where it has become one of my primary interests. This was also thanks to the pieces of advice from the tutors and peers and industry professionals whom through these critique sessions have constantly challenged me to outperform myself in surprising ways.

Though this is only a point of my photographic practices, it is a never-ending learning experience. These practices will continue to change and evolve. Who knows what future holds when my practices evolved again!

The Industry  

The point of understanding how my practices are relevant to my industry is an important one.  Through market research, understanding differences between the UK market and Singapore market and setting up interview questions for those professionals already in the Singapore industry, meant that while I am in the UK,  I have to commodate my works to cater the interest of both groups of audiences. But when I return back home, I will cater predominantly towards the local group of audience. To survive in a small and competitive market, it has been the way that the more skills one can acquire, the better the chance of being hired. The current practice of the industry in the region is not healthy, but that is the way it is.

Self Promotional & business Plans

The point of understanding the relevancy of my practices to my industry is an important market research. Identifying the key differences between the UK and Singapore market and interviewing professionals already in the industry led me to a better understanding of how my industry actually works and how my business can fit in.

Figuring out a business plan that will work for me takes time and refinement. There are no hard and fast rules than I can complete this within a school semester. My original objective was to set up shop to make some money off my prints. Yet if I were to bring this business back to Singapore, the environment there is will not be the same. Setting up a business is a daunting task, especially if I were to bring the business back home. I have no experience in this area and it is going to be a different ball game. I could research as much as I can, but unless I tried it out and get some experience out first hand, I won’t know how it is really like. But in any case, if my business model doesn’t work out, I will need to consider other options, such as changing my plans, collaborate with another creative to sell products, etc.

Understanding the market needs also meant that my portfolio works have to cater to these groups of audience. Hence I opted for Press Kit boxes; a balance of digital and hardcopy prints. The reason I am favouring press kits over large portfolio boxes or photo albums is because in Singapore market has a different mentality compared to the UK. As for the mode of showing portfolios, both clients and vendor tend to prefer the convenience of the portfolio than showing something big. This means that the people generally prefers everything online and digital. However, if a tactile box with lots of interesting items might entice them to work with the photographer.

Collaboration
I have had an unsuccessful collaboration attempts in BA2 works due to my unfamiliarity of the UK work environment. But through the collaboration work with Fahim in BA3bhas enabled me to discover other fields of industries where landscape imagery can be relevant (other than car adverts) – the game industry in areas of environmental concept designs, as well as the movie industry. As game artists and visual effects artist have exemplified using references of elements of landscapes to build an imaginary landscape, it is possible to interpret a provocative landscape in the form of a utopian/dystopian world. In regards to the Singapore industry, game design and Visual effects companies are more prevalent there than car advertising. There is  LucasFilm and there is  ILM branch in Singapore. These are the prominent ones, and such projects are usually collaborative ones.

Post University Plans

“Carry on with life, get married, have children and grow old.”

No, seriously, a lot of people have begun to ask me about my plans post university. Industry professionals asked me if I could work in the UK. The answer is No. This is because of the current political situation in the UK. With the Brexit situation going on, major businesses are moving away from the UK and into Europe. This also meant that I will have to fight a lot harder and at a more disadvantaged position.

UK friends outside of Uni have asked me what I am going to do next. Most likely set up my own business when I get back home. Either that for I find a production company to get more photography-related work experience.

Peers have asked me if I were to continue Masters. The answer is No. the reason is two-fold.  Firstly, a year of degree course for a non-EU student is already a lot higher than what the local students are complaining about (imagine what you could do with £4000 difference) and I am not eligible for any bursary nor under any scholaship awards. Simply put, it is not sustainable for me financially. Secondly,

Secondly, Masters in Photography is completely unheard of back in Singapore, because photography in the sense isn’t recognised as a niche profession. what is important to do photography in Singapore is the work experience. If I were to study a Masters, most likely I would consider doing Masters in Multimedia locally, where both photography and film production falls under the same umbrella. perhaps, if I were to consider teaching photography as a profession in the longer run, I may consider. Hence I’m not pursuing Masters at the moment.

