Why I Shot Film AND Digital at Iceland Airwaves
by Kirk Mastin

Music drew me to Iceland. Specifically, our local radio station KEXP and the Iceland Airwaves Festival in Reykjavik. For most of my adult life, I'd heard about this festival on KEXP, but it was only after my divorce and having more free time that it became a possibility of actually going.

I called up my two best friends, Ryan and Bryan, and we headed to Iceland for 3 days of music and 2 days of exploring the wild nature north of the city of Reykjavik.

Some of my favorite bands were discovered at Iceland Airwaves, and I couldn't think of a better adventure than seeing bands with my best friends and then topping it off with hiking the Western fjords of Iceland.

I prefer to shoot film for everything at this point in my life. Film is the reason I had to create Mastin Labs - so I could bridge the gap between my film work and my digital work for clients. But since leaving wedding photography in 2015, I've had the luxury of shooting film for nearly everything.

For my trip to Iceland, I purposefully chose a hybrid approach: shooting film for some subjects with my Mamiya 7, and my digital Ricoh GR II and the Filmborn App for iPhone for other subjects. I wanted the best tool for each situation and I'm going to explain my thinking behind why I used each camera when I did.

Ricoh GR II: Concert Photography

The Ricoh GR II is not a new digital camera. In fact, it's pretty old. It's famous for being a discreet street photography camera, but I love it for it's small size and the quality of the raw files at high ISO.

My strategy for each show was to get there early enough to be in the SECOND row of the audience. This way I would have the back of the audience's heads as an additional layer for my compositions. Being in the very front row without that layer always felt a bit sterile to me. Like I'm leaving out the context and energy of the event itself.

I set my camera to 1/125th second and f2.8 and let the camera decide ISO. Then I wait for what feels like a meaningful moment in the set and do my best to create a composition around it:

Mamiya 7: Carefully Composed Landscapes in Daylight

Next, let's examine the famous Mamiya 7. It's a super lightweight camera for shooting such a humongous 6X7 negative and is the preferred medium format camera of many fine art and landscape photographers for good reason.

This camera is easy to carry, easy to focus (rangefinder focusing), and small in size, really no larger than a regular DSLR.

Did I mention that the Mamiya 80mm f4 lens is one of the best lenses I have ever used in terms of sharpness and color? It's a winner of a camera in every respect.

Except for what it can't do well. Like super low light (because it shoots film), and action (because it has a rangefinder.) Hence, I used three different cameras for this trip according to their weaknesses and strengths.

I dreamed of what my negatives would look like from this trip, and I was so happy to see what Portra 800 pushed two stops looked like once scanned:

iPhone: Spontaneous Photography

My iPhone with the Filmborn App was the perfect way to capture all the spontaneous moments between shows without slowing the entire group down.

My friends and I shared a small flat in the center of Rejkavik. This made it easy to walk to nearly 5 different shows per night and get back to our place without having to drive at all.

During the last two days of our trip, I used my iPhone and the Filmborn App to capture fast moving scenes from inside the car as we drove north. This would have been really hard to do with the Ricoh GR II or Mamiya 7.

It was nice to be able to use Filmborn to post both Ricoh GR and iPhone pics to my Instagram while traveling, as it would be a few weeks before I would see any film I shot on the trip.

What's even cooler, is that with Filmborn I was able to make a cohesive set of images between my digital images and my film images. Check this out:

Real Film Side by Side with the iPhone Filmborn App

A hybrid approach to photography is really a cool way to go with photography. You get the best of all worlds and with Filmborn and Mastin Labs you can make your digital and film work feel cohesive. I love how the whole set turned out and I can't wait to get back to Iceland.

My Music Suggestions from Iceland Airwaves

One last thing - my three favorite bands from the festival:

  1. Tommy Cash - One of the most unique rappers/singers/visual artists I've watched. Check out this video (NSFW) and let me know what you think.
  2. Eivør - NEVER heard of her until I randomly walked into the middle of her show at the Rejkavik Opera House. She utterly blew me away. She is the Stevie Nicks of the Faroe Islands. Yes, the Faroe Islands. That's probably the ONLY way I haven't heard of her yet.
  3. Fufanu - Yes, funny name, but my god what stage presence! It was like watching Joy Division meets David Bowie before either was famous. I'm excited to see where this band goes after the festival. They brought down the house.
Icelandic Observations
  1. The hot dog is the preferred food of the people. Or maybe it's the cheapest food, and therefore consumed the most? With the average lunch costing $25 or more, an $8 hot dog is a bargain. I counted, and I found that I ate 14 hot dogs in 3 days. Yikes.
  2. Almost no one in Iceland is from Iceland. I mean, maybe 1 out of 50 people I met were actually from Iceland. If you filled CenturyLink Field in Seattle and filled it to capacity, that would be 1/5 of all the people in Iceland. Chew on that for a second!
  3. There is SO MUCH MORE than what we see on Instagram. Iceland is a vast and alien landscape with a rich cultural history. The next time I go to Iceland I want to investigate the fairy/troll door phenomenon, the Icelandic black magic lore, the overland vehicle craze, and the flyfishing.