Godafoss (in Icelandic it means “Waterfall of the Gods”) is one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland. We visited it last year with poor photographic results, mostly due to the light (it’s always about the light). Godafoss is easily accessible with a newly paved parking lot and just a few minute walk to the edge of the falls. For these reasons this waterfall was the perfect last-minute sunset photo shoot for us. 

The sky had been quite cloudy all day making the possibility of a sunset shoot bleak. But, just as we finished up a forgetful dinner, the horizon showed glimpses of blue sky. We decided to bee-line it to the falls in hopes of improving on the photos from last year.

We got there just a few minutes prior to sunset and fired away. While we were shooting a Japanese photographer set up right next to us. I could immediately tell he was a good guy as he was using the same camera as us. He smiled and said hello which turned out to be the only English word he knew. Since we both knew we could not communicate with each other using our native languages, we switched to the magical language of photography.

I pointed to him, then pointed to us, then pointed to my iPhone. He understood me perfectly as he took the phone from my hand and took a picture of us in from of the falls. Voila! Now that the communication mechanism had been established, it opened the floodgate as he proceeded to show me the many photos he took the night before. They were beautiful examples of Northern Lights over Dettifoss (another nice waterfall about 2 hours away). I smiled my approval while internally green with envy as we have not yet seen the northern lights. I turned back to my camera and my new Japanese friend and I settled into a quiet coexistence. Communication is overrated.

After a day of clouds and rain, we were rewarded with a nice sunset. Shot with my Nikon D850, 40 mm, 1.6 seconds at f/11 with ISO 64.

We finished up shortly, waving goodbye to our new friend, knowing we will never see each other again.

The next morning we headed to Aldeyjarfoss, a gorgeous waterfall that most tourists avoid even though it is In relative close proximity to Godafoss. You can see on the map how close the waterfalls are to each other. While access to Godafoss is easy, access to Aldeyjarfoss is the opposite. We traveled 41 km on a dirt road through a valley, horses to the left, sheep to the right. Our Hyndai Tucson was hanging in there. Then we came to a gate with a sign warning us that the rest of the trip to Aldeyjarfoss would be on a F-rated road. Most rental cars are not rated to travel on an F road, with its deep grooves, pits, puddles and rocks. These roads are more like mountain tracks than dirt roads. Luckily our Tucson was rated for F-roads. It handled the grooves, pits, puddles and rocks with aplomb.

We arrived mid-morning expecting/hoping to be the only ones there. But, there was another car in the makeshift parking lot, two tourists arriving the just ahead of us. We still felt great that we would have the place nearly to ourselves (their cameras were point and shoot, not fussy photographers like us). We packed up our gear and readied ourselves for the trek to the falls. 

Then another car with four people showed up. Both of us let out a sigh of exasperation, wondering if we will begin to be crowded out. As they drove up to us the driver looked vaguely familiar. How could this be? We don’t know anyone in Iceland. The odds of one of our acquaintances from home being in Iceland much less this waterfall at the same time is nearly nil. Then it dawned on me. The driver was our Japanese photographer friend from night before at Godafoss. We pretended to talk with each other a bit, then off we went for our adventure. Ah, the magical communication through photography was in full display, hello and goodbye.

The starburst is a nice effect when photographing certain waterfalls. But, to me, the star of the show are the basalt columns framing the falls. Shot with my Nikon D850, 24 mm, 2.0 seconds at f/14 with ISO 64. I used at 6-stop ND filter to get the long exposure.

As we left we noticed a half dozen cars parked at the gate. They each rented the wrong car. After a 2.5 mile hike into the parking lot, they’ll wish they rented our trusty (F-rated) Tucson.

Which waterfall do you favor? Remember, it’s all about the light.