Iceland seems to be on everybody’s bucket list right now and, after a flying visit to photograph it’s spectacular, other-worldly scenery, I can see why.
The island nation isolated in the North Atlantic Ocean is unlike anywhere else I’ve been before. On the drive from the airport to the capital Reykjavík, I felt as though I was traversing a lunar landscape, which then gave way to rusty red hills more reminiscent of Mars…followed by the lush greenery of a Montana countryside. Three days was barely enough time to take in such a beautiful and varied landscape.
And then you spy those little Icelandic horses, grazing on the sides of the lush green mountains. They’re not much larger than ponies, with long shaggy manes and sturdy little legs, and look like moody little rock stars posing for dramatic album covers.
On the day we landed, we visited the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. Surrounded by a black landscape of volcanic rock, we swam in its super-heated turquoise waters and bellied up to the swim bar. We made natural face masks with the white silica mud and felt the stress of the plane ride slip away. We spent hours there luxuriating in the warm healing waters, and afterwards my entire body felt relaxed and my skin so soft.
The next morning, we headed out to Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a key location in Icelandic history—the oldest recorded parliament in the world first met there in 930 AD. I wish I could have spent an entire day photographing Gullfoss, the Golden Falls. At almost 105 feet high, surrounded by a thin mist that creates shimmering rainbows, the scale and majesty of this spectacular double-cascade waterfall was nearly overwhelming. I ate lunch at the falls, since summer temperatures are quite comfortable, enjoying a hot bowl of Kjötsúpa, a traditional Icelandic lamb stew. Though my camera was mostly trained on the stunning landscape, the stew was also a great subject for stock photos.
After spending the day in the countryside, we returned to Reykjavík, which is home to over a third of the country’s 332,519 people. It’s a modern city with excellent restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. During the summer months in Iceland, you can experience one of the world’s most picturesque natural oddities—the setting of the midnight sun. That night we used the extra light to visit the 240-foot-high church tower of Hallgrímskirkja, and we were treated to a spectacular 360-degree view of the city’s colorful rooftops surrounded by blue waters and towering mountains. A late-night seafood dinner and drinks with friends was the perfect way to round out the evening.
On my final day, I got up before the sun rose and hiked out to the Grotta lighthouse on the outskirts of the city. I have a special place in my heart for photographing lighthouses. My lighthouse photographs alone earn me at least a few thousand dollars each year with stock sales to calendar companies, puzzle makers, magazines, and books, as well as fine art prints. Lighthouses rarely change, so those photos will continue to sell for many years to come.
I love the fact that photographs I once would have put into a photo album now have a life of their own, finding their way onto magazine pages and calendar covers, websites, and even T-shirts. The reward of knowing those photographs will fund my future travels just can’t be beat.
Image: ©iStock.com/Dieter Meyrl
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