My partner and I chose to visit Iceland in Autumn. We punted on the light being lower and there being less tourists. The irony is that we left Tasmania (the small island at the bottom of the world) in Spring and went to another island arriving to a cranky Autumn. We were almost as far from home as we could get and still be on the planet.
We’d read numerous books, blogs and articles about Iceland and had looked at lots of online photos. We planned our nine days around Iceland’s high profile ‘must-see’ sites; her vistas, waterfalls, gorges, glaciers and mountains. None of that prepared us for what we found. Iceland is surprisingly big in four very confronting dimensions. The sky, land and water suddenly come upon you in new and disconcerting ways. They morph into forms that are familiar but savagely otherworldly. Then, deep time seeps through these rents in the world.
There is a crescendo of impatient, terraforming-in-action to see and we really felt we had to see it all. We simply couldn’t wait for the light. All too often I found myself compromising quality for quantity—hoping there was ‘a keeper’ in the can.
The must-see sites were swamped with like-minded folk and coming from small, quiet Tasmania that was unsettling. It seemed we had to fight among the selfie sticks for a tripod spot. Then, we found ourselves stopping more at random places, seeking quieter drama, sneaking up the F roads in the hire car. An Icelandic sense of place moved us gradually amidst the chaotic urgency of a world in creation. These sample captures are mostly from stops ‘one minute down the road’ that struck us silent.
Then there was, of course, ‘The Weather’. It was bad for the first half, it rained; it was clagged over and a dust storm blew the milk out of our tea and left the tripod shaken. It rained torrentially one day. A five hour drive with the wipers slogging back and forth on max until, suddenly near Hofn, the clag lifted and the light “went off.” Frustratingly, we also had some, faint, murky glimpses of Aurora in our night-time stops until finally, one clear night of splendour. Despite the hurry and the crowds and the weather, the memories that remain of our clockwise circuit are of huge, minimalist, humbling majesty. The weather adding it’s part to the grandeur and power.
Iceland. Go there. Go slow, make the most of the light you’re given. Keep your eyes open, be prepared to exclaim.
For the record we pre-booked accommodation and car. The Icelanders were awesome. Food was both excellent and inexpensive. We took good quality outdoor gear and used it regularly. I packed two Fuji X bodies; long zoom, mid zoom and two wides for redundancy. I took the tripod and the filters and I also took a sensor cleaning kit and blower. I used them all – the tele more than I thought I would. Next time I’ll take soft grads to slow the racing sky and not lose the autumnal mellow of the beech and heath, the deeper lava blacks or perfect crystal, glacial blues. I’d also take a year :).
About Nigel Cross
Nigel lives and works in Hobart, Tasmania. Nigel began taking photographs as a child in the 70s and has come back to it in later life (and confesses to having to learn it all again). Nigel gratefully acknowledges the use of Flixlepix Lightroom presets in the samples.