Iceland Adventures / Shot on film
Three years ago on this day we arrived in Iceland for the first time.
I knew that this was going to be kind of a life changing experience even before we left our home and I wanted to bring back home images that will remind me how it felt like to be there.
I knew that digital camera probably won't be the best option for that, because I'd be posing the photos a lot more, keep looking at the screen all the time, bring home thousands of photos and tone them with presets (another layer of a pose), and so what I'd end up with would be more a product of sitting at home in front of a computer, rather than photos that would be actually created on the island. However, I didn't have that much experience with shooting film so I could easily end up with coming back with only memories in my mind. That was a risk, but also a part of the fun. I didn't come to Iceland to make cool photos, but to learn why is it that this place resonates with me so much.
Majority of these photos were shot on my 60 years old Leica M3, I was mostly guessing the exposure and going for a grainy underexposed feel. Some photos were shot on a Pentax 67 and some on a Polaroid 250 or SX-70. Everything here was shot on film.
It's a brief collection of moments that we have captured in our photo diary in Iceland over the years. I'm going to attach a song that we enjoy the most as a road track while in our car. It's called Dauðalogn and it means "Dead calm."
It is a beautiful morning. We are staying over night somewhere on the way to Landmannalaugar and while Suzie is still sleeping in the car, I can't because the sunrise is slowly coming and I can't get my eyes off of the flaming sky. I take my camera and walk. It's cold but I walk long. I follow the sheep through fields like no time existed.
We stop the car to watch the horses. I step out of the car to take a photo of them. Suddenly, one looks at me and we keep staring at each other for a while. He then starts to walk towards me. I think alright I'll wait for the shot before he comes. Other horses see him and turn their eyes towards me as well. Slowly one starts to follow another and in a few moments they are all running to me. What a nice connection with these beautiful animals.
Þingvellir is often on our way to inland places. It's where the border between Euro-Asian and American tectonic plates lies you can see here how the Earth is alive.
We go up to Dyrhólaey to look at everything that was so large and vast to now seem so small. The Earth really is a tiny place.
This time I'm alone in Iceland for work. When I finish the three days of (wonderful!) shooting, I again have this awesome feeling that I usually have with destination weddings. We came to this beautiful place, we have experienced something really beautiful together and I'm confident to bring home enough material to work with.
And now I finally have some time just for myself and this is what I naturally do, I find me this cave on the way to Dyrholaey from which you can see my favorite Reynisfjara beach and I sit here one whole long afternoon, just look around and think how much I like this place. And make a photo to remember this moment.
We'll show you soon more detailed story about their honeymoon in Iceland. For now here are a few snaps from Vík. I only wish I made two polaroids here, one for them and one for me to keep. It's getting dark as the clouds are coming and the SX-70 captures the shot with quite a long exposure. I think that nothing's probably gonna come out of this shot. When we look at the photo about an hour later I can't believe how painterly it is and totally love what it came like.
I am sitting in our car waiting for Suzie who went to take a shower after a couple days (she only gets cold water but is still happy). Rain starts pouring and suddenly a herd of horses appears out of nowhere. It is so magical and by some chance I get to capture it on camera as I grab it unconsciously from the back seat and with just guessing the shutter speed I take the photo while starring at the beauty in front of me.
We have a few stops on the road to the Rainbow Mountains that are not marked in any guide book, but are deeply written in our memory.
We arrive in Landmannalaugar which is going to become one of my favorite places in the world. One short story from our first hike there. We want to do a 5 hours hike and a trail that goes around Brennisteinsalda volcano seems a good choice. We meet sheep, we meet cotton blossoms, we get ourselves lost in sulphur steam for a moment and wash in hot spring. Once we start getting higher on the hills and circle round the volcano's top I tell Suzie "don't worry, we're not going up there."
However, the trails keeps getting steeper and steeper and finally we have no choice but to go right through the top. Once we reach it, Suzie's worried about dark clouds that are coming right our way. I am blown away by the stunning landscapes of the Rainbow Mountains and tell her "wait a moment, this is why we came to Iceland." Then we go down back to our base camp and I know that I need to get back soon.
In 2015 I come back to Landmannalaugar with Martin & Ela and when we cross the Brennisteinsalda volcano, have some more beans for lunch, they decide to go back to the base camp. I, however, need to go further and see what's beyond the horizon. I walk alone in those mountains, it's all quiet, no one around, I reach snow and walk up the furthest top and what I see beyond the horizon is my next adventure, coming up another year.
I shoot with a simple set up M3 & Tri-X and squeeze the grain out of it.
Today I get to shoot at my dream location, the small church Búðir. You can find more about this story here on our blog.
It's very early morning, air is cold, Suzie is sleeping in the car and I walk. Again no time exists.
During our trips here we realize that horses really are wonderful creatures. We love how curious they are, friendly and how they smile.
Today we hike in Hveragerði with Hjördís who has a Viking blood in her veins. At least that's what she tells me when I ask her if she really doesn't want to take her shoes on. You can find more about this story here on our blog.
Everytime I'm in Iceland I try to get to see Gulfoss. It reminds me of how small we all are. The Earth cracked here and the mass of water enters as a giant waterfall and leaves as raindrops falling up. The river is so alive.
