Joe Capra is a young American photographer, a "time-lapse genius", who went off to explore Iceland last year (June 17-July 3, 2011), and returned with some breathtaking images.

His work was picked up by such prestigious American media outlets as The Washington Post, USA Today, VH1, Newsweek, Gizmodo, io9, Universe Today, France24, or The Atlantic, and he recently sold several minutes of footage to the Discovery Channel.

Joe and I met in the simplest of ways: he was one of my readers, having bought the ICELANDIC eROADBOOK in January 2011, while planning his Icelandic expedition. I discovered his time-lapse work much later, by which time he was already the talk of the town. That's when I realized who he was and got in contact with him, to ask him these questions:

How old are you Joe?

I am 33 years old.

Where do you live?

I was born and raised in Santa Barbara California. I lived there until I left for college at the University of Southern California (USC) which is in Los Angeles California. Since moving to LA for college I have never left. I still currently live in Los Angeles.

How long have you practiced photography?

I have been into photography and film ever since I was young. I had a few simple cameras when I was younger, but I got my first real SLR camera (Canon Rebel XT) in 2005 and that's when I started getting more serious about photography. Since then I have had many cameras, lenses, and gear. I mainly do photography as a hobby, but hope one day to make it my fulltime job.

What made you decide to go to Iceland? Was it your first trip to the north?

The main inspiration for my trip to Iceland was watching Michael Reichmann's (from video journal on his trip to Iceland. It looked and sounded like the perfect photographic location, especially for landscapes which is what I primarily shoot. I love to be away from people and crowds when I shoot and Iceland seemed to offer me amazing landscapes with hardly any people around.

Also the fact that it would be light out 24 hours a day giving me hours of golden light. Iceland seems like the most ideal location for me and it did not disappoint.

Why going there in june? Because of the light? and why alone?

I went in June because it is a little early for the tourist season, which meant there would be less people and crowds at some of the popular locations. I also went in June because of the midnight sun and the 6 or so hours of golden light that it offered me for photography. I went alone because I was planning on shooting pretty much 24 hours a day, hiking in the middle of the night, sleeping in the car (A/N: hmmm…that reminds me of something…), and just eating whenever I had free time.
I don't think anyone I know would want to go on a vacation like that.

I am the type of person who does not want to go on vacation and just walk around cities or just lay on the beach all day long. I like to get out and see and experience the countries I visit. Going alone also allowed me to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and stay at locations as long as I wanted without having to worry about the needs of another per­son with me. It allowed me to take my time and get the shots that I was able to get. Photography, especially timelapse photography is not for everyone and is very demanding both physically and mentally.

Why plan a timelapse instead of still photographs?

I actually planned on doing still photography, timelapse, and shoot video while I was there, but my main focus was timelapse and still photography. I would shoot still photographs and video in between timelapse shots. I came back with 38,000 images total from Iceland. I wanted to process and get the timelapse video completed before I went through all of my still images from the trip.

So now that the timelapse video is complete I will be focusing on my still images and some of the video I shot while I was there. So stay tuned for some still image gal­leries and maybe a short full motion video.

I wonder Joe, how do you manage your workflow, and the post-production process for a timelapse?
I mean: do you adjust colors, contrast etc., for several photos at the same time? Do you use Lightroom before importing them into After Effect?

My workflow was a little different for this video because I was using LRTimelapse ( LRTimelapse allows you to adjust raw processing settings over a period of time. I would open the time­lapse image sequence in Lightroom and process only a few of the images in the timelapse sequence. For most images I did the usual process­ing required for raw files such as exposure, contrast, and saturation.

Then I open the image sequence in LRTimelapse and allow it to make the raw adjustments for the rest of the images. When LRTimelapse was finished I would import the image sequence into Adobe After Effects to combine them into a movie file and edit the video. I used the Warp Stabilizer in After Effects to remove any camera shake and movement from the wind. Overall it worked out pretty well, but there are a few things in my workflow I could improve on for the next video. It took me a lot longer then I expected.

How was the weather?

The weather was both good and bad during my trip. When I first arrived I had perfect weather. It was warm (maybe 60 degrees fahrenheit), the sun was shining bright, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Although this was great weather, it was bad for photography and especially timelapse. Clouds in the sky show movement during a timelapse, and without any clouds or other moving objects the timelapse shots I could do were very limited. You can see a few shots in my video where not much is happening other then the camera moving. As I moved to the Westfjords the weather started getting better photographically. More clouds appeared in the sky and the sunsets and sunrises gave me very good colors in the clouds. The Northern part of the country is where the weather started getting bad, but never really bad.

At first the weather was pretty good in the North, a good mix of sun and clouds. After a day or two it started becoming overcast with clouds covering most of this sky. This was kind of a disappointment as the sunset and sunrise was not that great because of the clouds. I did manage to get some decent shots though during periods where there were breaks in the clouds. The eastern part of the country was very similar to the North. Then as I moved to the South the sun started coming out again and offered a good mix of sun and clouds. At the end of my trip it started to rain and I was not able to shoot much at all during that period.

Overall the weather was very good and offered great shooting conditions. I found the saying "If you don't like the weather in Iceland then wait 5 minutes" (A/N: this famous adage turned out not to be always accurate, as I discovered!) to be true because the weather conditions changed so often. Wind was the biggest issue with weather on my trip. There were many locations where it was just too windy to shoot timelapse or stills. The wind is really bad especially for timelapse.

Any special (good or bad) memories about the trip?

The entire trip was one amazing memory ! Nothing bad happened luckily. One thing that really stands out is the story behind the vertical shot of the Lupin flower field at the 1:00 minute mark in the video (A/N: at the top of this page). This was a day that had been cloudy, windy, and a little rainy all day. It was about half way through my trip and I had decided to stay in a hotel. I think I checked into the hotel at around midnight, took a shower, and then started transferring images off my camera and onto external hard drives. It was about 2 am in the morning and I was still transferring files to my hard drive when I decided to look out the window. I pulled the curtains back to look outside and I was completely blown away by what I saw.

The lupin field at sunset.

Somehow the clouds cleared out a little bit and the most amazing and colorful sunset I have seen was happening right in front of me inside my hotel room. So I grabbed all my gear and jumped into the car to try to find a location to shoot at. I drove maybe 15 minutes down the road and I came upon this amazing field of Lupin flowers on the banks of Lagarflot Lake. So I setup a couple timelapse shots in the Lupid field. This sunset was one of the most amazing I have ever seen, and I had almost missed it by staying in a hotel for the night.

Was the ICELANDIC eROADBOOK helpful planning your expedition?

Yes I did use your eROADBOOK during my trip and it was a HUGE help! You did a great job and I am glad I had it with my on my trip and to use for planning the trip. It was my main book to use for planning the trip. The images you included were very helpful, and your photography is amazing!

It was good to be able to relate an image with the names of the locations. The eROADBOOK was exactly the type of information I was looking for to plan and use on my trip! I spent along time though trying to convert it to English because I don't speak French (A/N: the English version didn’t exist at the time!).

I highly recommend your eROADBOOK to any travelers to Iceland.

Dog sledding in Greenland

Any idea of your Next trip?

I have not thought to much about my next trip, but a friend just came back from Patagonia and some of his images were amazing. So I may research Patagonia more. I would also love to go back to Iceland and explore Greenland during the winter time.

Thanks again for offering such a great eROADBOOK, it really really helped me out.


UPDATE 2015 • Joe went back to ICELAND + GREELAND for a winter trip and came back with this awesome timelapse:

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