Iceland is widely known for its beauty. We covered this topic on our previous post about this place. The Icelandic landscape includes extremes and contrast. There are colors and features that are unique to Iceland and Iceland only. We all know that Iceland is the perfect destination for photographers. But what makes photography in Iceland so unique?
This is what you get when you a whole ecosystem developing in a remote place like Iceland. Iceland is the dream destination for every photographer I know.
Every time you turn your head you think “Oh my god I’m not going to have enough memory on my memory card! Everything is so pretty! Everything so photogenic“.
No matter what is your favorite kind of photography: Nature, landscape, animals. And does not matter if you prefer during daytime or nighttime, either. Iceland has the Northern Lights and the midnight sun. You can find everything in Iceland.
Iceland may be small but the nature and the culture is rich. Photographers of all kinds, amateurs or professionals, will be delighted with the what Iceland can offer.
Iceland can present you with some of the most incredible photo settings you will ever witness. Every head turn you will find a picturesque opportunity.
Keep in mind that since it is an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the weather changes constantly. It’s better to stay a bit more than just a few days just in case. If the schedule and the budget allows, stay at least one week. Since the weather changes a lot Iceland gives you different look of the same view. It is like a new discovery everyday, even with the same locations.
Maybe you also have Iceland on your bucket list like I have and and maybe you love photography the same way as I do. That’s why I decided to do this dream list of places that I would love to photograph in Iceland.
Landscape photography in Iceland
Iceland is great for people who love to admire nature. Deserts, hills and valleys are just minutes away by car from rivers, waterfalls, lagoons and glaciers. Iceland even have volcanoes, ice caves and hot springs surrounded by ice.
Since distance between those beautiful locations are short be prepared for long periods outside. Mind that when you’re packing your photo gear and your clothes.
I think the best way to explore a destination is to do either by your own or with a private guide. In this post I will give you some of the locations that I think is a must see. With the help of a map and a GPS, you can for sure do it on your own, if not Guide to Iceland has many options of tours and packages.
When I finally go to Iceland, I think I’ll choose a self driving tour. I like to have freedom to photograph everything that I want and take as long as I need.
If you’re like me, make sure you have an international driver’s license. Some skills to drive in the snow are always welcome if you choose to go during the cold months.
Here’s a small pick of what you’ll find there:
This lagoon in Iceland is one of the greatest wonders of nature. Jökulsárlón is a must go place while in Iceland. With massive blocks of ice constantly breaking off the glacier, this is the best spot to observe the horror of Global Warming.
This lagoon is really deep – up to 250 meters deep. Although is not wide, this lagoon is the deepest lake in the whole country. The white and blue scenario will look perfect through your lens, trust me. Doesn’t matter how amateur you are. I think this is why I love Iceland so much. It is definitely democratic in a way.
The Ice Cave
The amazing ice caves are only available during the winter time. It is important to keep this in mind when planning, ok? That is because the caves are formed when the Glacial rivers retract and the water freezes. Every year new caves are formed in different locations.
This option is highly dependent on conditions, including temperature. Please make sure you check beforehand before you book your flight. I’ve heard a lot of successful stories but some people are not that lucky.
Being inside an ice cave gives you unparalleled photo opportunities, that’s for sure. The blue light passing through the glacier ice its something unique.
Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming when I look for photos of those caves. I’m dreaming about going to this place for 10 years already. The more I research I do, the more I want to go.
Hot Springs of Námaskarð
Located on the north side of Myvatn, this geothermal hot sulfuric mud and steam springs is from out of this world. Dark rivers and pools of sulfuric mud cut through this alien-like landscape. All you see is colorful minerals, bubbling pools and steam. The feeling you get in Námaskarð is that you are not on Planet Earth anymore.
Although this place is so uncommon that is a must go, one of the most distinguishable features simply cannot be captured by any camera: The smell.
The awful stench from the sulfuric mud and steam is unrelenting and zesty. It’s enough to make you dizzy if you dare to get too close to a steam vent – please don’t do that.
Fun fact: This is the reason why you won’t find any vegetation in Námaskarð.
But the photos you see around the web show that the beauty of this place is proportional to how awful the smell is. And this is why it is on my bucket list.
Photographing the wildlife in Iceland
If you’re into wildlife photography, it’s valid to mention that Iceland has a rich and exclusive birdlife. The puffins are the most popular and the most photogenic, in my humble opinion.
Explore the marvelous birdcliffs around Iceland. The astonishing sunsets over the water will be the perfect background for your pictures.
The Icelandic horse is a horse breed that was developed in Iceland. Although those animals are small and sometimes the size of ponies, it is a horse. Trust me, I did my research because they are too cute and too tiny.
They are so unique and native from this country that Icelandic laws prohibit the horses from going abroad and coming back. In other words, once the horse is exported, that’s final. It will not be allowed in Iceland anymore. The horses in the island have very few diseases and they want to keep that way.
Next up are the sea animals that you can observe in the coast of Iceland. Whales and seals can be easily spotted depending on when you decide to go.
Besides those animals there are a lot of sheeps and cows around. And if you’re lucky enough you can spot wild foxes or even some reindeer.
Northern lights photography in Iceland
If you choose to head to Iceland during the winter months, keep the Northern Lights in mind. During the dark months the Aurora Borealis put up the most beautiful show in the Icelandic skies. The sky must be clear and it has to be dark outside to see it.
It can be problematic to capture the Northern Lights with your camera. Not all camera works, you must have one that you can control shutter speed and exposure.
The settings for a perfect shot will be with long exposure, specially if it is a moonless night. Make sure you have a tripod and super warm clothes. For lenses I would go for F2.8 (or F1.8) and wide lenses.
Since I’m in love with the Canon 24-70mm 2.8 (Amazon DE / Amazon US), I would bet on this one for the perfect shot. Even though they are a high investment, they were the best lens Fotostrasse ever tested. Highly recommended.
I’ve tested this lens during the winter and went pretty well. Please make sure you test your equipment in harsh conditions before. Nobody wants to come back empty handed, right?
A cool pro tip for making sure you manage to spot the Northern Lights I’ve got from a few photographers is to book a room at Ion Hotel. This particular hotel has the biggest windows and it is located far enough from civilization, reducing the light pollution. And what you definitely want to avoid in your Aurora photos is the presence of light pollution. The darker the environment, the better your images will turn out.
If you ever been to any of those destinations, please post on the comments your photos and stories. I’m mega curious about photography in Iceland and I research a lot about it. If you have tips for me, I’ll gladly take it. I’m daydreaming about Iceland for a while now and I’d love to hear about cool experiences.