Sunset in Breiðamerkurjökull 0.5sec, f/13, ISO 100
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II, Lee GND and ND filters, Heliopan CPL.

No matter where you live, the allure of travel to a locale quite different from your own is hard to resist for any  landscape photographer. And chances are, there are few places anywhere in the world as different from where you're sitting right now than Iceland. Put simply, it's a photographer's dream destination. The landscape is incredible, with pitch-black volcanic terrain, immense glaciers and towering volcanoes. And to top it off, airfare can be very reasonable and in-land travel is easy to arrange. With all this going for it, Iceland has long been on my list of places to photograph. And not long ago, I had the opportunity to explore this incredible terrain and create some memorable images.

In this four page article I'll share with you my experience of shooting with fellow photographers in Iceland, introduce you to some remarkable areas of the country to photograph and provide some behind the scenes info for two of my favorite images from the trip.

Planning ahead: season and location

The northern lights (Aurora Borealis) over Jökulsárlón lagoon 30sec, f/2.8, ISO3200
Canon 5D Mark II, Samyang 14mm F2.8 IF ED MC Aspherical.
The green columns shining above the snowy landscape is a spectacle seen only when it's cold.

As with any destination, the first question my colleagues and I had to consider was which season to travel. Iceland in winter offers a completely different photographic experience than in the summer. The green, lush scenery of the warmer months is replaced by a white, cold ice-desert. Temperatures drop to a bone-chilling sub-zero degrees Fahrenheit, winds howl and conditions are tough. But for us, this was all part of the adventure and a small price to pay for the most unique shooting experience we could imagine.

That's because no other season allows you to walk on frozen lagoons right up to a huge glacier. Only during the winter season of late September through March is it safe to venture into ice caves. It's never dark enough to witness the northern lights in the summer. And from autumn through spring sunrises and sunsets are relatively short, and the light is relatively harsh during the rest of the day. It's also certainly worth mentioning that winter airfare to Iceland can be as much as 50% lower than other times of the year! Given all of this, we knew that we were headed into an icy escapade.

Dormant volcano of Öræfajökull 10sec, f/16, ISO100
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II, Lee GND and ND filters, Heliopan CPL. 

The next big task was deciding which region of Iceland to visit. With only a two-week itinerary planned, we would need to concentrate on a specific area of the country to maximize the time spent shooting, versus traveling. After much research, which included consulting Icelandic photographers and friends who had visited the country, as well as looking at hundreds of published images, we concluded that southern Iceland was our best bet.

In the South you'll find glaciers, lagoons, waterfalls and beaches - all readily accessible by car. Crucially though, since Iceland is located so far north, the winter sun both rises and sets to the south, providing some very unique photographic opportunities. As a bonus, the sun maintains a low angle throughout the day, providing soft side-lighting that is great for landscape photography.

Click here to continue reading our Winter in Iceland article...