Iceland during winter - a month full of new impressions

About 6 weeks ago I returned from my winter trip to Iceland, which lasted again about one month. To sum it up in a sentence: wild, wonderfull and exciting, but very stormy!

I do not want to miss these four weeks, however a little less wind would have been good for my yield of pictures. As usual there are two sides of a coin. The regular and heavy storms enabled me to get some wild and mighty pictures of icelandic winter landscapes!

Come and see to judge....

Island im Winter - Fotoreise und Workshop

Interessiert? Wir bieten eine fabelhafte Fotoreise mit Workshop im Februar 2016. Viel Zeit zum Fotografieren, möglichst wenig Fahrzeiten, interessante Unterkünfte.

 

 

The Coasts

 

Iceland is an island with plenty of coastline. The wild storms resulted often in mighty waves and created photo opportunities I never had before. Especially the black rimmed coasts around Vik where frightfully beautiful and dangerous. The contrast to the sheltered fjords of the north could not have been greater. Sometimes however, the winds have been just to strong and it was impossible to leave the car and sometimes even to leave the accomodation......

 

One of my photographic goals was to get nice and atmospheric shots of the fishing ports in winter, especially the Reykjanes peninsula was a good location. It took time and a bit of luck, but the results where worth the effort! Even if tourism has surpassed the fisheries as major source of income in Iceland recently, it is still a way of life and very typical, this should make the pictures attractive to my buyers.

The Mountains and Highlands

 

Last year the crossing of the highlands was driving through dense fog, this year we had been at least a bit more lucky. The crossing itself was stunning and sunny, but -again- very windy. Our stay at lake Myvatn was as last year dull and foggy. The long drive to reach the highlands can be worth while, but if you have just a day or two, you really should think twice about it. The ring road is maintained throughout the winter, but the east fjords are a remote and windy place and you have to climb up several mountain passes regardless the direction you choose to get to the North.

 

All mountain passes are regularly closed due to due to snowfall, wind and snow drifts. Being on the ring road is no garantuee that the roads are open or reopened quickly. It may take ours or sometimes days..... Take your time and the North including the highlands are worthwhile and unique.

We have met many people who wanted to drive in one day from Myvatn to Reykjavik. Very often this is possible, even if you miss lots of good places along the road, but the probability, that one of the many mountain passes or coastal roads is closed is quite high! Think twice about it, especially, if you would miss a plane!

 

This year I managed to get to the valleys where I spent a whole summer during an university expedition many, many years ago. Lots of changes since my summer in Stekkjarhus. All the same I found this area, which is neglected by most tourists, with its snow capped mountains beautiful and utterly attractive. Good destination for a long hike in autumn....

 

The Ice and Glaciers

 

No visit of iceland is complete without a coverage of the many glaciers, especially the Vatnajoekull area. At Vatnajoekull a severe storm struck Iceland and my plans where blown away. It lasted nearly two days topped out beyond 225km/h and closed down life completely. Driving was life threatening! Most roads have been closed for more than a day. Busloads of day trippers where trapped, closed hotels where opened to give shelter to the cast aways, rescue teams worked long and dangerous hours to get the passengers out of broken cars back into safety.

 

I planned two days with visits of different ice caves, just one worked out. But during this very long day lots of atmospheric and stunning pictures where created.

Towns and Villages

 

Iceland is not only desert, vulcanos and glaciers, but also little, sometimes charming villages and small towns. Akuryeri, Icelands second larges city/town and central hub in the north was the focus this year. After two weeks traveling along the coast and through the highlands, it was a great change and very refreshing.

Street life is muted during winter and street photography not so interesting. But ice and snow makes the villages attractive in a very different way.

Waterfalls and Vulcanism

 

Waterfalls and vulcanism, thats the clichee of Iceland. The huge lavflow in the north was declared finished during my visit and therefore the question did not rise, whether to hire a plane or not. It was definitly to late.

Vulcanos during winter are snow capped mountains and the colored rocks are covered with snow. This makes them less attractive. Geothermal fields however are even better during winter. The cold air creates more steam, the colors are fresh and sometimes you have ice and boiling mud in one picture!

Most of the waterfall have been much better than last year, more ice, still plenty of water and sometimes even sunny weather, of course windy! Taking pictures of waterfalls in winter is an icy business not only for the photographer but also for the equipment. The spray freezes immedeatly to tripod, camera body and of course to the lens including the glass surfaces. Cleaning iced over front lenses or filters is nearly impossible. Very challenging. Sometimes it helps to use long lenses and shades, but some pictures are only possible with wide angles. All the same frozen waterfalls are a beautifull sight and not to be missed!

Travelling and experiences

 

Travelling through Iceland in winter is not more dangerous than driving through an european major city, if you use common sense, check the weather forecast and trust the advice of the locals!

  • Rule one: Check the online weather forecast and road condition (<LINK http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/areas/ >Weather Forecast including Aurora</LINK>, <LINK http://www.vegagerdin.is/english/road-conditions-and-weather/the-entire-country/island1e.html >Road Conditions and Roads closed</LINK>, <LINK http://vegasja.vegagerdin.is/en/ >Road Cameras and Wind Alerts</LINK>) - if these pages show red roads or red wind symbols act as being on a red traffic light, stop and have fun inside! Hot tubbing is fun!
  • Rule two: use a car with spikes (studded tyres), this makes icy roads easy to navigate, 4 WDs extend your ability to drive on ice and snow
  • Rule three: take your time and try not to go back to your plane on your last day through half of Iceland

 

Accomomdation is more and more open throughout the year, booking hotels some days in advance is advised nevertheless. Iceland is a wired country, everything can be made through interne bookings. Very easy.

Food in Iceland is very expensive, forget the prices and enjoy the fish. Start to think in icelandic kroner and do not convert everything into EUR or USD. You have to eat anyway! Calculate your budget in advance!

And the most important rule: Have fun and soak up the atmosphere and the unique landsacapes of this island!

Interested to go to Iceland? Check out the Island Foto Workshop 2016 I will offering in February 2016! It will bring you to the most photogenic locations in the south and the east, including ice caves, Joekulsarlon and many waterfalls!

Iclandic Horses

 

No stay in Iceland is complete without an encounter with the Iclandic Horses, an old breed dating back to the viking times in Iceland.

Friendly, amicable, pretty....

This and That

 

Yes, of course we had some Northern Ligths, but this year it was often to windy (for long exposures) and to cloudy. Bad luck!

 

Visiting Iceland in winter is something not to be missed!

Nach oben

 

Munich, May 2015