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Iceland Overview

We’ve had the opportunity to visit Iceland several times over the course of Spring, Summer and Fall. Here are some helpful tips for your planning. 

Iceland is a beautiful country for landscape photography. The variety is incredible from black beaches, to amazing waterfalls, glaciers, icebergs, thermal areas,  and volcanos. There is also amazing rock formations such as unique sea stacks and basalt columns in many locations. In the spring and early summer, there is an abundance of migrating and nesting birds (e.g., Puffins, Arctic Terns).

Iceland  is roughly the size of Ohio. It has a very temperate climate such that the day to night time temperatures vary by only 10 degrees in a season. The main road around the island is called the “ring road” and it is tarred and easily traveled. Most roads off the ring road are dirt roads. Roads started with an “F” require 4-WD and most rental cars are not authorized on these roads.

Iceland has excellent internet coverage. Most everything can be paid via Credit Card or Apple Pay (cash is not needed). However, be aware that some gas pumps require a debit card (vs. a credit card).

When to go?

  • Spring
    • Early Spring: Northern Lights
    • Late Spring migrating and nesting birds (puffins & arctic terns)
  • Summer
    • Flowers (lupines)
    • Puffins, Terns other nesting birds
    • Up to 24 hours of light and up to 7 hours of golden light
  • Fall
    • Fall Colors (ground cover in reds and oranges)
    • Northern Lights
  • Winter
    • Ice caves,
    • Northern lights,
    • Snow
    • Up to 7 hours of golden light

What to expect – Weather / Environment 

Iceland has a more temperate climate and the temperatures only vary about 10 degrees on a given day. For example, August may have a high of 55 degrees and a low of 50 degrees. However, it is almost always windy and wind blowing off the glaciers can be very cold.  It rains nearly every day, but most rains are light and short in duration.

  • It is cloudy most of the time (think waterfalls, even lighting, black and white)
  • It rains nearly every day
  • Fog can be dense and severe
  • Wind – not uncommon to have gale force winds
  • Waves – Rogue waves are not uncommon
  • Weather changes rapidly and can vary across short distances

Check out local Iceland weather: https://en.vedur.is



  • Waterproof camera bag and / or rain cover
  • Camera raincoat or plastic covering for shooting in the rain or near a waterfall
  • Sturdy Tripod (leave the travel tripod at home)
  • Lenses (14mm-200mm), longer if you plan to photograph birds during nesting season.
  • Filters
    • Polarizer — for snow, ice, water, waves
    • ND filter — for waterfalls, ocean waves (at least a 3 stop and a 6 stop)
  • Lens wipes / cleaners
  • Compass / GPS if you plan to do any hiking 


Warm clothing and rain gear:

  • Rain gear is essential (pants, jacket, gloves, waterproof shoes/boots)
  • Layers – long johns, fleece, down jacket and outer waterproof shell (bring the winter mittens / gloves)
  • Consider duplicates of key items (e.g., gloves, shoes) in case they get wet
  • Consider swim trunks. Iceland is known for its hot springs and they are available in almost every town.

Landscape Diversity

Glacier / Ice / Volcano / Ocean / Mountains / Waterfalls / Wildlife / Architecture / Geothermal / Hot Springs / Basalt Columns / Sea Stacks

  • Waterfalls – filters, exposure
    • Detifoss – getting close to show power
    • Skogafoss – looking for a different shot
    • Bruarfoss – blending of shots to create one image (sky, river, falls)
  • Glacier Lagoon – icebergs floating
  • Diamond Beach – ice on a black beach, focus on timing – when to shoot, filters, subject moves, tides
  • Northern Lights – (everything is moving, length of exposure and ISO),
  • Mountains
    • Kirkjufell
    • Vestrahorn – iconic shots and tides
    • Estrahorn
  • Pick a project – Churches, Marshmallows
  • Black beach (Vik ) 
  • Moss
  • Canyons (Pagkil – near Vik, Fjaðrárgljúfur – between Vik and Skaftafell, Stuðlagil – between Egglissstadir and Myvatin)
  • Sea Stacks (near Vik, near Arnastapi, Hvitserkur)


  • Puffins (June/July)
    • Vik area (note there are restrictions to nesting areas)
    • Haiemey Island
    • Borgarfjörður Eystri
  • Terns
    • Arnastapi
    • Eystrahorn
  • Reindeer (June)
    • Between Glacier Lagoon and Eystrahorn
  • Whales (offshore)


Reykjavik (Capital)

  • Harpa Museum – Modern Glass, Voyager – iconic artwork on the waterfront, Hallgrimskirkja Church (modern church that reflects basalt columns throughout Iceland)

Golden Circle

  • Gulfoss, Barnafossar, Oxararfoss, Thingvellir, Bruarfoss, Strokkur / Geysir Hestar, Reykholt Church, Kerid Crater, Mossfellskirkja)

Snaefellsness Peninsula

  • Church of Budir, Kirkjufell Mountain and Kirkjufoss, Stone arch and basalt columns at Arnastapi, Londrangar Sea stacks, Ingjaldsholl Church

South (Vik /)

  • Dryholaey, Reynisjara Beach, Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks, Reyniskirkja, Halsanefshellir Cave and Basalt columns, Vik I Myrdal Church)

East (Estahorn, Vestrahorn, Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach)



Lakes of Myvaten, Craters, hot springs, Godafoss, Deitifoss, 

Misc Tips

  • Leverage webcams to view possible shoot locations before driving to the location.
  • Use weather apps and northern lights apps
  • Consider a compass for short to long hikes as fog can come quickly and be disorienting.

Other Resources:

Mads Peter Iverson (Primarily Landscape Photographer in Northern Europe.) We have found his YouTube series on Iceland to be helpful on understanding locations, angles and creative techniques. He has put together dozens of short videos, usually one per location and then also a map of Iceland. His videos include impressive drone photography to help one understand the location and the terrain. He also has a couple of impressive E-books on Photography and Composition, and he also leads workshops.