Photographing Iceland in 6 Days
In June of 2017 we took the trip of a lifetime. Mission: Go all around Iceland in 6 days, driving on route 1 (the famous Iceland Ring Road which goes around the entire country) and photographing the most famous and some not so famous natural wonders this picturesque country has to offer.
Day 2 : Akureyri - Mývatn
On Day 2 of our 6 day photo trip around Iceland, we walked around the town of Akureyri and after a late breakfast started our journey towards Mývatn driving along the Iceland ring road (route 1). Along the way we visited the famous waterfall of the gods (Goðafoss) before heading over to the Mývatn Nature Bath area for some unique natural wonders to photograph. Finally we the drove to Lake Mývatn which offers amazing wildlife and landscape photo opportunities and was also our stop for the night with great accommodation right next to the lake.
Day 2 was a comparatively lazy start. In the morning we went for a stroll to the town harbour and walked along the the walkway which goes right along the shoreline. The day was overcast so everything was looking a bit grey and dull nonetheless it offered so good photo ops.
After the quick photo walk, we headed over to the town centre for a quick bite to eat. The town centre is very well equipped and there are a lot of good eating joints ranging from Subway to fine-dining restaurants. We grabbed a quick sandwich and coffee and continued on our amazing journey towards our next stop - the waterfall of the Gods.
Goðafoss which translates to "waterfall of the gods" in Icelandic is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Iceland. It is very famous among photographers and one look at it and you can tell why. The size, shape and power of this waterfall give it an almost mythical character. No wonder the Icelandic name.
In the year 999 or 1000 the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. According to a myth, it is said that upon returning from the Alþingi, Þorgeir threw his statues of the Norse gods into this waterfall.
The picture above is one of the most common views of the heavily photographed waterfall and with good reason - this view it is right next to the parking. A short walk gets you to a small foot bridge which lest you go across the waterfall. This bridge also offers some stunning views of the waterfall and makes for a very different and unique perspective of this fantastic waterfall.
Mývatn Nature Baths
Our next stop were the famous Mývatn Nature Baths which are a cheaper alternative to the hyped Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik. Although smaller, they offer a more natural and relaxed experience as compared to the extremely commercialised Blue Lagoon. We had an hour's stop as the Mývatn Nature Baths and had two options - Go for a nice relaxing soak in the hot blue water filled with all the benefits of volcanic minerals OR check the area out and get some photographs. Guess which did we choose?
The surrounding area offers a plethora of natural wonders. Volcanic landscape, steaming ground, bright turquoise coloured lakes and snow capped mountains.
The most noticeable and photographic feature of this are were the red and orange coloured mountains which have no vegetation at all due to the volcanic nature of the soil. It provides a barren landscape which is almost out of this world.
The S curve shape made by the road climbing a mountain in this landscape creates a surreal scene which I feel is quite close to what roads on Mars would look like.
Our final stop for the day was Lake Mývatn. Out hotel was right opposite the entrance to the walking trail which goes around the lake and the pseudocraters and offered splendid views of the surrounding area.
We dumped our luggage in the room and headed for a trek around the lake. The first thing that hits you as you approach the lake is the number of Midges. There are literally millions of them (maybe billions). Mývatn, as we found out later, means the "Lake of the Midges". Had we known before, we may have been better prepared. If you are visiting the lake in summer and plan to be there for more than 5 minutes, I would highly recommend an insect net to cover your face.
The lake was created by a huge lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and rootless vents (pseudocraters) which is a volcanic landform which resembles a volcanic crater, but is not an actual vent from which lava has erupted. This shot was taken from the top of one of such rootless vents looking towards the Hverfjall
This shot was taken from the top of one of such rootless vents looking towards the Hverfjall crater (which is a true crater) in the east while the sun went quite low on my left (west) which caused these deep shadows and high contrast in the scene.
Lake Mývatn, in the summer, is a bird photographers dream come true. Mývatn is a shallow "eutrophic" lake which means that it has high biological productivity due to excessive nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. It is fed by nutrient-rich springwater and has a high abundance of aquatic insects which act as a source of food for numerous bird species.
About thirteen species of ducks nest here including Tufted duck, Greater scaup, Barrow's goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, wigeon, gadwall, mallard, common scoter, long-tailed duck and Eurasian teal. Apart from ducks, other aquatic bird species found here include Slavonian grebe, red-necked phalarope, great northern diver, red-throated diver and whooper swan.
The day ended with an unexpected dose of wildlife photography and fortunately I was lugging around my super telephoto lens (Tamron 150 - 600 G2), which was a pain to carry around but paid off well in the end. If you are there in the summer, I suggest that you put in that extra effort and take your longest lens with you, you will not be disappointed.
A trek around the lake and we headed back to out hotel to get some rest only to realise that we had totally missed our dinner time. The area does not have any grocery stores nearby and even if there were, none would be open at 12 AM in the night.
Yes, 12 AM, we were out taking pictures until 12 AM and it still felt like day, because the sun never sets in Iceland during the summer months. It goes below the horizon for a few hours but it never gets completely dark.
Apart from the skipped dinner, Day 2 was a huge success. Stay tuned for day 3.
- Canon EOS 6D Mark II - My Full Frame DSLR for Landscape Shots
- Canon EOS 80D - My Crop Sensor DSLR for Wildlife and Backup
- Canon Lens EF 16-35 mm f/2.8L Mk III USM - Super Sharp. My Ultra wide angle and Astrophotography lens
- Canon EF 24-70 mm f/4 L IS USM - My primary Landscape lens
- Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 - My Wildlife lens. Great range and sharpness.
- Tamron AF 16-300 mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro - Great lens for its versatility
- NiSi 100mm System V5 Filter Holder with CPL - Filter system with built in CPL. Simply Brilliant.
- NiSi 6-Stop ND Filter - Great for slowing down the stutter. No colour cast.
- NiSi 10-Stop ND Filter - My Big Stopper. No colour cast at all.
- Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - Extremely versatile ND filter for 2 to 8 Stops
- Manfrotto Befree Tripod - Light but sturdy. Very compact.
- Manfrotto XPRO Ball Head - Brilliant Tripod head. Great for Pano shots.
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