Photography Guide to Iceland
With powerful waterfalls, majestic mountains and incredible aurora displays, no matter how long or far you travel in Iceland, it will be a truly unforgettable adventure. I’m excited to be able share a list of my favourite photography spots on and around Iceland’s famous Ring Road. I hope it will help plan your itinerary for the next time you find yourself on the road in Iceland!
Exploring The Ring Road
There is so much to see in Iceland. Almost every turn in the road welcomes you to a new landscape and beauty that is out of this world. Often the road itself even puts on a show of it’s own! I love the sense of journey and adventure that you get from photos of long roads, stretching out into the distance. It really encapsulates what a trip to Iceland is all about!
When you’re shooting, crouch down and get the camera low to the ground. Also, look for roads that have mountains in the background. This helps make the road will lead into something, adding depth and interest to your photo. Take the viewer on a journey through the different elements that make up your image.
Note: Keep an eye on the road before you step out and make sure someone is looking out for any more cars heading your way! Also only park in designated stop points. It’s illegal to go off road in Iceland which means no pulling up on the side of the road even if you think there’s enough space to let people pass.
The Geysir is a very special thing to witness and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Don’t worry if you miss the explosion the first time, it erupts about every 15 minutes and varies in size and strength each time. Stick around to see it go off a few times to really experience this incredible natural phenomenon.
Standing behind Seljalandsfoss
Unfortunately every time we visited Seljalandsfoss the sun refused to meet us there! It’s still a beautiful thing to witness, but if you can time it so that the sun is shining through the waterfall as you walk behind, it will create a beautiful contrast and golden tint to the water.
Note: As with any waterfall there is a lot of spray and mist. If you do walk around make sure you wear waterproof everything! You also need to mind your step as it’s very wet and slippery on the path around.
The Powerful Skógafoss
Get ready to get totally soaked! The closer you get the more drenched you’ll be at Skógafoss, but it’s worth it to show the true power and strength of this 60m waterfall. There’s a small mound of rocks a few metres away from the water that give you great vantage point to stand in and help add scale to your photo.
Note: You need to keep wiping your lens down if you don’t want a completely blurry photo!
Waves at Reynisfjara
Reynisfjara is a very popular stop on the Ring Road and was pretty busy by the time we arrived early in the afternoon. As with anywhere in Iceland get there as early as possible if you want to avoid the crowds.
It’s beautiful black sandy beach contrasted against the rough tide makes for some epic photos. Walk down to the end of the beach to find more rocks and the famous sea stacks which help add more elements to your photo.
Note: There have been a number of fatalities on the beach due to the sneaker waves and rip tides. Don’t get too close and never turn your back to the sea.
Icebergs at Jökulsárlón
There is something so serene and peaceful about Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. The distant rumbling and cracking of the glacier with small to huge icebergs floating by, seemingly in slow motion. The water is often still enough to give you an opportunity for some stunning reflections. Get lower to the water level to see more of the reflections.
The road North
Again, long drives to your next destination mean more road shots! Include your car to give an extra touch of adventure to the photo.
Every angle of the Vestrahorn!
The Vestrahorn really is a photographer’s paradise. There are endless angles and compositions to discover along this piece of coastline. Here are a few of our favourites:
on the seashore
on the grass covered Sand dunes
with the sandy textures from the tide
Reflections in the tide pools
the Smokey and stinky Námafjall
We stumbled upon Námafjall after spotting plumes of smoke rising from the mountainside as we were on our way to Lake Mývatn. As we drove into the car park the smell very quickly hit us. Sulphur. It's like a nasty mixture between rotten egg and baby poo! Safe to say we didn't stay long, but the billowing clouds of smoke pouring out from the depths of the earth make for some pretty moody silhouette shots as you walk down the trail.
Sunset at Mývatn
The road curves all the way around Lake Mývatn and with sunsets like this it quickly became one of our favourite places in Iceland. It seems to avoid a lot of the crowds compared to some of the earlier spots and so is such a peaceful place to explore and spend a couple of days resting. I found for that there’s not a huge amount of background interest for photos so make sure you wake up for sunrise or wait out for sunset to get that splash of colour and contrast.
Roadside reflections around Lake Mývatn
Keep your eyes peeled as you drive around the lake to spot still pools of water that can give you some stunning reflections of the distant peaks.
The road West
Iceland is well known for it’s wild horses. You can spot them pretty much everywhere, especially during Winter when they are herded back into closed fields to survive the cold. They were often huddled together helping each other stay warm. They have a real character about them and always seem happy to walk over and pose for a photo!
Iceland’s Quaint churches
There are countless churches dotted all over Iceland. They add a nice touch of detail to the horizon for your photos, especially when the sun is hitting it just right at Golden Hour!
Sunrise at Hvítsekur
We had the whole beach pretty much to ourselves as the sun peaked above the distant mountains and shone through this iconic piece of rock. I think of all the different places in Iceland, Hvítsekur has a unique way of making you feel like you're on another planet! If you’re there for sunrise or sunset try and get an angle where the light is streaming through one of the gaps in the rock.
Starry reflections at Hvítsekur
When the tide is out you can safely walk all the way up to Hvítsekur. It also leaves some beautiful ripples in the sand and pools for a reflection. We spent all night finding different angles and compositions and don’t think we got them all!
Our last stop is always at Kirkjufell, situated far into the north coast. Similar to the Vestrahorn, there are so many angles to shoot this beautiful mountain peak. My favourite shot is as the sun goes below the horizon painting just the top of Kirkjufell with golden light.
Note: They recently put up fencing to protect the ground around the river restricting where you can walk quite a bit. Still very much worth a visit though!
The Northern Lights wherever you are!
The Northern Lights are probably the first thing you think of when someone mentions Iceland. Even though it may be one of the most sought after experiences, it’s also the most unpredictable and somewhat difficult thing to witness. Being in the right place at the right time, having the weather on your side, both combined with a lot of patience is what gives you the best chance of seeing the Aurora. Be prepared to sit out all night. One moment the skies can be totally clear and seemingly uneventful before suddenly exploding with movement and colour. With that in mind there’s not really a specific spot to aim for to increase your chances. Wherever and whenever it happens, make sure you’re ready with your tripod to capture the moment!
Note: During the summer it doesn’t get dark enough for you to see the lights. If you want to stand a chance of witnessing these green waves in the sky, plan your trip between September to March.
Reflecting in Jökulsárlón lagoon
The entire sky!
Wrapping Around Hvítserkur
Green Waves By the roadside
I hope you enjoyed this photo guide! If you have any questions feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below. Also, if you have any other tips of places to shoot I’d love to hear them!