It only feels like yesterday when I was in the Dolomites, but here I am again sitting down to write another trip report, and this time it’s from my 5 day photography tour in Iceland during September 2022.
For the first time, I had a full group of Irish guys and as we say back home, the craic was absolutely 90!
Originally this tour was meant to focus on the Fagradalsfjall Volcano which had been erupting from August 2022, but shortly after I announced the tour, the volcano started to unfortunately die. Very quickly I was able to turn it into a normal tour of Iceland where we focus on the South Coast and up the East Coast.
With every photography tour I do, I’m always refining them, making them more comfortable and enjoyable which minimise the amount of time we spend driving in the car to each location.
For this tour I decided to book accommodation in multiple places, we had 2 nights on the south coast, we spent a night about 20 minutes from Jokulsarlon and on the final night, we spent it only 10 minutes from the airport – all of which was absolutely perfect and something I will continue to do on my Iceland Photography Tours.
The tour itself was fantastic, we managed to squeeze a lot into the 3 full days that we where there.
“shoot what you’re given not what you wanted”Oli Haukur
As we where all on the same flight from Dublin this made it super easy for when we arrived early afternoon as it meant we could get straight down to business. After collecting our rental Toyota Hilux we made a straight be line to our sunset location which was the beach at Vik to shoot towards Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks.
As always, I warn my guests about the dangers on this beach, the ocean here is angry, her waves are extremely dangerous and it’s notorious for sneaker waves. They must keep their backpack on their back at all times, and to keep one eye on the ocean too. I’m always on the look out, ready to shout if I see anything coming.
The classic shot is looking out towards the sea stacks, positioning the stacks on the top left third crosshair, with the bottom 2 thirds of the image being either filled with the black sand, or if you time it well the sea rushing back out. We didn’t have much colour on this day and the scene plays well to a natural black and white so I converted the image to black and white.
As I’ve been to this location many times before, I always try and come away with something different too, and something I try to encourage with my guests too. Look for something unique in the area.
I played around shooting just the waves this time, varying my shutter speed from 1 second to 1/3 of a sec, trying to really capture the motion of the waves, trying to show how angry they truly are which I think I achieved.
Our first full day today and it was an early start. I like to be on location 1 hour before sunrise as it’s before sunrise that you have the chance of catching any colour that may happen.
Our sunrise location this morning was Arnardrangur Sea Stack which is located on Reynisdrangar Beach, you have beautiful views here of the full length of the beach towards the Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks.
Most of us choose to focus on the sea stack itself, along with the curve of the beach and waves, waiting for the waves to wrap around the stack and go up the beach and it is when the waves start going back out to sea, that’s when we take the photo.
I always prefer to shoot when the waves are going back out. When the waves are coming in, they are almost entirely white with the sea foam, when they are moving back out, the foam is disappearing and the details of the waves are becoming visible.
After our sunrise, we’re always ready for a coffee so it’s a quick 15 minute drive into Vik to visit the Lava Cafe, who do amazing coffee! After coffee, it’s onto our next location which is probably ends up being everyone’s favourite waterfall and that is Kvernufoss.
This waterfall is situated right beside Skogafoss, at the end of a gorge. It’s extremely photogenic from multiple locations within the gorge.
I love getting my boots off, pulling my trousers up to my knees and getting in the water and on this occasion, everyone else did the same! Here we’re exaggerating the size of the foreground using our wide angle lenses. We’re probably no more than a 2 foot from the water, looking right down at the flowing water, and positioning the waterfall on the top left third. You could also completely centre the waterfall here too. Regardless of where you position the waterfall, this is still a very strong composition that works brilliantly.
After we’d finished getting our feet wet and refreshed with the ice cold water it was onwards to the waterfall itself. Again even more compositions to be had here. From my experience, this waterfall is best shot when the sun shines right down into the gorge as you can capture a beautiful rainbow!
What I particularly love about this waterfall is the actual detail of the waterfall. You can watch a single droplet of water come over the top and follow it right to the bottom. Using a fast shutter speed, in the case of the image below I shot it at 1/8000 sec which literally freezes the water in place, and the added bonus of that beautiful rainbow.
