Photographing Iceland For Dummies – Kevin McNeal


Last month I returned from a whirlwind tour of Iceland. I was fortunate enough to go when I found out that a good friend of mine, Dene was going and had extra room in their rental car. After making some last minute changes I was off to Iceland and ready to take it all in. I never had been to Iceland so I had no idea what to expect. For the first time I was going to “ wing-it” and not do any preparation as time was against me. Needless to say I had a great time in the end but I wish someone had told me this before I went.

First of all Iceland is very expensive; if you are tight on funds this is not the place to go. I was casually warned it might be more then I thought but I wish I had looked into more or should I say prepared more. If you are thinking of renting a car it is going to cost you an arm and a leg. I now realize why people hitchhike around the island. So start saving for that car and gas now.

It rains a lot in Iceland but the sun does make an appearance. It comes out in certain areas of the Iceland so make sure you are in the mood to travel lots of miles to get to the areas where it is sunny. It is not uncommon to be one side of the island in pouring rain and drive six hours to be in sunny conditions. That means paying close attention to the weather and watching where to go before it happens. This is very important when photographing Iceland. That said, it is also important to make rain your friend and learn to make the most of the rainy conditions. So if shooting atmospheric situations are you thing then you are in the right place. It is also an ideal situation for shooting black and white, which I am definitely not. So be prepared to shoot in any conditions and remember the light is very fleeting so take every opportunity you can.

If you have not been to Iceland it is hard to believe the unusual colors of the landscapes until you see it for yourself. So take advantage of the saturated colors to create impact in your images. Combine this with a warming polarizer to maximize impact. In terms of composition tell a story with color and make sure to connect your foreground to the background by using complementary colors. I like to use a lot of color in my images and blend this is with mood. The scenes in Iceland are full of mood and this is where to really set your images apart from others. I want people who look at my images to say that brings me right back to when I visited the place. It is hard to describe the mood of the place unless you have been there but it is indescribable but it some thing that everyone who has been there knows all to well. It is a mood that you will never forget even decades later after visiting the place.

Visit Iceland during the summer months and you come across twenty-fours of light. This for sure takes some time getting used to but when the light is right you can photograph numerous places for the same sunset. Sleeping is not easy when the light is out so bring an eye mask for sure. The thing to remember is you do not know when it is going to be sunny again so it is very important to take advantage of the light and the sun and try not to stop; yes that means going for days with little to no sleep. You will get plenty when it begins to rain and believe me it will. Keep pushing no matter how tired you get! Okay that part might be for the very serious photographers.

There are places not to miss which are too many for this article but don’t miss the Golden Circle and the numerous waterfalls that are incredible. Don’t do what I did; have some informal plan and prioritize what is important to you as there is too much too shot everything. Breaking Iceland into quadrants will make things much more manageable. If you have had any friends that have been there before do yourself a favor and ask them for advice.

Iceland is an eye opening experience so be open to anything to get the most out of it. Do not go there with expectations and you will be open to so much more. Iceland only gives what you put in to it.

More to come in following blog..


~ by photocascadia on August 9, 2011.

4 Responses to “Photographing Iceland For Dummies – Kevin McNeal”

  1. Nice photos and very interesting story.

    Who was the author?

  2. Fantastic photographs! Iceland is definitely on my bucket list, but I’ve heard how expensive it is; so I will probably not be getting there for awhile. Thanks for sharing your insights. However, which one of Photocascadia wrote this? The article does not give an author. Come on, take credit for these wonderful photographs! 🙂

  3. Kevin: your images are so luminous. Spot on composition as usual. Any lack of sleep was so worth it. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your posts.

  4. Super spectacur, Kevin. A great inspirational. Thank you for sharing

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