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landscape nomads

Iceland - the land of fire and ice. A country that fulfills every landscape photographer's dream due to its immense diversity and stunning scenery, which often resembles another planet. Are you planning to visit Iceland? You have a lot to look forward to! As a landscape photographer, I have traveled to this country numerous times. I vividly remember my first visit - many things delighted me, but some also surprised me. Therefore, I have decided to share a few useful tips with you, fellow landscape photographers, who are planning to visit Iceland. These tips will undoubtedly contribute to making your expedition an unforgettable experience.

1) Scouting

Anyone who visited Iceland several years ago and returned recently will confirm that a lot has changed in this country, especially concerning tourism. In recent years, the number of visitors to this beautiful island has rapidly increased, which is understandable as everyone wants to experience its beauty. However, this surge in tourism has led to many places becoming overcrowded tourist attractions, making it feel less like being in nature. An example of this is the Skógafoss waterfall. While it remains a stunning natural phenomenon, if you don't visit it early enough in the morning, you may encounter hundreds or even thousands of tourists arriving on buses at the large parking lot just a few meters from the waterfall. It can be quite overwhelming.

 

During my first visits to Iceland, I too was attracted to these popular spots, but I always made an effort to arrive early in the morning. Most tourists don't want to get up early, which allowed me to enjoy the beauty of these places in a more serene setting.

iceland stokksnes vestrahorn

Stokksnes - One of the most crowded beaches in Iceland

But Iceland is still brimming with beautiful, undiscovered scenery. Therefore, despite the increasing number of tourists, it remains a paradise for landscape photographers. The majority of tourists tend to flock to a few overcrowded spots. However, if you desire to uncover something unique and off the beaten path, it requires good planning and time for scouting. So, what does such planning involve?

I enjoy opening my laptop a few hours before the trip and using the Google Earth Pro app to find compositionally interesting places that are not overly photographed. The app provides a 3D view of the terrain with the option to display sunlight, which helps me discover new and intriguing compositions from the comfort of my home. I save these locations on the map and visit them during my trip to Iceland. Many times, I have discovered something truly extraordinary yet easily accessible through this approach.

iceland landscape photography
iceland mountains

Thanks to scouting you can find a lot of unseen interesting scenes and compositions.

2) "Weather trailers"

An old Icelandic proverb says: "Do you think the weather is bad? Wait 5 minutes. It will get worse." After many visits to Iceland, I can say that I almost agree with this. Why "almost"? Because these frequent weather changes are not a bad thing at all for a landscape photographer. I say that there is no weather in Iceland, only some kind of trailers for the weather. This is especially true in spring and autumn. It rains for 5 minutes, snows for 3 minutes, then the sun comes out for 5 minutes, but in the distance, you can see a cloud carrying a wall of falling hail.

Of course, this can be a challenge for the average tourist. But for us photographers, it's paradise. Why? The best and most photogenic conditions arise precisely when the weather changes. When the rain cloud departs and the sun begins to cast rays of warm light on the landscape from the side, it shines through the wall of the departing rain, and at that moment, a rainbow appears over the mountain you are shooting. This happens quite often there, and as a landscape photographer, it's something you truly desire!

What does that mean? Back home, you might be accustomed to looking out the window and realizing that there's no point in going outside with your equipment when it's raining and it doesn't look like it's going to stop soon. However, Iceland is different. If I see that it's raining and windy outside, it is quite likely that within half an hour, everything will be completely different. That's why I venture out even in wilder weather. Of course, there's no need to go to extremes. I'm talking more about normal rain and wind. It often happened to me that the best photos from Iceland were taken at moments when I didn't even expect good conditions.

iceland weather

Icelandic weather is often crazy - Two storms in one photo

Of course, before the trip itself, I closely monitor the weather forecast and choose the time to visit a place when something interesting is likely to happen. To be able to make such predictions, I check the "meteoblue" and "windy" apps before heading out. These apps are excellent tools for short-term weather predictions and potential improvements in conditions. In these apps, I primarily check the height of the clouds based on the meteogram in Meteoblue and the position of the clouds relative to the location where I will be taking photos in Windy.

3) "Golden rubber boots"

When someone asks me what the most important piece of equipment for photography in Iceland is, I answer: rubber boots. Why? It may sound funny, but high-quality rubber boots are just as essential in Iceland as a tripod. While many classic highlights of Iceland have large parking lots and paved paths, if you venture out for interesting photos, you can't avoid encountering water. It's practically impossible. Almost everywhere outside the parking "spots" is wet, and I mean really wet.

Planning to take pictures on black-sand beaches? Certainly! However, you must keep in mind that by the time you set up the tripod and equipment, incoming waves will flood you up to your knees several times. Trust me, trying to dry classic hiking boots soaked in saltwater is not what you want. I made such a mistake on my first visit to Iceland, and it took three days for my shoes to dry. Moreover, the smell of the ocean didn't vanish from them until several weeks later. Not a pleasant experience at all.

 

 

iceland seascapes

TIP: When shooting seascapes, it's important not to rely on the waterproofness of Gore-Tex shoes. Saltwater can damage Gore-Tex, so your shoes are likely to get wet and smelly after taking pictures on the beach. Moreover, there's a possibility that they may lose their waterproof properties altogether.

Will you go scouting and look for new compositions outside the "big parking lots"? You will often find yourself in places where your feet will sink up to your ankles in mud or soaked moss. Believe me, there is nothing more pleasant than the feeling of not having to deal with hiking shoes in such situations, allowing you to fully focus on finding the ideal composition.

