I had the opportunity to spend a little over a week in Iceland back in May with two friends (Alejandro Velarde and Matt Olivar) to explore the country and hopefully take some nice pictures. One area that was on our agenda was the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the Northwest of the country, and its most famous landmark: Kirkjufell Mountain (pictured above). I typically try to share what I consider my best pictures from the locations I visit, but I felt this would be a nice opportunity to show a little bit more of Iceland, including some of the less iconic countryside. I’ve developed kind of a love-hate relationship with Kirkjufell – I’ve seen hundreds of photos of this area over the past few years to the point that I was getting weary of them. At the same time, how could I pass up seeing this cool pointy mountain with a waterfall in front of it? So off we went!
During our trip, sunset was at about 11:00pm every night and sunrise was about 3:00am – and it never really got dark in between. So on most days we would shoot both sunset and sunrise and then go back to our hotel, eat breakfast, and go to bed to sleep until mid afternoon before starting the whole cycle over again. We were staying in a hotel in Gullfoss, about a three hour drive to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We left our hotel at about 2:00pm and made our way past Reykjavik to Snæfellsnes where we found a hotel serving coffee and soup.
The Hotel Rjúkandi was typical of many of the hotels we saw in Iceland, consisting of a few rooms and a place to serve breakfast. I definitely enjoyed this chance to have a nice Cappuccino and a delicious bowl of seafood soup. They had some nice looking desserts too. You can see the interior below.
With some caffeine and seafood in my system I was ready to explore. We planned to head clockwise around the peninsula, exploring the Southern coast on the way toward Kirkjufell. As with much of Iceland, we passed by several large waterfalls that would have been major landmarks in other places. I liked this scene with a home in front of one of these falls.
We eventually made it to Búðir, known for a small black church. I decided I wanted a shot of the church against the mountains. To compress the scene and make the mountains look large in the photo, I found a spot a little ways away from the church and used a long lens.
I also had to take a shot of the front of the building with the white door surrounded by the black paneling.
The next stop was Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge (below). If you hike through the crack in the mountain you eventually reach a waterfall. The scale is hard to picture, but if you look closely you can see a hike below and to the right of the gorge.
We came across more waterfalls and streams, stopping at some to explore. I liked this scene with the water rushing around some moss covered rocks.
The shot below shows a wider view of the area.
Our next stop was Londrangar. This area has a nice view of the rugged coastline, but since I was starting to get worried about making it to Kirkjufell before sunset we decided to just do a quick reconnaissance run and come back and shoot it later. I did stop and take a shot of the Snæfellsjökull peak from the parking lot (below).
From there we decided to drive through to Kirkjufell. As we approached the iconic peak from the West, I didn’t recognize it – but I thought it looked like a nice area to photograph. Coming around the corner to the front side I knew I was right! We parked the car and ran up the trail to the falls. There were plenty of people gathering already as you can see in the photo below, taken from near the parking lot looking up passed the waterfalls and toward more mountains. I thought this view was pretty darn nice itself!
I started shooting from the top of the falls and worked my way down. Because the falls were in shadow, I took several exposures at each location so I could get a nicely exposed sky along with a nice foreground. Two of my favorites are shown below. The first was taken near the top of the falls by the bridge visible in the picture above and gives a nice view of the area. The second was taken at the very bottom, from the dark area tucked in to the left of the falls shown above.
Once I made my way to the bottom of the falls, I started looking for a good place to capture reflections of the sky along with Kirkjufell (church mountain in Icelandic) itself. I first found a small pond where I got down low to emphasize the reflection and then moved on to shoot from the shoreline and tried a few compositions there.
The sky was amazing and the sunset just seemed to keep burning. This gave me a chance to go back to the waterfall and take some more shots. The one below is another of my favorites, with lots of water in the foreground and great sky.
As the colors faded, Alejandro, Matt and I posed for a group portrait in front of this iconic scene. As you can see from my shiny head, all the running around had been a pretty good workout.
We walked around the area for a little while, looking for other nice views in the deepening twilight. I captured the following scene looking across the bay to the East.
At this point we decided to circle back to Londrangar (see below) and start looking for a nice place to shoot sunrise in a couple of hours. Unfortunately thick clouds rolled in and we couldn’t find a place for sunrise, but we did get some nice shots of the cliffs of Londrangar in the middle of the “night”. The white spots in the photo are birds – there were hundreds of them waiting in the cliffs.