I went to Iceland in December with a friend mainly to catch some northern lights and also because I heard that it is an extremely beautiful country. So did we succeed in finding the lights? Well lets find out. Our journey started in the Capital of Reykjavik, just a short 4 hour flight from Frankfurt, Germany. Although we landed in the afternoon it was already dark by the time we reached the city center. But at least that gave us the chance to get my first good shot of the trip. Having a look around the city was nice but thats not what we came here for. We wanted to see the incredible nature this country has to offer.
So the next morning we started out on the famous Golden Circle. This is basically the road which takes you to a lot of famous sights in one day starting in Reykjavik. The first stop here is the Pingvellir National Park where the tectonic plates meet and you can walk in between two of them and there is also a really nice waterfall. The weather was really bad while we were there, it was foggy, raining and dark. Well at first it was very dark because we arrived there way before sunrise but even with the sun it remained relatively dark the whole day. The next stops where the Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir. Unfortunately the weather stayed so bad that I didn't take any worthwhile photos there.
After dark we kept driving to the east on the ring road. Suddenly we saw an illuminated waterfall on the side of the road, the Seljalandfoss. Though we didn't even plan seeing it that day we had to stop and well we were rewarded with some really interesting photos. The night was then spent in Vik as we were planning to keep heading east the next day.
Our main goal for the day was the Vatnajökull Glacier. This the biggest glacier in Iceland and most famous for the lagoon full of icebergs where the glacier meets the ocean. Being there makes you feel like you are really in the arctic, there is just ice everywhere. Even better than the lagoon itself is the beach. A black volcano beach covered with big junks of ice. Taking the obvious long exposure shot here was of course a must. By the way the light you see in the photo was around noon. The sun never really rises in the winter making for amazing photo light all day long as long as it is clear like it was this day.
Vatnajökull was the furthest east that we went on this trip so after taking dozens of icy photos we headed back on the ring road hoping to catch some last light at a very special location. We had heard of an old '70s plane wreck on a beach in the south. Thanks to google the location was easy enough to find, the only problem was the 3,5km gravel road that was supposed to get you there was closed for cars. Well we just took our cameras and tripods and started walking. By the time we found the wreck it was unfortunately already quite dark. So it was time to get a bit more creative with our flashlights but in the end it was worth it.
When we got up the next day the weather was still good and by good I mean there was no rain. So we headed back towards the Golden Circle to get the photos we missed the first day. But first we stopped at the Seljalandfoss one more time just as the sun was rising. While the night photos were nice a good sunrise can't be beaten. Although it wasn't raining that day we got completely wet by walking behind the waterfall. From there we went on to the next waterfall, the Gullfoss. Here we got very lucky again having a nice rainbow going right during sunset. Yes sunrise and sunset are really close together in Iceland this time of the year.
After another quick stop and some nice photo at the Geysir we kept driving. North this time. The direction was once again influenced by another location we found online. While not as special as a plane wreck it but still incredibly beautiful, the Kirkjufell mountain. This place is basically the most famous mountain in Iceland. But it is pretty far away from where we started in the morning so it was already late night by the time we arrived in the hotel. But not only it was night, it was a clear night so we went out again and drove away from any light sources. The night was dark and we saw thousands of stars and on the horizon was some white glow. A weird, strangely beautiful moving light. Just out of curiosity I aimed I'm camera in the direction and took a long exposure. And when it showed up on the screen I couldn't believe it. There was a strong green glow on the photo! We made it! We found the northern lights. Though they weren't that strong and barely visible to the naked I they were there and we and our cameras saw them and that's what counts.
Having spent the day before driving a lot and then the whole night watching the northern lights we decided to sleep a bit longer the next morning. But since this is Iceland in winter and we were already quite close to our location we still made it it in time for sunrise. The Kirkjufell is really distinctive mountain that you have probably seen in every photo series about Iceland ever. But for me that is no reason to not take the photo. With nature every sunrise is different and with your own vision you'll still get a bit of a different photo than all the rest.
We spent a whole day in this area also known as the Snaefellsjökull thanks to the glacier all the way in the west of the peninsula. The weather was great and the landscape breathtakingly beautiful so we had something to do. We also met some of the local population: the famous and majestic Icelandic horses. Really nice animals that are happy to pose for photos as long as you pet them. But the main reason we spent in extra day in the area was the good weather during the day so we were hoping to see some more northern lights at night. Unfortunately we had no such luck, at night the clouds came back and we saw nothing. Well sometimes you win sometimes you loose.
And that was basically the end of our time in Iceland. We headed back to Reykjavik the next day where we had another short walk through the town, only this time during the day, and in the evening we went to the blue lagoon. This is a big swimming pool/waterpark filled with warm, blue water from a natural hot spring. In the middle of the night we went to the airport and back home. All in all I had an amazing time in Iceland, I saw the northern lights and got a lot of great landscape photos just as I was hoping. The only regret was that I didn't had more time there, I would love to spend at least a month there to really see everything the next time. Anyways here are a few more shots for you to enjoy and lets see where I end up next...actually not even I know it this time.
One quick remark regarding the equipment on this trip. As you might know the shutter on my trusty Nikon D750 broke while I was in Nepal and I sent it out for repairs but of course it didn't return in time for this trip. So I used a loaned Nikon D7200 in Iceland. Most of the time the images were indistinguishable from what I'm used too. The only problem were the shadows and high iso which just aren't as good as in a full frame camera. Handling wise my biggest complains are the bad autofocus in low light and the fixed screen. I never though it possible but I have really gotten used to the tiltable screen on the D750, it just makes the camera so much easier to use in a tripod. But anyways in the end all that counts is the photographer and I'm really happy that I was able to have some camera available to photograph amazing Iceland.