Ever since I decided that becoming a landscape photographer was a fantastic idea, there have been a few places on the top of the list to visit. I am spoiled living in Colorado, with such easy access to the mountains here as well as to places like Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming (I can keep going if you want) but the international destinations are even more exciting. The travel list is equally long and it contains places like Africa (what photographer doesn't want to go to Africa), Patagonia, Alaska and of course Iceland. So sometime around November I decided to book a trip, to Iceland, in March. The first thought that might come to mind is "isn't it still winter in March?" or "why would someone volunteer to go to ICEland in the winter?" Now there are a couple of things you need to know. First, as the Mighty Ducks taught us "Greenland is covered in ice and Iceland is very nice." Second, the Gulf Stream brings a lot of warm water and air up the east coast of North America over across the north Atlantic right to Iceland. This means that the weather there is simultaneously quite moderate for its latitude as well as WET. Enough of the geography lessons, let's get to the trip.
As always, I was traveling with my girlfriend (Tali) so when I say "we," she is the "we." We flew in the Reykjavik and spent a day there before getting started on our journey. I took a bunch of photos in town but I will get to those in a later post. Our chosen method of transportation was a camper van courtesy of Kuku Campers. After doing my research I decided that the best way to see the country was to drive Route 1, better known as the Ring Road. It gets its name from the fact that it makes a nice neat ring around the country. It is also very well maintained all year so the driving conditions aren't too bad. This was a fantastic choice by the way. Getting out of Reykjavik is a must, and if you are going to drive why not just camp too? Big shout out to the folks at Kuku they really helped make the trip amazing. This multi-part series will follow our trip around the country on said Ring Road. So, we picked up our van and sped off out of town for our first destination, the Golden Circle.
Now, I might make some people upset by saying this, but I wasn't terribly impressed with the Golden Circle. Don't get me wrong, it has everything you could want, lakes, mountains, waterfalls, geysers, pretty much everything there is to offer in Iceland all within an hour or so of the Reykjavik. If you are making the trip or if you are just stopping over in Reykjavik, by all means this is something you should do. I guess all I'm saying is this country is spectacularly beautiful and I was spoiled by the rest of it. I'm just rambling but I have one more thing to say before we get to the photos. I learned to shoot using black and white film, I love black and whites and Iceland in winter was made to be photographed in black and white. You've been warned. Now, let's get to some photos!
I liked to refer to this day as the day of white. Lots of the white stuff. Turns out it wasn't just today.
This is actually a volcanic crater. You can tell because of all the snow. Also, if you look closely at the for rim you can actually see two people standing there. Perspective!
Color! Also, a little green peeking through the white.
Steam rising off of hot springs near...
Geysir. This is where the name comes from. Drop that little knowledge bomb the next time you're in Yellowstone.
Gulfoss. I really wanted to follow that little fence down to the falls but there was a guard kicking people out. How rude!
With the sun having set on our first day we had a choice ahead of us. We could try and camp somewhere outside of the town near where the Golden Circle meets back up with the Ring Road or we could take that road onwards to our next destination Seljalandsfoss waterfall (waterfall is redundant here as foss = waterfall, sorry but I assume most people don't speak Icelandic). We chose the latter of the two options so after stopping for some free coffee (bonus of going through Kuku Campers) we hit the road. And that's when it happened!
Someone can explain the aurora to you, you can look at photos, but nothing prepares you for actually seeing it in person. It starts off as a grayish light in the sky and you wonder if those are clouds. Then the clouds start sort of wiggling around and you think to yourself that there is no way those are clouds. Then it gets brighter and brighter and it starts moving more and more and the green becomes obvious. If you are lucky it gets really intense and you get to see more colors. We saw the aurora twice on this trip and both times it was one of the most spectacular things I had ever seen. I'm not sure how it could ever get old.
After literally just standing on the side of the road for 25 minutes, some real clouds moved in so we hopped back in the van and drove on to the foss. When we arrived the falls they were lit up by two huge lights (this was unexpected, I guess I should have done my homework) which turns out to be a great way to light a waterfall at night.
It was getting pretty late so we tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags and settled in. At about two in the morning though, I was awoken by the sounds of "ooooh" and "aaaaah" so I rolled out of my bag and looked up. Apparently there was a bus load of tourists that stopped to take in a new round of aurora so I said what the hey, put on some pants, grabbed my coat, camera and tripod and set to work.
When we awoke the next morning we were surrounded by tourists and it was raining. The rain was something that would be a theme throughout the day and I was super duper grateful for my sweet new Arc'teryx rain coat purchased specially for this trip. We wandered around the falls in the daylight and while they are still very impressive, photographically the combination of the rain and the people just wasn't doing it for me. We ate some breakfast and set off down the road towards another waterfall Skógafos. You might recognize this from every photo you've ever seen of Iceland as well as the cover of Lonely Planet. We also stopped along the road (about every 30 seconds) on the way.
That's one way to protect your home from the wind.
You can actually climb up to the top of the falls. This would be the view right before you took the plunge.
After the falls and some lunch we hit the road towards the town of Vik and its black sand beach. When we got there it was sort of sleeting...sideways. Not to be deterred, we got out ran down to the beach, shot the famous stacks, then, soaking wet, got back in the car and drove up to the church that sits above the town with an eagle-eyed view.
Did I mention it was sleeting, sideways. Also this is cool because it looks like black and white but actually that's just what this town looks like.
Finally, after sitting there for nearly 45 minutes without any sign of break in the storm, we decided to hit the road again and head off towards our destination for the next day. Finally, near sundown the storm began to break and I was able to get these shots, our first view of the Skatafell Glacier.
This is actually just from a bridge. I loved the look of this ice floe coming down the river so I pulled over and ran up on the two lane bridge and hoped not to get blown off.
We settled in that night, tucked in a parking lot of a nearby hotel and got a good night's sleep ready for our next day and exploring ice caves. But that, my friends is a story for another day.
Until the next time,
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I have so many photos that I am going to do this thing. I am going to start a few different multipart series from all over the world and release them all in serials. I usually post on Sundays but sometimes I slack. In order to make sure you don't miss a single minute of the action sign up for email alerts when the new posts come out. Also it makes me feel super rad when someone signs up so you could also just sign up to make my day better!