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Inspirational Destinations: Iceland

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Volcanic mountains, glacial waterfalls, Icelandic horses, geothermal areas, Northern Lights, lakes, beaches, sea stacks, icebergs and the list goes on. It is of no surprise Iceland is the most inspiring location for Andy Williams

Town of Arrival
Reykjavik is the capital, but you need to fly into Keflavik International airport, which is about 50km and 45-minute by taxi, car or bus.

Best Time To Visit
Early March and September 

Time Allowed
At least 10 days. Sure, you can do ‘the stopover’ which is very popular now, and spend a couple days in/near Reykjavík, and you will have a good time. There are many great photography spots close by, look for the ‘Golden Circle’ tours or rent a car and do it yourself. But if you really want to experience some of the best landscape photography on the planet, plan on ten days, even more!

Favorite Location While Visiting
So hard to choose but if I had to pick one, it would be the North of Iceland. No, I’d pick the Highlands. Wait a minute, I’d pick Snæfellsnes Peninsula, or the West Fjords, or the East…. It’s so hard to choose! Iceland has so much to offer the landscape photographer. Wherever you go, every turn of the road, there is a beautiful scene. Volcanic mountains, glacial waterfalls, fast moving rivers and streams, farmer’s fields, Icelandic horses, geothermal areas, Northern Lights, lakes, beaches, sea stacks, icebergs and so much more.

Physical Activity Needed
Anyone in any shape can visit and photograph in Iceland. But the better shape you are in, the more you will be able to get ‘off the beaten path’ and make some images that most people don’t have. So many photographs can be taken from near where your vehicle will be parked, to just a few hundred meters away. But there are definitely some locations that you would want to do some hiking, especially in Iceland’s Highlands and in the North’s geothermal areas.

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Area’s Favorite location
It’s impossible for me to pick just one. But I will say that anywhere in the Highlands is a favorite. The volcanic mountains, the unspoiled raw beauty make for great times for photography. You won’t be hurried along, you won’t bump into 50, 75, 100 other photographers all going for the same shot. Getting there takes some effort. Most visit in the summertime as the roads are not open other times of year due to snow. I like going later in September as there are zero crowds and the chances for Northern Lights are high. Photographing the canyons, waterfalls and rhyolite mountains is quite an experience. Go with a guide that is experienced and has a super-jeep type of vehicle.

Besides Photography
Reykjavik is becoming known as a foodie town. So if you are into amazing restaurants, there are plenty to choose from. People enjoy camping, fly-fishing (some of the best in the world is in Iceland), riding Icelandic horses, biking, boating, birding (catch the puffins from May through early August) and whale watching. There is a growing arts and culture scene in Reykjavik as well. The Opera House is not to be missed.

Exciting Discoveries
On my first trip I fell in love with the hot springs of Iceland at The Blue Lagoon. But skip the crazy prices and crowds at the Blue Lagoon and go to the Myvatn Nature Baths instead, where you can enjoy one of the ‘coolest’ hot experiences ever. In the north, the farm-to-table food at Vogafjós is an amazing culinary experience!

Do Not Miss This
Take a panoramic photo of Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrimskirkja, the big church that you can’t miss. Get your spot early, before sunset time. If you are in the north in March, time your visit for the Myvatn Open, an exciting all-day event featuring Icelandic Horse racing on Lake Myvatn! Go to Iceland from September through March and hope for clear skies and solar activity so you can photograph the northern lights. Plan your shoot, the best northern lights photos have some sort of cool foreground, not just a colorful sky. 

Best Advice
It’s often warmer in Iceland than it is in New York, Boston or Chicago. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be prepared. If you are going outside of the summer months, you will need to have all the right layers: long underwear, comfy waterproof boots, warm fleece, coat, rain shell, gloves, hat, scarf, all of it. If you are going to buy that beautiful Icelandic Wool sweater, watch out for cheap knock-offs and stick with the better shops. Finally, while you can go on your own (traveling around Iceland is super easy), for photography I recommend going on a photography-specific organized tour. Your leaders and guides will know the best locations, will get you there safely and on time, will handle all the accommodations, food and transportation, so you can focus on your photography.

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