Kirkjufell Sunrise 1

Kirkjufell Sunrise 1

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This past June, I traveled to Iceland for the third time in my photography career. Tony Wu, my good friend and photo tour business partner, joined me for two weeks of driving around in a van, sleeping in obscure locations, eating whatever happened to be left in our non-functioning refrigerator, and chasing photographic opportunities. We had a great time together before co-leading our first sailing expedition in Norway’s Svalbard. I’ll share more about that incredible trip soon.

The weather in Iceland is always extreme, but I found it to be especially difficult during this trip. Before leaving home, I vowed not to drive from one end of Iceland to the other as I had done during my previous visits because the distances and roads often require 6-10 hours to drive between locations. However, once the weather continued to be uncooperative, I spent a lot of time checking the forecast for various parts of the island and adjusted our plans to chase the light no matter how much driving was involved.

One of the locations that we abruptly made a decision to drive to was the iconic Kirkjufellfoss waterfall located across from the witch-hat summit of Kirkjufell mountain. I was vaguely familiar with photos of this beautiful setting and only knew that it was located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Since I was driving around in the middle of the night with limited internet access, we initially drove to the end of the peninsula thinking that the famous name-sake volcano must be the the correct location before realizing that we had to turn around and drive back in the opposite direction.

Fortunately, the light this far north and lack of tourists on the road at 1am made it easy for us to find it, park, and stroll up to the falls in plenty of time to set up for this dramatic sunrise. I had expected to have to scrum with other tripod-toters to shoot this composition, but was pleasantly surprised to have this beautiful setting all to ourselves. As the colors in the sky started to explode, I coached Tony on how to use his filters and in general how to photograph a landscape, since he is usually underwater when he pushes the shutter release button. I have been intentionally avoiding photo “hot-spots” the last few years, but I am pleased that I allowed myself to indulge in photographing this graceful scene.

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