Photographing Iceland in Winter

Photographing Iceland in Winter

Northern Lights over Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Photographing Iceland in Winter

For once I might have gone somewhere warm and tropical this winter.

I had my eye on Lake Toba in Indonesia, which for some reason has fallen out of the travelers’ eye in recent years. It’d have been perfect for me, I think. I am continually in search of off the beaten path type places, the ones that feel new and unique while still offering some infrastructure so that visitors might at once maintain some semblance of comfort while also being fully immersed in the exotic.

Instead, and probably for the last time in a very long while, I picked the cold. I went to Iceland for one reason: the pictures.

Northern Lights over Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Northern Lights over Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

 

Ice Cave on Vatnajokull Glacier

Ice Cave on Vatnajokull Glacier

 

Clouds and Mountains in the Myvatn area up north

Clouds and Mountains in the Myvatn area up north

 

Kirkjufoss waterfall in the west

Kirkjufoss waterfall in the west

 

Mountain at sunrise in the south

Mountain at sunrise in the south

 

Farm at sunrise in the west

Farm just before sunrise in the west

 

Iceland is tough in winter

I had a hard time taking pictures there. Winds on some days were gusting in excess of 50mph. This made it difficult to stand, let alone take pictures. Clouds were always present; usually it was overcast but on a few days I was lucky enough to see the sun. It was quite frustrating to have traveled all the way to Iceland, only to be met with nonstop clouds for the 2 weeks that I was there, missing most of the active but hidden aurora and what might have been gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Still, the worst day traveling is better than the best day working (or so I am told) and I enjoyed being there regardless.

The sun finally poked through in Myvatn in the north

The sun finally poked through in Myvatn in the north

 

Reflections of light in Myvatn up north

Reflections of light in Myvatn up north

 

The light pokes through at Jokulsarlon

The light pokes through at Jokulsarlon in the south

 

Seconds before I got drenched at Jokulsarlon

Seconds before I got drenched at Jokulsarlon

 

Improvising

The crappy weather and missing sunlight necessitated improvising. When it was windy, I took pictures anyway. When it was cloudy, I was out shooting in the hopes of a break in the sky. Sometimes this strategy paid off, but mostly it didn’t. Eternally hopeful, I went out shooting regardless.

Framing a shot on an iPhone at Dettifoss in Iceland

Framing a shot on an iPhone at Dettifoss in Iceland

 

Dettifoss

Dettifoss

 

Light in the far north near Siglufjordur

Light in the far north near Siglufjordur

 

Blizzard conditions on the highway up north near Akureyri

Blizzard conditions on the highway up north near Akureyri

 

Shooting in Black and White

When the weather sucks and the light is poor I often resort to black and white photography. I love to include color when the light is good, but unfortunately, Iceland in winter was often devoid of both color and light. I was left shooting in black and white whether I wanted to or not.

I usually edit my black and white pictures in my camera. This means I don’t use Photoshop or Lightroom or any other nonsense. My black and white pictures are as true to what I saw as any color shot, perhaps truer because it hasn’t really been edited.

Driving the Ring Road in Iceland

Driving the Ring Road in Iceland

 

Godafoss, Iceland

Godafoss, Iceland

 

Myvatn light in BW

Myvatn light in BW

 

Vik in BW

Vik in BW

 

Vik, Iceland

Vik, Iceland

 

Taking pictures in 50mph winds at Vik

Taking pictures in 50mph winds at Vik

 

If not enjoyable, certainly an experience to remember

While it was hard to enjoy every second of my time in Iceland this February, it most definitely was an experience to remember. Like a long run or a difficult workout, even though the event itself isn’t particularly enjoyable you still get something out of it. In the case of this Iceland trip, with 50mph winds and hardly a glimpse of sunlight for two weeks straight, it was definitely one for the books.

Lake Toba here I come.

Church in Reykjavik, shot seconds before a wind gust knocked my tripod over...

Church in Reykjavik, shot seconds before a wind gust knocked my tripod over…

 

Another look at Reykjavik

Another look at Reykjavik

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