Three spectacular waterfalls shot from the slippery edge. 

I am fortunate to be able to re-visit one of Iceland’s classic waterfalls, Dettifoss. [See previous post, “Foss“] It is one of the most powerful waterfalls in all of Europe with a drop of 144 feet. The water roars over the edge pounding the riverbed below. Last visit, I shot from a safe distance. I liked my shot until I saw someone else’s shot from the very edge of the falls. 

Since that first visit, I learned that there was another amazing falls (Selfoss) a mile upriver, and another notable falls two miles down river. When we booked our return visit to Iceland, I knew I had to return to reshoot Dettifoss and capture these two additional waterfalls. Where else in the world can you find 3 amazing waterfalls within 5 miles of river?


Hiking the trail to the Dettifoss, I passed without a second glance where I had shot previously, and continued to the falls itself. A handful of people were perched on the edge. I needed to get close (very close) for the wide angle (14mm) to capture the falls effectively. I literally crawled as close as I dared across the slippery, mist covered rocks. Just as I was about to setup the tripod, a mere 8 feet from the edge, another photographer packed up his gear. He had the perfect spot, just 3 feet from the edge. With a rock to wedge myself into for safety, I crawled in. I felt safe (?) despite the ground shaking around me.

The mist is rising, the ground is wet, and the thundering roar of water is deafening. My camera bag and my butt sit in puddles of water. The little sacrifices we make as photographers. 

The mist from the power of the falls is so thick it obscures the river below.
Shot at: 14mm, 2.5 sec, f16, ISO 100
The power of Dettifoss (iPhone video by Jeff). For a perspective on the size, note the people standing on the ledge on the other side.


After taking my share of photos in the relative safety of my little niche, it was time to hike to Selfoss. I eased myself out of my protected nook and returned to the main trail. Selfoss is shaped in a long u-shape with multiple falls along rock edge of at least 2/10 of mile. It is prettier than Dettifoss, but harder to capture due to its breadth and the amount of mist rising up from the water. Again, I worked my way to the edge. With more mist rising here, the rocks were wet and slippery for sure. I planted my wet butt down in yet another puddle and set up for my photos. I shot for a while, testing out how different exposure lengths impacted the silkiness look of the waterfall. With so much mist, a shorter exposure (1.3 seconds) turned out to be better as the longer exposures lost the detail of the falls in the mist.

As I sat taking in the amazing view before me, I heard the sound of small waterfall close by. Why hadn’t I seen that when I worked my way out to this point? It took just a moment to process. Then it dawned on me, the waterfall hadn’t been there minutes earlier. The water level was rising! The amazing spot I was shooting from was about to get more exciting than I cared to experience. I took a deep breath and steadied the rising panic. Robotically, I packed up the camera and tripod and tiptoed ever so carefully to safety. 

Horseshoe shaped Selfoss. Shot at f11, 1 sec, ISO 100, 14mm
A brief look at the beauty of Selfoss (iPhone video by Kathryn).


The first two falls had taken a certain level of mental energy, but I couldn’t pass up a third waterfall when it was so close. A short drive further down the gravel road put us at the trailhead for “Hafragilsfoss”. This time the falls was far below in the canyon, but the trail to the viewpoint, of course, put me out on yet another point. It was slippery again, not from mist but from loose gravel and sand on the trail. To add to the excitement, the wind had picked up, providing another opportunity to slip and fall. Again I found a niche in the rocks to shoot safely, but the photo I wanted would have required stepping out on a ledge. I had taken enough risks already today so I stayed put not trusting my balance in the wind. 

Hafragilsfoss in the fall colored canyon. Dettifoss is just out of sight around the upper bend.
Shot at: 2 sec, f11, ISO 100, 27mm

I hope you enjoyed these three beautiful falls and agree that it was worth being on the slippery edge.

Remember, it’s all about the light (and finding a safe niche from which to shoot).


Hello from Selfoss