After finding some really inexpensive airlines tickets through WOW Airlines, the 3 of us, Lear Miller, Brian Dunham, and myself decided to travel to Iceland for 6 days. Being my first trip to Iceland I didn't know what all to expect, I had no idea what landscapes should take priority. Luckily going with a friend who's been before made it easier. The first half of the trip we spent driving along the southern coast making our way to Vik, and eventually reaching our furthest eastern point Jokulsarlon. This half of the trip we were pestered by quite a bit of bad weather, we didn't even see sunlight to our 3rd day. We went through a lot of microfibers and plastic bags trying to keep our gear dry, and thank god for Canon's weather sealing, seriously thank you Canon. We then back tracked and made our way past Reykjavik and on to Grundarfjordur. Thanks to Lear we had a very Icelandic Land Rover to cruise in all week from Isak rentals. We stayed in some last minute hostels and vrbo's to keep the expenses down.
Only having 6 days on the very photogenic island means we spent a lot of time driving to make sure we could see as much as we possibly could. Most days we spent at least 5 hours in the car. On the plus side due to the short hours of winter we were able to get most the driving done in the dark, but this also meant not having much daylight to work with. By our last day we had still yet to see any northern lights, except for the epic show we got on the plane ride in. Luckily the photo gods were on our side and gave us a nice parting gift with some northern lights near Hellnar.
Since Iceland is blasted all over Instagram I felt like I had already seen it all. It was weird being so familiar with a place I have never been. In a way it desensitized some of my excitement, that along with my constant necessity to capture photos every waking second. I made it a point several times on the trip to hike up to a ridge line or find non populated areas to be by myself. I would put down the camera and appreciate the landscape in front of me. On my adventures I find it very easy to live through my camera and not through my eyes. I think its easy to have a disconnect with nature because of technology. While capturing the memory or creating photographs from these places is fulfilling in its own way, I think the mind likes to be unencumbered by distractions for a few moments to enjoy why you're there in the first place.
Iceland is a beautiful country that has photogenic landscapes around every corner, but there are some problems that need to be addressed. Iceland now relies on tourism for about 31% of its economic earnings. Tourism is on the rise in Iceland, growing from around 400,000 in 2010, to 1.2 million in 2015, and a projected near 2 million in 2017. Although this is wonderful for their economy it's destroying a lot of the landscapes. I couldn't believe how much trash I would see in these beautiful locations. If we want to preserve the planet for future generations to enjoy the privileges we have now, we have to do our part and simply pick up after ourselves.
- Don't plan on the weather. The saying in Iceland is the weather changes every 10 minutes. This means if you're traveling in the winter, be ready for rain and snow storms. Also with a lot of cloud coverage and often having weak viewing of the northern lights, don't plan on them. But if you do find a clear night they can be easily over looked. On nights when the lights are weak they almost look like white clouds.
- Bring shit to keep your gear dry. Plastic camera bags, towels, etc.
- Don't leave your wet gear in your bag. Let it dry out. If you don't the lens will condensate and you'll have a nice foggy spot that doesn't go away till the lens temperature acclimates to the outside weather which takes about 20 mins.
- Try to have a plan. Although i'm not one to like super structured plans while exploring, Iceland has so much to see that you could easily drive past something worth stopping at and not even know it.