Photographers with an eye for landscapes will find a lot to love about Iceland. Fjords, icebergs, black-sand beaches, glaciers, volcanos and lava flows are just some of the awesome geological features that will be part of your photographic feast.
Before I get into three great locations, here’s a quick word on gear. I brought three lenses with me: A 200-millimeter manual prime, a 50-millimeter manual prime and an 18 to 50-millimeter autofocus lens. I barely even used the 200, and I often wished desperately for a wide-angle and a fisheye. I also used polarizing filters on all. I only had any significant sunshine on two days of my two-week trip. Your results will vary according to sunlight. Even the overcast days will give you incredible photos, though, if you select your white balance and ISO correctly. Now, onto the sites!
Landmannalaugar – This is one of Iceland’s most popular hiking areas. Fortunately for photographers, some of its finest sites are within eight miles of the first trailhead. Even the trailhead is surrounded by awesomeness, including steep, brightly colored mountains of rhyolite. The hike begins with an ascent up a lava flow, then climbs up a baren pass dotted with alien-looking rock formations and steaming fumaroles. The best, though, lies about six miles into the hike: There, you’ll see blankets of snow covered in ash from the recent volcanic eruptions, along with a plan strewn with massive pieces of smooth, black obsidian. It’s truly one of the most otherwordly landscapes I’ve ever seen.
Skaftafell National Park – Take your pick of glaciers, waterfalls and towering snow-capped mountains. This is the gateway to a massive ice cap called Vatnajökull, which covers about eight percent of the country. Glacier tours leave right from the parking lot. If you’re willing to pitch a tent in the nearby camping area, you’re putting yourself in prime position to join the tours. You can follow that by hiking on your own to see the famous Svartifoss waterfall. Be sure to also take some of the longer trails. There are some great views looking down on glaciers, and a number of great mountains to check out.
Mývatn – This lake in the interior is ringed by incredible opportunities for photographs. High points are the lava flows at Dimmuborgir (which means Dark Castle) and Krafla. But don’t miss the amazing crater called Hverfjall. There’s also Viti, which is a lake in a crater – it’s filled with bright blue water that’s amazingly clear. If you like wildlife, Mývatn is a haven for migratory birds. There’s also a bizarre thermal area, where the rocks change to a light color that contrasts so much it appears that sun is shining on it, even in overcast conditions.
These are just a few examples of what’s waiting for photographers visiting Iceland. Bring your favorite lenses, and get ready to take some epic photos.