A short weekend trip to Martha's Vineyard after visiting NY resulted in less rain and even enough sun poking through the overcast sky to get burnt on the beach.
It was a bit of an impulse purchase to get the 2x TC for my Bronica SQ. It was a few weeks before I departed for Iceland and given how useful I had found the 250mm f5.6 lens I impulse bought for my Scotland trip a few months prior, I convinced myself it would be worth seeing if 500mm would be a useful focal length to pick out detail in Iceland's landscapes. Before picking up this lens I couldn't find any really useful sample images online for this combination, so hopefully this post will help someone in a similar position in the future.
In theory, yes, having a focal length of 500mm on a 6x6 Bronica (approx 321mm 35mm equivalent) is very useful. Traveling Iceland via the main highway 1 there are plenty of places to stop where there are some interesting mountains and waterfalls far in the distance. This focal length will enable you to get some pretty unique shots.
However here comes the rub; the practicalities of using this 2x TC on the 250mm f5.6 Zenzanon lens make it difficult to get the clarity and sharpness you might be used to with this 6x6 medium format camera. For a start the effective aperture wide open (f5.6 on the lens) becomes f11 as you lose two stops of light. The focussing screen is surprisingly bright though, and if you're focusing at infinity anyway, that isn't such a big deal. It does however mean you'll probably be using a slow shutter speed making the sharpness of the final image incredibly vulnerable to vibrations, be it from even the slightest amount of wind, or even from the significant mirror slap from the bronica itself. Obviously the latter can be mitigated by using the mirror lock up mode, which I did, but even with a pretty sturdy Giottos tripod the wind definitely had an effect. The TC + 250mm combo is huge and has plenty of surface area for the wind to catch.
All of the practical considerations described above are in addition the the fact that using the TC degrades sharpness even in perfect conditions. Frankly its hard to differentiate the two factors with my images; there was always at least a bit of wind present and even though I took every reasonable precaution to minimise the effects of wind this will still have been a factor. The other concerning thing was that the TC actually got jammed onto the 250mm lens. It was a source of frustration at the time, trying to remedy the issue on top of the ridge around the Krafla crater, but eventually I prised it free with a metal key and some brute force applied to the lens release slider.
The images displayed here all demonstrate the sharpness issues that I refer to above. Is this acceptable to me? Kind-of. The final image was really disappointing, potentially there was more wind here influencing the sharpness, but the first two are OK. Yes I do think the softness in the image reduces their impact but then again the TC was crucial in framing these shots. To be honest I'll be thinking twice before taking this TC with me on a trip again. Its heavy, bulky and with the loss in image quality it might be worth thinking of using alternate compositions with the 250mm on its own, cropping down, or in fact using a 35mm camera with a 300mm lens instead.
Here are five images I particularly enjoy from my first visit to Iceland. All are taken with my Bronica SQ-A and Kodak Portra 400. You can see more in the full album here.
The sun is still bright in the sky with some gorgeous colours starting to come out at 9.30pm in Icleand and for the next hour or so I played a game of dodge the waves as I set up my tripod, tried to focus, and run back before the next wave got my trainers wet. When I first got this shot back I was disappointed that the focus was off and the ice block wasn't in razor sharp focus. As time has passed I've come to appreciate this photograph more because of the lack of sharpness - its precisely this, along with the cool colours of sunset, that give this image a dream-like character to me.
When I saw this rock crawling out of the Reynisfjara black sand beach I was immediately reminded of this shot from Cornwall that I really enjoy. Although the colour palettes are completely different, in contrast to the first image, its the detail and sharpness of the image that pleases my eye.
Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon is a remarkable place with many photo angles. The classic view of the river down the centre is cool, but in this shot I decided to try something more subtle. With the river positioned off left it draws my eye to focus first on the texture of the canyon walls.
Here is one of the few 'classic' Iceland shots I captured during the trip. I was at the location at the perfect time and with weather that cooperated. I just hoped I had the exposure right as I only took a couple of frames here! I'm pleased with how it turned out, and the portra 400 does a good job of capturing the tonal variations of the disappearing sun.
One objective I had for the trip, perhaps ambitiously, was to capture a puffin with the Bronica. When one was swept up onto Reynisfjara beach I couldn't believe my luck. The little puffin was happy just chilling on the beach for around 20 minutes, giving my ample time to set up my Bronica with the 250mm lens to get this shot.