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Last night we initiated an informal group crit session at my house, just seven days before our final submission hand in. I managed to cook some curry and apple salad while we went through each of our works and portfolio image selections. It was a critical session as sometimes when we are caught up in the rush of getting things done and we may miss out a few details. These details would be picked up by a third person with a different perspective. And so, we went through each other’s scrutiny and came out better with these feedbacks. This session lasted for about 4 hours and we were mentally drained by the time we finished going through everyone’s works.

This was what I got out of from the feedback sessions.

I thought with my RJ & VL, I was almost ready for submission, but it turns out I had a bit more details to look out for before my submission. I would also need to reflect back on the tutor’s feedbacks from my BA3a submission and try to capitalise on my strengths and address the areas of development.

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 I think it is impossible to hit every checkbox with the mammoth amount of task list at hand. But with one weeks’ worth to tighten up our stuff,  I will try to do as much as I can.

Update 1: 10.04.17
Update 2: 30.04.17
Update 3: 12.05.17

My initial considerations were to decide what platform to use for my e-commerce business. there were many platforms to consider such as shopify, woocommerce, squarespace, etc. I had to read up the pros and cons of each platform and consider how they would fare over the long run. there are many video that discuss on the comparison between two platforms and this has been helpful in informing my decision.

I’m using WooCommerce as the platform for an online store. Most online stores would be able to connect orders directly to a print company and they would then deliver to the client address. I think I will have to manage everything manually. Initially, I was puzzled how this process works for me. (ie getting prints and deliver them myself.

The three key areas that I to figure about when learning how setting up an online store:

  1. The backend side in setting the online store: the complex PHP coding structure.
  2. My products: The sources, pricing and the paper quality of my products.
  3. The details of the business, from ordering prints to delivering them to customers.

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Merchandise Products

After doing the Analysis on merchandise products with the application of landscapes images, I have decided to start out in fine art prints and postcards as my main merchandise products, as well as possibly limited edition prints. I have considered the possibility of branching out to prints in T-shirts and Tote bags, but I think I want to start small first, learn the ropes of managing a business before growing my ambitions.

I looked at photographer Tom Mackie’s  Products. I looked some of my favourite photographer’s website such as Trey Ratcliff’s prints sales website. I looked at Dibs Mccallum’s online store model.  All of them were selling products at different levels. there were many learning points I could take away from each of them, in terms of the technicality of setting up an online shop, as well as the products and the range of services they have.  The articles in Cass ArtsCass Arts offer very good advice on the key areas to consider about pricing artworks, quite relevant to photography prints.

Eventually, I opted for photographer Ellen Roger’s Online shop as the reference point to model my own online store because her store model was the closest to mine ( in terms of platform and the system of print delivery). I looked at the value of her postcards in comparison to its quantity. I looked at the items and packaging details of her products. I looked at the size of her prints in comparison of its value. I learnt that even her off coloured prints in the form of photo proofs have a monetary value albeit at a lower price and there is an interest of demand.

More importantly, as pointed out by Ellen, the way most photographers build their business was to build an audience through the social media first. This is particularly true for me, as I needed to build my own fan base first. However, my thoughts were that for now, I could go both ways at the same time: to build my shop brand via online shop and build an audience with social media.

Setting up an online store

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Setting up an online store was something new to me and to learn it in a short amount of time has been an extremely challenging experience. There are a lot of new terms that were more business related that photography related. a lot of time were spent deciding the outlook of my storefront and figuring how to work it out on the backend. Fortunately, there are also many video tutorials on youtube which I found to be helpful as a starting point.

Due to the nature that wordpress templates can be a steep learning curve for those not well versed in php coding, woocommerce integration has made the experience even more complex and daunting. I don’t particularly like to do coding, but admittedly it is an essential skill to pick up; good to know about as a creative in Singapore. I had quite a bit of a hard time setting up my storefront and adjusting the visual elements, and just by understanding what these codings meant and how to change it. All these troubleshooting took me a while to get around. At some point, I got stuck at certain sections of the coding and I had to either look at forums for solutions or ask the woocommerce support for help.

For some technical questions, woocommerce support was able to help, but I was appalled that the support could not advise me on the altering the functionality of their own products. I’m guessing this might be the biggest problem a woocommerce user might face and they do not offer the technical support.

