I’ve decided to share my top 10 list of what I think is important and I keep in mind myself when I’m out capturing the Icelandic landscape. I hope you find it useful and keep an eye out for more of these articles in the future!
1. Bring a sturdy tripod
You might have heard this before but Iceland can be a very, very windy place. It’s vital to use a sturdy tripod when doing landscape photography so you’re sure your gear is secure and stable, even in the windiest of places. Even when using a sturdy tripod, be mindful of the conditions you’re in. This is especially important when you plan on doing long exposure shots — oh, and don’t forget your remote control.
A long exposure image of a winter morning at Þingvallavatn lake.

A long exposure image of a winter morning at Þingvallavatn lake.

2. Make sure you and your camera are waterproof
Iceland is not only a windy place but rain is also not uncommon. Make sure you’re wearing water- and windproof clothing. Rain is not the only issue you might encounter. If you plan on taking a closer look at that waterfall, be prepared for spray coming from the waterfall. This is especially important when there’s sub-zero conditions in winter time. I’ve had it happen to me before that the spray from a waterfall I was photographing, froze on my camera body and lens.
A rainy day at Reynisdrangar in Iceland

A rainy day at Reynisdrangar in Iceland. Rain can make for interesting images.

3. Don’t endanger yourself (or others)
Wherever you plan to take photos, always be mindful of your surroundings and the weather conditions you’re in. Use your common sense and don’t ignore warning signs. When it’s really windy, don’t venture to close to the edge of a cliff — a sudden gust really could sweep you away. If there’s one thing I have learned over the years: listen to locals — they know the area a lot better and have probably experienced the very different weather conditions out there. Don’t stop in the middle of the road to get that perfect shot but make sure you pull over the car on a parking spot or similar. Be aware of storm warnings and road closures by checking the Safe Travel Iceland website every morning while travelling.
Always remember: no matter how much you want that particular shot, don’t risk your life for it. Photographs are so much better when you’re able to show them afterwards.
Road conditions can quickly change during winter.

Road conditions can quickly change during winter. Be sure to check up on the Road Administration website.

4. Bring a wide-angle lens
This probably goes without saying but don’t forget your wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens can be used to make the surroundings look more vast and impressive. I would say a 17–35mm lens on a full-frame body or a 10–20mm on a crop sensor body will get you a long way.
When you’re a bird or animal photographer, of course don’t forget your telephoto lens
Kvernufoss waterfall in Iceland

A wide-angle lens can help you capture the whole scene when there is very little wiggle room.

5. Take (& use) your time…
Don’t be too optimistic and fill up your travel schedule with an impossible amount of locations. Quality of the time you spend, is more important than quantity of locations. Instead, take your time and stay a bit longer at fewer locations to make sure you capture the best possible conditions on that day. In Iceland, the light and weather conditions can change rapidly — which could make that shot you’re trying to take a lot more impressive. Don’t forget that in summer, there’s daylight for almost 24 hours — use that!
An Icelandic swamp showing off a beautiful reflection of the midnight colours during summer.

A swamp showing off a beautiful reflection of the midnight colours during summer.

6. …and do some research in advance
Researching your locations in advance allows you to save time when on the road so you get to photograph longer. Make sure you know how to get there, know what else there might be to see at that location and figure out when to be there. Look at what others have photographed there so you know in advance what the possibilities are. Ideally, you could also make up a list of certain shots and angles you would want to try out.
One helpful tool I always use when researching is called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It’s basically a map that can show you where the sun/moon/milky way will be positioned on a certain day and at a certain time. It’s very helpful because you can plan when to be where according to the best possible conditions. Planning goes a long way if you do it thorough.
Sveinstindur in the Icelandic Highlands

Timing and planning your visits to certain locations always pay off.

7. Keep your gear clean
Bring a cloth and other cleaning equipment to clean your lens and camera! In some places, there can be quite a lot of dust flying around when it’s windy or, after you experienced rain, there might be dirty spots on your lens. It’s a good idea to make it a habit to check your camera before stepping out of the car and clean it if needed. Nothing’s worse than taking that great capture, coming home and find out it’s ruined by dirt spots on the lens.
A low winter sun in Iceland

Conditions can be tricky at same so it’s good to make it a habit to clean your gear to avoid nasty surprises during post-processing that dream shot you took.

