Zacuto

Shooting on the Iceland Ring Road

Featured Filmmaker: Brendan Hall

Iceland is a land of extremes. The coldest nights are glacial and bone chilling, and geothermal vents and volcanoes emit scorching heat from within the earth. Farm-dotted mountains sit pitch black under a new moon, only to burst with luminance under the Northern Lights.

Last winter, I hopped a flight to Reykjavik with Anthony Blake, my long-time travel buddy, to road trip Iceland’s “Ring Road,” an awesomely convenient two-lane highway that runs around the entire country. Our mission was to explore the country’s ever-changing environments and meet those that live within them. We had also decided to create a short documentary piece, Ring Road, to capture these experiences.

iceland hverarond brendan hall zacuto

The Right Gear

To document the journey, we brought along a Canon C300 Mark II and the Zacuto Recoil Rig with Gratical HD EVF. The C300 Mark II is an absolutely phenomenal cinematic camera. Much like its legendary predecessor, it is perfectly geared for documentary work. The new and improved CLog2 color profile has a massive dynamic range that was crucial for Iceland’s varying landscapes. Despite it eating up some card space we were able to shoot in 4K.

iceland northern lights brendan hall zacuto

When choosing a rig, it was important to find a setup that fit a variety of situations. For some sites, like the famous Sólheimasandur Beach Plane Wreck, we had the luxury of building a rig in the back of our car before shooting. Yet while climbing rocky oceanside bluffs we needed something much more stripped down. Overall we wanted to create a stable, cinematic aesthetic while maintaining the guerilla convenience of a grab-and-go setup.

iceland northern lights brendan hall zacuto

After some debate and camera blog research we decided to go with Zacuto’s Recoil Rig and Gratical HD. The rig was well-built, functional and highly intuitive. Every feature felt like it had a purpose – the top handle’s well-placed hot shoe mounts, the Tornado grip’s ability to control focus while doubling as a handle, and the Gratical HD’s comfortable fit to the eye and easily adjustable arm. We knew we’d be able to build the whole rig at easily accessible spots, and then break it down to just the top handle and VCT Baseplate when capturing more adventurous footage.

Never Underestimate a Scene

The two most important things we learned on this trip were to always be ready to capture every moment possible, and to never underestimate a scene. We had some glorious, well-established shots that didn’t end up looking as good as we thought. And then there were some fleeting moments, like a mountain reflecting in a church window, which became some of our favorite content of the trip. The Recoil Rig helped a lot with always keeping the camera ready to shoot, whether stripped down or fully built, no matter what situation we were in.

iceland church brendan hall zacuto

Heading to Iceland?

If you’re considering an Icelandic adventure, our tip would be to rent a car so you can explore the country on your own schedule. There are some excellent multi-day tours but there’s something special about being free to venture through the landscape however you’d like. The magic of the country lies in its miles of untouched, completely accessible natural beauty. If you really want to live and breathe the heart of the Iceland, a rental car and plans to travel the ring road are an excellent place to start.

Also, if you’re there in the winter – hunt the Northern Lights. You might have to check every half hour during a clear night to catch their dance across the sky, but when you do there’s nothing else quite like it.

Happy shooting!

iceland northern lights brendan hall zacuto

“Ring Road” is in post-production will be released soon. Brendan is currently traveling for his next project, “Westward,” a documentary spanning 15 national parks within a road trip from Maine to Alaska. To keep up to date on these films and see more content check out his Instagram @westwardproject.

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Join the conversation

One Response to “Shooting on the Iceland Ring Road”

  1. Campervans Iceland (@CampersIceland) on January 5th, 2017 2:48 am

    Thanks for sharing your pics and short video. Where can one see the whole documentary?
    Here are a few facts about the Ring road:
    http://www.rent.is/blog/the-ringroad
    Happy shooting!

About the Author


Brendan Hall is an adventure filmmaker, photographer and recent graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. His recent work includes credits with the National Geographic Channel, Adobe, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill Nye Film. Brendan is currently road tripping from Maine to Alaska to direct and shoot "Westward," a journey through 15 U.S. national parks to meet the incredible people within them. He can be followed on Instagram @westwardproject.

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