I looked at external websites such as codeable, as suggested by the woocommerce support staff, companies that offer expert’s advice on coding related issues. However, it takes quite a bit of money for an hour of consultation. Considering that I only have a single question for this, I thought it will be more worthwhile if I had more questions that require the hour of consultation. But one of the experts were kind enough to direct me to the right direction. Thumbs up going the extra mile!

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Ultimately, the downside of an open source e-commerce platform is that there is no direct technical support and it takes a quite a bit of time to understand the coding structure and look for solution or workaround. However, if setup correctly it can be a powerful platform comparable to closed-source platforms such as squarespace. This, of course, also takes up a lot of time to refine and improvement of the site.

Pricing

One of the fundamental ideas of setting up my print store is that price should tend towards manufacturing cost as my competitors undercut each other to gain custom. However, like many other photographers who have found other ‘better’ way to make profits; I wanted to grow my brand and build around the cachet as much as the product. I am not an artisan company making particularly special items. It’s more of using the layered allures of both ‘uniqueness’ and popularity to sell my prints.

I have found that high-quality Hahnemühle Oyster Lustre compliments my photographic style a lot and it can alleviate my images to a more high-end product. This is why I priced each of my prints at £75 for an A3 size. I not showing the price on my storefront first, but the price will be revealed only if they liked a particular image that they click into. However, I might consider lowering down my price depending on the response of my audience.

How to package prints

The other area which I have not really looked into was the presentation of my products. I’m not referring to the prints itself, but this has to do with the packaging of the products. How should my product be presented on my website? Should I feature my fine art prints by hanging them on a wall or have them photographed as they were coming out of the printer? etc. how do I package my prints so they will look more presentable as a delivery package? Well, in this course everyone seems to focus on the photographic practices as a service and presentation of a portfolio. however, no one seems to talk much about how to package them as a product. Its similar to delivering artist paintings and drawings, and I had to ask around for advice. people running the NUA exhibition and shops were the obvious choices, but no one seems to know specifically that is photography related.

Using Ellen Rogers store as the starting point of reference, I went on to research about print packaging, particularly on packaging suppliers. Kite packaging was one of my favourable choices, looking as postal tubes, bok wrap mailers, corrugated cardboard sheets, etc.

I looked at youtube for reference how other artists package their prints as well

In the article How to Ship Photographs Faster, Cheaper and Better, author Ctein offers practical advice on packing print products using his own experiences and sharing his workflow processes in delivery them.

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Tax, Shipping and Delivery Costs

I found out If I were registered as self-employed in the UK then I would be able to reclaim the sales tax paid on these as a business expense. I will need to find a printer who I am happy to do business with, ideally balancing cost and quality, and then find a courier I am happy doing business with. If I could get the print company to ship the prints as well when they are ready then great, but presumably that would cost more.

How can I determine the suitable price for shipping zones, with terms such as “Flat Rate”, “Free shipping”,  which may affect the cost price of my print product? To determine the price of shipping I would have to talk to couriers. Then I have to decide how I want to absorb that cost. If I offer free shipping then I will need to charge more for the product, or I could arrange a system where the buyer pays for the shipping. There is also an article explaining about choosing a shipping strategy for the online store.

Apart from helpful youtube videos, I also looked at articles about setting up e-commerce shops. shopify articles have also been helpful in better understand the strategies behind shipping costs for my online store. This article basically talks about how the shipping system at the storefront can be influenced by user experience.

Picture Ireland was yet another reference I looked at while considering my prices. This website basically promotes and sells Irish photography by the best hand picked fine art photographers. The website is quite a good reference for me because it shows a business model of how photographers works can become a business revenue as a collaborative group. I was considering how the difference sizes influence the price differences. They have an “other” page which addresses the finer details of purchasing prints; a useful consideration to my online store.

Conclusion

Figuring out a business plan that will work for me takes time and refinement. There are no hard and fast rules than I can complete this within a school semester. For my case, I don’t think I need to follow the UK tax rules. Unless I am a resident in the UK or my business is operating here I do not need to pay UK tax. I hope to be able to continue my online business when I get back to Singapore after graduation. So if I have not started selling yet and if the business isn’t registered here then I should just concentrate on the Singaporean tax system and what I will need to do to set the business up when back home.

