2255 Kilometers, 7 Days, 15 Active Volcanoes and 3 Glaciers. It can only be Iceland! Part 1

Skogafoss, Iceland

As I sit here and attempt to write this blog post ‘2255 Kilometers, 7 Days, 15 Active Volcanoes and 3 Glaciers. It can only be Iceland’, I am struggling.  Not because I don’t know what to write, but rather I am not sure how to explain in words the sheer amazingness of the place to anyone that has not been. Hopefully, my pictures will help a little with that, but it really is something that you need to see for yourself. The Land of Fire and Ice!

I think the best way for me to tell you about my trip is to break it down day by day! The trip to Iceland had been one that myself and 5 friends had been planning for a while, all keen and talented photographers. We had done all the research; we had everything booked and we knew what we wanted to do in Iceland. All we needed was Mother Nature to do her bit and it would be an epic trip. I have had to split this tale into a 3 part blog post, just because I have so much to say.

The Boys by Neil Nicklin
The Boys on Reynisfjara Beach by Neil Nicklin – (Left To right) Neil Nicklin, Dave Holder, Steve Cheatham, Me, Lee Gale, and Tom Adamson.

Day 1 Sunday – Arriving – Working out what is what.

It was a very early start for us all, our flight out of Manchester required us to be at the airport at silly o’clock. The airport was mostly hassle-free, we all checked in ok, well apart from ‘wet wipe-gate’ that is, but that’s another story. Security was a little bit more challenging; unlike on other trips we were all made to remove all our camera equipment and put it through scanners out of the bags. Considering that we were all carrying a fair amount of camera stuff in our hand luggage, that took a little while. This could have course been a reaction to recent incidents that the UK has seen. After that, it was plain sailing (or flying) and our flight got us to Keflavík International Airport, Iceland, without any issue, apart from the weather which was oddly warm and disappointingly grey.

We had booked a 7 seater Toyota Landcruiser for the trip. A minibus type vehicle might have been roomier, but we wanted the 4×4 in case we wanted to drive on Iceland’s great F-Roads, some of which require a 4×4. And of course, we wanted a 4×4 because… who wouldn’t? Sensibly we had also booked a roof box for our Toyota. Otherwise, we might have struggled at times with 6 of us and all the camera gear. We did have a slight challenge with all our camera gear and 6 suitcases, but it was just logistics.

For our accommodation, we had rented an apartment in Reykjavik. We had chosen on this trip to have the one base, and make day trips, apart from one night where we stayed in Hofn. Next time though we agreed that it would be better to move around and stay in different places. We could not check in straight away, but could drop our cases off, so it was time to shop and look around the city. We had all heard the stories about how expensive Iceland was, and they are not untrue but are exaggerated. We had set a budget for both food and fuel, and by doing the proper research knew what it should cost us. All other blogs and posts I have read suggest that you shop in places called ‘Bonus’ for groceries, this is great advice and that’s what we did. Basics bought it was now time to explore our surroundings.

Reykjavik is a nice place, a good vibe and some interesting things to look at. The rest of the day was spent settling into the apartment, and of course finding out if it was really going to be £10 per pint, and £20 a burger? I am pleased to say, that due to some excellent work by the team before we arrived, we had worked out a couple of places and ways of making sure it was not that price. The 1st was an application called ‘happy hour’, that showed you the Reykjavik bars and when they had good prices, the second was extensive menu trawling of prices. The average price of a beer out of Happy Hour was about £7.50, in the Happy Hour about £5. Food is available at varying different prices, but we ate well for anything from £10 to £20 a meal each. More expensive than the UK yes, but crazy no!

TOP TIPS = Shop at ‘Bonus’, look for happy hours in bars, there is an ‘app’ for that.

DAY 2 Monday – Skogafoss and Reynisfjara Beach

We set out from a dark Reykjavik with the intention of being at Skogafoss for sunrise… It soon became apparent though as we were on the road, that we had not adjusted our sunrise times for the time change. Never mind; we were in Iceland and we were very excited! As the darkness was giving way to light the one thing that was very obvious was just how amazingly striking the terrain of Iceland was. It was unlike anything I had witnessed before. With volcanic mountains and hills all around, random steaming fissures in the earth, and glaciers in the distance, it was truly stunning. The weather seemed to be with us as well that morning as we drove by the lava fields that a lot of the flat areas of Iceland is made of.

Skogafoss, Iceland
Skogafoss, Iceland – Sony a7R & 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens. Kase Wolverine 6 stop, .9 soft grad, and polarising filter.

We arrived at Skogafoss about an hour after dawn, to what was already a very busy attraction. Even in late September, the number of tourists is outstanding, and also not great for us photographers. Luckily though we were able to grab a shot or two without too many people in the way, and luckily a long exposure shot dealt with the worst of it. The biggest challenge shooting here though was not the people, but the amount of water spray being generated by this stunning waterfall. I was so glad that the Kase Wolverine filters I had changed to before this trip were living up to their easy clean and moisture repellent properties. The amazing light we had seen on the way was no longer around, but that just added to the atmosphere and allowed for this moody capture above.

Tom, Skogafoss, Iceland
Tom, Skogafoss, Iceland

Hopefully, the shot above gives you an idea on the size of that waterfall…

 

Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland – Sony a7R & 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens. Kase Wolverine 6 stop, .9 reverse grad, and polarising filter.

Reynisfjara Beach was our next location for today, by now though the rain had set in, and you could no longer see the tops of any volcanoes as they were up above the very low and grey cloud. The shot above of two of the 4 stacks might look like a black and white, it is not! That did not dampen our spirits though, this was our 1st of many visits to the amazing black volcanic sand beaches that Iceland has. It really is quite something to behold, and something you need to see for yourself if you ever get the chance.

Sneaker Wave, Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
Sneaker Wave, Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland – Sony a7R & 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens. Kase Wolverine .9 reverse grad, and polarising filter.

The other thing that Reynisfjara Beach is known for is also its Sneaker Waves! These are very dangerous waves that basically sneak on top of other waves and catch all the unsuspecting tourists out. They really are impressive to watch, as they thunder in about 3 times as far as the normal waves. You must be very careful of these.

And there our luck ran out on day 2 as the weather really came in and we were still trying to catch up on missed sleep. It was time to head back to base.

TOP TIPS = Make sure you are at Skogafoss really early to avoid the crowds and watch out for the sneaker waves on Reynisfjara Beach!

To be continued… Part 2 HERE

 

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