Iceland has quickly become one of the most popular countries for landscape photographers to visit. Once you’ve been there yourself it’s not hard to understand why travelers from all around the world are choosing it as their next photography destination.
So how do you make sure that you come home with the best possible images after a visit? Easy. Keep these 5 tips in the back of your mind:
#1 Prepare for bad weather
It doesn’t matter during what time of year you plan to visit Iceland; be prepared for bad weather. Don’t expect a week of sun or colorful skies; it’s more realistic that you’ll get a handful of rainy days and a few nice.
To tell the truth, I’ve been in Iceland for 10 days straight without seeing anything but rain and strong winds (but still managed to capture some nice images!)
Driving conditions can become dangerous if the weather is bad (it can get extremely windy and visibility can be low). I always recommend checking the official weather forecast Vedur.is and the road conditions Road.is.
#2 Be flexible
You should prepare not only for bad weather but also for the weather to change quickly as well. In fact, it might be the complete opposite in the North of what it is in the West.
If you’re not flexible, you might be unlucky enough to have horrible weather during your entire stay. Being ready and willing to quickly change plans and drive towards areas where the forecast looks more promising will increase your chances of capturing stunning images.
For the past several years, I’ve rented a camper van to be more flexible. This is an exciting way to explore the island and it allows you to spend the night close by the locations you’re planning to photograph. There are many camper van rentals in Iceland but Happy Campers is my favorite.
Besides the freedom of making spur-of-the-moment changes to visit locations that have the best possibility for good light, traveling Iceland in a camper van lets you experience the place in a whole new way. Keep in mind that you need to stay at campsites during the night but these are affordable and close to most places you can imagine photographing.
#3 Plan the dates but not the details
I know, I know… We landscape photographers like to plan every tiny detail of our travels to nail as many shots as possible but this might not be the best option for landscape photography on Iceland.
You should definitely make a list of the locations you wish to visit during your stay and perhaps even a list of the sunrise and sunset spots. But make sure that you leave plenty of space for unplanned shots.
Iceland is an incredibly beautiful country and driving around the ring road will most likely take much longer than expected. There is simply an abundance of pretty sights along the road that you’ll want to stop and photograph.
Remember to decide what type of things you want to photograph before booking your tickets. Do you want to photograph the Northern Lights? Do you want to photograph the Icelandic Highlands, the midnight sun or perhaps the lupines or wild horses? Make sure to make yourself familiar with when these things are possible to see and photograph.
#4 Bring a telezoom
Iceland might be best known for its wide-angle landscapes but the smaller details and more intimate shots are just as impressive. With so much fog and low hanging clouds, there are plenty of opportunities to capture atmospheric images.
Take the image above as an example. The light was not particularly interesting when viewing the scene through a wide-angle lens but when replacing it with a 250mm zoom it was turned into something completely different.
Take a look at these 5 tips for using a telezoom to get some ideas of how to create atmospheric images.
#5 Change the perspective with a drone
Using a drone is another great way to come home with more than just the most-photographed scenes. Iceland is a paradise for drone photography (despite the periodically strong winds, that is!)
Just make sure to familiarize yourself with the Icelandic drone regulations and respect the no-fly areas.
Finally: Respect the restrictions
Iceland has had a massive increase in tourism during the past few years which has negatively impacted many of its beautiful areas, resulting in strict regulations. I urge you to respect the laws and regulations set in place to protect the landscape and never go into closed-off areas.