My original objective was to set up shop to make some money off my prints. Yet if I were to bring this business back to Singapore, the environment there is will not be the same. Setting up a business is a daunting task, especially if I were to bring the business back home. I have no experience in this area and it is going to be a different ball game. I could research as much as I can, but unless I tried it out and get some experience out first hand, I won’t know how it is really like. But in any case, if my business model doesn’t work out, I will need to consider other options, such as changing my plans, collaborate with another creative to sell products, etc.

Update 1: 10.04.17
Update 2: 11.04.17
Update 3: 12.04.17

Iceland Trip (part 2)

Visiting Iceland has to be one of the most memorable trips of my life. Not just because it is a haven for landscape photographers but also because of the challenging weather elements that make the adventure all the more exciting. Managing every single aspect of the journey single-handedly was a daunting experience. I managed to meet up with an Icelandic photographer, Jon Hilmarsson whom brought me out for a night to catch northern lights and gave me tips about driving in snow terrains. Of course, safety is of the utmost importance to me since this would be my first time driving in snowy terrain. 

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In this post, I share my journey in a chronological order, not in the order of a curated image series. There are many things I wished I could do during my time there, however, as I am driving for the most part of my journey in the southern region, I have my constraints such as:

  1. I could not visit many popular tourist sites such as the Blue Lagoon or explore the ice caves, etc.
  2. For certain places, I didn’t have the time to stay at one place for too long. 
  3. There were a couple of good scenes along my drive, neither could I stop abruptly on the road and take out my camera, nor soak myself with the view as I had to concentrate on the road. With the amount of snow, it was also difficult to see where I could pull over. 
  4. The icy terrain meant I had to be very careful where I tread or drive, especially when I’m alone on high grounds. There were many instances where I had to refrain from being too adventurous at the expense of personal safety. 

Day 1

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The journey began after boarding the plane to Iceland. The weather at the time was extremely good that we were treated with an amazing view of Scotland from our plane windows. I have never seen Scotland landscape from above. As we got closer to Iceland, the pilot announced that it was rare to able to see Iceland from above. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see much as my plane seat was in the opposite direction.

By the time I got onto the bus from the airport to Reykjavik it was evening time. snow on the ground was thick and dragging my luggage in the snow for quite a distance had been a challenging task. I managed to find my way and check in two hours later. As soon as I arrived at the hostel, Jon contacted me and he brought me out to catch northern lights in no time. I was elated for the immediate adventure, but I regretted I didn’t have enough time to prepare myself for the tour. We went out on his 4WD, anyway.

Like many of the experienced Icelandic locals, Jon was an avid landscape photographer with many accolades under his belt. He advised me about driving in Iceland and how to catch the Northern Lights when I’m out driving myself. It is better to have a 4WD car as it could get me to places not reachable by normal cars. As we were out photographing at Hvítárbrú in Borgarfjordur, the night temperature got colder to -6 degrees. I came underprepared, but I managed to hold out from the freeze. As the Northern Light dances wildly in the night sky, every second not capturing it are opportunities missed.

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Although I had two cameras, I wish I had taken more panorama images but I didn’t have a second tripod and I was focusing on time-lapsing with my main camera. I didn’t think I have quite captured the best of the northern lights at the location on my first try. I didn’t have the time to prepare my mirror cube which I initially wanted to incorporate with the Northern lights. Nevertheless, it was a good session. We returned back an hour past midnight, exhausted.

Day 2

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On day two, I didn’t explore the city of Reykjavik as planned (I rearrange it towards the end of my trip). Instead, I went onboard with a group of travellers to the Snaefellsnes region, about 2.5 hrs of drive west of Reykjavik. It was the same direction that I had been to last night, only further. One of them was driving as I have not gotten my car yet. I didn’t think we had reached the destination they wanted to visit, partially because we set off late and ran out of time. It was also their first time driving and they couldn’t drive too fast.

We got out at one point to see some sights as there was a horse stable around the vicinity. Mountains, snow, cute Icelandic horses. Having the telephoto lens was extremely useful. However due to time constraint, as the sun was setting and it was getting colder, we didn’t stay there for long.

