Finally, our long awaited trip to Iceland (not the cheap frozen food shop) was here, my girlfriend (Tiffany) and I flew into Reykjavik, hired a car from the Airport and drove down to our hotel in the middle of the city. We booked to stay in Reykjavik for 6 nights, and from there planned to get up early everyday and drive out to a new location.
It was teaming down with rain on the first night, but like determined tourists we got soaked anyway, all in the name of getting a few cool images… The Harpa building is one of the most famous and iconic buildings in Reykjavik, in fact maybe even all of Iceland (there aren’t that many buildings in Iceland), it’s pretty much all glass and looks like it was made in the future.
Harpa building after a wet day
The weather had its benefits
Although Reykjavik was great, we didn’t come to Iceland for a city but everything else the country offered. Thingvellir National Park, being probably the closest ‘hotspot’ to Reykjavik, was relatively busy (to my slight disappointment), but amusingly the tourists barely ventured from the coach park and coffee shop, I sometimes wondered if they thought those were built first!
Thingvellir National Park
Bruarfoss waterfall is a little off the beaten track so it takes some finding but it’s well worth it. I cannot describe how surreal it is to see such blue flowing water with my own eyes. I just assumed every photo of it was manipulated to emphasise it, but no, it’s really this blue!
Bruarfoss waterfall – ‘the blue one’
Finally we stopped at Gulfoss, which is an almighty waterfall at the tip of the golden circle, probably the most famous tour route as it only takes a day and can be done from the airport. This was impressive to say the least and you can see from the tiny footpath just how huge this is. Remember, I come from England and the largest waterfall here wouldn’t be big enough to shower under!
After a 16 hour slog the previous day, and a lot of driving (for Tiffany anyway) we decided to spend a day exploring Rekyjavik a little more. It’s a sparsely populated city with only 200,000 residents and never felt too busy, the local people are fantastic and we felt at ease at every moment. There are some really gorgeous and quirky details in the city that are well worth exploring photographically, so I suggest spending a day or two at least here, maybe more depending on the time of year. We were fortunate with the light that day, and coupled with the wind and clouds it made for some really nice tonal landscapes too.
Lots of corrugated iron to protect from the weather
About halfway through the trip we embarked on a bit of a road trip to eastern Iceland near Hofn, stopping at all the amazing waterfalls along the way, this is where Iceland for me started to feel a bit more real, and more like what I was expecting. Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are quite amazing, the scale of them is like nothing I have ever seen. Be prepared to get wet though as both kick off a mammoth amount of spray. The cameras held up like champions throughout and I have a new found confidence with Sony’s weather sealing. Even though I was using a rain sleeve (one that was too small) the cameras still got soaked, I could barely wipe the spray off the lens fast enough to take the photos.
My perfect house
Seljalandsfoss – The colours!
Skogafoss – An Epic waterfall
A little further down road near a lovely village called Vik, we arrived at Reynisfjara beach… wow, what a totally unique place. I have never see anything like it, the rock formations are spectacular, the black sand underfoot feels surreal and the rock stack that sits just off the beach makes for a great shot. The weather was horrendous so I was struggling to keep myself warm, the camera covered and get any sort of image, then there was a rather soggy looking girlfriend that seemed unimpressed with the amount of time I was taking. The bright white hazy cloud cover, mist and the rough seas made for an image that I couldn’t picture in my head at the time, I was not quite expecting such a subtle result as it felt so contrasting at the time.
The long exposure tames the crashing waves
We drove a bit further down Route 1 to Jokulsarlon Lagoon and the ice beach. Holy moly, this was my favourite part of the trip so far, the ice lake is a really special place, it’s relatively busy by Iceland standards but as it’s far from the capital it’s not too bad. The ice again is really blue, which is to do with fresh snow falling and compressing onto the glacier with pockets of air in between, making for a blue appearance.
Ice spear piercing a moody sky
Literally just across the road is the most amazing black beach and better still hardly anyone seemed to realise it was even there. It’s pretty well documented, so I have no idea why people didn’t cross the road. Much of the ice from the glacier floats under the bridge and is then washed up along its shores. The light here is quite unbelievable, the whole place just seemed to glow. The ice contrasts gorgeously with the jet black wet sand. I loved this place from the moment I saw it, and it definitely took the crown as the coolest place I have been to.
It is really that clear
Clear blue chunk of ice sat in the water
Driving on route 1 (Iceland’s main road) is like driving on a small A road in the UK, there are safe places to pull off if you want to stop and take photos, but never stop on the roadside otherwise you might not make it back. Having driven most of the way in harsh weather, mist and darkness, we were stunned to see what we had missed along the way.
My personal favourite
We must have stopped twenty times on the way back to Reykjavik, I couldn’t believe the scenery that was just passing us by… That was the day I fell totally in love with Iceland.
When we arrived back into the city, for once the sky was clear, and the stars were bright. Our hotel was a short walk down to the water and before I could even get my camera out of the bag, the Aurora started to emerge. This was the icing on the cake on a pretty amazing day!
I couldn’t believe the purple colour of the mountain and sea.
I have barely edited this image, just a contract increase, the colours are real!
I am not one for doing all the tourist things if I can help it so instead of the blue lagoon, we headed to the ‘secret’ lagoon. Well, the secret is well and truly out… It was busy to the point of being uncomfortable, so I recommend you avoid going in the afternoon. Set off from the city at 9am and get there for 10.30 and you’ll have a great trip I am sure, or just run a hot bath and pretend you went there!
I took a few images from the passenger window, and was particularly impressed with the RX100, although I didn’t use it much due to the rain the days before.
Out of a moving car window
So, Iceland. It really is a truly special place, from the people, to the sprawling diverse landscape that is mesmerising and unpredictable. To the roads that make you feel like you’re the only people in the country. The sense of adventure is huge, you get totally lost in your own little world in Iceland and the short time I was there only made me want to stay.
Rock stacks at Reynisfjara
What I learnt
I will be going back to Iceland, that is a certainty. I would however do things very differently next time, I would not stay in hotels and instead hire a 4×4 camper van. There are designated campsite and sleeping areas all over Iceland, many of which are close to Route 1, so no more 3 or 5 hour drives back to Reykjavik each day. I would skip the golden circle and the waterfalls and head straight for Reynisfjara and from there spend 10 days driving around all of Iceland at our own pace.