How to photograph a Geyser eruption with an iPhone

The Geyser | Iceland; (cc) by-nc

The Geyser | Iceland; (cc) by-nc

Stroker Geyser was one of the highlights of my Iceland road trip. It's located approx. one hour by car from Reykjavik in a geothermal zone. The Geyser erupts every 5-10 minutes and sometimes even twice within a few seconds. I was lucky to witness such an impressive "serial eruption".

Capturing a geyser eruption, especially during its early stage, requires either a very good reaction time or a new iPhone model with "burst mode". With burst mode, the iPhone takes 100s of photos within a few seconds. The official specification mentions about 10 fps (frames/shots per second), but I felt it's way faster. I captured more than a 100 shots in burst mode during an eruption that lasted only for a few seconds. 

Geyser Eruption captured in burst mode with an iPhone 6 Plus.

Geyser Eruption captured in burst mode with an iPhone 6 Plus.

To shot in burst mode with the native iPhone camera app, tap and hold the shutter release button on the camera app or the "+" volume button. The iPhone camera app will take a single photo and then switch into burst mode within a second and will shoot until you release the shutter release button.

To avoid camera movement and blurry photos when shooting in burst mode and while keeping the shutter release pressed, I put the iPhone on a tripod and used a remote shutter. The volume "+" key on your headphone will work well as a remote shutter. I prefer to use Muku Shuttr, a bluetooth wireless remote shutter, that's ready to use within a second (no untangling of the cables from your headphone!)

When you're done shooting, go to the camera roll and tap the photo stack you just shot. Tap "select" and chose which photos you want to keep from the burst shots. Swipe left and right to move between all shots. Finally you can choose if you want to keep all burst shots or just the ones you selected and discard the others.

Hint: Before the geyser erupts, you will see the water getting hotter, creating some bubbles and it will slightly pulsate before it erupts.

I tried to film a geyser eruption in slow motion:

It's a Small World | Skogafoss

It's a small world | Iceland; (cc) by-nc

It's a small world | Iceland; (cc) by-nc

Iceland has been on my bucket list for some time. This year I finally made it. Iceland has a rich variety of landscapes, breathtaking waterfalls, and you can experience miles of untouched nature. I explored Iceland on my pace. I rented a 4WD, which I do strongly recommend and drove along the south part of the ring.

One stop on day one was the huge Skogafoss waterfall. It's right near the ring road, and you can't miss its. Just watch where all the cars are going ;)

Don't miss the stunning view from the top of the waterfall - after you've climbed a perceived 1000 stairs :) Maybe you get to see one of the rainbows that come and go at this place.

The shot above is one of the rare selfies I take: Camera mounted to the tripod, launched the native camera app, enabled the self-timer and set to the maximum of 10 seconds. Then press the shutter release and run ;)

How to enable timed shot in the native iOS Camera App

How to enable timed shot in the native iOS Camera App

The best time to shoot at the Skogafoss is in the morning or later afternoon to evening. Expect dozens of tourist buses during the day (but most of them won't go very close to the waterfall to avoid getting wet) because of the spray mist.

If you photograph at the Skogafoss (or any other waterfall), put your precious iPhone into a cover or housing. The waterfalls create a huge amount of spray mist.

Stunning View from the Stratosphere Tower | Las Vegas


The Stratosphere Tower is the best place to get a stunning 360 degreee view over Las Vegas. It's a staggering 1.149 feet tall. On a clear day you can oversee the entire city and as far as the city limits. It's breathtaking.

If you're brave, you can take a controlled bungee jump from the top of the viewing platform. Your fall will not exceed a certain speed and you'll be slowed down before you gently touch the ground. 

Be prepared to shell out a few bucks to go up the tower and I recommend to leave anything at the hotel that could (in theory) be used to break the glass of the tower. I was searched and hat to deposit anything metal at the entrance. Even my small Gorillapod. So I had to take this shot free hand.

I took the shot with an iPhone 5 and edited it with Enlight [iTunes App Store Link]. Apart from the usual contrast, etc. adjustments, I applied the excellent noise reduction of Enlight to the sky.

Review: Hydra App for supersized HDR and conventional iPhone Photos

Hydra App [iTunes App Store Link] has been released a while ago, but you know that I only write a review if I use the app myself regularly for a few months. Before I recommend and an app, I want to make sure it fits my workflow and the travel photography I do with an iPhone.

Hydra lets you create "supersized" photos. I have no idea how they do it, but with that app you can get photos in various sizes up to 32 megapixels from the iPhone camera. It can shoot HDR photos up to 12 megapixel and "normal" photos up to 32 megapixels. Further, you can shoot HDR video and use it for low light photography.

I've tested two functions so far: HDR & shooting supersized 16 and 32-megapixel photos.

First (and most important): Hydra is not a "point and shoot" camera app. The app takes up to 64 (!) shots in a row to create the HDR or supersized photos. That can take a few seconds. Because of that, Hydra is not suitable for any photography with even the slightest motion; not even when a light breeze moves a single leaf.

To get good results with Hydra, either mount it on a tripod or you better have a steady hand.

After trying Hydra [iTunes App Store Link] with various scenarios, I that I get the best results with architecture photography, wide landscapes or indoors. If you plan to use Hydra for HDR photography, the light is a major factor. If you shoot outdoor, you'll get the best results if the sun is above or behind you. As soon as the sunlight comes from the left of right, you'll get a sometime early ugly color gradient from white to blue.