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On our way back we managed to catch a brilliant sunset. I wanted to pull out my tripod and stay longer, but it was too freezing cold for me (it was -3 degrees)! I took a few quick shots and jumped back into the car, and made our way back to the city. It was a brilliant sunset with pink, purplish tone over the mountains, I wish I had more time to explore further during our pit stops; unfortunately, we had to make our way back to the city. Thus conclude the second day of my journey.

Day 3

Day three was where my car journey actually starts. The image below was where my hostel in Reykjavik was. Look at that amount of thick snow!

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I spent the next couple hours in the morning picking my car up and to familiarise myself with the left orientation drive which took me a while to get used to. After that, I was on my way out of the city. The first view I saw was from a vantage point which overlooks Hveragerði village. After driving past Selfoss, I got to my first pitstop of the day, Urridafoss Waterfall.

Next was Seljalandsfoss waterfall. I got there by evening and decided to stay overnight in the car, as I hope not only to catch the sunrise at the waterfall the next day, but I would also have more time to explore the location. This was the first of two nights I stayed in the car. I was able to see the Northern lights, but I didn’t get out of my car as it was simply too cold for me. I think it was around -4 degrees. Even so, somehow there were still travellers coming by to see the waterfall at around midnight.

Day 4

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The next day was a cold morning at the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Even though it was still early, more people came to see the waterfall. The first (middle aged) couple I met at the waterfall happened to be Singaporean. There were staircases up into the waterfall, but I couldn’t go up as the surfaces around the waterfall were icy slippery. I didn’t have crampons on my boots and had slipped quite a few times around the bridge area. The scene must have been quite nice from up there, but unfortunately, I didn’t get to see.

Right beside the main attraction was another waterfall called Gljúfrabúi. The falls are partially obscured by the cliff rock, but there is a trail to enter the narrow canyon where the water plummets to a small pool. I took pictures from outside as I realised how wet and cold it would be if I went in under-prepared. I was slightly jealous of the other tourists who came with Mavic drone but also impressed that a small drone could do well in the winter environment. This was where I developed the interest to capture tourists in the landscape, in conjunction with my original landscape photography intend.

After spending a good time at the waterfall, I continued driving eastwards to my next destination. Midway, I stopped by for a couple photos outside the Eyjafjallajökull information centre, a family-run facility to give visitors a personal look at the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010.

The next destination was another famous waterfall Skógafoss. it was the most impressive waterfall I have seen yet. it was afternoon when I arrived and there were already many droves of tourists up and down the waterfall. I went up the viewing platform eventually, and the view from above was simply breathtaking! Had I more time I would have stayed there longer till the stars come out, but I had to quickly move on. The last pit stop for the day was my hostel accommodation in Vik. No meals were provided so I had to run to the nearest supermarket to get ingredients and cook myself.

The last pit stop for the day was my hostel accommodation in Vik. No meals were provided so I had to drive to the nearest supermarket to get ingredients and cook myself.

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Day 5

Honestly, I didn’t know the hostel I’ve booked was located up on the higher ground. I was pleasantly surprised by the amazing view from the top. I recovered quickly from my exhaustion and did a bit of photography before driving.

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This time, I drove westwards to the other side of the mountain facing the hostel. On the other side was the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, where the road ended on a field and a makeshift parking lot. There was a small pathway that opened into the beach. Reynisfjara are basically basalt sea stacks situated under the mountain Reynisfjall which is framed by a black sand beachI was surprised to find most of the beach was actually various sizes of black pebbles and stones. Next to the beach was the Hálsanefshellir Cave, with cliff made of hexagonal shaped basalt columns.

What I find interesting was that whenever the winds pick up, blowing the sands out into the sea. People who do not want to get hit by the sand would all freeze towards one direction until the wind dies down. Other interesting sights around the beach was a Reyniskirkja church. After visiting the black sand beach I continued on my journey eastwards. It was a long drive to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

Along the way were more interesting sights. Snow capped mountains, lonely roads and a strange landscape with stone cairns. Laufskálavarða is a mound of lava in the southern coast of Iceland. An ancient farm once stood there but disappeared during an eruption of the Katla a long time ago. According to custom, every traveller who passed through this place for the first time was to erect a cairn, so that his journey might be favourable. What got me interested was a peculiar man-made, cube-shaped container in the snowy landscape. Ominous clouds were approaching so I had to get on quickly.

