South Iceland Winter Photography Blog – 2012

Day 1

After a short 2.5hr flight from Manchester to Reykjavik, my girlfriend & I were raring to go & start our adventure in Iceland. Unfortunately for Charlotte, I was determined to turn our romantic trip away in to a photography fest. How could I not? The plan was to arrive in Reykjavik at 3pm and drive to Skaftafell National Park in time for dinner at 7.

View South Iceland – Part 1 in a larger map

Unfortunately the trip did not get off to the best start. I was a victim of mistaken baggage identity & a dear elderly lady took my bag instead of hers. My bag contained all my clothing & most importantly my tripod. We had to wait over an hour for her to realise & return to the airport with my bag. A very near miss. After collecting our car we were ready to go & start our adventure.

Oh Dear

… Unfortunately we encountered a violent snow storm which turned our 4hr jaunt across Iceland in to an 8 hour winter struggle to stay on the road. Not easy in a 1ltr micro car. We finally arrived out our hotel. We were tired, beaten & hungry.

The next morning I would wake up in one of the worlds most amazing landscapes at the best time of year to photograph it. Our trip was late December & at this time of year, sunrise is not until 11:15 & sunset 3:15 with 2hrs of twilight either side & a sun that is always hugging the horizon, offering beautiful light all day.


Dawn broke & it was time to drive 30 Kilometers to Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon which offers magical views, irresistible to any photographer. Icebergs break from the glacier & litter the vibrant blue water. This really is a magical place.

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 70-200 f4 L | f8 | 0.8sec | CP | ND.9 | Waterproof Cover | Chevrolet Spark

We arrived at Jökulsárlón & were greeted by torrential rain & vicious winds. It was so bad that we could not get out of the car through fear of water logging equipment & clothing. I would not be deterred by this, the miserable grey weather added a moody atmosphere & really lifted the blues in the ice bergs. How did I take this photo? See below…

From the back seat of my hire car

We couldn’t get out of the car, but I was not to let this stop me getting a shot. After waiting for 3hrs for it to clear, we gave up & retreated to our hotel for dinner. Frustratingly, that evening it stopped raining & the clouds broke. We only had the next morning before we had to leave Skaftafell & drive back west so I hopped in the car & headed back to the lagoon for another crack under moonlight.

Jökulsárlón Moonlight

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f3.2 | 20sec | ISO 320


Mignight Blue

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f3.2 | 20sec | ISO 320


Jökulsárlón Moonlight Reflections

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f3.2 | 20sec | ISO 320

Day 1, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. Done.


Day 2

After having such relentless heavy rain yesterday, this morning was my only chance to photograph the icebergs on the beach at Jökulsárlón. I am unlikely to return here in the near future and having only a window of about 2 hours before we had to head back west, I found myself praying for some light. Breakfast was an anxious time & I could not wait to get going. As I neared the beach, I could see vivid colours starting to appear through the broken storm clouds of yesterday. The feeling of anxiety suddenly turned to excitement and it was foot to the floor the whole way.


Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f8 | 0.5sec | ISO 100 | CP | NDH .6

This place is magical & by far the most breath taking location I have ever visited.


Jökulsárlón Iceberg Beach,

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f9 | 0.4sec | ISO 100 | CP | NDH .6

As breath taking as it is, it is not an easy place to photograph. It is incredibly overwhelming & finding a clean composition is difficult. The beach is overcrowded with icebergs & fellow photographers. My advice is to head down the beach away from the mouth of the river. The ice bergs become less clustered together & most other photographers seem to stay as near to the car park as possible.



Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f10 | 1.6sec | ISO 100 | CP | NDH .6


Map Out

After spending a couple of hours exploring it was time to get out the map & head west to our 2nd hotel in Hafnarfjörður, just south of Reykjavik. If we left now, we would have enough light to stop & photograph some of the many locations along the way.


