Photography isn’t just something I do. Exploring and capturing a beautiful landscape at sunrise or sunset is something I enjoy more than most anything else in the world that doesn’t involve my family or sleeping late on a Monday morning. And photographing Iceland was no different.
So here is part two (of several blogs) where I’ll share what I've experienced traveling and photographing Iceland. In part three, I discussed the beauty of south Iceland, including the mystical Mulagljufur Canyon and the icebergs of Jökulsárlón Bay and Diamond Beach. In part one (still a work in progress and yet to be published), I am writing about my experiences exploring west Iceland and the famed Snæfellsnes Peninsula and, nearby, the most-photographed mountain – Kirkjufell.
Now, let’s move to the north part of Iceland. Leaving my west Iceland home base, Grundarfjörður, I took 54 to connect with the Ring Road (Route 1) and headed east towards Akureyri. From here to Husavik to Mývatn, these are some of my favorite places worthy of a stop.
Goðafoss (foss=waterfall) is about 50km (31 miles) east of Akureyri just off the Ring Road. As a major stop for tour busses that pass by, it is a nice waterfall – not too large and not too powerful, but easily accessible. The water often shows as an aqua blue on the afternoon sun, and various cascades add to its charm. The walkway is bounded by guardrails, and while here I found myself switching from a wide-angle lens to a 24-105L so I could zoom in. From those images, I created the panorama below.
A week earlier when I was photographing Ingjaldshólskirkja (kirkja = church), I met a few guys from Wyoming who were traveling in a camper van and had parked out of sight behind the church. While waiting for the midnight sun to cast its golden light across the lupine, we discussed our plans. When I told them I was heading east in a few days, they both said there was a waterfall not to be missed – Aldeyjarfoss. They were right.
In my opinion, this out-of-the-way waterfall is one of the most stunning in the country. The drive to reach this waterfall is 25 miles south of Godafoss down a bumpy dirt road – Route 842. The way is well marked and also requires crossing through several sections of private property. Thus, someone will need to open and close the gates as you pass through. Be aware - the gates do not open like gates in the US – at least any I’ve experienced. Please be considerate as these are working farms with curious sheep who would love the chance to find the greener grass! Once you reach the parking area, you may be happy to find the restrooms are clean and well-maintained. A quarter-mile walk down a slippy, rocky path leads to a waterfall that plunges alongside mysterious hexagonal basalt formations. You'll hear it before you see it! The afternoon sun turns the water a blue-green hue, making for a very unique scene. I tried several lenses here, but my favorite was the 11-24 for its super-wide-angle capability.
One of my favorite things to do in a village on the coast is to sit on a bench or stroll the cobblestone streets and take in the subtleties of local life. For photography purposes, Husavik has a lot to offer.
The buildings along the harbor make for quaint scenes, and close-ups of the boats always have something interesting to shoot. Here, I found my 24-105 worked best for both shots across the water and for more intimate details of the boats.
Lupine in Husavik
Lupine are a cousin to the Texas bluebonnet (and mostly unwelcome and non-native to Iceland). Nevertheless, I was excited to find lupine spread across the hills surrounding the coastal village. It took patience and a few days, but on the main road heading south from town, I finally found an early morning (~ around 2:30am) when the winds were relatively calm.
I used one of my wide-angle lenses for this image – actually blending several separate shots of differing depths-of-field – to produce this lupine image that is sharp from front to back. Even today, I still have RAW files from these lupine that I’d like to work on, but the manual blending process is so tedious, I usually find something else to work on! I know there are apps that will do the blending, but even with slight breezes when talking multiple shots I find too much ghosting for my satisfaction. Thus, I do the blending myself.
I also need to take minute to praise a horseback riding establishment. I took my family horseback riding one morning at Lava Farms. Tora, the main guide, and her daughter, led my wife and two daughters and me across the beautiful land just south of Husavik. She was patient, kind, and shared a lot of the local history from this area. The half-day we spent with Tora, her daughter, and easy-going Icelandic horses was unforgettable, and my girls still talk about how much fun they had.
Heading south on 87, the geothermal wonderland of Myvatn awaits. Lava fields, steaming earth, blown out craters, and boiling mud pools are just a few of the other-wordly and Mars-like terrain that awaits. A few of my favorites included:
Leirhnjúkur Lava Field – a 15-minute walk leads further into the Krafla geothermal area at the edge of a large lava field, and that is just the beginning. I used a 16-35L for this area. Stay on the trail well after the first 15 minutes. Steam rising from the lava, bubbling mud pots, and a Martian landscape are waiting.
Stóra-Viti Crater – Again in Krafla, this crater formed in 1724 and is much steeper than it appears in this photograph. Taken with a 11-24L lens to capture the stark beauty of this area, this image also captures the aqua color. A trail encircles the crater and makes for a nice hike.
Dettifoss and Selfoss
Jokulsargljufur, as part of Vatnajökull National Park, is a glacier river canyon with breathtaking views and miles (and kilometers) of hiking trails. The three waterfalls best known in this area are Hafragilsfoss, Dettifoss, and Selfoss – all found along the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River. Dettifoss is the most visited, and plunges 144’ while carrying 656 square feet of water over the ledge per second, making it Europe’s most powerful waterfall.
Selfoss is shorter (only 36 feet high) but wider.
For these falls, I used two lenses, a 16-35L and my 11-24. Bring a soft towel or lens wipe because the ever present spray will sprinkle the lens with water.
There is more to come from this amazing outdoor wonderland. East Iceland is up next.
Safe travels, everyone!