Before arriving in Iceland, I (the ever-skeptical New Yorker) was troubled by the idea that a good percentage of the population still believed in elves. By the time I left, however, there was no question of why they would think this, and maybe I did a little as well?
Iceland, which I visited alongside my friend Vanessa this past March, was one of the most otherwordly experiences I've ever had. Sometimes, we felt like we were driving on the moon: a white-out of snow, shining silver in the sun's reflection, with pockets of steam erupting from the earth below. Ten minutes later, the moonscape we were just on a distant memory, we would find ourselves in a moss field, a bright green blanket covering ancient volcanic lumps and bumps, and couldn't help but think: these crevaces would be perfect for the elves to dwell. Then on to flat black lava fields, and further east to the pitch-black sand beaches near Jökulsárlón, sprinked with bits of calved icebergs, there was no lack of reminder of how volatile, and how special, the quiet island actually was.
From a photographic perspective, Iceland was a dream come true: the island is bursting with reindeer, ponies, seals, swans, orcas, and puffins, so there is no shortage of beautiful, mythical creatures to capture. GoPro video in hand, we tolted (a special gait that only Icelandic ponies can do, somewhere in between a trot and a canter) through the same land as the vikings, so many centuries ago, on the very same breed of pony. Fun fact: no livestock is allowed to be imported to Iceland, and if a pony ever leaves Iceland, it is never allowed to return. Iceland's epic landscapes, such as the indescribably huge icebergs in Jökulsárlón, to the waterfalls of Skaftafell, bring interesting challenges, both in terms of perspective and capturing the colors you see.
Perhaps the most incredible photographic challenge, however, was that of capturing the northern lights. The elusive, sneaky, dancing colors in the sky are hard to predict, hard to spot, and fast to move. With our ISO set to 1600, lens on infinity, and shutter speed at 15 seconds, however, we managed to capture some incredible footage of these as well!
Next time I return to Iceland, I plan to go at an even colder time of year (true story: I was wearing three winter coats in March), so that I might get into the ice caves of Skaftafell before they melt and capture some more of those northern lights at their very brightest.