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Snæland

June 17, 2016

You'll definitely want to explore Iceland after this drone video
Iceland — or Snæland, a historical name meaning “snow land” — is known for its sweeping views, Viking heritage, and ability to oust a prime minister in a day (remember the Panama Papers?).

When Toby Sleigh-Johnson and his wife tired of the day-to-day routine at their home in the UK, they decided to spend a week driving the Icelandic Ring Road, a route that circles the entirety of the island, in a camper van.  As a professional filmmaker, Sleigh-Johnson knew that Icelandic scenery was ripe for amazing shots, so he made sure to pack his DJI Phantom 3 drone.

But before capturing the glaciers and rolling hills, Sleigh-Johnson did something most filmmakers leave until later in the cinematography process — choosing a soundtrack. With a song already picked out, he had to match the shots to the notes.
“Iceland has so many beautiful and varied locations."
“When I heard Blake Ewing’s track Across the Sea, it was exactly how I imaged Iceland: atmospheric, sweeping, and dramatic,” he says. “I even began to picture a few shots I wanted to capture before I left for the trip.”

While Sleigh-Johnson used a different tactic than most cinematographers, this drone video proves that following your unusual inspiration can work. He says it wasn’t too difficult to match the shots to the music, especially because the vivid crescendos and melody perfectly suit the scenery.

One standout moment was when he flew over the Skógafoss waterfall (0:31). “I was shaking as I filmed that shot,” he says. His shaking was a combination of fear of losing his new (and expensive) drone, vertigo from watching the live-stream of the water falling over the cliff, and excitement about capturing one of the best shots he’s ever filmed. It’s safe to say it was a positive tremble.

While he did all the flying — his wife was too worried about crashing — he credits his wife with being “extremely patient” as they stopped about every 30 minutes to film. “Iceland has so many beautiful and varied locations,” he explains. And oh boy, if we didn’t know Iceland was beautiful before, we sure do after watching this video.
Toby Sleigh-Johnson flies his DJI Phantom 3 drone in Iceland.
Toby Sleigh-Johnson
And how about that glacier-filled lake?

“We were the only people there when we arrived; the sun was setting over the glacier, with little wind (perfect conditions).” he says. “And the icebergs reflecting in the still lake were perfect for some flyovers and reveal shots — I spent quite a while there flying until the sun set!”

Sleigh-Johnson says he also had to spend time perfecting certain shots, like circling the crumbling stone house (1:39). Getting this shot right, he says, required moving the drone sideways and turning it on its axis at the same speed, which was difficult.

With a “less is more” attitude and a plethora of footage, editing wasn't easy for Sleigh-Johnson. But cutting it down wasn’t the most difficult part – it was the editing the color grading.

“As I shot the whole film in the Phantom’s D-Log mode, every shot had to be graded, otherwise it would have looked very washed out,” he says. “But it also had to match the shots I took on my [DJI] Osmo and my Sony A7s as closely as possible, which took a lot of work.”

Sleigh-Johnson is the owner at TSJ Films in Essex, UK. He has an award for best Wedding Videographer of the Year from the Essex Wedding Awards, and if he keeps creating drone videos like this, we wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a drone related film award soon.  

Watch another sweet drone video.