Iceland is a location on every photographer’s to-do list. When a deal popped up on Facebook, I couldn’t have booked myself a trip any quicker! Of course, if something’s too good to be true, it probably is…
It wasn’t long until all of the money I was spending started to add up and the travel agents’ true colours started to show. The trip started with a five hour journey to Gatwick airport and a few hours in it’s less than satisfying waiting area.
All that said, the food from one of the restaurants was pretty nice and the experience with security was actually fairly pleasant. My girlfriend and I couldn’t have been more excited. We spent months looking at things to do and places to see – nothing could get us down!
Our aeroplane landed at Keflavik airport and it was obviously very cold but first impressions were good. The air was fresh, the airport was nice and the people were friendly. We collected our bag and bought a bus ticket from a counter near the exit. A bus took us to the bus terminal in Iceland’s capital, Rekjavik, and a smaller shuttle bus dropped us off right outside our hotel, Fron. We found ourselves in a really cool area of the town and realised our hotel was one of the nicest we had seen so far! We were truly impressed!
On the journey into Reykjavik, it was dark and we couldn’t see much so I was desperate to explore the town once we arrived. Other than a few bars and a couple of restaurants, there wasn’t a lot that was open. I actually had something quite specific in mind that I wanted to find - The Sun Voyager Sculpture. It was conveniently located just down the road from our hotel, sitting on the edge of the water overlooking the ocean and Mount Esja in the distance.
When I first saw the sculpture, I was amazed by how big it is, as well as the interesting design. The light illuminating the sculpture reflected off its shiny, steel surface – making it stand out from the landscape, but making it hard to photograph against the dark, night sky. The city lights in the background also created unattractive lens flare, but I like a challenge and I like how the photos turned out. I am especially happy with how the moving clouds were captured, considering I didn’t get the starry sky I was hoping for.
The following day, we woke up to rain so we spent the morning in bed. After we caught up with some sleep, we started the day with some nice food from “Vinyl” (a vegan café nearby) and then walked to the National Gallery. Inside the National gallery is a collection of mostly nineteenth and twentieth century Icelandic art. Some of which, is a little unusual and pretty quirky to say the least, but I found most of it really quite amazing.
The National Gallery is located beside Tjornin Lake – a substantial lake, home to many swans and ducks, that you have to cross to get to the National Museum. The lake even freezes over in the winter, but we sadly had to take the bridge as there was no patches of ice at all at this time of year.
Once we had arrived at the museum and paid our admission fee, we started exploring in an attempt to learn about Icelandic history and culture. If you’re like me, and find it hard to retain interest whilst reading when tired, you’ll be happy to find the occasional computer system that talks you through a lot of the displays. As well as an exhibition dedicated to working women, the museum has a very nice café and a gift shop. Whilst my girlfriend had a look around the shop, I ate a brownie and drank a coffee from the cafe. Meanwhile, the rain got worse and we had to make our way back to the hotel, getting wetter and colder every second.
The rain and cloud cover meant that our northern lights tour was cancelled. We also booked a golden circle tour for the following day - taking us to a national park, letting us experience a geyser in all it’s glory, giving us a taster of Iceland’s many waterfalls and much, much more. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go to the Blue Lagoon as planned due to them being fully booked. The lessons to be learnt are: be prepared to reschedule, book weeks in advance and definitely do a Golden Circle tour!
Our Golden Circle tour lasted a solid eight hours, and we were back in time to catch the sunset at Tjornin Lake. What amazes me about Reykjavik is how you can almost always see the incredible Mount Esja. I loved the viewpoint from Tjornin Lake and used a longer lens to show it off and frame it nice and tight. Also in my photo are a number of buildings that show Reykjavik at it’s best whilst the long exposure shows how peaceful it is.
On the other side of the lake, I took more photos at a bit of a slipway. The nice light and beautiful colours had pretty much disappeared, but I like the shot as it incorporates the wildlife and fits well with my other images. I also loved the stones’ textures and the diagonal, leading lines.
The next morning, I had planned a whole bunch of stuff for sunrise but the overcast conditions meant that I was best off switching it up. The conditions are always changing in Iceland, so it’s a good job I was prepared for it. I woke up nice and early to make it to Hallgrimskirkja church with time to spare. Being at the church as early as possible (with the sky still blue) was incredibly important as I knew the church would be lit with warm light – contrasting against the sky and complementing it well.
After I had finished focussing on the church, I turned around to head back to the hotel. As I looked down a street leading to the ocean, I saw patches of red in the sky thanks to a break in the clouds. I rushed down the street until I ended up at the Sun Voyager Sculpture. I had already photographed here, but it was nice to have shots in a variety of light. Plus, I could shoot it from the opposite side to mix things up. By the time I arrived at the sculpture, the colourful sky had gone, but I still like how the shots turned out.
My girlfriend and I spent the majority of that day in and around Hallgrimskirkja Church, and even on top of it. The church has it’s own tower, open to the public, that offers amazing view of the whole city from 73 meters in the sky! The architecture on the inside is almost as amazing as the outside and an incredibly photogenic organ is the cherry on top.
After one of the best nights of my life seeing the northern lights, I woke up for another sunrise in Reykjavik. The sky was clear and the air was cold… Very cold… Freezing! And I was out making the most of my final day in Iceland. I couldn’t go home without a photo of the Harpa concert hall and I wasn’t going to ignore its award winning architectural design. A bridge outside the building created leading lines and made for the perfect foreground.
Whilst waiting for our airport transfer, my girlfriend and I spent most of our time in our favourite restaurant in Iceland – Glo. With friendly staff, delicious food and nice coffee, we can highly recommend it. It was in this restaurant that I looked back on the photos I took that morning and discovered a hidden gem. It was a photo of Mount Esja being bathed in amazing morning light. Mount Esja had me in awe everyday of the trip – the layers of hardened lava left by different volcanic eruptions and the mountain’s many fjords created my melting glaciers.
Our time in Iceland was brought to an amazing end thanks to a mesmerizing show of colour out of the aeroplane window. Our take off was perfectly timed with the sunset and we were treated to a view of the rugged coastline from above. Plus, we could even make an attempt at spotting a whale or two out of the window – sadly, with little success. Nevertheless, it was the perfect time to reflect of how incredible Iceland is and how fantastic our time in Iceland has been. Thank you Iceland!
Full Photo Gallery | Golden Circle Tour | Northern Lights