My mobile editing workflow in Iceland: no need for a laptop anymore

Dan Cook

The introduction of full resolution image transfer from camera to the smartphone over wireless technology has been a revelation and increased my ability to share images.

You see I tend to sit on photographs which reside on my desktop or laptop computer. I flit around between folders and trips and edit images on a whim. I believe this is because I have a very little specific purpose for them, I don't shoot to deadlines of publications often.

I spend my time on trips, transfer my images and then just edit as and when I feel a desire to share something.

Sunset at Kirkjufell
The last time I was here in Nov 2016 we had to get mentally prepared for the wind and rain. Run around the back of the waterfall and grab a quick photo with the Kirkjufell barely visible through the dense fog. What a difference a few months make. Time to wander around the whole area and make the most of the amazing ice patterns and this iconic mountain with a beautiful glow from the sunset.

Instagram stories

Let's face it Instagram is my biggest audience (and I think a lot of photographers can say the same) and it's also the outlet where I find the most enjoyment interacting with people about images, places, and lots of other random things. Instagram stories have opened up the ability to share more than 1 image a day, it's huge.

Instagram stories now gave me a motivation to share images I'd taken on a specific day. Not just comparable iPhone photographs but the edited version of my 'proper camera' shots with all that gorgeous bokeh and sharpness and contrast. It's brought Instagram back to being more 'instant' in my view, allowing me to share immediate experiences.

Birds of Skogafoss
I think they have the best view of the waterfall from right down in the falls.

My gear for the trip

For this trip, I took the Fujifilm X-T2 and the XF16-55mm F2.8 weather sealed lens (what more do you want) I also took the XF50-140mm F2.8 OIS zoom lens (can't go wrong with that one, it's a gem). The only other lens I used was the XF14mm F2.8 for some aurora borealis shots. Having the precision manual focus and a wider angle was a life saver in the dark and cold to capture some incredible northern lights over Kirkjufell.

This incredible waterfall had covered everything in ice from it's spray which made a little venture around the back of it interesting with ice crashing around the water and the path from high above.

Cliffs near Gatklettur
We timed it just right to land here as the sun sliced up the crashing waves with golden light.

This setup is a great balance of tools that can produce high-quality images and convenience in size but you know what, I think I could have got away with just the XF18-135mm zoom lens and the XF14mm and still been happy with the results.

Given the hassle we had to get hand luggage through the airport (I will consider this for my future trips). Or I could have taken the XF18-55mm and the XF55-200mm as a compromise between the two.

Mountain textures
Day 3 we were up to take the long drive out to Jokularlon Ice Lagoon passing a few wonders along the way.

My mobile editing setup

In order to show your work at it's best, you need a fast and easy setup for editing camera shots on your mobile that doesn't compress your files too much. I feel I have found this ideal balance with the Fujifilm X-T2, an iPhone 7 and the VSCOcam app.

Basically, I shoot all day with my X-T2 configured to record both JPG & RAW (it is crucial to have a JPG copy for the wireless transfer). I set the JPG to a medium size (12mpx) and then transfer that to the iPhone using Fujifilm's own apps. You can, of course, shoot (and then transfer) the full 24mp resolution JPG, however, I do find that to be just a little frustrating in term of transfer speed.

This is where I have to give a shout out to the incredible quality of the Fujifilm JPG engine. Not all camera manufacturers can produce such clean images, they're beautiful thanks to Fujifilm film simulations (Velvia, Astia, Acros and classic chrome) and they got an amazing level of detail and sharpness. I tend to use the Fuji Chrome film effect on my JPG images from the X-T2.

Drive by at Snaefellsness
You need to always have the camera ready driving around Iceland. So many amazing views are had from the car window. Get the shutter speed set high and shoot away and the passing wonders.

Icelandic horse yawn
Not really sure what this means but it was quite a display of something.

Icelandic ponies
Definitely one of my favourite images from the whole trip. These Icelandic horses came to see the crowds near to Kirkjufell just after sunset. These images are shot at high shutter speed and still incredibly beautiful thanks to Fuji JPG film simulation and the VSCOcam edits.

I was able to compare the JPG between the Fujifilm X-T2 and my DJI Mavic Pro drone. The Mavic produced images that are much more grainy and smudgy. I still edit the Mavic Pro JPG's but you can clearly tell the difference with the X-T2 JPG's.

After the images are transferred to my phone I import them to the VSCOcam app and then delete the originals from the photos app. I have found the iPhone 7 to be a big step up from the 6 and 6S in terms of speed and because I'm using the iCloud storage options for photos I don't really have to worry about space. Still, it's good practice not to have duplicated edited and unedited images anyway.

Rocks near Gatklettur
Some of this crazy rock veins from the volcanoes which dominate and create this land.

Using the VSCOcam app

My advice to everyone looking to improve their mobile phone photography in any way is to install and use the VSCOcam app and filters.

It's not perfect but it is simple and creates some beautiful images which perfectly fit the style of photography I do. I won't make this a full tutorial but I'd definitely say to download it, get the free presets and use say the preset F2 then experiment with the Contrast Slider (I often put this up to 5+) and the white balance, shadows and highlight tones etc...

Streaming live on Instagram at Arnarstapi
Processed with VSCO with A9 preset from the X-T2 while on Instagram Live.

Thick snow and blue skies at Budir black church
Our first stop along the Snaefellsness Peninsula.

Landscape photography is a lot about the editing process. Don't listen to anyone who tells you images must be natural and "as shot". A digital image is in no way natural, it's using digital technology and algorithm to capture light and transform it. In every situation the resulting file is just pixels that form a base for you to create your own style.

Once you find a style of edit you like, copy and paste it across your shots from a location or across the whole day and then adjust each image individually.

Northern lights over Kirkjufell
We were out for 2-3 hours shooting the northern lights over Kirkjufell. This was the early signs of the lights which exploded later on right around the mountain.

See what works and what doesn't but try and find a consistent edit for a single shoot. You will appreciate that coherence later on when you share a series of images or produce a book.

Once you have edited them, save them to your iPhone camera roll at full resolution and delete them from VSCOcam app (I usually leave the really good ones as a base for copying edits to future images).

Return to Fjaðrárgljúfur
Seeing Fjaðrárgljúfur in the snow and mist was a special moment. Game of Thrones for days.


Takin a great camera, a fast phone and some great photo editing apps for a quick nip around Iceland without lugging a laptop was a real change for me.

I feel these images are high enough quality to represent this trip. If I was a travel photographer producing content on the go (for brands) this would be my way of streamlining the process and save weight in my luggage while still reflecting my own style of photography.

The mighty mountains of Snaefellsness

Plenty of gulls swooping around the cliffs near one of Iceland's most famous houses.

The giant waves of Kirkjufjara beach
When the waves really hit and jumped over the rocks it was a moment to stand in awe (and a little bit of fear).

There are of course other mobile editing apps, such as Lightroom mobile, Snapseed (for iOS and Android) etc... I love the look and feel of the VSCOcam filters. The only missing tool is selective adjustments to correct dust spots or work in certain areas of high contrast images.

So far though I always find I can produce results I like and this allows me to share my enjoyment and experiences quicker to my audience.

At last we made it to Jokulsarlon just in time for some beautiful golden light and still waters. Also saw a couple of cheeky seals.

Jokulsarlon at peace
This may be my favourite spot in the whole of Iceland. It's not for the photos it's just for the sense of peace and scale. Time stops when you realise what you are seeing here.

The end of the road
A really long final day came to an end at Jokulsarlon. Plenty of time on the return leg of the drive to edit my images for the day via VSCOcam.