Photographers Journal - Ring Road In 7 Days

Day 1: South East Iceland Vik

For my first solo trip to Iceland I opted to do the Ring Road, I had preselected some targeted stops and was intent to just discover the rest. Flew out of Toronto September 4th, 2018 early evening, landing in Iceland 4:30 am on the 5th with customs to clear and car rental before I hit the highway. I’m a landscape photographer so hanging around Reyjuvak wasn’t my plan, it appealed to me as much as jumping into the Blue Lagoon with I don’t know hundreds of people. Nope, I was out of there and on the road thanks to Geysir Car Rental and my budget 4 x 4 Dascia Duster. First Stop I had selected was the coastal town of Vik but I gotta tell you it’s hard not to just constantly pull over to take shots anywhere around Iceland.

One thing, very important to note, the Starbucks junkie in me discovered is there are not a lot of coffee shops as you drive around. I drove by a Mister Donut by the airport saving myself for better and better never came. For perspective 4:30 am landing in Iceland was equal to 12:30 am my time and after making some stops en-route, tourng around beach at Vik  it all hit me, jet lag lack of sleep and Starbucks. No worries, take a side road beside a mountain recline the seat and nap beside a mountain for an hour or so, all good!

    South East Iceland Hofn

    Enroute to Höfn, I wanted to stop at Jökulsárlón Lake, where icebergs flow from the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier through a narrow passage to the black volcanic pebbled beach with seals bobbing in between them. Pretty cool spot.One note as you approach from the west, you will see a sign for the Jökulsárlón Lagoon, that’s not it. A nice stop no less but it’s nothing like the real thing. Photo Travel Tip, you want to be on the ocean side west side of the inlet (I realized this too late) gear wise you want a great travel tripod (I swear by my Promaster XC525) and this is an ideal spot to have a LEE Filter Big Stopper.  So with tripod, filter you have icebergs on a beach, swirling water running in and out, a thing of beauty. Last tips here is download the LEE Filter phone app and if you are using auto focus fine use that to st your shot up, then click to manual when you pop filter on and have a shutter release in your kit.  Oh one more tip, make sure if you are doing long exposure the iceberg is anchored, you just want water moving in your shot not a wobbly berg.

    After a 6 hour flight and just over 500 km drive (Travel Tip don’t do this drive with stops all over in one day :-), you deserve a great dinner and it’s right there in Höfn on the coast at Pakkhus Restaurant. My review is pretty simple, ” it’s fricking amazing!”

    From Höfn, where I spent two nights I found some great off the road shots, took a great little trek to a lake by a Glacier (there are all sorts of spots you can pull over and hike off from here), checked out some waterfalls. Highlight is Stokksness (must see stop, get there real early for that rising sun, amazing). From Hofn I basically toured between the far side of Jökulsárlón and Breiðdalsvík. There is a great waterfall to shot by Djúpivogur as you come around the peninsula the circular nets and boats you see are part of a giant fish farm, regretted not snapping some shots of that.

    Here’s a sample of some of my shots around this area of Iceland.

      I shoot a Nikon D810 and my go to lenses are the Nikon 16-35 (an awesome landscape lens if ever there was), Nikon AF-S 300 mm F/4 PF ED VR (my review one word, “Awesome”) the all around Nikon AF 24-120mm F4F ED-VR (so fricking handy to have in kit) and for getting in close Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS    a great landscape / wildlife zoom lens for the money. I can’t take all lenses with me so there is always a give and take on packing and I swear by my Tenba Solstice 20l back pack . I can’t stress enough how handy this back pack is, I don’t check bags so I’m either over dressed in layers at airport and have my lenses wrapped in underwear t-shirts and socks in the Tenba backback with my tripod strapped on side. For this trip my 16-35, Sigma zoom and 24-120mm made the trip with me.

      Next Stop North East

      North through forests then coastal mountains working east to a lunar like landscape...ahh Iceland

      If your addicted to landscape photography...Iceland's a great fix!

      Night 4 - Eiðar, Iceland

      Next stop was about 200km’s from Hofn winding along the coast then branching north where there is the introduction of forested areas for a nice change to the landscape. I don’t do straight A to B so for me it turned into about 300 km’s with a cool mountain pass detour to the town of Seyðisfjörður a small town with ferry port to Norway, complete with a little waterfall hike enroute to Fardagafoss.  I stayed at a guest house just outside of Eiðar (they offer free boat and fishing in the lake) and after I checked in decided to take the road North…to I don’t know…the end (about 120 km’s there and back or so – map here). This was so worth it as there is a great plain area below the rising mountains. As for the mountains, your going to drive right over em throught the clouds ;-). Nice hiking trails at the top and a crazy winding road that has nothing on the Million Dollar Highway of Colorado. This puts you into the hamlet of Bakkagerði  (population 100) and it’s so worth that drive…and yah there’s some gravel (it’s a rental your driving, don’t sweat that). This really was a highlight drive and I would have liked to spend more time here and done some real hiking, I highly recommend this detour!

