Night Vision: the Sigma 20mm F1.4 Art in Iceland / by Andrew Strain

On an assignment in Iceland this spring, I had the opportunity to test drive Sigma’s newest lens in the Art series, the 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM. The trip was primarily ski and snowboard action, but I knew that if the weather cooperated I might have a chance to photograph the northern lights.

I was shocked at just how sharp the lens was, straight from 1.4. Mounted on my Nikon D810, focusing was fast and accurate, allowing me to run-and-gun to catch action and candids, even in challenging light. I was expecting the 20mm Art to be a niche piece in my kit, but I soon found myself choosing the 20mm in almost every situation where I would normally reach for my workhorse 28mm f/1.8.

When I finally did have a shot at the aurora, I was able to keep my shutter speed low without compromising image quality with high ISOs. When the northern lights really start dancing, you want to limit the exposure time in order to capture the fine details of the aurora. 

Here's a selection of images shot using the 20mm f/1.4 Art. Enjoy!

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/20 sec | ISO 3200 The maximum aperture of f/1.4 allowed me to gather enough light to shoot this image of the Hof Cultural and Conference Center, handheld from a sailboat in the harbour of Akureyri, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/20 sec | ISO 3200
The maximum aperture of f/1.4 allowed me to gather enough light to shoot this image of the Hof Cultural and Conference Center, handheld from a sailboat in the harbour of Akureyri, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.6 | 1/50 sec | ISO 800 The ‘Gold Coast’ of Eyjafjörður is named for the epic glow it casts during the prolonged arctic sunsets. I’m partial the the subtle hues of twilight

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.6 | 1/50 sec | ISO 800
The ‘Gold Coast’ of Eyjafjörður is named for the epic glow it casts during the prolonged arctic sunsets. I’m partial the the subtle hues of twilight

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/100 sec | ISO 1600 Dinner is served about the Donna Wood, a 98 year old dutch lighthouse ship repurposed as a sailboat by North Sailing. I waited until twilight to capture this perfect balance of the dim tungsten and deep blue ambient.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/100 sec | ISO 1600
Dinner is served about the Donna Wood, a 98 year old dutch lighthouse ship repurposed as a sailboat by North Sailing. I waited until twilight to capture this perfect balance of the dim tungsten and deep blue ambient.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100 I used continuous autofocus to track Ole-Kristian Strøm as he dashed out of the frigid North Atlantic and into the seaside hot tub of the Sigló Hótel in Siglufjörður, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100
I used continuous autofocus to track Ole-Kristian Strøm as he dashed out of the frigid North Atlantic and into the seaside hot tub of the Sigló Hótel in Siglufjörður, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100 I love using wide + fast primes for environmental portraiture, and the 20mm Art did not disappoint here. 

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100
I love using wide + fast primes for environmental portraiture, and the 20mm Art did not disappoint here. 

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/8000 sec | ISO 64 A candid at the relaxing hot springs of Grettislaug, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/8000 sec | ISO 64
A candid at the relaxing hot springs of Grettislaug, Iceland.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/8.0 | 1/60 | ISO 64 Basalt columns at Hofsós, Iceland. While it is tempting to shoot everything at 1.4, I stopped down for this shot to enhance the starburst from the setting sun.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/8.0 | 1/60 | ISO 64
Basalt columns at Hofsós, Iceland. While it is tempting to shoot everything at 1.4, I stopped down for this shot to enhance the starburst from the setting sun.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 5 sec | ISO 400 The northern lights dance over the distant twinkle of Grímsey Island, off the northern Iceland coast.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 5 sec | ISO 400
The northern lights dance over the distant twinkle of Grímsey Island, off the northern Iceland coast.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/640 sec | ISO 64North Sailing’s fleet rest at harbour in Húsavík, Iceland

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 1/640 sec | ISO 64North Sailing’s fleet rest at harbour in Húsavík, Iceland

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 2.0 sec | ISO 4000 Goðafoss is one of the iconic waterfalls of Iceland, and I had been hoping for a chance to photograph the aurora here since the day I arrived. On my final night in Iceland - 6 hours before my flight home - I was rewarded with clear skies and an unforgettable electromagnetic storm.

Nikon D810 + Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art @ f/1.4 | 2.0 sec | ISO 4000
Goðafoss is one of the iconic waterfalls of Iceland, and I had been hoping for a chance to photograph the aurora here since the day I arrived. On my final night in Iceland - 6 hours before my flight home - I was rewarded with clear skies and an unforgettable electromagnetic storm.