Iceland Photography Trip 2015: Part 1

At the end of May 2015 myself and two other photographers, Shelley Shipton-Knight and Bernard Todd, spent 7 days in Iceland, visiting both the North and South of the island. This was partly research for future Wildlife Photography Tours in Iceland, but we hoped to come away with some decent images of both the wildlife and the country’s phenomenal landscape.

Our first section of the trip was the North – and we had booked a hotel close to the edge of Lake Myvatn. It was a long day of travelling before we arrived at our hotel, checked in and had something to eat. We soon headed back out in our hire car and made for the River Laxa, a well known spot for Harlequin Ducks and Barrow’s Goldeneye. Within minutes of leaving the car we were watching both species swimming through the rapids; the Harlequins being particularly approachable.

harlequin ducks

We watched as Harlequins threw themselves into the rapids which made for some fantastic images as they scooted along the water.!

harlequin duck rapids harlequin duck swimming

Birds that stood on the small islands also created opportunities. I took a bit of time photographing a static male on the island with the spray from the water in the foreground. To me these were probably more pleasing than the closer images.

harlequin duck male harlequin river laxa

Landscapes were also on our agenda and the the next day we set out for Godafoss, a well visited waterfall, not far from Myvatn. The power of the water was impressive, as was the width of the falls. Bernard managed some very atmospheric images, enhanced by his knowledge of filters.

godafoss iceland holiday

We were quickly alerted to a Snipe, one of the commonest waders in Iceland. The bird clearly had a nest nearby and was hanging around. This worked well for us, as it kept perching on a lovely lichen-covered boulder. After taking some shots against the hillside, I lowered my position and went for straight silhouettes.

We had a good scout around Lake Myvatn and found some productive sites, particularly for Black-tailed Godwit (one of my favourites!!), Snipe, Red-necked Phalarope and Slavonian Grebe.

The next morning we got our first views of Ptarmigan, a bird that seems plentiful in Iceland. We watched as a couple of males fought one another, aIthough too far away to photograph.

I also stumbled across a haven for the Phalarope and spent half an hour in photography heaven with around 20 of these dainty waders.

At one stage a Phalarope made its way onto land and came so close I could have reached out and touched it.! Fantastic birds and a memory that will last with me forever…

We also visited Dettifoss, Europe’s largest waterfall. I have to say, I was pretty taken back by the awesome sight of such a huge waterfall and the stunning surroundings that accompany it.

Despite the constant spray that covered us and our cameras, we really enjoyed the session – all of us capturing some truly atmospheric images of this breathtaking spectacle.

The next day we headed for Hrisey, a 2 hour drive to Ásskógssandur and then a short ferry ride. The weather wasn’t particularly kind, but it was worth the trip. We saw an abundance of birds once again; the air filled with the sound of drumming Snipe, calling Godwits and displaying Ptarmigan.

The highlight were the Eiders that breed on the island. We watched as the males displayed to females with their strange ‘wooing’ sound. Every so often they would taken off and do circuits before returning to the water.

eider duck iceland tour

Back near our hotel we were treated to a close up view of a male Golden Plover, with snow still fresh in the background. The evening finished with a visit to the mud pots, one of the strangest places I have ever visited. Sulphur steam erupts from geothermal vents beneath a lunar-like surface – and boy does it smell!! You could spend days just photographing this one tiny part of Myvatn. I was constantly in awe at the richness of the colours – a strange mix of almost orange and crystal blue in this alien landscape.

Our time in Myvatn was coming to and end. We hoped to get a good sleep, for the next day was our mammoth drive across country to the wildness of Snaefellsness. A Wildlife Photography Tour is being planned for Iceland 2016 and will be posted on my website www.naturephotographycourses.co.uk

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