Glacier Pano

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 70-200 f4L | f6.3 | 1/160sec | ISO 100

This is a panoramic of 4 images. Along Route 1 towards Jökulsárlón you will see a few of these glaciers. They are magnificent & irresistible to photograph. Not 20 miles from the ice berg beach and already I am stopping & setting up to shoot. Will we ever make Hafnarfjörður?


Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f11 | 2sec | ISO 100 | CP

We had time for one water fall along our route, unfortunately I wanted to photograph 2. It was an incredibly difficult choice. Skógafoss, a large, powerful, impressive water fall which is sure to create some dramatic images or Seljalandsfoss, a beautiful waterfall which you can walk behind. In the end, Skógafoss won. We were running out of light & this was the nearer of the 2 falls.


2 lovers at Skogafoss waterfall

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 70-200 f4L | f5.6 | 1/160sec | ISO 1200

Self portrait of Charlotte & me. By this time it was dark so high ISO required to capture the detail in the water. This location requires a lot of patience for the crowds to clear. Well worth the wait however. Time to move on…


The Frozen Sea

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 70-200 f4L | f7.1| 10sec | ISO 100 | CP

I promised. I promised, I promised, I promised. After Skógafoss we would not stop again. It’s getting dark, we have been up since 7am, photographing since 9am & we have been driving for hours on end, but I could not resist the lure of a frozen sea. I don’t think this was the actual sea, it is more likely to be a lagoon on the coast, however it had the illusion of a frozen ocean. Precariously I pulled over the car on to a steep verge, hazards on & camera out. Tripod, live view on, focus on the mountains, click & go. I love minimal images & this is a favourite of mine.


Day 3

Hafnarfjörður, a coastal town just outside of Reykjavik. This would be our base for the last part of the trip. A lovely town, however we were not fortunate enough to see it. We were too busy exploring the surrounding area during the daylight hours & searching for northern lights during the evening. The plan for today was to visit the Geysirs which were approximately a 2 hour drive north east of Reykjavik, however you can’t drive in Iceland for 2 hours without seeing many varied & beautiful landscapes. Sensing a theme? Our 2 hour drive to the Geysirs took 3.5hrs, but just look at the varied landscapes which were on offer.

Fire & Ice | Leirvogsvatn Frozen Lake

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f8 | 1.3sec | ISO 100 | CP | NDH .9

70mph winds driving on an ice road in our little Sparky. The wind was strong enough to push our car sideways on the ice, keeping traction was difficult & with 10ft ditches either side, this was a very hazardous drive, but well worth it to reach the Geysirs. This image was taken only because we had to pull over for a bit of respite & toilet break. I battled with all my strength to open the door in the wind, turned around to relieve myself only to be greeted with this view. Unbelievable. Fly zipped, camera out, gloves on. I used our car to shelter the camera from the wind & took one exposure before battling up the bank & back into the car. Next!


Þingvallavatn | Iceland

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f8 | 1.3sec | ISO 100 | CP | NDH .6

This image is 20 minutes from the previous image. Iceland is truly a photographers paradise. I have gone from a frozen landscape to a vivid green landscape in the blink of an eye.


Strokkur Geysir | Thingvellir National Park

Canon 5D MK III | Canon 24-70 f2.8L | f6.3 | 1/320sec | ISO 250

The Strokkur Geysir at Thingvellir National Park. This is very active & goes off every 5 – 10 minutes. This is an image I have had in mind for some time. This area is incredibly touristy. Bus load after bus load come walking up the hill to witness this wonderful sight & a good number of these people are very inconsiderate & will not hesitate to step right in front of your camera to get a better view themselves. I was very lucky to get such a clean image with no people in the background. This is down to the weather. If you were to stand downwind you would be sure of a soaking, you would also have to slide your way over a very slippery frozen path. It took me 4 attempts to get this shot but I was not complaining as I could have watched this badboy all day.


That concludes my all too short trip to Iceland. We went for 5 days and as much as I would have liked to shoot all the time, it would have been incredibly selfish of me. It was intended as a romantic break after all. I highly recommend the Blue Lagoon.

Thanks for reading.