Iceland - Winter Landscape Photography Paradise

I truly believe Iceland is the winter landscape photography paradise. Over the past few years, it has become one of the must-go spots for plenty of landscape photographers. For many good reasons that are often discussed on this website and all over the place. What I loved the most during my first two summer visits was the excellent quality of light and angles of sun that allowed to photograph through the (entire) night. I did not mind the community crowd - not too many shot film overnight, their results inspired me and, especially during the second trip, we went quite off the beaten track...

Caption: Dark Rush, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 35mm, Film: Fuji Velvia 50, Aperture: f/11, Exposure: 4m16s, Filters: Lee Big Stopper, Lee 0.9 ND Grad Hard

Caption: Dark Rush, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 35mm, Film: Fuji Velvia 50, Aperture: f/11, Exposure: 4m16s, Filters: Lee Big Stopper, Lee 0.9 ND Grad Hard

But until last year when we had a crazy idea to spend couple of February days far off in Landmannalaugar to capture northern lights, I could not imagine the magic of Iceland for photographing winter landscapes. I thought that my wildest dreams had come through on the deserted tablelands and amongst endless lava field in the center of the island, under the light of half-moon and ambient reflection of the sun shallowly hidden under the horizon. These last two trips proved I was wrong - the raw gets rawer, the tough gets tougher, the wild gets wilder in Iceland between January and March. It is nothing short of the winter landscape photography paradise.

Caption: Follow Me Down, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 35mm, Film: Fuji Velvia 50, Aperture: f/11, Exposure: 1/4s, Filters: Lee 0.6 ND Grad Hard

First and foremost, Icelandic simple sceneries are further simplified by snow and weather conditions that are often dull and monotonously white. Yes, it takes a while to absorb and find a connection to a landscape that is naked to its bones but then can provide rewarding experience (just to witness). After few days of a 'total whiteness' sugared by the endlessly blowing wind, the entire mind turns very simple. And fresh. And then, it is an absolute nirvana when one gets to see the clouds scattered and the colorful sunset performed.

Caption: ...And Leave Now..., Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 35mm, Film: Fuji Velvia 50, Aperture: f/16, Exposure: 6.3s, Filters: Lee 0.6 ND Grad Hard

Another good thing that makes winter landscape photography so interesting in Iceland (and perhaps elsewhere, too) is that scenes can be transformed substantially within minutes when it snows or freezes, or due to rapid changes of weather so typical for this time of the year in the north. The series of 5 images in this post had been created during 3 sessions in 3 days in the same place - Godafoss and SkjΓ‘lfandafljΓ³t river. In case anybody interested, the first two above were made in the pretty warm and dry morning with quite disappointing lighting despite a good start (we thought we had been on a wrong side as all the drama was behind us).

Caption: Light Rush, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 210mm, Digital Back: Phase One IQ140, ISO: 50, Aperture: f/11, Exposure: 51s, Filters: Lee Big Stopper

Caption: Light Rush, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 210mm, Digital Back: Phase One IQ140, ISO: 50, Aperture: f/11, Exposure: 51s, Filters: Lee Big Stopper

Then it snowed and froze for 2 days and when we came back, this is what we got (third and forth photo above). Also, look at the similar scene (the second image) from the last year for a comparison how different the same place has gotten - more snow and ice this time forced a different composition. We were blessed with some serious sunset here, the only one in 10 days. I was grateful to be at the right place, really. And finally, the last one below I took midday on our way back to Reykjavik, few hundred meters downstream from Godafoss. Even though the weather was what I normally think is photographically awful (everything white / light grey and no structures in the sky), I loved the contrast of the emerald colors of the river with white on everything else.

Caption: Emerald River, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 35mm, Digital Back: Phase One IQ140, ISO: 50, Aperture: f/9, Exposure: 20s, Filters: Lee Big Stopper

I did not mention some other aspects of winter landscape photography in Iceland that might also be important to consider, such as northern lights performance that has been unbelievable this year, tourist-free country, favorable car rental prices, good times of sun sets and rises, etc. It all makes winter adventure there a highly rewarding activity, but be prepared for ever-blowing winds in your ears or potentially for some serious issues with the weather that cost time (and money)...