I was traveling around Iceland last month with the new Lumix GH5 capturing long exposures and landscapes and I want to share my experience with you. I have used many of the Lumix camera systems over the years and have always loved the lightweight portability while backpacking and traveling, without having to sacrifice anything in performance. Compared to the GH4 and other previous models this camera is a powerhouse full of technology. There are tons of new features added to the GH5. The interface is incredibly easy and Panasonic has made this camera completely user friendly and fully customizable depending on how you want to set the camera up.
As a traveling professional photographer and videographer, I’m always looking to pack less. I love to backpack and camp atop the mountains and every ounce counts. Every piece of gear I carry in my bag must be important. A lot of photographers usually bring along a few pelican cases and multiple bags of gear. I could never have packed all the same DSLR gear as I did mirrorless gear, the weight and size are not comparable. I would not be able to travel so light, out of 1 backpack, camping gear and food/water included. The GH5 is the best all around camera I have ever used.
With a goal in mind to put the GH5 to the test on night sky and landscapes, I booked a flight to Iceland. Iceland is a magical place unlike anywhere I have ever been in the world. The weather can change from sunny and mild to complete blizzard with white out conditions in less then 20 minutes. The wind is also a huge factor. The doors can blow off your car if you’re not being cautious with 50-80 mph gusts. I decided to drive the golden circle and then ring road all the way around Iceland counter clockwise in a small 2 person camper van (more like a very small mini van) that had a small heater, stove and cutlery. Choosing to go in March I was hoping to avoid some crowds, but it was quite busy on the golden circle compared to the rest of Iceland. This time of the year in Iceland the sun comes up around 7 am and sets around 8 pm, giving ample time for night photography and daytime similar to my home in Vermont this time of year. Iceland’s summer months are primarily sunny for most of the day and night and winters are almost total darkness.
Arriving at 5 am in Keflavik, I set off into the sunrise on ice-covered roads to capture long exposures of waterfalls along The Golden Circle. This route has a lot of traffic being so close to Reykjavík, but is well worth it. The weather being 50 mph winds with bits of sun to grey, then turning to full blizzard conditions with a white outs made it a lot trickier to take long exposures then I had envisioned. I ended the first night in Vik at a closed campground with wind howling and snow swirling all through the night.
The GH5 and I had just been through rain, snow, wind and ice without issue, I wanted to put it to the test on the night sky. Checking weather and solar winds on the Internet, I made a plan. I aimed to be at Diamond Beach for sunset then Jökulsárlón, the Glacier Lagoon for night photography. The weather looked mostly clear and the aurora looking promising as that night was forecasted to have some good solar activity if the weather actually held out. I used the 12mm 1.4 Lumix lens shooting 6-12 second exposures f1.4 to f/2 and ISO 1600-6400 depending on how fast the lights were moving. I couldn’t have been more impressed with how the camera performed. I found there was no noise whatsoever and could not have been more impressed with the final image results. I went to bed at 3 or 4 in the morning as the clouds and snow crept back in, having captured the craziest solar storm I had ever seen.
Waking up to crazy winds and another blizzard with no signs of letting up, it was time to make drive to Stokksnes where the weather was forecasted to be sunny and clear. Stokksnes is a very photographic, razor-peaked mountain range with a beautiful black sand beach. Little did I know this windy afternoon was the last day of good weather for days to come.
Taking 2 days to drive through some tiny fishing villages, mountain passes, in and out of beautiful fjords, past herds of reindeer and more Icelandic horses then people, I continued to be impressed by my GH5. Coming down from the highlands to Lake Myvatn were bubbling sulfurous pits and the most majestic hidden waterfall I’d ever seen in my life, Godafoss. Leaning into the wind and getting soaked to the bone camera and all, I still was so impressed with the results coming from the GH5 in such conditions.
The rest of the trip was spent winding through the Snæfellsnes peninsula bracketing exposures of several waterfalls and landscapes +/ – , 1/3-1 stops with up to 7 EV spaces. These options are built into the GH5 camera’s interface. I bracket to hand blend together in Photoshop during post. The final two evenings were spent back in Þingvellir National Park for free camping in a gorgeous setting. On the last night the stars aligned to give me clear skies accompanied by aurora activity. Capturing time-lapse of the lights dancing through sunset into the night was a dream come true. With the GH5 I was able to create the 4K mov (or mp4) files right from the camera while saving RAW files to a separate card.
After spending the final hours hiking through the cracks of the earth’s crust in Reykjanesfolkvangur National Park, it was time to head home. The trip had been an amazing experience, topped off with the craziest colors of aurora I have ever seen, and a beautiful landscape of Fjords, Waterfalls, Glaciers and Volcano’s around every bend.