Iceland is an incredibly popular destination for photographers. And it’s no wonder as it is filled with all sorts of amazing photo opportunities. After 22 trips to Iceland, Team Induro member Colby Brown has some valuable points of view for maximizing your trip to Iceland.
When it comes to exploring a country that is located as far north as Iceland, it isn’t all that surprising that many photographers choose to visit during the popular summer months when the weather is more forgiving and the midnight sun is ever so present.
But after 22 trips to the Island nation, I have come to realize that it is the Winter season that I love the most. Between the beautiful and yet stark snowy landscapes, incredible waterfalls, jaw dropping ice caves and possibility of witnessing the Northern Lights….there is a lot to love when it comes to exploring Iceland during the winter months!
Getting There & Getting Around
All flights into Iceland go through the Keflavik Airport (KEF). It is located roughly 50 minutes from downtown Reykjavik (the Capital) and there are excellent transportation options between the airport and downtown area (Fly Bus). I highly recommend checking out flights with Icelandic Air, who offer free stop overs (up to 7 days) for people traveling between the US/Canada and Europe.
When it comes to getting around in the winter months, you will want to either join a tour or rent a good SUV that either has winter tires or 4×4 (or both). When I teach photography workshops in Iceland (LINK), this is the vehicle you will often see us in as it can handle just about anything you can throw at it! Check out the following rental car agencies for good deals: Atak or Cheap Jeep.
Let’s brake this up into two different sections, Clothes & Photo Gear
While Iceland doesn’t get that cold in the winter, especially in the south of the country, it can still hover around freezing during the day depending how far into winter you decide to visit. Either way, packing the right kind of cloths is vitally important. This is why I highly recommend using the “Layering System” which is made up of the three core elements.
This is the layer that is closet to your body. You will want to avoid anything with cotton for this layer as it generally does a poor job of keeping heat in towards your body and will only make you colder if it gets wet. I recommend you stick with wool or something synthetic, such as polypropylene. Here are two examples. (LINK) (LINK)
The purpose of this layer is to keep your body as warm as possible. Don’t worry so much about this being water proof, but instead focus on the temperature rating of the clothing you choose, which could be something like this (LINK) that is goose down and will keep you warm throughout the day.
This is where you want to focus your energy on getting something that can truly handle the elements, be it rain, snow, sleet and the cold. You will want something that has Gore-Tex in it, such as the Arcteryx Thera AR Jacket (LINK). Also don’t forget to pack a pair of slip on waterproof pants as well, just in case.
Additional Clothing Items
- Warm fleece lined beanie
- GTX Waterproof Boots
- Micro Spikes to handle icy situations
- Absolutely no jeans! 😉
With so many incredible things to photograph in Iceland, it is important to make sure you bring the right gear. My go to setup is my Sony a7R II full frame mirrorless camera with a Sony 16-35 f/4 FE lens and my Induro CLT 304L tripod. This rock solid setup can handle the vast majority of my landscape photography needs.
Here is a more complete list of what I typically bring with me when I explore Iceland in the winter.
- Sony a7R II FF 42mp Mirrorless Camera
- Sony a7S II FF 12mp Mirrorless Camera
- Sony 16-35 f/4 FE Wide Angel Lens
- Sony 24-70 f/2.8 GM Mid Range Room
- Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM Telephoto Lens
- Set of ND filters and a CPL filter
- Induro CLT 304L Tripod
Must See Locations
While Iceland as an entire country has plenty to offer, many roads are closed down during the winter months. This can help you become more focused in the areas you hope to explore.
Without a doubt, Iceland has some of the world’s most incredible waterfalls. In Winter, the snow adds a unique contrast to the always flowing falls found throughout the country.
Walking behind the ice laden Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in South Iceland is an incredible experience
The blue water from the Bruarfoss Water looks incredible in the heart of winter.
Located in the town of Skogar, the Skogafoss Waterfall is one of the most popular and accessible large waterfalls in Iceland
Glaciers & Glacial Lagoons
In the South of Iceland, right of Highway 1, you will find a number of Glaciers and Glacial Lagoons that will simply blow your mind. There is something special about seeing large chunks of ice floating out to sea, only to see them wash up onto a black sand beach that couldn’t be more picturesque if it tried!
Icebergs have the ability to hold color from both sunrise and sunset.
Home to the largest glacier in all of Europe, Iceland also houses some of the most incredible Ice Caves in the world. No cave is the same from year to year, so no many how many times to explore Iceland in the Winter, you will never see the same cave twice!
Looking up through a hole in an Iceland located in South Iceland
What is a trip to a country such as Iceland without talk of one of the most amazing natural phenomena mother nature produces….the Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora). When solar flares from the sun make contact with Earth’s atmosphere during the Winter months, it is possible to see these incredible lights dance across the night sky in such mesmerizing fashion that you will never forget the experience itself.
Godafoss Waterfall, North Iceland
Joining a Tour or Workshop
While Iceland is an incredibly easy country to visit, the idea of exploring an unknown country in the middle of winter can be daunting for a lot of people. If you aren’t 100% comfortable driving in snow/wintery locations or if you want to have a hand in helping you get to the right places at the right time, you might want to consider joining a photography focused workshop instead.
After running tours/workshops to Iceland for over 5 years, which includes over 22 individual trips, my team and I have amassed a unique knowledge of Iceland and all of its unique photography opportunities. If you are interested in learning more, feel free to reach out and see what we have to offer when it comes to exploring the land of Fire and Ice.