At times like this, my fortune to have seen just short of 40 countries in my time as a photographer on cruise ships leaves me with a lot of choice when it comes to combing through my Lightroom catalogue and looking for fresh pictures to edit. Over time, I have found that I am consistently drawn back to the pictures I have taken in Iceland.
They’re not overtly remarkable, but the landscape and character emanates out from the images unlike ones I have from any other country.
Maybe it’s looking back with rose-tinted glasses during COVID, but I’ve come to believe that Iceland is truly unique. Perhaps this realization comes from grouping these images all together, since a variety of pictures builds a more accurate depiction of a place. Since visiting Iceland for the first time in the summer of 2019, I have slowly built my own impression of the quaint yet dramatic country.
Here, I present five images I have taken which I feel show Iceland as a unique and beautiful place.
Starting with this image:
I had never before seen street art be so simple and surreal at once. The otherworldly impression of the umbrella and balloons rising along with the steep and sloping green grassy bank caught my attention from a long way off. It gave a sense of wonder into the entire surrounding area of Akureyri and lifted my mood as well.
At the current time of writing, it is late 2020, and since this image was taken in August of last year, I have repeatedly found myself drawn back to it, placed back to the moment it was taken and the great day I had there. For a brief moment pictures can do that — they can send you back in time.
The next photo is from the same day, as we then paid to go on a private bus tour to the spectacular Godafoss waterfall:
Iceland is bursting with amazing waterfalls such as Godafoss. Others of note include Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfall (the latter which you can actually walk behind!) A comprehensive experience of the best of Iceland’s waterfalls can be done by completing a tour of the ‘Golden Circle,” which may take you about eight hours. Whether looking over the promenade deck of a ship or standing behind an Icelandic waterfall, I always find flowing water to be mesmerizing, so perhaps this photo speaks to my love of this country and the profession that took me there.
Therefore, a moment to yourself to fully appreciate the grandeur of scenes like the Godafoss waterfall should not be neglected; as dramatic as the rush of water may be, the simplicity in seeing this singular driving force of nature in action is incredibly humbling. If you ever find yourself in its presence, allow yourself that time.
Next is scenery of a different kind; the wide open spaces laid out in-between the stunning natural landmarks.
Iceland is not a big country, so you can cover a lot in one day just by renting a car. Even better, your road trip will let you drink in the barren yet wonderful countryside. On each of the two occasions I travelled across Iceland, I was glad not to be the driver! I could keep my eyes fixed on the extraordinary visual display rolling past my window, and sometimes shout to pull over.
This image tells you that Iceland is, for the most part, unspoiled. You can imagine a scene like the one above dating back for centuries. There really is a timeless feel to the surroundings, especially as you drive through the sprawling volcanic rock formations that span out alongside some roads. You find yourself almost feeling like you’re on another planet, as you’re circled by geology that took its shape and solidifies thousands of years ago.
In contrast to the thousand year old scenery, a DC3 Plane that crash landed in the 1970’s fits in seamlessly with Iceland’s iconic black sand beaches; the rusty and abandoned metal fuselage attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists all year round.
My friend would wear these checked red Vans to nearly every Scandinavian port we visited, and it was an ongoing creative challenge for me to capture them on location. But the story behind this iteration of the motif, and the well-documented crash site itself, is the trek towards the wreck.
Like elsewhere in Iceland, you feel attuned to the surrounding environment and approach with the same sense of humility that the aforementioned waterfalls inspire, too. The journey to the wreckage only adds to the otherworldly feeling that frequently grabs you as you explore the country, but with an extra kick — there is a literal and immediate feeling of a planetary shift in setting. It’s cold, windy, probably rainy, and quite foreboding seeing a seemingly endless stretch of black sand spanning out in front of you (even if, in actual fact, it’s only a 40 minute walk to the site).
In the wrong conditions though, tourists have actually died simply trekking to this location, as Iceland’s weather can take you from safety and comfort to isolation and danger. Iceland is not a treacherous place overall, but it just links back to what I said about it being quaint yet dramatic; it demands respect just as much as awe and intrigue.
And finally, the last image hearkens back to the first one, and is even from the same stretch of wall:
The optimism I was left with after visiting all these places in Iceland can be found in the same way that colorful flowers ascending in a positive upward tangent might lift your mood, too.
Iceland, with its remote locations, friendly people, captivating landmarks and stunning natural beauty is a perfect place to connect with yourself again. Many places (our homes more so than anywhere) can sometimes make you feel disconnected from the world around you. I sometimes find myself lost, vacantly going about my same routine, trapped by the media and my bad habits. I’ll be staring at my phone, refreshing Instagram for no reason, or finding the same excuse not to wake up earlier again and again. It’s good to find reasons to look out and let the world wake you up again; to want to spring out of bed to start the new day, and feel a sense of connection spurred on by humility.
Iceland, from the quaint to the dramatic, has a perfect blend of solitude and intimacy to leave you feeling inspired. From what I’ve shared, I hope you feel inspired too!
Do you have pictures from a destination that keeps calling you back? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!