An interview with Hermann Helguson, certified Iceland Tour Guide and photographer
This week we meet a professional tour guide for both Iceland and Greenland who is also a fine, very talented photographer (and owner of five labradors!).
First of all, please introduce yourself to our readers: where are you from? How old are you? Which studies have you undergone? Where do you live at the moment?
My name is Hermann Helguson and I’m from Reykjavik, Iceland, and that’s also where I currently live with my girlfriend. I’m 30 year old. I have finished a BS degree in Tourism Studies at the University of Iceland and I’m also a certified Iceland Tour Guide. I also own five Labrador Retrievers :)
How long have you been working as a guide? How did you happen to choose this career?
I have been working as a tour guide now for 9 years. I love travelling and experiencing something new every day. I also hate working 9 - 5, so working as a tour guide is perfect for me.
How long have you been practicing photography (and why did you start photography)?
I started getting serious around 2015 in photography. I remember I was in Greenland and I wanted to show my family and friends all the places I was visiting. Then I learned how to take good pictures on my Canon 500D, which was also my first camera.
Have you already practiced some other forms of art before? Or maybe, do you intend to in the next future?
I doubt it! :)
How did, in your opinion, your national or even local culture shape your interest for photography?
I have been living in Iceland for most of my life and being around this beautiful nature has shaped my interest in photography. The landscape here is just out of this world and when you think you have visited all of the places here in Iceland you’ll find something new.
I have been living in Iceland for most of my life and being around this beautiful nature has shaped my interest in photography. The landscape here is just out of this world […]
How does photography influence your work as a guide?
It is a good combination, but when I’m working as a guide I have a very limited time to take pictures. At least I will need to be quick. But often when I go out to take photos I find places that I want to show the people I’m guiding so it happens often that I discover new places. Also when I’m guiding I find interesting places I want to photograph when I have time. I think I should start offering photography tours to eliminate this problem!
Sounds like a great idea! What are the main differences between Iceland and Greenland?
Greenland is more extreme. It has higher mountains, longer fjords and more ice. Iceland is more diverse with all its volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, black beaches etc. Greenland is also diverse but Greenland is over nine times the size of Iceland and more difficult to explore.
Is there anything in common between Greenland and Iceland? Could be anything, from every domain.
We have a lot in common. For example, we have both been a part of the Danish kingdom. Luckily Iceland isn’t anymore a part of that haha. To mention more things the flora is very similar in Iceland and south Greenland and the Vikings were in both countries.
I have read that locals in Iceland have started being tired of hosting so much tourism: what kind of tourism visits Iceland, in your experience? Is it mostly composed by respectful people? Or is there a substantial percentage of travellers that consider (and treat) Iceland as a trendy destination?
It is true that there are some people tired of hosting so many tourists but I believe most Icelanders are not. Most of our tourists come from the USA and Europe. I think we had all kinds of tourism here before covid. Most of the tourists that visit Iceland are very respectful and nice but unfortunately we also get people that don’t respect our nature. I want to use the opportunity and ask you all that are reading this to make yourselves familiar on how to behave around and respect the Icelandic nature. For example, do not drive off road!!
Most of the tourists that visit Iceland are very respectful and nice but unfortunately we also get people that don’t respect our nature. I want to use the opportunity and ask you all that are reading this to make yourselves familiar on how to behave around and respect the Icelandic nature. For example, do not drive off road!!
Fair point made, we will stress this out! Would you please describe the tourism scene in Scandinavia (in general), and in Iceland/Greenland (in particular)? Which are, in your opinion, the typical traits?
I don’t know too much about the tourism scene in Scandinavia in general. I think there are a lot of opportunities in Greenland and I also think that in the near future Greenland will be a popular destination for tourists. I think Iceland will stay popular in the upcoming years but I think it needs to be organized in a better way. In my opinion we need to build larger international airports in Akureyri and Egilsstaðir so we don’t get all the tourists to the southwest corner of Iceland. I think that will improve the tourists experience since there are less people in the same place and strengthen the tourism in North and East Iceland.
there are a lot of opportunities in Greenland and I also think that in the near future Greenland will be a popular destination for tourists. I think Iceland will stay popular in the upcoming years but […] in my opinion we need to build larger international airports in Akureyri and Egilsstaðir so we don’t get all the tourists to the southwest corner of Iceland. I think that will improve the tourists experience […]
Do you have any ‘role models’ in the Nordic countries’ history of photography? Would you choose one (or more) photographer from your nation and introduce her/him to our audience? From any era, including nowadays.
