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What Is ‘Behind The Shot’?

To me, photographs are strengthened by having a good story to support them. At its core, photography is the art of capturing memories and those memories deserve to be told & shared. With this new concept I want to tell people that story. I want to share what effort, struggle and sometimes luck is behind the publishing of that single image you might see in your social media feed. Every month I will be sharing one photograph which has a good story, a deeper meaning or a struggle behind it.

The Icelandic Highlands: My Happy Place

Ever since I visited the Highlands of Iceland for the first time in 2012, they left an enormous impression on me. During that first visit, we hiked the now world-famous Laugavegur hiking trail. I can still pinpoint some of the moments during that hike that made me sit down, look around and take it all in. It changed my thinking, my appreciation for nature and ultimately also changed the course of my life dramatically. It sounds so cliché when I write it down but it’s 100% true.

I often think about how different my life would have been if I hadn’t gone on that trip. It turned out to be a significant pivotal moment for me which often makes me think about one question: would I still have ended up moving to Iceland if it weren’t for that first experience with the highlands?

That trip in 2012 ignited a huge love for the Icelandic Highlands. Since then I have travelled through this untouched wilderness countless times, exploring many remote parts of it while still only scratching the surface. And even though I tend to plan my adventures well, there’s always a part of me, even on planned workshops, that wants to explore something new.

Behind the Shot - Highlands Magic

A ‘rare’ image of me on my very first trip to Iceland in 2012. This one was taken on the Laugavegur trek at the Hrafntinnusker hut. The hiking trail was not the pedestrian highway it is today and the experience left a major impression on me.

Exploration & Memories Are Key

Whenever I see a road I haven’t travelled yet, there’s this itch that needs scratching. I feel this sudden urge to drive down the unexplored path, I feel this need to know what is there and what can be seen. This urge has often put me in situations where I managed to capture shots I still cherish to this day. The reason for that is not that those photos are especially unique or amazing but rather that they are photographs I connected a memory and a story to. For me that is the cornerstone of photography: the art of capturing memories. By doing that, you evoke a certain feeling or emotion when you look back at the images related to that memory.

Behind the Shot - Highlands Magic

Exploring the Icelandic Highlands can be done best in a suitable large 4×4 vehicle such as this classic Land Rover Defender. This photograph was taken during the private photo workshop with Andy Mumford when I took this month’s ‘Behind the Shot‘ image.

Thanks to Sarfraz Durrani for taking this photo.

Behind the Shot - Highlands Magic

Flying in high wind conditions whilst your hands are freezing off, is no easy feat. I am still amazed how capable my little DJI Air 2S was during such challenging conditions.

Thanks to Sarfraz Durrani for taking this photo.

From The Magic Spot…

This brings me to an, for me, incredible moment during a private photo workshop, which I hosted together with my friend Andy Mumford. As we were travelling through remote areas of the highlands, and reached the end of the season, we saw very few people. On one day specifically, we didn’t see any other cars or people. At first we made a quick stop at a location which I like to refer to as “the Magic Spot“. The reason for that is that this place, even after countless visits and photographs, still gives me a new angle or perspective. It’s a magical location and a gift that keeps on giving for my photography. Soon after, we decided to go exploring and drove down a road which is not well travelled.

Behind the Shot - Highlands Magic

The weather conditions were perfect for the Icelandic Highlands. Most photographers are in search of beautiful and colourful sunrises and sunsets but I find that the highlands work best when they are veiled in a touch of mystery and atmosphere.

Behind the Shot - Highlands Magic

An aerial panorama over what I like to call “the Magic Spot”. This location has given me more photographs than any other location I’ve ever visited before.

This aerial shot was taken with permission of the Vatnajökull National Park. All my photo workshops have permits for drone flying in protected areas.

…To The Magic Lake!

The conditions were incredibly moody that day. Low and fast moving clouds covered the mysterious and volcanic landscape around us. As we drove onto a tiny mountain road, we decided to drive to a viewpoint so we could get a better look at the lake from a different angle. Because this particular mountain road was in very rough shape, we spent about 55 minutes driving a 30 kilometre stretch. Not a single other soul was to be seen which made for an incredible experience.

As we arrived at the viewpoint, we realised we were almost touching the clouds. The conditions were absolutely stunning. The moody clouds moved rapidly above us, which caused the sunlight to highlight certain parts of the landscape. Even though it was really windy, I decided to put my drone up. One of the places I had been dreaming of shooting were the smaller lakes located on the other side of the larger lake. Flying my drone in extreme conditions such as in the Greenlandic winter and above the eruption had given me a lot of (over)confidence in what I could achieve with my tiny little drone.

I roughly estimated the distance I would have to fly using Google Maps on my phone and then set out full blast. I flew about 4,5 kilometres in a straight line across the large lake, hoping I would have enough battery left to take a few shots and fly back. Because I was already at high altitude, I didn’t need to ascend at all. The conditions were brutal. The temperature was somewhere around 0 degrees, with strong wind, and it even began snowing as I flew.

Somehow, on my first attempt, I managed to get wide-angle panorama which is this month’s subject of ‘Behind the Shot‘. I had immediately reached the right location to shoot from and immediately figured out what I wanted to shoot. As soon as my battery reached 40%, I flew back. Halfway back to the takeoff point the drone even got caught in a snow shower. These were some of the most stressful minutes of my photography career. “Will the drone make it?” was all I could think about. A few minutes later, with the battery very closely nearing depletion, I managed to reach the takeoff point. I was relieved, but also thrilled, that I managed to get my drone back to safety.

Behind the Shot -

I titled this photograph ‘Töfrandi’, which translated to ‘Magical’. This location had been on my bucket list for a long time and it felt like a real accomplishment to finally reach it. It’s one of my favourite photographs from 2022.

EXIF: DJI Air 2S9-shot AEB wide-angle panorama – F2.8 – 1/400s – ISO100

Join A Photo Workshop In 2024!

Do you want to experience Iceland or Greenland through your passion for photography in 2024? These unique photo workshops, or maybe even a private tour or photo workshop, might be something for you.  Jeroen works together with a variety of established landscape and wildlife photographers to bring you the best possible photo workshop experience.

See All Photo Workshops

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Support Jeroen’s Work

As an independent photographer, Jeroen partially relies on your support to keep producing worthwhile content such as blogs, photographs, books and much more. If you want to support his work, it is possible to do so by buying his e-books & books, prints or calendars.

You can also sign up to the newsletter to stay up to date on new blog posts, projects, workshops and other interesting information.

Thank you for considering!

Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove

Jeroen is an award-winning Belgian photographer based in Iceland. The past years, he dedicated his photography to the Central Highlands & volcanic eruptions. Most recently, he received international attention for his work at the Fagradalsfjall volcano.

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