It is all about the light. Golden hour is the time when the angle of the sun is within 6 degrees of the horizon (above or below). At this angle the light passes through more of the atmosphere softening and enriching the color of the light. I love to take photos at this time as the images have a richer golden color and nice even lighting. It is the magical time for photography.

In June, Iceland offers 7+ hours of a “golden hour,” transitioning a “golden hour” to a “golden night”. As a photographer, I am offered paradise from 10pm to 5am. (For reference, Arizona has roughly 40 minutes of golden hour at sunrise and then again at  sunset, two optimal times to photograph 8 hours apart. )

A whole night of nonstop photography, bring it on! I can’t wait to get started.

The skies were skeptically overcast, but it was light, the winds were calm, and it wasn’t raining. It was a 100% better than our last visit to this area.

Out the door just before midnight. Armed with caffeine and sugar (two chocolate bars and a large coke), I knew I could last the night.  

Our first stop of the evening is on the south west side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It is the impressive Lóndrangar Sea Stacks. The scene in front of me is dark and moody. I set up, take my shots, and look at Jeff. What next?


Lóndrangar Sea Stacks

We’ve never been able to drive to another location during golden hour. It has always been a one shot and done for the evening. This is so cool. We’re now off to check out a Lighthouse at the very end of the Peninsula. A long dirt road out to the very edge of Iceland.  The sky is still dark with clouds, but in the distance a streak of vibrant orange was on the horizon.

I’d like to say that I planned the shot to have the bit of orange sky match the color of the lighthouse, but I just got lucky. 

And we discovered a great little arch just on the other side of the lighthouse. Plenty of time, there are hours of golden hour left.

On the very edge of eastern Iceland, a small arch graces the rugged coast.

It’s now 2am, and we are on a roll. I could have tried a few more angles, but Jeff was eager to see if we could make the famous Kirkafells Mountain at sunrise (3:30 am).

Back in the car, we have just enough time to squeeze in an additional stop, the Ingjaldsholl Church with the mountains and glacier behind it. On our last visit, we couldn’t see the mountains, now, with the soft early light, the church just pops against the background.

Cool church, famous among photographers for the road leading to the church. Oh, and the red roof too. [photo by Jeff]

It’s now 3:00 am and Jeff, the typical New Yorker, can’t wait. He’s really itching to get on to Kirkjufellsnes. Really, sunrise isn’t for another 1/2 hour. 

Kirkjufell with Kirkjufellsfoss in the foreground is an iconic Iceland shot. The scene is spectacular and we have it all to ourselves.  Is it the time of night? The pandemic? The weather? Whatever the reason, we happy as clams. The sun breaks over the horizon and the scene glows.

Kirkjufellsfoss in the foreground

Exhausting our compositional options, we head back across the peninsula towards the hotel. 

Iceland must know that summer visitors get daylight happy. Just in case we get a little weary, our Icelandic car is equipped with a “stay on the road” feature. It alerts us when we drift near the center line or the shoulder. We might be in a ditch without this wonderful and rather annoying technology. 

But at 4:45am, the sky is still filled with soft light and I can’t pass up another opportunity to capture the unique Black Church of Burdir.

Painted black with pitch, the Black Church of Budir is an Icelandic icon.

It’s nearly 6am when we return to the hotel. Perhaps, one more stop on the shoreline?

Gatklettur Arch, a stone’s throw from our hotel room

The big question is whether or not there is time for a nap before breakfast. Or, perhaps, one more photo shoot.

Remember it’s all about the light, the golden light of Icelandic summers.


Historically due to the limited light and time, our photography outings focus on one scene and often just one composition. Here on our first night, we had 6 different shoot locations covering over 80 miles across the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.