I really like RAX (Ragnar Axelsson). But can’t really say that I have a role model in that sense. I just do things my way :)
Hermann, let me tell you one thing: RAX’s photograph of the old man on the cover of ‘Andlit Nordursins’ is my favourite photograph ever! Alright, forgive my digression. On with next questions: black and white or colours? Why? Analog or digital? Why?
Depends on the picture but I prefer to use colors. I often want to show the people that are looking at my picture what I really saw. Sometimes I also try to create a special mood in my pictures. I prefer digital since they are fast.
I can see pictures of landscapes as well as of animals and small typical houses in your portfolio: which kind of photography do you favour, and why?
What I love is just driving or walking around and take pictures of what I see. I am not very organized but of course I try to go out and take pictures when the conditions are at their best. I love most taking landscape photos.
Would you tell me which Scandinavian artist (from any possible field) you like the most, thanks to his/her visual (not necessarily photographic) profile?
I don’t know a lot about art but I really like the Icelandic sculptor Einar Jónsson and the Icelandic painter Tolli Morthens.
Ten years on, from today: do you still see yourself as a tourist guide?
Yes I think I will still be working as a guide because I love that job :)
Have you ever worked for/with a movies (or tv series) production? What do you think about Scandinavian cinema and tv series? In general, and also from a visual perspective.
Never worked with a production company. To be honest I rarely watch TV so I can’t really comment on that.
How do you work on improving your photography? Online courses, other photographers’ works, consulting photographic books and/or technical manuals, attending photography schools… got any advice for beginners?
I think you learn the most by going out and taking pictures in different conditions. When you go back home, you can then review the photos and see what you can improve on. I watch Youtube tutorials a lot and I find it useful. I also think that everything helps when you are evolving as a photographer whether it’s an online course, a video tutorial or a book. It’s a constant process and you can always improve!
I think you learn the most by going out and taking pictures in different conditions. […] you can then review the photos and see what you can improve on. I watch Youtube tutorials a lot and I find it useful. […] everything helps when you are evolving as a photographer whether it’s an online course, a video tutorial or a book. It’s a constant process and you can always improve!
Which one is your favorite among your photographic works? Why?
My favorite is when I photographed Snæfellsjökull Glacier in 2016. I was on board an expedition vessel and wanted to get out on the open deck after a long working day at 11 PM. I took my camera with me and as soon as I was outside the sky just opened up with sunbeams shining over the mountain. Amazing experience and the perfect moment.
Which is your favourite side/part of your work as a guide?
Being outside and close to nature. I like working a lot for a few months and then taking a long vacation. That’s easy to organize when you are a tour guide.
We can see you love dogs for sure: how do they fit in Iceland or Greenland? Do you have the chance to take them with you while working as a guide?
Unfortunately I don’t have the chance to take them with me. I mostly work on expedition vessels and I don’t think that would suit them. I sometimes take them when I’m on a photography mission. All of them are Labrador Retrievers, so the Arctic climate is perfect for them. They love swimming in the cold rivers and the sea and enjoying nature with me.
Which is the most important event on your horizon? Whether it is a shooting, a book, an exhibition, a working opportunity… anything you wish to share with the audience.
I am going next winter (2021) to Antarctica, South Georgia and Falkland Islands to work on an expedition vessel. I am very excited to get that opportunity. I will also go to Svalbard in 2022 as an expedition guide, and I am also very excited to work there!
Now some technical questions, as I reckon it could be interesting for our readers:
What kind of gear do you use?
Camera body – Canon 80D and just bought Canon EOS R
Lens – Canon 16-35mm F2.8, Canon 70 - 200 mm 2.8, Canon 24-70 f2.8
Tripod – Manfrotto
Filters – Lee Filters, PolarPro and B+W
Mention others, if any.
I also use DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone a lot.
Which is your favorite lens? Why?
Canon 16-35mm F2.8. It’s so sharp and just one of the best landscape cameras you can buy.
When you are out shooting, what do you bring with you? Why?
Tripod, Filters, Camera, Drone, extra batteries and Lenses. I try not to take too much gear, especially if I need to hike to the place I want to photograph.
What are your settings, on the open field?
It depends on what I’m photographing. I don’t have any special settings. I use for example very different settings when I’m shooting northern lights and shooting early in the morning. I always shoot in manual mode.
Image Format – RAW/JPEG
I always shoot RAW
What kind of tools do you use for post processing?
Lightroom mainly. Sometimes photoshop also.
Hermann, thank you so much for sharing all this knowledge and all these personal experiences: it has been very interesting and a true pleasure!
If you wish to contact Hermann:
Hermann Helguson on Instagram