I stopped by a small Shell station at Freysnesi for a short breather, about 50km away from Jökulsárlón. I could see the Northern lights from my car. I got out to capture a long exposure, just to see how it would look like. The Northern lights looked otherworldly, as though a scene from the film Independence day. Also, it was getting cloudier, which means a storm might be coming over my way. I’m not sure if it was going to be a passing storm as the weather could be very unpredictable. Regardless, I had to be more alert from this stretch onwards.

Resuming my journey eastwards, suddenly the weather changed for the worse. The road becomes much more slippery and I could felt the impact of snowflakes hitting my car. It seems like I had driven into a snow blizzard. I  scrambled to control the air in the car to prevent my windscreen from fogging up. Visibility was so poor, I could not assess the situation (it was really bad!). The winds were so strong that the car was shaking, I thought it would be a bad idea to stop the car in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, I found a closed petrol station my car could seek shelter and wait out for the storm to pass.

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For at least three hours I stayed in the car. A couple of vehicles drove past and into the blizzard. I turned on the car heater at hourly intervals so as to conserve petrol. I did occasional long exposure to see if the storm had resided. It was still extremely cold. Eventually, the storm passed. Petrol police came to make rounds and left. Another car drove towards me. An American-Korean tourist, an old uncle came out from his nearby hotel to check out the situation. we struck up a conversation and he left soon.

After another hour of waiting, I decided to change my plans. Instead of stopping at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon for the night, I would drive on to my accommodation in Höfn, and come by the glacier lagoon on my return journey. Höfn was about 111km away from my location, about 1.5 hours drive.

As I drove on, the snow storm appeared again. A few times my car skidded and almost crashed. It became increasingly difficult to keep on one side of the road as the road markings were covered in heavy snow. All I could rely on was the car tracks left behind by the previous vehicles. I had to drive in the middle of the road carefully. I had to drive in the middle of the road carefully, in the case of incoming vehicles.

Eventually, I reached the next city at 4 am in the morning, it was my most intense drive ever. Unfortunately, I could not check in early and I had to stay in the car for a while longer. I parked at the petrol station and took some rest. I didn’t take many photos as I had used the whole day to recover from my fatigue. It was a good thing I had stopped at Höfn for two days before heading back towards Reykjavik.

Day 6

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After a good couple of hours of rest in my hostel, I set out to Stokksnes in the afternoon, slightly east of Höfn. This was the reason I travelled that far east, to see the Vestrahorn mountains, and I didnt want to go back empty handed. The weather in this area had been terrible compared to my time in Reykjavik a few days ago, but I thought I should go all out anyway. though it wasn’t my ideal weather to capture Vestrahornwith all the raining and snowing as I had hoped for a cloudless sunset, but I had to make full use of the little time I had left.

The route to Stokksnes was quite confusing for me. It looked like an F road, I wasn’t sure if my 2WD could access. I eventually reached, after seeing other regular cars driving past me. At the end of the route was a Viking Cafe. I explored the area further, eventually to the other side of the black pits for the famous view. It was a beautiful place, totally mesmerised by the landscape; the scale of the mountains and the crashing waves. I stayed there until sunset and had to return back before the last light.

Day 7

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This day, I had to head back westward. While on the way back I also had to factor in time to visit Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. These icebergs have broken off the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and into a lagoon, and they then float out to sea and get washed up on the beach with the tides.

I was really hoping to capture that blue ice backlit by the sunlight to get the crystal-clear quality ice. Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Air bubbles are squeezed out and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear blue. Unfortunately, the light condition did not improve as it was still cloudy and intermittent raining that day. In addition, many of the ice shards that washed up on shore were mostly white. These ice appear to be white because of the air bubbles inside them and also because of the presence of small quantities of water in these ice.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is quite an expansive area, even three hours still wasn’t enough. On instances, I saw a glimpse of the rainbow as the cloud breaks momentarily. I experimented with my mirror cube to see if it had worked, but the rain was a disappointment. With the ongoing rain showers every now and then, it would probably take the whole day to explore the glacier lagoon properly.

