A PHOTO JOURNAL BY MIKE PHAM.
Yo! This is Mike Pham aka PHAMUEL, and I’m stoked to talk about the people, the gear, and the views of my recent trip to Iceland, as well as the magical experiences captured along the way.
Planning this excursion was more of a collaborative effort than how I approach most of my trips. This was more along the vibes of, “We all haven’t been to Iceland before, so let's kind of go with the flow.” I had one Zoom meeting with my buddies, looked at the map of Iceland, and started plugging away areas of interest; Locations to see, places to eat, spots to camp, etc. Once we plotted the map, our next decision was which way we wanted to start this two-week road trip. We each packed our gear into two bags. I focused on camp gear, camera equipment, and surf stuff; A 6/5 wetsuit-hoodie with gloves and booties and my log Barrett surfboard shaped right before the trip. The feeling of road-tripping with your friends to a new area is one of my favorite feelings; You can plan so much, but you must be able to know when to let go and be okay for things to go wrong…–because something always goes wrong.
The crew consisted of my close friends, Tanner, Skyler, and Anika. Tanner and I have been on countless bike-packing expeditions and spontaneous surf pursuits. Skyler and Anika, who are sisters, have been on numerous road trips and camping adventures. Being that we had all traveled together before, we instantly knew this was the perfect bunch. Everyone brings their own vibe to the road trip which is what I love. Tanner has good energy and always keeps the stoke high which is crucial to any trip. I’d like to give a shoutout to Anika and Sky for making all the amazing camp meals.
As a person who has spent countless years in the outdoors, I have tried to dial my camp gear around having items that are well-built, ultra-light, and thoughtfully designed. NEMO Equipment is a brand I’ve been using for almost a decade because of my full trust in their products. NEMO focuses on quality and thoughtful designs enabling their products to be incredibly intuitive to use.
When it comes to camping, three priority pieces for prime comfort will always be my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and camping pillow. These were easily checked off thanks to the NEMO Tempo™ sleeping bag, the NEMO Tensor™ sleeping pad, and the good ol’ Fillo™. I’ve tested the NEMO Tensor™ sleeping pad for years in the snow, on hammocks, and on countless backpacking trips. I always know I will sleep comfortably with it. And it was an easy setup thanks to the NEMO Vortex™ pump sack.
Two standout items from this trip that I really want to highlight are the 20-degree-rated Tempo sleeping bag and the NEMO OSMO™ 2-person tent. The NEMO OSMO™ is the lightest tent fabric I’ve ever felt and doesn’t ever get wet. After rainy nights on this trip, I would just hold it up in the wind for a minute and it would air dry on its own. The best part about their gear is how well they pack down. This is why you always go ultralight.
○NEMO Tempo™ Sleeping Bag
* I went for 20-degree-rated, but 35-degree works for most conditions.
○NEMO Tensor™ Sleeping Pad
○NEMO Vortex™ Pump Sack
○NEMO Fillo™ Elite Pillow
○NEMO Hornet OSMO™ 2P Tent
○Canon EOS R5
○Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8
○Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8
○Leica Summicron 28mm f/2
○Leica Summicron 35mm f/2
○Leica Summicron 90mm f/2
○DJI Mavic 3 Classic drone
○Olympus Point & Shoot
○Ilford Delta 3200 Professional Film
○CineStill 800 Tungsten Color Negative 35mm Film
○Kodak Professional Portra 800 Color Negative Film
○Goal Zero Venture 75 Power Bank
Iceland is everything people talk about! This place is magical; Huge landscapes and refreshing greenery. The locals were very hospitable and taught us everything we needed to know from elves to gods. Above all else, my favorite part of Iceland was the water. We didn’t have to buy water the entire trip as the landscape offers the best natural water I’ve ever tasted. We would fill up at all the waterfalls and streams. We spent every other day soaking in geothermal pools all around the island which was unreal. As far as shooting, I like to photograph moments with my friends, giving myself more time to be present and experience the landscape without the distractions behind the lens.
The Northern Lights in Iceland were an absolute thrill because it was the first time I had seen them not in Alaska, and it was jaw-dropping to say the very least. Seeing the lights in general is an experience I hope everyone can have in their lifetime. The photos do not do it justice…–the lights were dancing and flowing like a river of light from up above. We climbed to the top of a mountain and enjoyed the light show over a couple of cups of whiskey; It was unreal and a memory I will never forget. That night was probably one of the best nights of the entire trip because it was so cool to see my friends experience it for the very first time.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Looking back at this trip, I’m very happy to have these photos to remind me of the highs and lows of the road trip experience. Road trips constantly remind me to stay present and to let things go as everything is temporary in life, so enjoy it as much as you can. The only question that remains is…–where to next?
MEET MIKE PHAM.
Mike Pham is a California based photographer who focuses on commercial lifestyle, portraiture, and fashion. Mike effortlessly and authentically blends the drama of undeniable landscapes with the human experience. As a collaborative artist, Mike loves to go on the road with others, searching for that raw moment, that always results in THAT shot. Open to exploring new places and trying different techniques, Mike wants to see what’s real in a moment. He looks for pain, just as much as beauty, because it is all part of the human story.