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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.

Iceland In 30 Days

In 2015, about a year before I ended up migrating, I decided to spend a whole month travelling around Iceland. In my mind I had already made the decision to migrate at some point in the near future. Therefore I wanted to discover more of the country. There were a few places I really wanted to revisit and even more places I wanted to discover for the first time. Because the highlands had left such a big impression on me during my first visit to Iceland in 2012, a lot of the new locations I wanted to discover were hidden away in this vast untouched wilderness.

After having driven several thousand kilometres around and through Iceland in twenty something days, the time had come to visit the last location on my “to do” list: Hveravellir. This geothermal area, located between two massive glaciers, had always interested me because of its gorgeous colours and unique formations.

Behind the Shot - Hveradalir

A quick stop at a photography classic, covered in autumn colours, before heading into the highlands again.

Always Follow Your Nose

While driving North along the Kjölur mountain road, I encountered a small road sign pointing to a nearby place called Kerlingarfjöll. This name sounded familiar to me even though I couldn’t remember why and because I had plenty of time that day, I ended up taking a right turn to follow my curiosity. I had no idea what to expect at the time and that’s what made it exciting.

After a short drive I ended up at the Kerlingarfjöll base camp. I asked myself why on earth there was a hotel located in the middle of nowhere. Above the hotel, I saw a small, steep road go even further into the mountains. This piqued my curiosity even more so I ended up following the road. At that point I was sort of assuming it would be a dead end with a mind-blowing view as a reward. While driving further up into the mountains, the wind picked up and it even started snowing. But then, I discovered the most amazing location which, to this day, is still one of my favourite spots in the whole country.

Behind the Shot - Hveradalir

The stunning, snow-covered mountains of Kerlingarfjöll piqued my curiosity.

All The Way To The Top

At the end of the road I reached a viewpoint overlooking a strange looking landscape, which I now know is called Hveradalir. This roughly translates to ‘hot spring valleys’, which is exactly what I was looking at. In front of me were different valleys, with beautiful colours surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks. The valleys were covered in steam clouds, rising from the geothermal hot spring in their flanks. After 30 days of seeing all kinds of incomprehensible landscapes, this spot took the cake. It was the most otherworldly place I had ever seen. It almost felt as if I was on the surface of another planet.

As the weather in the area took a turn for the worst with more snow and heavy winds blasting the side of the car, I made my way back down the mountain without a single photograph. As I arrived at Hveravellir, my actual destination for that day, I kept thinking about what I had seen and planned to revisit it the next day in hopes of getting better weather conditions.

Behind the Shot - Hveradalir

The colours which could be seen on the valley flanks really caught my eye. It was unbelievable to behold.

Second Time’s The Charm

The next morning I met up with a friend at Hveravellir. He had been travelling around Iceland with his mom. The night before I texted him to see if we could meet up. I asked if they wanted to join along the Kjölur mountain road on the way back to Reykjavík. I explained to him that I found a very special location and wanted to take them there. The only instructions I gave them were to just keep following me, even when they thought the road would end.

As we drove higher and higher into the mountains, I could feel my heart beating faster. I started to become a bit worried that I had possibly set too high expectations for myself. But, as we arrived at the viewpoint, all I could feel was relief. The weather conditions were perfect. And to make it even better, as we arrived, the only other people there left. We had the whole place to ourselves! To this day, I still remember how my friend’s mom gave me a hug out of gratitude. She was very moved when seeing Hveradalir, just as I was the day before.

Behind the Shot - Hveradalir

EXIF: ISO400 – F/18 – 1/640s – 17mm – Canon 6D

The mountain range of Kerlingarfjöll is one of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful geothermal areas. I had absolutely no clue about its existence when I first visited it in 2015.

Visiting Another Planet

Together, we left the car and hiked down the steep wooden stairs onto the surface of the planet Hveradalir. And that’s when I captured the photograph which is the subject for this month’s ‘Behind the Shot’. In it you can see a small part of Hveradalir, with my friend posing in the middle for scale. I have since revisited the area numerous times and not a single time did the conditions live up to that first impression and this photograph. The freezing cold air, together with the sun creeping between the clouds, highlighted the steam rising from the ground. The fresh snow made the peaks of the mountains look nice and crisp. Combine that with the gorgeous combination of tints of brown, yellow, green and red in the landscape. My friend described the whole place best when we were there: “Even the greatest artist could not come up with this splendour.”. I often think about this quote because I think it’s very true.

Maybe it’s the sentimental value I attach to this photograph or maybe it’s because the weather conditions at the end of September were really special. Whatever the reason may be, to this day this photograph remains as one of my favourite images. Even after 8 years, I still remember these moments vividly when looking at my photograph. And that is what photography is all about to me: capturing memories to relive them another day.

Limited Print For Just One Month

Starting with this month’s ‘Behind the Shot’ article, I will make each ‘Behind the Shot’ photograph available as a limited edition print until the next BTS article releases in a month’s time. This month’s photograph, Hveradalir, is available in only 20 A3 copies which are signed and numbered.

Want to buy three fine art prints or more? My new Print Bundle contains your choice of three (or more) limited edition fine art prints – including this ‘Behind the Shot’ photograph. You pick the prints & sizes and get them at a discounted rate.

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.

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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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