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After the difficult year 2020 turned into, 2021 came back with a bang for my photography. During 2020, I suffered from what I like to call a “photographic writer’s block”. I couldn’t find sufficient inspiration & energy. I didn’t want to go out to photograph and wasn’t finding joy in it any longer. Fortunately, 2021 marked a complete turnaround for me & my photography, with many highlights. In this blog, I wanted to share a few of those highlights. These are listed in no particular order.

The Eruption in Geldingadalir

Well, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been following my work, right?! The eruption in Geldingadalir is easily my number one photographic moment of this year. It’s something I’ve dreamt of witnessing in person from when I was old enough to understand what volcanic eruptions are. When the earthquake swarm on Reykjanes began in February, I immediately started preparing my gear so I would be ready to go if it turned into an eruption. When it did, it felt like a dream came true: a small fissure eruption, easy to access, quite “safe” to be around and very photogenic. I’m eternally grateful I got to experience this from a front row seat.

Writing my First Book

That brings us to the biggest milestone in my photography career so far: writing & self-publishing my first book. I’ve always thought about writing a book about my photography, specifically covering Iceland. I’ve always held off because I was missing that one thing Iceland is known for: volcanic eruptions. I felt I couldn’t do a book without showing of the fire-part of the Land of Fire & Ice.

When the eruption was ongoing for several weeks, I realised I had a lot to share. Not only in terms of photography but also my personal experience and views. It’s a project I put a lot of myself into and I’m extremely proud of it. New Earth became the culmination of months of hiking, photographing, writing and finetuning. I ended up seeking funds through a crowdfunding campaign which far exceeded my expectations. The response was overwhelming and being able to hold that book in my hands today is an incredible feeling.

Get a copy of "New Earth"

Opportunities to Share my Story

This year I’ve also been given a lot of opportunities to share my stories and experiences. I already had a platform through my own social media but this year things kicked up a notch thanks to my dedication to documenting the eruption.

I got the opportunity to tell my story by guiding others to the eruption, meeting other photographers, writing blogs, self-publishing a book and being featured in the media. I’ve had the opportunity to meet & guide people whose work I’ve been following and admiring for years such as Andy Mumford and Nigel Danson. I’ve been blessed to get the opportunity to speak in front of a new audience after being selected as a Canon Young Talent by Canon Belgium.

I strongly believe that photography is not just about the photographs themselves but also the story that’s behind them, explaining the struggle you went through to get the shot, showcasing the time and perseverance required to get to the result. It empowers your photographs. I’m grateful I received the chance to tell more and more people about this.

Watch the lecture at Photo Days

Photographing Puffins in Grímsey

During the summer, I had planned to go to Greenland. Unfortunately, due to government restrictions all my flights got cancelled and I was unable to travel there. Instead, I ended up travelling to Grímsey, an island on the Arctic Circle north of the Icelandic mainland. I got the idea after seeing a video by Einar & Gyða. I spent 5 days on the island and it far exceeded my expectations. I wrote a whole blog on the trip, which I recommend you read.

Starting my Own Business

Last but not least, this year marks a big milestone. I started my own Icelandic business! I had been thinking about taking this step for a long time but I’ve always felt I lacked the momentum to drive it forward. Now, with all of the things I mentioned above, the time felt right to start my own business in Iceland. I’m proud to say I am now a full-time photographer and guide. I’m really relieved I managed to take this leap forward this year.

I decided to diversify my offering by guiding group tours, selling prints & books and providing photography-focused day tours. I’m optimistic about the future and maybe I will get to welcome of you readers at some point!

On to 2022!

Thank you to all people I crossed paths with this year. Thank you to all those who started following my work recently or have been following it for a longer time. Thank you for the opportunities I have been given. I’m eternally grateful for what an amazing year 2021 has been for me as a human and my photography.

Last but not least, I would like to wish you all the best during this holiday period and, of course, a healthy and fruitful 2022. Happy holidays!

Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove

Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove is an award-winning Belgian nature photographer and guide living in Reykjavík, Iceland.

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