The user interface is pretty straight forward. Select the shooting mode and the megapixel you want to have and you're good to go. Press the shutter release, use a wireless remote shutter or use the Hydra App on the Apple Watch to shoot. 


Hydra app will first analyze the light of the scene. You'll see the viewfinder turning brighter and darker. Then the app will capture the shots. 

If you're in HDR mode, Hydra will display the final shot and ask you if you want a medium or strong HDR effect or a black and white photo.

I found that the medium HDR effect is great for many scenarios. The strong HDR effect looks good with some architecture shots.

I'd avoid the strong HDR effect for any nature and landscape photography.

After you tapped on the HDR effect you want to have, Hydra automatically saves your photo.


Here are a few sample shots that I took with an iPhone 6 Plus and Hydra app. These are square crops (you know, this is Travel iPhone photography in square format pics) of 12 megapixel HDR photos.

Schönbrunn Castle shot with Hydra App; photo (cc) by-nc

Schönbrunn Castle shot with Hydra App; photo (cc) by-nc

Hotel Skyscraper in Zagreb shot with Hydra App; photo (cc) by-nc

Hotel Skyscraper in Zagreb shot with Hydra App; photo (cc) by-nc

Office Skyscraper in Vienna shot with Hydra App; photo (cc) by-nc

Office Skyscraper in Vienna shot with Hydra App; photo (cc) by-nc

Outdoor pool at a spa in Upper Austria shot with Hydra App; photo (cc) by-nc

Outdoor pool at a spa in Upper Austria shot with Hydra App; photo (cc) by-nc


The abandoned Hospital | Beelitz

The abandoned Hospital | Beelitz; (cc) attribution required, non commercial usage only

The abandoned Hospital | Beelitz; (cc) attribution required, non commercial usage only

You know that I love old and abandoned buildings. Last weekend I flew to Berlin (it's just 50 minutes from Vienna) for a photo tour at the abandoned Beelitz Hospitals. That's a huge area with dozens of abandoned and decayed buildings. They were built between 1898 and 1930 and served people suffering from lung diseases.

In WW II, the buildings were used as a military hospital. Until 1990, it was in use by the Russian army. Since then, the buildings deteriorate. Allegedly part of the movie "Operation Valkyrie" starring Tom Cruise was filmed there.

If you want go there, you'd better know that the area is private property. The buildings are not accessible to the public, so I was quite happy to find go2know, who offer (paid) access to the properties under strict rules.

Exploring the old buildings was fun but also a little spooky. The wind moved doors and windows with a creaking sound. When I took this photo, suddenly the door behind me opened slowly as if by an invisible hand. 

The photo is an HDR from a three bracketed shot.

Apps & Gear used: Pure Shot, Pro HDR X, Enlight, Amazon Basics Travel Tripod, Joby Griptight

Review: The indispensable AmazonBasics 10.000 mAh Power Bank


When I switched to iPhone photography, I used battery cases to recharge the iPhone on the road for a full day of uninterrupted shooting. One battery case provided a full additional charge for the iPhone, but soon I found the battery cases more disturbing than helpful; e.g. I couldn't use iPhone accessories like tripod mounts, external lenses or lights as I could not mount them to the iPhone with the thick battery case on.

After trying different battery packs, I now use the AmazonBasics 10.000 mAh power bank as an energy reserve. It charges two devices simultaneously. And I really like the slim form factor compared to other 10.000 mAH power banks.

The battery pack has 4 LED lights indicating the remaining charge. Though it's not 100% accurate, I go by "1 LED = 1 full charge for the iPhone". To see the remaining charge, just press the button on the case.

A fully charged power bank will recharge my iPhone 6 Plus four times and my iPad Air 2 roughly to 90%. On a trip, I use two of them to charge my iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2, Kindle, Klyp Lights and a small torch.

Amazon offers power banks with different capacities. The 10.000 mAh is currently the most powerful; so be sure to select the proper capacity when checking the prices on Amazon.

Check Price on Amazon 

How I shot and processed "In a Distance"

In a distance; (cc) by non-commercial

In a distance; (cc) by non-commercial

During a photo walk in Berlin I finally got this shot that has been in my mind for some time. It should illustrate the (temporal and spatial) distance that many of us have to holocaust contrasted to how present the topic still is.

To take the photo, I mounted the iPhone 6 Plus to a tripod using a GripTight mount and with Pure Shot I took three bracketed shot. As always when using a tripod, I used Muku Shuttr as a wireless remote shutter to avoid camera movement that can is annoying when creating HDRs on an iPhone.

Then I used Pro HDR X to merge all three bracketed shots to an HDR. But be careful here, especially with gradient skies like in this shot. If you apply too much HDR by moving the top slider too far to the right, the blue area of the sky at the top of the image become black or dark grey if you convert the HDR to black and white.

The final HDR after merging three bracketed shots in Pro HDR X

The final HDR after merging three bracketed shots in Pro HDR X

After saving the HDR to the camera roll, I used iOS8 to convert the image to black and white using the iOS8 editing functions. For black and white conversions, I usually start with a preset; the tonal preset in this case. Then I adjusted the 6 light settings until I achieve the desired effect.

Using the tonal preset for black and white conversion

Using the tonal preset for black and white conversion


I wanted the person at the end to stand out against the piles and the leading lines created by the piles and the ground should guide the eye towards the person. That's why I moved all the light sliders slightly to the right to increase the overall brightness of the photo, including shadows. Here's the final photo:

And finally thanks to Mobiography Magazine. They included this shot in a showcase about iPhone photos that use symmetrical compositions.