Iceland has been a popular destination for tourists around the world, but if you are a landscape photographer, Iceland is a must see location. One of the best things about Iceland as a landscape photography destination is that there is so much variety. Mountains, waterfalls, coastlines, rivers, lava fields, the list can go on and on, and can make it difficult to decide where to go. People often ask me what is the best time to visit Iceland for photography, and what are the best locations. For me, anytime of year can be good, because the landscape is a different experience at different times of year. As far as locations for landscape photography, I prefer a mix of the usual tourist hot spots, and some other locations that are a little off the beaten path, and sometimes are just around the corner from popular sites. So here's a quick list of some of my favorite landscape photography locations in Iceland...
Kirkjufell is one of the most iconic locations in Iceland. It is located on the Snaefellsness peninsula about 3 hours northwest of Reykjavik. The mountain is easily recognized by it's pyramid shape, or wizard's hat shape. In addition to the mountain, there is a waterfall that makes for great photography composition that can be framed in the foreground of your image.
My tip: If the wind is calm (I know, it's Iceland, the wind is never calm) go over to the pond to the right of the waterfall when facing the mountain. There are fewer tourists over there, and you have the opportunity to use the water as a mirror to get a reflection of the mountain. Again, the wind needs to be calm, otherwise the reflection will be distorted.
On the complete opposite side of the island from Kirkjufell, is the mountain Vestrahorn. This location is a few miles from Hofn, and is technically on private property, so you will likely have to pay a small fee at the entrance to get past the gate. Vestrahorn is a breathtakingly beautiful mountain located on the coast, so you get the beauty of the mountain on the black sand of the beach. There are dunes with grass growing on them in front of the mountain, so you can get some great photography compositions with leading lines, texture, and contrasting colors. I like to go when ther eis a light dusting of snow on the mountain, because it makes it look like someone sprinkled powered sugar all over it.
My tip: Just like with Kirkjufell, go over to the water to get a reflection. The waves here are usually pretty calm and slow moving, so you should be able to set up your gear, get a shot, and run out of the way between waves.
Iceland is know for it's waterfalls. They seem to be everywhere, and they all seem to have their own specific name. In Icelandic, words ending in "foss" mean waterfall. Skogafoss, Gullfoss, Detifoss, etc are all names of waterfalls. Svartifoss is a little off the beaten path, but not far. It is located Skaftafell in the Vatnajokull National Park. From the parking lot, it's about an hour long hie each way. Some of it is uphill, so it requires a reasonable amount of fitness. Wear you hiking shoes. The waterfall is easily recognized by it's black basalt columns, in fact, Svartifoss means "black falls."
My tip: Shoot several images here, and stitch them together in Lightroom to get a nice panoramic image. Also, bring a cover for your camera, and lens cloth to wipe off the lens because of the spray from the waterfall.
Located in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, this location is popular with hikers, but is a great location for landscape photography. The colors and textures in the mountains here are like you are on another planet.
My tip: Put a drone up in the air here. It gives you a totally different perspective. There's some volcanic craters near here that look really cool from the air.
On my first trip to Iceland, I had no idea what this place was about, but after going there, I think it was my favorite. This is one of geothermal areas in Iceland, and I've never seen anything like it. The colors and steam here make for beautiful photos. One thing that you will want to beware of is the fact that this place stinks, literally. The sulfur smell here is strong, and when you are hiking up the hills here, you will be gasping in breaths full of sulfur.
My tip: Bring hiking poles. The mud here can be thick and slippery, and climbing up and down the hills can be tricky. Your shoes will get dirty for sure.
The Ice Beach/Jokulsarlon
No landscape photography tour of Iceland would be complete without a visit to the glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon and the ice beach. These locations are on the main road, and are right across the street from each other. The glacier lagoon is on the north side of the main road, and it's where you can see the massive icebergs that have broken off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, and then float in the lagoon until the become small enough to travel through the channel out to the ocean. Once they are in the ocean, the ice gets pushed back up on the black sand beach where they are scattered about looking like diamonds in the sand, thus the nickname "Diamond Beach." Be very carful when photographing these peices of ice in the sand. Every time I've been there I have seen someone have a piece of camera gear destroyed because of a rouge wave.
My tip: Use neutral density filters and a tripod to get streaks of water as it recedes around the pieces of ice. Usually a 3-5 second exposure will do the trick.
Skogafoss is one of the most well know waterfall in Iceland, and you should definitely see it, but just down the road is the less famous Kvernufoss. I love this waterfall because of its location at the end of a canyon, and that you can walk behind the waterfall. Additionally, you won't see the busloads of tourists that you'll encounter at Skogafoss. Use caution if you fly a drone here. Mine had issues with the signal when in the canyon and it crashed.
My tip: Have someone stand on the hill in front of the waterfall to make a great composition for your photo.
Obviously, the horses in Iceland aren't a location, but they are great photography subjects. The Icelandic horses can be seen all over the country. They are quite docile and friendly, and they will often approach you when you pull your car off the road. I've been able to pet them several times, and once I got bitten by one when I stopped and petted his friend. Not hard, but he tugged at my jacket when I stopped petting him. As far as photography goes, uses the horses as a subject in the foreground against a mountain, waterfall, or some other beautiful scenery.
My tip: Pull some grass and wave it at them to get them to come to you.
This one might be my favorite. I started flying a drone in Iceland several years ago, and I think the landscape looks even more amazing from the air. It just seems more massive, and you can really get a full appreciation of it from that perspective. Iceland has started limiting the areas where you can fly drones, so please respect those laws, but there are still places where you can fly and get images or video from the sky. Another option is to hire a pilot to fly you around by plane or helicopter. This is definitely and expensive option, but the advantage is that you can cover a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time, additionally you can get to remote locations that are otherwise very difficult to reach. For example, I was able to fly over remote locations of a glacier in a plane that I wouldn't have been able to get to otherwise. Plus the high perspective shooting down on the landscape is so unique.
My tip: Be sure the plane has the wing ABOVE the fuselage. If the wing is below the fuselage, it will block your view.
So that's a quick list of some of my favorite places to photograph in Iceland. Of course there are many more, so check back for more locations in the future. What are your favorite spots to photograph in Iceland?