Don’t let anyone tell you Iceland is far to overrun with tourists to still be a good landscape photography destination. Like all amazing and beautiful places on Instagram, most people shoot from the parking lot and go no further. Iceland is a tourist destination no doubt, but I found it no different than any of the other popular natural wonders I have visited. A short hike from the parking lot can put you in a setting of quiet solitude, and allow you to get a unique composition. Want proof? One of my travel companions had one leg and the soul of a Viking, and hiked further of the trail than most other photographers we breezed past.
Early this December I spend eight days in Iceland on a photography workshop through Thor Photography and Nick Page. This was my first international photo shoot, and since I don’t know a thing about Iceland I figured the workshop route was a good way to go. Thor and Nick take care of basically everything, and all I needed to worry about was taking photos.
We traveled the coast from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula down to Vestrahorn, and stopped at all the usual photo locations. The first day of the trip was some of the most intense weather I have ever experienced, let alone take photos in. Snow, wind, and freezing temperatures drove us inside for the first night. When we pulled into the parking lot at the Langaholt Guesthouse in Snæfellsbær the first night, the snow was blowing so hard we could barely find the door to get inside.
Our first day of shooting was at the Black Church and the wind had not died down like the forecast predicted. It seemed impossible that we could get any photos, but we bundled up like Kenny from South Park and jumped in the van. This basically set the stage for the rest of the trip. Wake up, eat, put on lots of warm clothes and go. We had beautiful light on several occasions, but best of all we had Aurora!
I have seen the Aurora Borealis one time in my life while living in Illinois. It was just a low pale green glow in the sky, and I thought it was amazing. What we saw in Iceland was like an electric light show from horizon to horizon. At its peak the lights were so intense and dancing so wildly the group began hooting and cheering, like we were trying to show appreciation for whoever was putting on the show. I got a few good images of the Aurora at the height of its glow, then I laid on my back and just watched…..and froze.
The landscapes in Iceland are extreme. The mountains and glaciers are up close and in your face. The seas are often rough, producing awesome waves to crash against the rocks. All of these features make it obvious why so many photographers go there. I got some of the best images of my life all while experiencing a new country. I ate no less than 20 gallons of lamb stew, and had lamb sausage and ginger cake at every breakfast.
When I first planned this trip I was slightly discouraged by the elitist travel photographers who say Iceland was not worth photographing anymore. Like I said….most tourists don’t stray far from the bus. So many people treat it like a museum, take their selfie, and say they experienced it. Our group got our feet wet, stood in the rivers and oceans, froze our asses off, and made a go of it.
Thanks to Nick and Thor, Erno, Cindy, Ken, Mike, Quinn, Bob, Randy, Craig, and Ian for making the trip worth it.