What is your favorite spot in the world for photography?
This is a question that comes up quite often and it’s a tough one for sure. The world is such a large place and there are so many amazing sights to see and photography.
But, when the question does arise, my mind goes to Iceland almost immediately. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet for photography and if I could only choose one place to photograph for the rest of time, I would choose Iceland. And, many other photographers would agree with me.
The diversity in landscapes is unrivaled. Iceland’s moniker of being the ‘Land of Fire & Ice’ isn’t far-fetched. Honestly, you could add in about 20 other things – Land of Fire, Ice, Mountains, Waterfalls…you get the picture.
Iceland is shaped by volcanic and glacial activity and each of those two things are in full display today, hence the ‘Fire & Ice’. Volcanoes and glaciers are absolutely incredible, and definitely make Iceland so special, but there’s a lot more that makes Iceland a special place as well.
If you’re considering a trip to Iceland, consider joining us at BCJ for an immersive experience – we still have spots available this fall!
Here a few of the reasons why Iceland is one of my favorite spots in the world for photography:
A Landscape Unlike Any Other
Iceland is truly a landscape unlike any other. It’s unique geographic position, which led to its creation, has shaped the island into an absolute spectacle at every turn. I’ll highlight the iconic features shortly, but consider this – instead of having to visit Alaska for glaciers, Central America for volcanoes, or the Pacific Northwest for waterfalls – you can see all these things in one place, on an island that’s about the size of Ohio.
Talk about amazing! For those that know me, you know that I value diversity above all while ‘rating’ a landscape. Some of my favorite spots (and some of the most fun to shoot), are spots where you can shoot mountains in the morning and then hit the coast (a totally different landscape) for sunset.
Iceland takes that to a new level. Here, you can shoot a volcano at sunrise, waterfalls during the day, a glacier just after lunch, the mountains for sunset, and if you still have energy after that, you can try for the Northern Lights at night.
The Light Is Always Good – Even When It’s Not
Whenever I visit Iceland, whether it’s a workshop or a personal trip, I find that I can usually shoot non-stop if I want. A lot of this has to do with the light. Now, remember, good light does not equal good weather. Iceland is oftentimes cloudy and the weather can be less than ideal for laying out on the beach.
That type of weather is great for photography though. Consistent clouds enable photographers to shoot almost non-stop most days in Iceland. Instead of light being harsh mid-day and letting the camera rest, I consistently go out and shoot. For instance, mid-day with some clouds is a great time to photograph the many waterfalls on the island (more on this later).
You definitely have to take the good with the bad for Golden Hour, but I find when that great light does happen in Iceland, it’s extremely dramatic and spectacular. It’s some of the best light you can capture anywhere.
On our last fall workshop to Iceland, I think we shot all day for most of the trip. Needless to say, I filled up countless memory cards. But I love Iceland for this – like I said, the light is always good, even when it’s not. There’s always an opportunity to shoot something no matter if it’s sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowy, or windy!
Iceland is one of the best places on the planet to see volcanoes – active ones too. Iceland is volcanic in origin. About 20 million years ago, volcanic eruptions eventually pushed Iceland above the Atlantic Ocean. Today, Iceland has 32 volcanic systems, which contain 130 volcanic mountains. There have been many eruptions since Iceland’s creation and they continue today.
You have probably seen images from Fagradalsfjall, an active eruption site near the capital of Reykjavik. There have been many great images and videos captured from the eruption. Viewing and photographing an actively erupting volcano is one of those life-changing experiences. It really is hard to put in to words what it’s like – you need to experience it for yourself someday and Iceland is a great place to do it. Outside of the current eruption, there have been 39 eruptions since the 20th century.
Did We Mention Waterfalls?
Oh, yes, the waterfalls. Iceland is the waterfall capital of the world. Iceland has it all – big waterfalls, small waterfalls, cascades, you name it. Iceland is also home to the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe – Dettifoss. But, there are literally waterfalls on every cliffside, canyon, and riverway in Iceland. I’ve never seen so many in my life. It’s been estimated that there are over 10,000 waterfalls scattered across Iceland.
Some of my personal favorites are Gullfoss, Dettifoss, Seljandafoss, Skogafoss, and Haifoss. We visit all of these during our Iceland workshops, but there are countless others that are a blast to photography as well.
The Northern Lights
Iceland is also an excellent place to see the Northern Lights. Summer days mark the Midnight Sun where there is no true night, but transition into fall and winter and days become shorter. Darkness comes back to Iceland and on the right night, you can witness the aurora dancing in the sky.
We try to make it a point to go out and capture the Aurora when possible during our fall an winter trips. Last time on our fall workshop, we were able to capture the Northern Lights over the mountains in the south. Other times, we have witnessed ‘light shows’ over the iconic glacial lagoons.
I love Iceland for the Northern Lights because you can always pair the lights with an epic landscape. Capturing the aurora alone is awesome, but I think the best images of the Northern Lights are made when there is a great landscape as well…and Iceland has those!
Iceland isn’t all about the landscapes either. Iceland is consistently ranked as one of the friendliest countries to foreign visitors. The local people are great, English is spoken everywhere so it’s easier for us non-Icelandic speakers to get around, and everyone is super helpful. All they ask is you respect their beautiful country and maybe try an Icelandic word or two.
There are other local residents too, however…
During a visit to Iceland, you’ll be hard pressed to not run into Icelandic sheep roaming the countryside and the roads. And my favorite, the Icelandic horse. The horses in Iceland are a special breed and are characterized by their small-size and lengthy manes. They are beautiful animals and we always make a roadside stop or two to photograph them. Many love the limelight and appreciate the opportunity to be photographed!
Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special. Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image. Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world. As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals. You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com
Don’t miss the next session of BCJ Live!
Image Review: Wildlife
with Russell Graves
Tuesday, August 10th, 2021
11 am – 12 pm Mountain Time