South Region Trip Story
Arriving in Reykjavik, we drove 3 hours to the first of 4 bases for the 10 day trip near Vik on the southeast coast. The first thing we discovered was the challenge of driving. The national ring road that circles the island is a paved two lane road built to the contours of the land and efficiency. This means that the roads are either hilly, mountainous or very mountainous and often reduced to one lane crossing rivers. You also have to slow down when you often hit crests of hills not able to see the other side, and the occasional sheep herd obstructing the road. There is a reason for the slow maximum speed which you are reminded of frequently with speed cameras displaying green smiley or red frowning icons depending on your obedience. With my fear of heights, I really enjoyed driving these small roads with very few guardrails in the high mountain passes. We drove a 4WD SUV so we could explore off the main road and found it necessary. We drove on several long stretches of improved gravel roads, and in some cases, down rutted muddy tracks to reach some destinations.
We stayed near Vik for the first 3 nights in a perfect location by the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. We had a beautiful view out to the beach from our hillside cabin. It was a 5 minute drive to the beach with its basalt cliffs and sea stacks and to the Dyrholaey Promontory (famous on Instagram for the black sand beach shots stretching to infinity from its great height), 10 minute drive to Vik and 30 minute drive to the 5 waterfalls that are major tourist destinations - such as Skogafoss, Seljalandafoss, and Kvernufoss.
In Vik, we were blessed with 3 sunny days with temps in the 40sF and mid 50sF degrees that is typical in August. We had 8 art shoots around the area, starting with a sunset shoot on the Dyrholaey Promontory on our first night. After we finished shooting, Anastasia with her love of dangling over cliff edges, delighted in seeing a whole flock of Iceland's national bird, Puffins nesting on the sides of the Promontory's cliffs. We discovered there, as well as other more popular locations, it is possible to shoot close to sundown or at sunrise as the crowds thin out and you can find places where you are not bothered, and adapt with fashion or art nudes depending on how secluded you can get. Outside of the popular tourist sites, any other location we found to have an easy time shooting with the wide expanses when we found places we wanted to create.
The next day we started with an early morning fashion shoot at the basalt cliffs, but found we started too late with busloads of people arriving at 7:30 am. We then enjoyed exploring the major waterfalls in the area for the rest of the day. We started with Skogafoss, the famous huge waterfall. It was a windy and sunny day with large crowds. I soon discovered it was a mistake to not to wear rain paints, and my rain repellent light jacket was not adequate as the heavy mist soaked through it. I needed rainproof. Anastasia ignored most of my travel lists, but was prepared with rain pants and a waterproof jacket. She was amused how I had not followed my own advice. My full rain cover for my camera worked like a champ, only needing to be mindful about cleaning the lens with all the mist in the air. I had purchased my first wide angle lens to fully capture the falls (16mm to 28mm). I loved its high quality results. Anastasia enjoyed hiking to the top of the falls and hiking further down a trail that took her to several other upstream waterfalls. I focused on shooting the big falls and loved the results capturing some double rainbows. I was amused by the many Instagram influencers shooting videos there dressed in skimpy fashionable clothes getting soaking wet with take after take. It was a challenge trying to get shots with the many people getting selfies.
We next headed to a less well known waterfall, Kvernufoss, which is a short drive and hike down a canyon. The crowds were lighter here and you could hike behind the falls. I captured several of Anastasia there in her white waterproof coat. The first of many on the trip as she was more adventurous than I was. I call them my "Little White Dot" pictures of her in the distance climbing a cliff, or some other adventure that satisfied her love, and need, for climbing things. The crowds thinned out and we were able to get some art shoots downstream from the falls with it in the background. We then headed to Seljalandafoss to be there for sunset. At this time of year, you can hike behind the falls with the sun rays hitting directly into the falls as it sets. Anastasia ventured behind the falls and got some beautiful images of the sunset through the falls. I opted for shooting from the side with my wide angle capturing some beautiful golden hued images as the sun set.
To beat the crowd, the next morning we arrived at 5:30 am as the sun was rising at Reynisfjara. Even then, there was a wedding couple shooting a video at the cliffs. To avoid them, we hiked down the beach toward the sea stacks in an area where the surf is usually crashing at higher tides. No one was around and we captured incredible images with the sun hitting Anastasia with rim lighting, or the sea stacks in the background as the sun rose. A truly unique opportunity to be at that place with a low tide, no clouds and sunny skies. We then captured images in several black basalt caves carved into the cliff and finally were able to capture art nudes on the cliffs with the newlyweds gone. Then, like clock work at 7:30 the first busload arrived, but we were done!
We then headed east of Vik to shoot at the Arnardrangur sea stack and Hjorleifshoidi mountain. To reach the site, you have to drive off the main road for about a mile on a gravel road, eventually coming out onto a massive black sand alluvial plain that stretches to the horizon as far as the eye can see. In the middle of it is the sea stack standing about 10 stories high with a smaller one nearby. We were totally alone. The extreme silence was a joy that you rarely get to experience. The loudest sound was the crunching of our boots walking in the sand. You had the feeling you were visiting a different planet. I loved the images we captured there with Anastasia framed by the massive sea stack and mountain and vastness of the black plain. We then went back to Reynisfjara beach to explore the western end of the beach away from the popular cliffs. We enjoyed each exploring and shooting landscapes for a while and noticed there were not many people on this part of the beach. With the rare sunny day with blue skies, we both noticed a gorgeous photo opportunity. In the distant background you could see the top of the glacier located in this part of Iceland with tall grasses growing at the edge of the beach and black beach in the foreground. We quickly captured some fabulous images with the contrasts of color and texture of the smooth black sand, coarse green grass and blue sky.
We finished the day visiting near dusk a beach with unique rock formations on the lower side of Dyrholaey Promontory. Anastasia had to climb down a little cliff to get to the beach while I shot her 50 yards away with a 200mm lens from the cliff top. She perfectly positioned herself in multiple locations to take advantage of the unusual rock shapes and the distant background of a large rock formation in the ocean with two arches. At one point I loved capturing her dancing with joy on the beach as she became inspired with the place and being one with nature. She found an easier way to exit the beach and discovered a different section with even more awesome rock formations. We wanted to get to the top of the promontory again to capture some sunset shots. So, we planned to come back the next morning. Alas, it was too cloudy to capture any sunset shots at the mountain top. So we just stayed and hiked around the top enjoying the views and being tourists as the sun set.
The next morning we were greeted by extremely windy conditions with a downpour of rain. We checked out the new beach discovery anyway to see what was possible. But it was high tide and the waves were crashing all over the beach and too dangerous. I kick myself for not shooting it the previous day. That ended our South Region portion of the trip and we hit the road to drive to our next base near Diamond Beach and the famous glacier lagoons about 2 hours away in the East Region of Iceland.