I have had the pleasure of traveling to Iceland 7 times since 2011, and with each trip my appreciation and love of the country and its people only grows. For each Icelandic adventure, I have been fortunate enough to team up with one of Iceland’s best landscape photographers and guides, and fellow Capture to Conserve member, Chris Lund. Chris has quietly been producing an incredible body of work featuring the wild and remote places of Iceland, and he runs a full time guide business to help photographers like me be more efficient with our shooting time when visiting. Chris and I have become close friends, spending time together with our respective better halves here in the States in Colorado, as well as on a few fantastic photography trips to other parts of the world, including New Zealand, and a fun adventure exploring Vermont and New Hampshire during colorful autumn a few years back.
Iceland from Richie Graham on Vimeo.
When I think about Iceland a few thoughts come to mind. The first is that Iceland is truly a living landscape. It feels like Mother Earth is still at work when one visits the land of fire and ice. The landscape is still being shaped, and like a free-spirited youth it is and raw and free. Second, I think of colors and tones. I am especially fond of the Icelandic interior highlands, which provides an endless spectrum of earth tones and color hues. It can be barren, desolate and gray, or alive with vibrant colors. Although most of Iceland is treeless, with rocks, lava, mountains, fjords and glaciers dominating the landscape, wow, can it ever be electrifyingly green. The moss that grows on the black lava creates some of the most beautiful contrast of color I have ever seen. Another element that comes to mind when thinking about Iceland is its magic light. In June, during the summer solstice, the “golden hour” for photography (when the light is at its best) can be up to 5 hours long! While June and July afford long, leisurely days, they are also more popular and attract the crowds. I have seen a big change in the number of tourists visiting Iceland even in the short span of years I have been going. The crowds can be avoided if you are willing to go “off-grid,” but it takes some work.
Regardless of the time of year (with exception of the dark of winter), the light can still be amazing. The microclimates and the variability of the weather mean that light changes very quickly. When on the road and moving from one location to another, I like to travel with one camera with at least a 70–200m lens handy at my side so I am ready at any moment to catch the ever-changing light and conditions. I would strongly suggest that if you plan on going to Iceland for landscape photography you try to set yourself up to be as mobile as possible (4x4 camper van, etc.). This will allow you to alter your itinerary to match the weather. If it’s on in the Eastern Fjords go there, if it's socked in and wet, move elsewhere. Keeping a flexible itinerary is really key to enjoy Iceland.
Having ancestral roots in Norway, and a connection to the game of soccer, I also find the history of Iceland, its people, and its amazing soccer development system truly inspiring.