Finally, after waiting for 1.5 years we (me and Julien Beyrath; http://www.julienbeyrath.com) visited Iceland for a photography trip of 8 full days. We carefully planned to which locations we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. We stayed in 3 different area’s (Snaefellsnes, Skogafoss/Vik, and Höfn/Jokulsarlon) and in the next series of three blogs I want to take you to each of these places and share our excitement and experience with stories about and pictures of this amazing country.
So it’s Friday, everything is packed and the camera equipment is cleaned. I tried to relax and to get some sleep, but the excitement took over and Saturday morning we took off with just some minor sleep. Luckily the adrenaline had the upper hand and we arrived awake and safely at the airport of Keflavik. Here we picked up our car, a Suzuki Vitara with which we were allowed to go off-road J. It was a long drive to Grundjarfordur, a town nearby our first spot with the mountain Kirkjufell and the waterfalls (Kirkjufellsfoss). Luckily we managed to get some gas for the jet boiler to make warm coffee (and yum yum noodles) during the trip, because man…. it was cold! In fact it was so cold that the layers that I took to be able to change clothes were all put on for the entire weak (3 thermo-shirts, 1 fleece jacket, 1 normal jacket, 1 rain jacket for the wind). Anyway it was already late, but we just needed to see the spot first and after a few clicks we called it a day to get some sleep before the sunrise. Surprisingly we were not the first one at Kirkjufellsfoss around 5:30hrs and that with a shitty sky (completely filled with clouds). Nevertheless, it feels good to finally see it all in real life and to be able to photograph this beautiful site. However, it is quite difficult to be original especially when we saw how many photographers were here at the end of the “golden hour”. On the other hand we were quite happy to start with the overview picture of the area and with a tiny bit of colours in the sky. Tonight we will be back to explore it again trying to find different view of this mountain. But now first some warm coffee and nice sandwiches.
Luckily we found out that this car has the option of heated seats and with that turned to maximal power we headed off to the first off-road track we found on the map J. It is strange how abandoned you feel when driving these roads between the lava-rocks. It is difficult to express it in words, but it is amazing (THE word that was said 100x or more that day). With every kilometre that passes the landscape changes and you want to stop again to enjoy it all and that’s what we did (that’s the advantage of getting up early so you have time to do it).
Eventually we reached the north site and went to Arnarstapi and walked to Hellnar through the lava-fields along the rough coast with nice rock-formations. Although the light was not the best, we managed to get some nice shots of the area. And these skies… unbelievable how fast it can turn from boring to dramatic from time to time.
Time flies when you are having fun and it was time to go back for some dinner and to get ready for the sunset. While passing Kirkjufellsfoss we saw many photographers standing next to each other and decided to go a different spot where nobody was standing. This area was also fantastic but it was also difficult to find something that really works and we were searching quite some time for a nice composition. We had hope for a perfect sunset but the opening in the sky was just not good enough to get the sky we wanted. At one point the mountain did get some of the golden light and that was the best moment. We also learned that such a moment is gone in a split second and we became aware that in Iceland it is even more important to be ready for that moment when the light is just right.
But then the fun really started… we checked the aurora forecast (http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/) and there was a chance of seeing some northern lights. While we were the first ones on the spot, soon other photographers also joined and talked about the northern lights as well. After having some hesitation (already 2 nights of only 3-4 hours’ sleep) we decided to go to the south side of Snaefellsnes to the church of Budir. After having some coffee and a little nap I looked outside and saw something strange in the sky. By making a test photo I discovered it was the northern lights, but it was not so strong and green as I expected. Nevertheless we took our gear and tried to get some nice shots with the church. But then we saw a bright green glow behind the mountains at the north side of Snaefellsnes…. so we jumped into the car and raced to the north side. Halfway we saw it coming towards us and decided to stop at a small stream, because it changes so fast that we might be too late if we drive further to Kirkjufell. In our excitement we just jumped into the river to get the shot we wanted and after a few shots we saw that clouds were coming in from the north. So back into the car to reach Kirkjufell in time and luckily we did. The area was filled with other photographers and we were just in time before the clouds completely covered the sky. So unfortunately we didn’t had the time to get the best composition, but seeing and capturing this amazing sight of green lights above the mountain was already amazing. Finally, at 2:30 hrs we called it a day.
Beep… beep…. Beep…. What?? Huh?? O yes… Iceland, northern lights, sunrise… come on let’s go back again. I had one final shot of Kirkjufell at the waterfalls in mind: we found some kind of small cave in which we were able to go a bit more into the details of this amazing place. It was not a fantastic sunrise with colours, but it was raw and dramatic and fitted completely with how I felt that morning. We were finished pretty soon and went back for a good breakfast before we had to leave this place.
Next stop was Skogafoss and it was a long drive…. Especially when I got the idea not to take the main road but a short cut with 2 different F-roads. Regarding time it was not a good idea, but it was the best drive I had in my life up till now. It started with a “rocky” landscape covered with little grey gravel/stones/volcano ash? I did not take any pictures of it because I did not wanted to sandblast my camera, what a strong wind. And then suddenly after some few hills the landscape changed into black lava sand with green moss. Then we took a turn heading for a mountain/volcano with big black/green lava rocks, which have been lying around there since the last eruption (I think?). And between these rocks we had a fantastic curved road.. Yes!!! Start your engines…… READY…. first gear, mud/snow mode… SET…. the tunes of Thunderstruck of AC/DC filled the car……. GO!!! What a ride, what a landscape… it just get better with the minute and it is only the second day!
Our plan was to stop at different waterfalls, but we only had time for one and we decided to go to Bruarfoss, a small wide waterfall with nice blue water.
After leaving this waterfall we decided to have just a quick look at Seljalandfoss to be able to be in time for the sunset at the impressive Skogafoss. We started at the bottom but after getting wet of the water spray we decided to go up. As I was pretty tired I decided to go for an easy “selfie” and then just relax and enjoy the scenery. After having the best meal of the trip (Icelandic Lamb soup and spareribs) it was time to go to sleep as the next day will be full of adventures again with crossing rivers, but this…. you will read in my next blog!