8. Keep an eye on the weather conditions
Like the locals say: “If you don’t like the Icelandic weather, just wait 5 minutes.” While the weather might not change exactly every 5 minutes, there’s definitely truth in that sentence. The weather in Iceland can be very unpredictable. Make sure you’re aware of what kind of weather you might experience every day so you’re not caught in surprise. If the forecast for a certain area is bad, you might want to change your schedule to spend more time where the forecast is said to be better. The best place to check the weather forecast for Iceland is the Veðurstofa Íslands website. Don’t look at your phone’s built-in weather app, it’s probably not as accurate.
Important note: the forecast is usually not accurate more than 2 days in the future. Check the forecast again every day, conditions sometimes change on an hourly basis!
Fog rolling in over a fjord in East Iceland

Conditions change rapidly, be prepared to adapt your plans if needed.

9. Move around and try different compositions
I’ve seen a lot of photographer’s in the field who stay put and keep taking the same shot in the same composition over and over again or even try to recreate someone else’s shot. Don’t be like that! Move around, explore different positions and try out different angles. If you planned your trip by looking at other people’s photographs, make sure you know what compositions have been done a million times and do something different.
Midnight sun in Fjallabak, Iceland

Try some new angles and perspectives of well-documented places.

10. Enjoy the moment as much as photographing the landscape
Don’t experience your trip in Iceland through your camera’s lens only. Make sure you take as much time being there as capturing the moment. Iceland is an amazing and beautiful country!

Looking for more?

My top 5 photography locations in Iceland
Over the years I’ve been getting plenty of questions about Iceland and what people should visit. I started answering some of those questions in a series of journal entries. In this journal entry, I answer another one of those questions: “What are my top 5 must-photograph locations in Iceland?”.
2020
Written by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.
Geothermal Gems
I recently spent some time documenting and exploring a few geothermal areas from an aerial perspective using a drone. This top-down perspective provides a unique look at the colourful world of Iceland's hot & festering earth. It can sometimes seem like the surface of a different planet.
2020
Written by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.
How to photograph the Northern Lights
A lot of people travelling to Iceland, have asked me how to photograph the Northern Lights before. The aurora season has just started last week, so I thought it was definitely a good time to write this journal entry. When you get to see the Northern Lights, it would be a shame if you’d have to waste time on figuring things out with your camera.
2020
Written by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.
Exploring the Icelandic Highlands
Some time ago I planned a trip into the Southern Icelandic Highlands. The plan for the weekend was to explore the areas around Kjölur a bit (one of the F-roads crossing Iceland through the highlands) and afterwards drive around Fjallabak all the way to Eldgjá canyon and back. Ambitious plan but perfectly doable (if you're up for driving some kilometres).
2017
Written by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.
Sailing Expedition in the Svalbard Archipelago - Part 1
From 64° North to 80° North. An experience I will never forget. In the Summer of 2019, I finally managed to cross Svalbard off my bucket list. It has always been one of my top 5 destinations to visit. To fully experience the unique and desolate environment of Svalbard, I slow-travelled on a sailboat during this 12-day expedition. In this 2-part series, I will be detailing my adventure in the High Arctic.
2020
Written by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.
Highland Light
A collection of aerial and landscape photographs made during several colourful summer nights deep in the Icelandic highlands.
2020
Written by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.
Sailing Expedition in the Svalbard Archipelago - Part 2
From 64° North to 80° North. In this second part of a 2-part series about my sailboat adventure in the High Arctic, we travel back towards the South, encountering some exciting wildlife, discovering the longest glacier front of Svalbard and roaming around an abandoned soviet mining village.
2020
Written by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.
Spending a weekend in East Iceland
A few months ago I travelled to East Iceland for the weekend. Because the drive to Egilsstaðir (and back) is too long for a weekend trip, I took a domestic flight with Air Iceland. After arriving I rented a car to be a bit more mobile in the area. My main mission during the weekend: photographing puffins up close in Borgarfjörður Eystri. As you can tell by the photos, my mission was successful but it wasn't the only thing I did during the weekend.
2017
Written by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove.
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