Behind the Lens - Stian Klo

Stian Klo (@Stianmklo) let us take a moment out of his time to discuss one of his most recent creations. We wanted to get an insight into the creation of the image to share with you!

Stian Klo (@Stianmklo) let us take a moment out of his time to discuss one of his most recent creations. We wanted to get an insight into the creation of the image to share with you!

Biography, business presentation and and references
My name is Stian Klo, and I'm a 36 year professional and award-winning photographer, instructor and guide based in Harstad, Northern Norway - located at 68 degrees north, just above the Arctic circle. I'm the managing director of the biggest and fastest growing photography tour and workshop business in the region, Discover North AS at Together with my business partner and fellow photographer, Arild Heitmann, we build our concept about modern life in the Arctic, photographing the rugged and beautiful Norwegian landscapes and light, documenting enviromental and climate changes, wildlife and educating people on how harsh yet peaceful life in the Arctic can be. We offer trips and adventures to Lofoten (our primary product), Svalbard, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland all year around. I'm also an official photographer for Lonely Planet, and a brand ambassador for Fjällräven North America, Lexar Memory, Renault and several Norwegian companies. My art and articles have been licensed and featured by Apple (images are featured on the iMac 5K, iPad Pro and MacBook 2016), National Geographic, Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, Instagram, Nike, Nikon and many more. Myself and the company have a following of close to 600,000 organic followers on social media, with my Instagram - - being the biggest with more than 215,000 organic followers.

How did you achieve this shot?
This particular is a result of both patience and luck. It's a pretty deep lake in the Lofoten Islands, Norway – and I knew that it might freeze solid with consistent low temperatures. I captured it in February 2014 after a long period of -15 degrees celsius and no precipitation. I went there with a friend of mine and saw the ice structure, but the light was flat and not appealing at all. We decided to go back the next day, but the sunrise died out and we didn't get any alpenglow effect. On the 3rd day however, lady luck was on our side. This soft golden light painted the jagged mountainpeaks just for a few minutes, which was more than enough. I knew I had the shot, and I went home and carefully processed it. I actually have more exposures where the light was even more intense, but I chose to publish this version instead because the “balance” in the image was better in my opinion.

What Gear did you use?

I used a Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 and a circular Wonderpana (Fotodiox) polarizer filter.

What settings did you use and why?

The EXIF for the shot is: Focal length 16mm, ISO 100, aperture f/7.1 and shutter speed ¼ seconds. There was no particular reason for the settings though, I always use low ISO values and an aperture range of f/7 to f/14 for my shots where I use a tripod and the rest of the settings are just a result of that. I did however shoot it at 16mm instead of 14mm because at 14mm it felt too much like an ultra wide-angle lens shot if you know what I mean.

Did you use a tripod?

Yes I did. I used a Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod with the BH-55 LR ballhead.

What was the inspiration behind this photo?
I've always been intrigued by the ice and winter, and that season is by far my most preferred season for photographic adventures. I wouldn't say there's a direct source of inspiration for this image, it just appeared in my head when I saw the conditions at the time. It was like someone switched a button!

How did you decide on the location?

As explained above, I had seen images of this lake frozen solid in the past - but no “proper” landscape shots. I used the TPE (The Photographer's Ephemeris) app and monitored the alignment of the sun for sunrise. Actually I have never seen the lake like that ever since. Either it's not frozen, or it's covered in white snow and you can't see the ice at all.

Is this picture the one you set out to make that day? If not how does it differ from what you had visualized?

Actually it's a 100% replicate of the image I envisioned when I ventured out that morning. Those images are few and far inbetween, in my portfolio there's less than 5-10 images where all my plans and ideas have really come through.

Why did you chose this subject?

I had seen this “diamond” when exploring the area a couple of days earlier. For me it looks like a colossal diamond, others say that they see a turtle's back, a whale breaching and what not – but in truth it's just a big rock. I loved the shape and pattern, the color and the transparency of the ice. I tend to look for cold foregrounds when I capture a warm backdrop, and in this case I think the balance is spot on.

What time of day was this image shot? Why did you chose that time?

It was sunrise in early February 2014, I believe it was around 8.30AM. The reason for chosing this exact spot for a sunrise shoot instead of a sunset was easy, the alignment of the sun as explained above. I strongly suggest using the TPE app in addition to Google Earth, then you can easily “digitally scout” the area and get a sense of how it will look. Keep in mind that the mountains appear smaller and less jagged in Google Earth compared to the real thing.

What was the most difficult part in creating this image?

Balancing on the ice. The lake is very deep and I could see airbubbles underneath the ice. My friend and I were there all by ourselves, so if we would break through, no one would be able to help us. We wore crampons and chose our steps carefully and always just one at the time. The ice was constantly moving, creating these thunderous sounds in the valley, which would echo back and forth – thus creating an eerie feeling.

If you could change one thing about this image what would it be?

I wouldn't really change anything, but I have thought of how it would have been like if I did a massive vertical panorama. There were a lot of ice structures and patterns on the lake, and the light was going off like crazy further to the left of the image. Guess we'll never know!

Why do you take pictures?

I've been a professional photographer for the last three years and I've often asked myself why, without really being able to come up with a decent answer. It's hard to explain through words, but it's just “me” and my personality and artistic expressions being portrayed in the images. I guess in a way you can say I communicate via my images.

What did you use to edit this picture and how long did it take?

My workflow is fairly simple. I import everything into Adobe Lightroom, chose the exposures I like and remove chromatic aberration, correct the lens profile then balance the highlights and shadows. When that's done, I open them in Adobe Photoshop and open Camera Raw and adjust the overall contrast, vibrance and sharpness. I do this via many layers, and sometimes paint in the changes selectively in just one area at the time. One example is noise removal, I never de-noise highlights – I only focus on the darks and shadows for that. When all that is done, I run the images through a “Size for web” action and create a social media friendly *.jpg file ready to be published on all the platforms.

Did you use any filters for this image? Do you recommend using ND filters? and why? (We could change this question or add more depending on the image)

I used a circular polarizer from Wonderpana (Fotodiox) when I shot this image. I used it to remove reflections in the ice, which resulted in the ice being more transparent and in my eyes, more mysterious. I tend to use a CPL when taking images of ice, water and foliage – be carefully though, as it can create a funky looking sky. One way to get around that is shooting another exposure with no polarizing effect on the sky and then blend those two when post processing the files in Adobe Photoshop. As for ND filters, there are ofcourse pros and cons. Personally I don't use them very much as I prefer to capture the brute force of the nature and don't want those calm and smooth long exposures images. That being said, I don't think those images aren't good or worth shooting – I still like to look at other photographers work where they clearly have used that technique, but I won't do much of that myself.

Do you have any advice?

Be patient and work hard, really hard! I like to use the icebergs as an example when I explain my images and work. You, the viewer, only see what's above the surface which is less than 10% of the machinery involved in the process of being a professional photographer. You don't see all the work getting there, all the paperwork and bureaucratic hoops you have to get past. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my job and wouldn't change it for the world. I travel 150+ days a year via my many adventures in Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland – and that's tough balancing when you have a family back home. When you're home I have to post process images and create PR campaigns to market the next adventure. It's definitely not an normal 8-4 job, sometimes I work 16hr days and sometimes I don't work at all. It's a test of discipline and workrate.

Check out some of Stians Presets available now!

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