The best part of the waterfall? Well I’ll let the image below do all the talking!
Can you believe we’re still on day 2? This shows just how much we can get crammed into a single day!
The final location of day 2 and our sunset location is the magnificent Dyrhólaey with views down the endless black beach to the west and to the not really photographed much lighthouse.
I didn’t shoot the endless sand beach on this occasion but here’s an image from a previous tour to give you an idea of what it can look like.
Like everyday on my tours, we always have an early start to ensure we’re at our sunrise location an hour before hand. When I woke at 4am and heard the rain bouncing off the roof, I wasn’t convinced we’d be shooting a sunrise, but regardless of weather we always at least try. Weather in Iceland can clear up in 5 minutes, and then 5 minutes later it can change again so from my experience you never know what you’re going to get.
It was to take us roughly 50 minutes to get to our sunrise location, and for the the entire drive it absolutely poured down.
Based on the weather forecast, further north was to be clear until mid afternoon. The rain we where experiencing now was going to then move in, so a decision was made to move on towards Vestrahorn.
We arrived at Vestrahorn after about 3 hours total of driving. It did take longer as we made a few stops along the way just to stretch our legs, and to grab some much needed coffee.
Vestrahorn is one of those locations that everyone wants to shoot. You can be lucky and have perfect reflections of the mountain, and you can be unlucky where the top of the mountain is shrouded in cloud, and based on todays forecast, we’d be getting the reflections but cloud on the top. It was coming and going, and for a few minutes it did clear slightly just enough that you could make out the entire mountain.
I read a great quote recently “shoot what you’re given not what you wanted” and with Vestrahorn this was the case. I think we all envision epic light, orange clouds, perfect reflections. But regardless of what the weather is doing, there is a photo to be had, and just look at the video below!
If you are unlucky with conditions, then it’s just the perfect excuse to use that 10% discount that I give every person who’s been on a tour with me and you can come back again on another tour the next year!
Not long after we’d packed up, the weather closed in and the heavy rain once again found us so it was time to check-in to our accommodation for the rest of the evening.
Another early start this morning on our final day. This time we’d be shooting sunrise at the magnificent Diamond Beach. The good thing about Diamond Beach is that you don’t need decent weather to shoot it as the majority of what you’re shooting is on the ground right in front of you.
When we arrived the end of the rain was just finishing up so we waited in the car for about 30 minutes just for it to finish which it did. We where very lucky in that we had the entire beach to ourselves, and there was a good selection of exquisite ice about to find a great composition. It didn’t take long for one of my guests to find a great composition where it was just a couple of blocks and the waves where coming in from a decent angle.
Like the beaches of Reynisfjara, the ocean again here is angry and sneaker waves are a common occurrence, it’s bags on the back, one eye on the camera and another on the ocean, but I’m always keeping a very close eye on everyone!
It didn’t take too long for one to come in and completely take away the below composition.
After sunrise it was time to head back south and east towards our accommodation beside the airport. We had a long 5 hour drive ahead of us this time round as I wanted to be close to the airport for our stupid o’clock flight at 6am. This wasn’t the end of the tour by any means, I had a sunset location in mind for the evening.
As we where making our way along the south coast west, the sky was looking so promising. Probably 70% cloud cover and on the horizon there was a decent gap with blue skies behind it. For anyone who’s been doing landscape photography for a long time will know that a gap on the horizon is absolutely great news, the light you can get through these can be epic!
Unfortunately I broke the number one rule I live by when on tours, arrive at your sunrise or sunset location at least 1 hour before hand. We arrived with about 20 minutes to spare, it was quick dash to the location, everyone got setup very quickly, everyone got great side lighting and afterwards the red glow was epic.
All in all, the few days that we where here, it was absolutely brilliant. We had the best of craic, we laughed so hard there where tears and we created memories that will last a life time – thanks Jonny 😂🐶
Although we didn’t have the best light all the time, we made the most of it, everyone put in fantastic effort and everyone is going home with great images! And even better, one of the guys has already made a booking for another trip and two 5 star review have already come in 🙂
Like every time I leave Iceland, I can’t wait to get back again.