First of all, from experience the optimal length of a photography trip is 4-6 weeks. When out in the field, I am working very intensively. No free days, no weekends, unless the weather is unsuitable for photography (then I work on the computer), so I simply get exhausted out of frustration. During the first 6 weeks in Iceland, the weather was almost continuously good or acceptable… In addition, after the 5th week, I left this amazing place, Landmannalaugar, so there was very little chance that the next stop would be as stimulating, even if it was the famous Geysir or Gullfoss. This proved to be right …
I always thought that the Geysir is set in a wilderness or at least surrounded by volcanic landscape. Instead, it is located among gentle hills and farmland. The name means spouting hot spring, it is the largest geyser of its kind in the world. It is not active at the moment, but its smaller brother, Strokkur, is erupting every few minutes. Fortunately for many but unfortunately for nature photographers, the Geysir is a man-made tourist attraction with stoned footpaths and benches looking out over the hot springs. They are also surrounded by a kind of fence that made me turn back (which, at that moment, was not very hard to do…). So even though geysers are amazing natural phenomena, the surroundings made me decide not to spend more time than necessary in this place.
Gullfoss is very close to the Geysir. This is the well known “rainbow waterfall” which is a famous landmark and almost everyone who comes to Iceland has a picture of it. I have seen many “standard” postcard pictures of this place, so I tried to look for a different and less known angle to capture this huge cascade.
After this episode my husband, Erlend, and I, headed towards the Hveravellir hot spring area but after about 20 kilometres of driving on a rough gravel road, we felt so sorry for our car that we turned back. Driving there and back would have taken us approx. 200 km driving on this gravel road, not of the best quality, so we decided not to visit that place.
This was the “low point” in our Iceland trip but soon after, things began to brighten up again.
We drove to Latrabjarg of which we have heard many legends. It is very impressive and one of the largest breeding colonies of seabirds in Iceland. The only problem, from a photographer’s point of view, is that it is difficult to get to the same level of the birds, apart from the edges of the cliffs, where the walking path runs along. Puffins, razorbills and fulmars often sit here and they are extremely tame so the best topic one can work with, is taking close-ups. I do not know if there is any similar or better location to do this anywhere else in Europe, so I tried to make the most of this opportunity whilst there. The funny thing is, that even if Latrabjarg is one of the remotest places in Iceland and you have to drive much of the time on bad roads to get there, it is crowded by photographers on sunny evenings… People are crazy, especially the bird photographers!
Leaving Latrabjarg, I was not sure what to do next. I needed pictures from other bird cliffs in other parts of Iceland and my time was limited so I had to make a decision whether to capture the guillemot and razorbill chicks jumping from the nest in the middle of July (afterwards they leave the colony together with their parents) or to work with arctic foxes. The latter is best to do on Hornstrandir, the only place in Iceland where hunting of foxes is prohibited; therefore they are not that shy. Hornstrandir is close to Latrabjarg, and really long way from anywhere else in Iceland, so I knew that if I did not go for the foxes right away, I would never return to this remote part of Iceland. After some consideration we decided to go for the arctic fox. I simply cannot be in two places at the same time! The weather forecast was good so we drove to the town of Isafjordur and booked a boat trip to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Good forecasts do not always mean good weather on the coast because sea mist tends to run over the fjords and the coastal areas on the brightest summer days. This is what happened to us. On the first day it was even difficult to follow the path, almost hopeless to find foxes and fox dens. The conditions were much better on the next day to look for animals and Erlend – who is just brilliant at spotting, approaching and following wild animals – shortly made friends with a nice black arctic fox. Then we started to fight against time. The fox tolerated us following him, but we had limited time until the departure of our boat back to civilization, and we had little sleep.
We were lucky to get this unique experience but were dead tired on the way back, when, due to the choppy sea (to put it mildly), many of the passengers were sick all the way back to Isafjordur. Despite the captain telling me that they had a calm sea sailing out and I should not be worried about the way back, I insisted to take a seasick pill. Thank goodness!
The seasickness did not act as a deterrent and a few days later we sailed back to Hornstrandir to spend another few days with our newfound friend. There is no question that after these days, we are in a good frame of mind again and really looking forward to the last month of our trip which will mainly take us back to places we already visited earlier but deep inside us, could not yet leave behind.
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.