One morning I meet here a guy, we talk and I make him a photo. In our travels we find out that most of strangers we meet really are not strangers, they are only people we had yet to meet and we have a lot in common.
Now I'm here with my friends Martin and Ela, we go off road near Hagavatn and find us some place where no man has walked before us. (Well, they might, but getting this feeling is so easy in Iceland). After the road ends, I tell Martin "Wanna go check out what's on the top of that hill?", partly joking, but he takes it seriously and why not, up we go. We bring up canned beans and a heater and make a decent lunch with such a view.
We observe the coldness around for hours lying naked in a hot spring called Hrunalaug with Suzie.
Next year I come back with my friends Martin and Eliska, it is evening and we meet an older farmer here. We talk and I ask him if he thinks there's a chance that we might get to see the Aurora tonight for the first time in our lives. He looks up at the sky, thinks for a while, then he points out and says: "There she is." What we first thought was light pollution turns out to be the Northern Lights slowly dancing from behind the clouds. Later during the night we sit in the hot spring and watch this wonder dancing above our heads as the clouds disappear. What a night.
It's getting dark and we arrive to Geysir area. For some reason, we usually get here after the sunset. Usually no one wants to join me to walk around the place at night, it gets haunting, but I still like to be scared a little. It's one of the places that reminds you that the city rush and instagrams is not how Earth has always been.
We sleep nearby and in the morning go check out if Strokkur is still on duty.
During our every trip in Iceland, we mostly listen to Sigur Rós in the car. It really is a soundtrack for what you see around, both in the sound and lyrics. As we walk towards Strokkur I see a scene just like from the Varúð video clip by Inga Birgisdóttir in front of me. Again, what a connection.
We get closer and now I can almost hear the guys up there reading the lines from Little Prince: "My flower's up there somewhere."
Tonight we experience Midnight Sun. One of the great things about travelling in Iceland in summer is that your day basically never ends and you can keep exploring until you fall asleep in the middle of a lava field.
Today we meet Margret who takes us with her family on a trip to a sheep farm north of Reykjavík. She knitts traditional Icelandic wool sweaters and sells them to help people stay warm during winter. Be sure to check out her Etsy store.
Being there for the first time, I think everyone goes to see the plane wreck. Every year there are more people coming to take photos, more writings on the plane and parts of the plane keep dissapearing.
But still, when you're in the plane, you think that this one has actually really crashed, it is tangible and it hasn't moved since then. The only lucky thing is that no one died while it went down. But still, it's a plane that crashed.
Today we go to Jökulsárlón with Martin and Eliska. The road there is always longer than it seems on the map. For some reason they'd prefer to stop somewhere to stay overnight, but luckily for me I'm the one in charge of the steering wheel right now. And our chances for clear sky and Aurora Borealis are really great today.
When we get to the glacier lake around midnight, there's no way I could take my eyes off of the sky. The green Northern Lights are dancing from one side of the horizon to the other. The icebergs on the lake are slowly moving, one bumbping into another and making a crackling sound while that. Glaciers in the background. It almost feels like a scene from some imaginary cosmic theater. So unbelievably powerful, archetypal and beautiful.
It is freezing cold but I stay watching the Aurora dance over the water for two hours.
In the morning, the world has a fairly different atmosphere. The sun rays are coming through the mist above the lake and here we get to see the icebergs in all their beauty.
At one point I feel like I have spotted someone swimming in the lake. Impossible, I think, in this cold water. I go closer and here I see he's not human, he's a seal. And he has a friend with whom he plays in the water. Totally unexpected.
"It was built around 1923 by a local farmer, he saw streams of geothermal water flowing from the mountains and used them to fill the pool, it's all natural," an old Viking king of guy told me as we were enjoying the warm water and the views around. I still find it unbelievable that someone has made something so beautiful and let it be free for others to enjoy. We have more photos from chilling at Seljavallalaug pool here.
People wear flip flops and eat ice cream while we're in our winter jackets. We once go up to Hallgrímskirkja in the evening, the sun is setting and we watch the quiet life of this this city. Suddenly the bells behind us bang so hard. It's 8 pm and looking on the city from this tower, it feels like we are spreading and important message about time to all the people in the streets. We love you Reykjavík.
We come by the Blue Lagoon and with all the buses in the parking, from outside I think that this is probably the only place in Iceland that I don't need to see, pay for and go inside the lagoon. We prefer going somewhere on ourselves. Two years later however, I'll find out how wrong I was.
It's March and I come to Blue Lagoon with my clients Rahul & Manju while wandering through the South of Iceland. One thing strikes me as I sink in the hot water with white fog everywhere in every direction that I look. There is something very mystical about this place. I keep diving my mind in this whiteness and as the day is coming to its end, the sky gets darker and then the lights come on. I know that this day is something that I'll remember for a long time.
These waterfalls are such a cliché. When we were there for the first time though, it was before the selfie sticks came into fashion we had them just for ourselves, even if for a while. I still love to come back to them and just inhale their humid air, look into the stream of falling water and be present in the moment.
I once wanted to take a photo of Seljalandsfoss from behind the waterfall and it turned out to be very challenging. These waterfalls are huge! I made three or four frames on 21mm lens on my M3 and stitched them together to be able to get the look from the cave in one photo.
With the last sun rays Suzie prepares the dinner and we get to sleep at the cliffs. See you tomorrow.