Bernhard Kristinn: From Iceland with Love

Written by Fredrik Franzén on . Posted in Commercial photography

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Björk | ©Bernhard Kristinn

Björk | ©Bernhard Kristinn

Icelandic photographer Bernhard Kristinn is not a secretive person. On the contrary, he speaks openheartedly about his work, and he is more than willing to share the things he has learned about photography – which is quite a lot, I might add.

“Many photographers are really secretive about how they create their images,” says Bernhard. “I don’t understand that. I’ve learned so much from other photographers, and I feel I should try to return the favor.

“I had a great photographer from UK coming over here to rent my Profoto Pro-B2r battery packs. We traveled around Iceland with all these battery packs, and he told me that I should use the Magnum Reflector when I’m outside, because it gives you one more f-stop, which in turn saves your batteries. I didn’t know that. But now I do!”

So tell me, what is it like being a photographer in Iceland?

“It’s good. I like it. Since it’s a small market, you can’t be too narrow. You have to do a lot of different things, and I like that. I appreciate the variety.”

Björk lighting set up

Audi A5 V8 | ©Bernhard Kristinn

But what do you prefer to shoot?

“I like to shoot lifestyle images, like editorial photography with a touch of fashion. I also like shooting cars. That’s why I have so many battery packs. You know, Iceland is a great place for shooting cars. The landscape is just perfect, so a lot of car brands come here to shoot their ads. But since the recent economic crisis, the local car sales has fallen dramatically so the local market is not the same…”

Why do you like to shoot cars?

“They’re fast, they’re shiny, and it’s fun to light them up! Also, it’s really, really challenging to shoot cars. They’re reflective, they’re large and, sometimes, they even move.”

I like the Audi A5 V8 car image in this article? How was it shot?

“I used only one light for that image. I shot it from the back of another car. So I’m riding in one car, equipped with a gyro image stabilizer, shooting the one you see. I had a Pro-B2r battery pack with a ProHead and a Magnum Reflector in my car, because I wanted to give just a little bit of flash to the front of the car. I often use the Magnum Reflector for this purpose, and sometimes the Narrow Beam Reflector.

Why these pieces of equipment in particular?

“The Narrow Beam Reflector leaves such a small spot on the car. If you use a larger light source, say a softbox, you get this big, white square reflection on the car body, which is really difficult to remove afterwards.”

So you remove the flash reflection during postproduction?

“Exactly. The Magnum Reflector is great for this purpose too. You know, the Magnum is the cheapest Fresnel lens you can find. The Magnum creates a really amazing light, there’s almost no fall off, and the light itself is very, very crisp. It surprises me that more photographers don’t use it. I guess they just don’t know what it can do. To me it’s a hidden gem. I understand that if you go down to the store and see the price tag, you might think that you don’t want to spend that much on a reflector. But once you know what it can do, like save your batteries, you realize it’s time to save up! But we were talking about cars, right?”

Yes, I have a question about that. Why didn’t you just park the car and blur the background in Photoshop?

“Good question,” laughs Bernhard. “I have tried to create that sort of motion blur in Photoshop, but it always gets too even. The grass, for example – it would look like straight lines. It would look fake. So to me it makes more sense to just shoot it as it is. Plus it’s more fun.”

Blue Lagoon | ©Bernhard Kristinn

Blue Lagoon | ©Bernhard Kristinn

Blue Lagoon lighting set up

Do you generally try to keep postproduction to a minimum?

“Well, some images just have to be retouched. Take the image of the girl in the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon seawater has minerals, silica and two types of green algae, an organism that lives in that seawater.  The composition of these active ingredients make the color of the lagoon so milky blue and distinct. But the color changes over the day, due to the reflection of the sun and the color also changes between months depending on how active the organism is. It turns from blue green to cyan blue, depending on what time of the day it is. This means that if I’m doing an eight-hour photo shoot, the seawater will have a very different color from image to image. Photoshop is the perfect solution to that problem. By the way, this image was shot with just one Pro-Twin head and a Silver Softlight Reflector.”

And I take it you’re standing in the water?

“Yes, I am. With my light stand and my assistant. The water is warm and nice, but still, there’s just something wrong with working in a bathtub. Especially when it’s salt water. It’s not very good for the equipment…”

No, it’s not something we recommend.

“It was a real challenge, trying to keep everything clean. Salt water easily destroys your equipment. I’m speaking from experience. I’ve had two cameras destroyed at that very location…”

The sparks on her skin, did you do that in postproduction too?

“No, those are from the flash. I actually removed some sparks during postproduction. There were just too many of them.”

Did you have any problem with the flash light hitting the water surface?

“I’ve encountered this problem before, and I’ve learned how to solve it. What I do is that I narrow the angle of the light with a grid. No problem! But if you put the light too far away, or don’t use the grids, you’ll definitely have flash light all over the place.”

Karl Berndsen | ©Bernhard Kristinn

Karl Berndsen behind-the-scenes

Karl Berndsen lighting set up

What about the portrait of the guy in the warehouse? Why did you want this one to be featured on our blog?

“Well, I think it’s a nice example of how you sometimes can do really nice things by just thinking outside the box. This guy is a make-up artist, and I had planned to shoot him with the sun coming through the windows, but as it turned out, the weather was really boring that day, and there was no light coming through the windows.

“But for some reason I had this huge light stand in my car. So what I did was that I took one of my Profoto packs outside, grabbed a bunch of extension cables, and raised the flash pack up in the air with the light stand. I then let it shine through the windows. So the light you see is actually the flash light. Sometimes you just have to create your own sunlight, right?”

Zoon Reindeer | ©Bernhard Kristinn

Zoon Reindeer lighting set up

Birds | ©Bernhard Kristinn

Birds behind-the-scenes


Bernhard’s website

Written by Fredrik Franzén

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