      Next morning  I was up early and off to Akureyri  which is a really cool city (second largest in iceland) in North Iceland . Stayed just outside of town here and the route runs through some moon like barren areas,  my targeted stops were Godafoss Waterfall (drop right down beside it, best shot angle I found) and the Hverir Geothermal pools of mud (was ok but no highlight). Got some great shots of Godafoss but I really found some awesome landscapes of abandoned houses along the road (I can’t drive by abandoned buildings) or just the broad landscape views as highlights to photograph.

      Here’s some photo highlights from this leg of the trip, including  a selfie I timed to make it to the rock by the water for the shot:

        Go West Young Man

        Someone told me this when I was 17, I ended up hitch hiking halfway across Canada & finished that summer picking tobacco in Tilsonburg

        Nights 5 & 6

        Spent the 5th night in Akureyri in North Iceland , actually just outside of town but got to grab a nice bite downtown and for September it was patio weather in North Iceland. In fact, apart from my last day the weather I had was just awesome, a bit cool at night but nice warm up, light clouds or rain the odd time which makes for awesome photos if you catch it right. Akureyri is a fine town to visit, there’s whale watching tour from there as well.

        I enjoyed my brief stay and was on the road by 5 am with a bit of a route mapped out, with first stop Hvitserkur, Vatnsnesvegur  which is a real unique rock formation along the west coast. I also wanted to tour this area, stop at a few of the seal watching spots and just check out the scenery around the coast before I moved on to Hellissandur. There were some great spots on the way right off the road and I did catch some seals but you really have to time seals and low tide, I was a bit late. Ran into some free ranging horses here that decided they owned the road and well, they did so who was I too complain.

        The real highlight of this trip was everything around the Hellissandur Peninsula, this area is amazing, even better pick any off road and park wherever and go off and hike…loved it here! The mountain passes, driving off into Snæfellsjökull National Park ,  drive up a mountain road, photograph horses in the plains, waterfalls, Kirkjufell (made even more famous by it’s use as a landscape in Game of Thrones) and so much more. Photo Tip here is to get low to capture falls with Kirkjufell and come eaither real early or sunset, it’s popular and getting shot people free is tough…also there is a nice photo spot if the icelandic horses are there just south of here with a shot back (more unique than the standard angle if you can get it right…see nelow).

        I hiked off into an area of volcanic rocks where centuries past oven like structures (still there) were made from the stones for drying fish from the sea. I just stood, alone, amongst these rocks and pictured the world that once was…it truly was a spiritual moment.  Distance wise (as again I have a hard time just doing A to B) this trip was around 600 – 700 km’s or so but it didn’t feel like it,  I made lots of stops and was for the most part captivated by my surroundings.

        Spent night 6 at the Hellissandur Hotel, nice hotel and great concept. They text you codes for entrance and keys and you just key in solo as there is no reception. There s a phone if your stuck but it’s pretty much, you got your codes so your in. Newer and hey this time I had my own bathroom.

        Anyway enough talk, photos speak much more than I ever could, here goes:

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          Night 7

          Back to where I had started for last night in Reykjavik

          Last Stop

          One thing you learn fast about Iceland towns and cities is they really, really, really like roundabouts. I still don’t get the double lane roundabout or why the car in inside lane has right to drive right in front of you to get off round about, watch for that. I didn’t hang around the city much, most of my time was countryside but did check some of the surrounding coastline and Reykjanesfólkvangur . 

          All in all, Iceland did not by any means disappoint, it truly is an amazing place to visit and I was pleased to have covered so much of it, in such a short period of time. I’m going back again and my next trip will  be focused on the West Fjords and in particular Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, which is a great place to photograph Arctic wildlife, especially foxes and better still it is only accessible by boat…so no cars get your hiking boots on! Heading there in June 2019…so more to follow.

          I hope you found this helpful in review. One last tip…the Black handle pumps are Diesel the green is regular…your likely driving diesel don’t mess that up and all bridges it seems are single lane, so first to the bridge wins.

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            I am an amatuer photographer from Kingston, Ontario and love to travel recent trips have included Patagonia Chile along the Strait of Magellan through to the mountains of Torres Del Paine, mountain ranges of Peru, Amazon Basin. I have been working on what is referred to as the Four Corners, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah…still have Utah to go to. I also photograph local areas where I live from Algonquin Park, Frontenac Park (my favourite neighbour hood park, miles of trails, remote lakes, wildlife and a parking lot) and some locations in New York State (Letchworth Park is a favourite for fall trips).

            Was fortunate enough to recieve two Honourable Mentions in the International Monochrome Awards and to have one of my photos selected from over 6,000 entrants in the Conservancy Canada 2018 calendar.

            I am a partner in a real estate brokerage and specalize in commercial real estate in my area.

            Join me on Instagram @patrickhulley