Iceland is a country that is on many photographers wishlists, including mine. In February, we landed at Keflavik airport to a gentle snowfall, ready for ten days of photography, based on the Southern half of the ring road.
That night, Reykjavik was treated to it biggest snowfall in 80 years – 50 cm (20 inches) laid down overnight.
As our itinerary had us in Reykjavik for two nights, this wasn’t an issue. The council had brought in multiple snowploughs from out of town and were working tirelessly to get the city cleared.
Reykjavik is not a big city, although it is the most Northerly capital city in the world. Being so compact, it was trivial to walk from place to place (icy footways notwithstanding), and what a place it is! Great architecture and sculptures scattered all over the city.
Highlights for us were the Harpa concert hall and the Hallgrímskirkja church.
Moving out of the city, we headed for the coastal town of Vik. This is most well known for its black sand beach, and the Reynisfjara sea stacks. A short distance away is Dyrhólaey, with its quaint lighthouse and stunning views.
In Vik, we were treated to a good display of the Northern lights. A period of high solar activity was occurring, and when there was no cloud, the lights looked good.
Moving on to Hofn, we first paid a visit to Jökulsárlón, the glacier lagoon, with its nearby iceberg beach. Crystal clear lumps of ice set on the black sand, sculpted into various shapes by the elements, it is an ideal place to play with techniques such as long exposures.
In Hofn itself, we spent some time at the Stokksnes peninsular, cold, windswept, and bleak, the standout subject is the imposing Vestrahorn mountain. Once again, we were treated to a good display of the Northern Lights. The howling wind made photography very tricky, as the tripod was shaking. I had to time the photos in between gusts of wind.
We came back via “The Golden Circle”, a popular tourist route taking some of the most iconic attractions, including the Gulfloss waterfall, Thingvellir national park, and the Geyser (which was so crowded we didn’t stop for a photo).
The scenery is just stunning. Quite otherworldly. It is also the cleanest place I have ever visited. The Icelandic are very proud of their country and take great pride in its appearance. They are very geared up for tourism, with good signage and parking.
By staying in apartments, rather than hotels, we were able to self-cater for a lot less than eating out costs.
I was quite surprised by the number of tourists. This is great for Iceland, as tourism brings money, but trying to find time away from the crowds is tricky. Thankfully, as we were spending a few days in each location, if somewhere was busy then we could return later when the tourist buses have moved on.
Iceland is also expensive, very expensive. A couple of burgers and a few beers in a bar came to around £90.
The tourist’s buses on the Golden Circle sometimes use “super-taxi’s” – they look like a mini-bus on a monster truck chassis. The worst driving we saw in all of our time, there was from these. They speed everywhere and act as if they own the road. They do not like people doing their own thing, as it means they are not making money from them. In our ten days there, the only bad driving we saw from them.
Iceland is a photographers dream. Stunning vistas, good light, the chance of seeing the Northern Lights, it does have a lot going for it. It’s quite a big country, and our ten days there flew by. I’d love to go again, maybe in summer to experience the midnight sun, possibly heading North to see a different part of the island.
It’s getting busier al the time, so I would go sooner rather than later if you want to see the unspoiled natural beauty before it is ruined by hordes of unthinking tourists.