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Despite the poor weather conditions, I had to make full use of the little time I had left and press on. It was going to be a very long journey back to my next hostel in Laugarvatn, which was about 360km away, or about 4.5 hours of driving. Throughout the journey, I saw many sights but were unable to take out my camera. Even around the Laugarvatn area, there was fog. I could have spent a while capturing the villages in fog in the night. However, my top priority was to get to my next destination as soon as I could. I had only managed to reach my next hostel at almost 12 am with slight difficulty in locating my hostel and only 7 hours of rest.

Day 8

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The next day at the Laugarvatn area the weather was all bright and sunny. I like to shoot in this weather, but I didnt had enough time. Outside the village was the route Gjábakkavegur which connects Laugarvatn to Þingvellir, I spent a bit of time photographing at a vantage point overlooking towards the Laugarvatn lake. there were so many interesting sights to see along the connecting route Þingvallavegur towards Reykjavik. yet again, I could not pull over every 10 mins of drive.

I eventually reached Rejkavik and managed to meet up with Jon Hilmarsson again for an evening tea. from my Reykjavik hostel, I drove my vehicle out to the city centre with him as I wanted to explore the city after meeting him. This was my last chance of exploring the capital city, no matter what.

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Came back to see the Hallgrimskirkja church, but again, the cloudy evening wasn’t my ideal choice to capture the church. There appears to have some maintenance at parts of the church, and the wonky spotlights lighting the statue annoyed me a lot as I framed a perfect symmetry shot of the church. Visiting at such late hour means I could not enter the church either. There were many elements that annoyed me from capturing my ideal photo. But this was it, no more chances.

Day 9

After a hearty breakfast, I had to return back the car. I made my way to the bus station towards the airport, snapping photos at any scene I find interesting. This marked the end of my Iceland trip.

Conclusion

I try to be as flexible with my schedule, but my itinerary does change due to the following factors:

1) Actual distance covered were not the same as initially planned, due to my unfamiliarity with the terrain.
2) For various reasons, I spent more time at some locations & things snowball because of it.
3) As much as I want to capture the ideal light at one location, I cannot control the weather. Sometimes I arrive late and I miss the opportunity. Sometimes I have to pass on due to bad weather.
4) My driving exhaustion may take longer to recover than expected. 

It is important to be sufficiently prepared for the photography trip. Being a tourist on foreign land, I am limited by the time and the amount things I could do. However, by adapting to the environment and make do with what I can, taking as many photographs with a street photography approach to my landscapes, this enabled me to capture surprising images and sights that I feel more personal to me.

Certainly, like many people who fell in love on their first visit to Iceland, I would definitely want to come back again if given another opportunity.

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We had a session with four photographers who came down to see our proposals of our image selection for the Free range exhibition including considerations for the paper and framing, etc. And these three photographers who would help us decide.

My initial proposal was to exhibit one good, large one. I prepared a series of images and let them choose one image that they thought could be the one. I showed them the small prints and explained to them the context of these images and my plans about how I wanted to exhibit them.

Instead, they advised that it would be better for me to exhibit more images. This was the order of images that they proposed.

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For their choice of selection, but I’m not comfortably sure that this selection would have best represented my style. Some students in my group session brought a whole selection of images for them to choose. I didn’t prepare my images that way. I only showed them what was meant to be individual images that might be the one, and I did not expect it to turn out like this.

Recently I had just for back from my Iceland trip and have been rushing to complete my photo edits as much as I could. And then, I also had to settle plans for my parent and relatives to come over to see my graduation. This was the first time I have to plan out not one or two locations, but four locations after my graduation! They were more interested in visiting the Scandinavian region after seeing me.

I have planned all of my travels and so far all have been to single locations or country. This was the first time I have to plan out not one or two locations, but four locations! It seems They were more interested in visiting the Scandinavian region after seeing my graduation.

There is Scotland, Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen.

I have to oversee their transition from flight to accommodations to transportation, etc. For three weeks a large part of my time was to study the various modes of travelling and read up articles about these locations. I have never been to these places before and I have to read up about the dos and don’ts. Because of these plannings, I didn’t have the time to complete my work assignments or the things I need to concentrate on.

This was why am I had been stressed out just before the Easter break and fell ill for two weeks. The doctor’s diagnosis was that it was due to stress. I had developed three kinds of pains in my head: muscle aches, headaches, and toothaches. I had never experienced such amount of stress in a long time. I hope to recover from it and continue my works soon.