Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


Photos: An expert photographer shares tips on how to capture beautiful pictures in Iceland

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • Hrafnabjargafoss waterfall One of sveral spectacular waterfalls of Skjálfandifljót river in North Iceland. Photos by Damian Black

Damian Black, a photographer from Manchester England, has gained considerable attention for stunning photographs he has captured of Icelandic landscapes. His photographs of the aurora dancing in the Icelandic winter sky have helped inspire many to come to visit Iceland to see this spectacular force of nature with their own eyes. 


Majestic Mount Kirkjufell in Grundarjörður fjord on Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland. This is one of Iceland's most photographed mountains. This frame by Damian is one of the best we have seen Well done!


But capturing breath-taking photographs, whether it is of unmovable objects like mountains or fickle phenomena like the aurora, takes skill and requires you bring the correct equipment. We contacted Damian to get some tips on how to make the most of your trip to Iceland, photography-wise. 

Damian tells us that it is crucial to get a camera which can take quality images at a higher ISO, especially when trying to capture photographs of the aurora. “When shooting Aurora you need a camera that is very good at low light so you do not suffer with noise which could ruin your shots.” He mainly uses two cameras, a Canon 5D mk3 and a Canon 7D mk2.


Capturing the aurora A tripod is “an absolute must.”

“The 5D3 is the preferred choice as it produces cleaner images due to it being full frame. It is also better at high ISO's so for shooting in low light conditions or at night for the Aurora then it’s a clear winner. On the 5D3 I use a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II Lens. This has a fast aperture so can let more light in. Again perfect in low light conditions or for Aurora.”

Avoiding any shaking is also crucial when trying to capture the aurora. A tripod is therefore “an absolute must.”

“You cannot do any long exposures without one so to slow running water and add realism you will definitely need one. All my landscapes are taken using a tripod to avoid any camera shake. I also use an Intervalometer/Remote trigger. This serves two purposes. A: When fired I am not touching the camera so this minimises any camera shake. B: I can time exactly how long I want my exposure for.”


At Stokksnes headland On the southeastern Icelandic coast, near town Höfn in Hornafjörður fjord. The mountain is Vestrahorn (454 m/1.490 ft). 

Knowing where and when to capture the aurora is also crucial. Keeping an eye on the Aurora forecast is therefore necessary. But you should not ignore the weather forecast either. “Wear warm clothing so that you are comfortable when out taking images. The worst thing you want to be is uncomfortable when taking pictures and the elements are spoiling it for you.”

Asked about some of his favourite places in Iceland mentioned the black sands of Breiðamerkursandur which are among the best known destinations in South Iceland. “It's hard not to like the black sandy beach off Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. Every piece of ice is unique and no two pictures the same of these jewel like pieces of ice.” But there are other destinations photographers should not miss. One is Fjallsárlón glacial lagoon just to the south-west of Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. The lagoon is often passed over for the more popular Jökulsárlón, Damian argues, but actually provides for better photographs. “Because the glacier is closer to you the background in my opinion is better.”

Damian also suggests photographers travelling in Iceland should check out some of the less visited waterfalls, including Litlanesfoss in East Iceland, Aldeyjarfoss and Hrafnabjargarfoss in North Iceland and Brúarfoss in South Iceland. All four require some walking, but are more well worth the small extra effort he assures us.

Read more: See the spectacular waterfalls in Skjálfandi river which would to be sacrificed for more electricity


Damian Black Pictured by Fjallsárlón glacial lagoon at the root of Vatnajökull glacier.

Litlanesfoss waterfall is to the North West of Lögurinn lake in East Iceland, framed by magnificent basalt columns. “Whilst out of the way and quite a hike it’s well worth it. Hardly any tourists and more hard core photographers visit which makes it more special.”

Aldeyjarfoss and Hrafnabjargarfoss are both in the river Skjálfandi, south of the famous Goðafoss. While Goðafoss is situated by the ring road Aldeyjarfoss and Hrafnabjargarfoss, which Damian describes as a “remote gem” are a little off the beaten track. Finding the two waterfalls requires you drive ROAD 843 and then walk a short distance. “The road down to Aldeyjarfoss is a bumpy one but the reward is worth it.”

Finally there is Brúarfoss waterfall which is hidden in the hills above union summer-cottage park. Getting to this picturesque waterfall requires you drive road 37 from the village of Laugarvatn to the east, as if you were driving to the Geysir geothermal area. The waterfall is located north of the road on the Brúará river. Finding it, however is a bit tricky, as it requires you enter the summer-cottage park Brekkuskógur, find a public parking spot, and then locate the walking path. There are signs pointing your way to the river and the waterfall, but as is so often the case in Iceland, it can take a while to find these signs. But the search is well worth the trouble Damian argues: “The ice blue falls simply have to be seen to be believed.“


Spectacular Skógafoss waterfall running green. Located in South Iceland.

An important note: Just to the east of the summer-cottage park is a farm by the name Brekkuskógur, which is private property. Also, don’t park in any of the parking spaces by the summer cottages. There are public parking spots by the service centre on the top of the hill in the middle of the park.

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