Extreme Iceland

It is entirely possible that Iceland will be unkind to you. Not that the Icelandic people are unpleasant you understand, far from it, but the island can serve up copious helpings of rain, snow and wind followed by more rain, snow and wind. Did I mention that it might rain? On the plus side, it is that very changeability that makes Iceland such an exciting place to photograph. With an open mind and a catholic photographic diet, sooner or later you’ll feast on its visual delights.

My recent trip to the north and west was predictably unpredictable. I headed out in the company of Paul Chilton, one of our longest established tour guests and we covered some miles checking out the light in this place and that place. After 6 days on the road, our group arrived in Akureyri and the process started all over again – it’s a hard life you know!

Two days before our arrival, much of northern Iceland had been encased in deep snow with roads blocked and the inevitable chaos of blizzardous conditions. Although still very windy, we missed the worst of it and soon settled in to our daily rhythm – up early, out late and resting in between (not).

Iceland is becoming something of a photographer’s mecca. Not that it’s crowded (yet) but even in the remotest places, it won’t be long before you bump into someone you know, or at least someone who knows someone you know. What this means is that the photographic bar is soaring at a rate that I don’t think I’ve previously witnessed at any location. Someone gets a good shot, posts it on the net; someone else sees the location and gets a better shot, posts it on the net: the whole process is exponential. Photographers have fallen under Iceland’s spell for a long time but I’ve never seen somewhere become so popular so quickly.

Our first stop was en-route north to the ridiculously difficult-to-find Bruarfoss. It’s a lovely spot but I’ve never felt it offered more than basic potential and the effort in getting there is questionable. Snaefellsnes is a whole different kettle of fish and although its prize photographic jewels are now well covered, it offers drama and subject matter in abundance.

Moving east the landscape becomes harsher, the weather more extreme but the autumn colours more vibrant. There are not many native woodlands on Iceland but those that have taken hold wear a dazzling autumn coat and are difficult to leave such is the beguiling colour. Godafoss, Dettifoss and Selfoss (although the best side of the latter two were cut off by snow), all featured in our itinerary plus the less visited Aldeyjarfoss – access again being dodgy to say the least (thanks Isabel).

Clear night skies eluded us and the lack of opportunity to photograph aurora was frustrating but we still packed lots in. A photographer would need ten lifetimes to cover Iceland’s many moods. It’s a country of physical contrasts and extremes; it’s also challenging – physically, emotionally and creatively. I don’t yet feel I’ve ‘done’ Iceland, nowhere near. There are new places to explore and regular places to revisit. I’ll be back there in February with a merry band of Northshots guests. Beyond that, if you fancy a photographic adventure in one of the most seductive places on earth, join me in 2015.

My thanks to Adrian, Andy, Mel, Penny, Paul, Sandy & Ann for their company and endeavour.

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