 

Would you like to make your photo special with the interesting dynamics of flowing water? You will almost certainly have to wade into a creek, going almost up to your knees. This wouldn't be possible without wearing really high rubber boots.

 

iceland seascapes

Without rubber boots, many places would be inaccessible.

Based on all this, you might be wondering: Will my feet be cold in Iceland if I wear rubber boots?

The answer is simple: Definitely not. If you get fishing rubber boots with a removable insulated insole, designed for winter fishing, you will stay warm and comfortable in them throughout your time in Iceland. Personally, I have been using rubber boots made of light EVA foam for years, which are incredibly lightweight and warm. They cost only €25 and have already endured four expeditions in Iceland and two winter photo-trips in the north of Norway with me. I even wore them during a several-hour trek to take pictures of the Icelandic volcanoes, and they performed without any problems.

landscape photography composition

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4) Right clothes

As I mentioned in previous points, Iceland is often wet and windy, and the weather changes very quickly. During a several-hour photo shoot, you may experience several rain and snow showers, along with strong winds. Therefore, choosing suitable clothing, especially for landscape photography, is essential. So, how should you dress in Iceland to stay warm and comfortable while taking photos?

The key is layering. If you layer your clothes correctly, you will stay dry throughout the entire photo trip. Here's how to layer your clothes:

photographing iceland
photographing iceland
photographing iceland
photographing iceland
photographing iceland

Base layer: The ideal base layer consists of a functional T-shirt that effectively wicks away moisture. Over the years of shooting in the mountains and often in extreme conditions, I have tried several brands. However, T-shirts made of merino wool, which offer excellent properties, are a very comfortable choice. Another alternative that has proven to be the best for me is thermal underwear from the Norwegian brand Brynje. Though it may look funny, I have never worn anything more functional and of better quality. Of course, if you plan to visit Iceland in the winter months, pack high-quality functional underwear to keep your lower body warm. When you stand for several hours while taking pictures, it's very easy to feel cold without them.

 

Mid-layer: The middle layer of clothing consists of a functional sweatshirt or hoodie, which is especially useful in the summer and winter months. I don't use it in spring and autumn. In the summer in Iceland, I use it as the last layer under a waterproof jacket. In winter, on the other hand, I use it under another insulated jacket. Hoodies made of Polartec Pro fleece material have proven themselves very well for me.

 

Insulated jacket: I use this layer of clothing in all seasons except summer. It's an insulated jacket that keeps me warm during several hours of standing in place while taking photos in the cold northern conditions. I prefer to use lighter down jackets for their good insulation and excellent fit. How warm a jacket you need depends on how you handle the winter, which varies for each person. When choosing an insulated down jacket, pay attention to two specific data: the weight of the down filling (ideally 180g and more) and the filling value (ideally 600 cuin and more).

 

Top-layer: The most crucial layer in Iceland is the waterproof top layer. Frequent showers are common in Iceland, and if it's not raining, water will splash at you from all sides, especially from the massive waterfalls. You simply cannot do without a waterproof layer. This applies to both the waterproof hard-shell jacket and the pants. The best choice is a jacket and trousers made of Gore-Tex material, which is highly water-resistant and breathable enough to prevent excessive sweating.

Spring

photographing iceland
photographing iceland
photographing iceland

Summer

photographing iceland
photographing iceland
photographing iceland

Autumn

photographing iceland
photographing iceland
photographing iceland

Winter

photographing iceland
photographing iceland
photographing iceland
photographing iceland

5) Wipes... a lot of wipes

I wouldn't even need to elaborate on this part. From what I wrote earlier, it is clear why you really need a lot of wipes in Iceland. Will you be taking pictures of seascapes? After every second wave, you will have to wipe the lens or filters - you need a cloth. Will you be capturing images of waterfalls, which are really everywhere in Iceland? If you want the photo to turn out well, you'll have to wipe the lens from splashing drops of water every 2 seconds - you need a cloth. Will you be shooting anything else? It is quite possible that there will be occasional drizzle. Every moment you will have to wipe the lens again - you need a cloth. Will you be taking pictures in ice caves? Glacier water will drip from the top onto you and your equipment - you need a cloth.

And I could go on like this... Often, when taking pictures in Iceland, I act like a bullfighter dodging a red piece of cloth in front of an angry bull - I have a two-second self-timer on, during which I wipe the lens with a cloth, and just before the shutter clicks, I pull the cloth away. Sometimes it looks really funny. Well, it's effective.

 

So if you want to avoid spending several hours removing water droplets by masking them in Photoshop, make sure to take a lot of wipes with you to Iceland. In some situations, when taking photos of one composition, you may get two or three wipes wet. That's why it's better to take more of them. When you stand by the mighty Icelandic waterfall, you will definitely appreciate this tip. :-)

iceland landscape photography

Iceland is a beautiful country and a true landscape photographer's paradise. It is definitely worth seeing at least once in your life. However, to visit this exceptional area, you need to prepare properly. I believe that my 5 tips for landscape photography in Iceland have made your planning at least a little easier.

 

Soon, we will be announcing a new date for a photo expedition in Iceland, where we will take you to the most interesting places of this amazing country, including unknown locations that we discovered during our previous expeditions. Subscribe to the newsletter and be the first to know about this expedition! You don't have to worry; no spam awaits you :-)

photographing iceland
iceland landscape

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