Day 6: Icebergs on the beach,
a lagoon boat tour and a grass-roof church
In my last blog post, we wrapped up day 5 of the Iceland workshop around 3 in the morning with a beautiful sunrise shoot. We then crashed pretty hard when we arrived back at our hotel. In order to recover from that crazy day of shooting, we all slept in and had a leisurely breakfast around 10:oo. We checked out of our hotel (we would be moving to a new one) and set out feeling fresh.
Our first stop on day 6 was the beach across from the glacier lagoon where we were the night before. In that particular lagoon, icebergs break off of the glacier and then slowly float out to the ocean, where many of them wash up on the shore and begin to melt. These melting icebergs make for very interesting photography subjects. Their shapes are so different and unique, and because of the density of the glacier ice, they look like glass sculptures. If photographed as a whole, the landscape can take on an other-worldly kind of feel. We literally spent hours shooting here!
As I mentioned above, the beach is located right across the way from the glacier lagoon. As a last-minute, unexpected treat, Einar (the man behind Focus on Nature) arranged for our group to take a boat ride through the lagoon. It was very cool to be able to see some of the massive icebergs at such close proximity!
By the time the boat ride ended, we had worked up a pretty good appetite and decided to have a picnic lunch on the beach. While enjoying lunch, we even got some free entertainment in the form of a seemingly insane individual who thought it would be a good idea to strip down to his shorts, swim out into the freezing water and climb up onto an iceberg! I imagine you’d have to have a couple of screws loose to want to do this, but hey, it was fun to watch!
After lunch, we had a lot of driving to do. We would be traveling from the southeast coast of the country to the south-central coast, where our next hotel was waiting. We did make a few stops on the way, the first being an adorable little grass-roof country church. There are a lot of little grass-roof structures in Iceland, and I was glad we got the opportunity to photograph one. They remind me of the hobbits’ houses in Lord of the Rings.
We made another stop for dinner that night, and then arrived at our next hotel. Before going to bed, the group met in the common area to plan for the next day and do some late-night image editing.
Day 7: Classroom sessions, green pools, rainbows and waterfalls
The group started day 7 with breakfast and then some classroom time where Ben did some teaching and then image critiques. It’s always great to see other photographers’ images during these workshops because even though 10 people could be standing in the same area shooting the same thing, every single image would look different, so it’s fun to see how others perceived the same scene in different ways. Around lunchtime, we headed out, ate at a very nice restaurant, and then set off to go shooting.
Our first location was really off the beaten path, and we were all thankful for having such a hard-core vehicle to travel around in. We were on some seriously rocky roads and crossing streams in order to get to this completely unique spot, which featured pools of water that were seemingly glowing from the vibrant algae growing in them. Unfortunately, it started to rain pretty hard as we arrived so we were stuck waiting in the vehicle for a while. We had a pretty fun group though, so we were able to make the most of it. We goofed off a bit, Ben gave a lot of camera tips, and then there was the occasional trip to “check the tire pressure.” During this workshop, “checking the tire pressure” was code for sneaking the bottle of cognac out of the trunk of Einar’s truck. Like I said… we were a fun group! After about two hours (and a couple tire pressure checks) the rain finally let up enough for us to photograph the pools.
After we finished shooting the pools, we climbed into the vehicle and started to leave that location. That’s when we saw the amazing full rainbow forming over some mountains. This was definitely our reward for waiting out the storm! We pulled over and spent a lot of time shooting the rainbow and the lush green landscape underneath it.
We made one more stop to photograph that evening, and that was at Seljalandsfoss, an incredible picturesque waterfall that looks like something out of a movie. This one was not only beautiful, but fun to shoot because of all the angles you could approach it from. You can even walk behind this waterfall! The tricky part about that is keeping the spray of your camera lens!
Beauty by the sea, horses and the blue lagoon
On the final shooting day of the workshop, we started out at a beautiful church by the sea. While the church was quite nice, the sky was even more impressive and I tried to make the most of it in my photos.
Our next stop was a beautiful seascape where we shot from the top of a cliff. Hundreds of birds were nesting in the cliff wall, and if you were fast enough, you could get some images of birds in flight.
I can’t take credit for this one! This image is by Ragnar Th Sigurdsson, of our group across the way. Definitely check out Ragnar’s incredible work at www.arctic-images.com. He’s also got several books out featuring Iceland’s stunning landscape and volcanoes.
As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things I liked most about Iceland was the storybook horses, and I was excited to get one more opportunity to photograph them. We made an unexpected stop when we saw a group of horses grazing near the road. We were told that as long as we stayed low to the ground, we wouldn’t intimidate the horses and they would be comfortable with us hanging around. Well, not only were they comfortable with us, but many of them were pretty curious, coming right up to us and sniffing our cameras!
After a picnic lunch, we moved on to our last shooting spot, the blue lagoon. So much of Iceland’s energy is sourced from the geothermal activity in the Earth’s crust. One of the geothermal features is the country’s steaming lagoons, completely heated from deep within the Earth. It’s almost eerie to see these bright blue pools of water with steam coming out of them. Some are actually boiling! If you’ve ever been to Iceland, you know that the Blue Lagoon is actually a really nice spa with a geothermal pool. It was actually rated as one of the top spas in the world at one point. Our group did not go to the spa to shoot, however. We went to the “non-commercial” part of the lagoon, which was adjacent to the spa.
Finally, our journey came full-circle as we arrived back at the Grand Hotel in Reykjavik, which is where we started. We called it an early night and relaxed in our beautiful hotel room, editing images.
Day 9: Classroom sessions and the “Last Supper”
The workshop wrapped up with a day of image editing in the hotel’s small meeting room. We opened the room at 9 am and Ben was available the whole time to help with editing/Photoshop questions. To finalize things, I collected images from everyone and created a slideshow/video so we could all re-live our adventure through our images. That night, the whole group went out to dinner in downtown Reykjavik, an event that Einar called “the last supper.” I’ve got to say, I was sad to say goodbye to everyone. We all had such a great time, and it was wonderful getting to know each of the people we traveled with.
Day 10: Spa day
Ben and I had one extra day in Iceland after the workshop ended, and darn it, I wanted to spend it at the Blue Lagoon spa! We took a shuttle to the Lagoon and spent a couple hours soaking in that blissful warm water. There was even a little bar that you could swim up to and get fresh juice, cocktails and even facial masks! Ben and I got a lava mask that was pretty cool. When we asked for it, the gal handed us each a cold black rock. Ben and I looked at each other like “what exactly do we do with this?” It turns out that, once you dip them in the warm water, they start to soften into a consistency that lets you rub it on your face. Aside from the crowds at this place (I think it should have been adults-only, the Blue Lagoon was a great way to spend our last day in Iceland!
For dinner that night, we met up with Ben’s friend Addy, who just happened to be spending a few weeks in Iceland! This kind of coincidence is so typical for us, but we’re always blown away by how things often work out like that. We went to dinner and then a fun little pub for an after-dinner drink.
We flew back to the States on the morning of July 2nd, and I have to admit that I was bummed to be leaving so soon. I wish we had another week to explore there. I guess that just gives me something to look forward to … and you better believe we’re planning on returning! In fact, we have two more workshops in the planning stages right now. We’ll do another next summer that will be very similar to the one we just wrapped up, and then we’re going to do a winter workshop that will focus on night photography (Iceland is dark most of the time in the winter) and of course, the northern lights. For now, I’m still enjoying going through all my photos from this amazing Icelandic adventure!
More to come…
This is a little slideshow I put together with lots of my images from the trip.