Growing up in a little town situated in the mountains on the eastern corner of the Czech Republic, I spent a good part of my childhood in nature. Most of my time was spent biking, hiking, and foraging for mushrooms with my parents or grandparents. This love for nature continued well on into my teenage years—the neighboring mountains proved to be a great hideout when I was skipping school.
It was around the time of my 17th birthday when I saved up for my first camera—a Canon 700D and a serious upgrade from my low megapixel phone. Little did I know how horrible the first shoot would turn out; as an amateur with no photography skills, I had a way to go. Thankfully that didn’t deter me, and over time I progressively got better and photography quickly became a big part of my life. Mountains, wildlife, and everything I loved exploring as a child became my muse and I was determined to improve.
Eventually it was time to leave home for university, but it was only a matter of time before I realized that I felt thrust into a life that I didn’t want. I wasn’t sure what exactly my goal was, but I knew it wasn’t this well-trodden path. So I quit university almost as quickly as I’d started and headed to Iceland.
Thanks to a previous summer job working in construction, I was able to find work relatively fast. Granted, the pay was low and the hours long, but I was in Iceland and that meant a constant sense of adventure on the horizon.
Physical exhaustion aside, I was able to really find my stride with photography. As time went on, I sifted through plenty of jobs, mostly in tourism, and hopped around the country. Eventually I landed a gig as a breakfast chef in Deplar Farm, a luxury lodge in the mountains of the Troll Peninsula. It was a dream job that left backcountry skiing at my fingertips and inspiration at every turn.
There was something about Troll Peninsula that wouldn’t let me leave and made me feel at home. Though if I had to put my finger on it, my love for its harsh winters, breathtaking wilderness and a tight-knit community might’ve had something to do with it. Troll Peninsula is every outdoor enthusiast and photographer’s dream. So much of a dream in fact, that I eventually decided to lay roots in this remote corner of Iceland with a little cabin in the mountains. All these years later it feels like life has really come full circle, from escaping to the mountains as a child, to creating my own mountain hideaway as an adult.
If not for the extreme isolation, another way Troll looped me in was through backcountry skiing. Located in one of the best backcountry skiing spots on the island, ski photography has become a passion project of mine over the past couple of years. Due to the weather conditions and the fact that everything happens so fast on the slopes, it is the most challenging type of photography I’ve ever tackled. Then again, it is also arguably the most rewarding one.
Thanks to connecting these two hobbies I was also able to land exciting jobs like photographing for Heli ski companies. The most interesting one was the wedding of a skier and snowboarder where I photographed the bride and groom dropping off of a helicopter and skiing down in wedding clothes. But even if jumping out of helicopters and a hermit mountain lifestyle aren’t your thing, I still think Iceland belongs on every photographer’s bucket list. Especially in winter when the northern lights set the sky aglow and the landscape unfolds into an icy masterpiece!
My best advice for anyone looking to photograph Iceland in the winter? First and foremost, bring warm and windproof clothes. While the temperature doesn’t often drop below 20 F (-5 C) on the coast, it is the wind that will get you. Good gloves are essential as well, especially if you’re planning to shoot the northern lights – a thrilling, but long process that involves a lot of standing around and trust me, it can get very painful.
Personally, my favorite way to photograph local landscapes during winter is with a drone. Anywhere with a river, fjord or stretch of coast provides a spectacular contrast of white land and dark water. Expect your plans to change frequently. The weather can, and often does, turn at the drop of a hat, and lack of light from November to January doesn’t give you much wiggle room. The best time to visit Iceland for winter travel is in February when the island is still in full winter, but the days are getting longer, and you still get pitch black nights with northern lights.
Nothing compliments the surreal landscape of Iceland in winter better than its wildlife. Be sure to check out our Guide to Icelandic Wildlife.