Iceland, Part 1

I know what you’re thinking. With spring just around the corner who goes to Iceland for a vacation? Truth is, we all know it’s not going to get warmer until around June, so i figured if i have to endure more cold and snow, i might as well do it in a place as breathtaking as Iceland. It’s someplace i’ve always wanted to go for a long weekend and since i’ve returned i’ve already started thinking about when i’m going back.

I don’t do a lot of landscape photography because, quite frankly, the landscapes around here don’t really inspire me. Sure, we have great autumns, but i’ve seen that all before. I wanted to go someplace and shoot some something that was awe inspiring. So i chose Iceland. And i wasn’t disappointed.

After deciding on going to Iceland, i had to get my gear in order. I figured that i would bring my 50mm f/1.8 and my 70-200mm f/2.8, but i really wanted something a lot wider to capture the great, big vistas. So i rented a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens from  I was a bit skeptical about renting a lens, because i was pretty much resting the fate of my entire trip on the quality of the glass that would show up the day before i left. I have to say that not only was the service great, but the condition of the lens was almost brand new. That lens, by the way, is incredibly sharp – even wide-open, with little barrel distortion at the wide end. I only used the 50mm when i was walking around Reykjavik and only brought out the 70-200mm to fill the frame on only a few shots. I used the 14-24mm almost exclusively while shooting landscapes.

My plan, if you can call it that, was to stay in Reykjavik, rent a car, plug in the coordinates of a town about 200 Km away and just drive. If something caught my eye, i would pull off onto a side road, pack my gear into a backpack camera bag and hike until i found what i was looking for. The first day it took me about 3 hours to travel about 80 Km…there was just so much to see and capture. I shot mostly on a tripod, with the occasional poke-the-lens-out-of-the-window shots when the weather turned ugly. Iceland’s weather is even more temperamental than here in upstate New York, so the drizzle/showers/flurries/white-outs only lasted for about a half hour. I didn’t have to wait long for the weather to break to get back in the action. The temperature was just about the same as it was here, although it was much windier there, with gusts in the 20-30 mph range. No wonder most everyone there wears those great sweaters.

Aside from the amazing landscapes, the people of Iceland are also fantastic. Everyone i met was outgoing, friendly and extremely helpful (i’m looking at you, Christian and Gunner, who helped pull me out of the 18″ snowdrift i drove into, high-centering my4wd rental car). At no point did i feel like a tourist (well, except for maybe getting my car stuck), more like someone that simply didn’t speak the language. Icelandic is a tough language to get down – not only are there sounds my mouth isn’t used to making, but the written language has changed little in the thousands of years it’s been around. There are letter that are beyond foreign to me, in combinations that make Cyrillic words look quaint. But everyone i came across spoke English – and very well at that. And if you’ve ever heard a four year-old speak Icelandic, you’d agree that it’s one of the cutest things in the world.

So, while you may think an island the size of Kentucky in the middle of the North Atlantic, with a population of a little over 300,000 may not seem like an ideal location to spend time in late March, i would urge you to reconsider. The people are super friendly, the night-life in Reykjavik is non-stop and the sights, sounds and tastes are incredible. I’m already trying to figure out which festival i want to attend when i go back during some upcoming August. It’s a place that you can feel you’ve left the rest of the world behind until you head into a town and are welcomed as one of their own by any number of the locals.

You can view all of the photos from my trip (and get a sneak-peak into my next post) here

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