Tuesday 8 October 2019


In March 2018 I was invited to accompany a small group of Hoylake Photographic Society members on a week long trip to the Western Peninsula of Iceland. Our group of eight stayed at the Arnarstapi Center on a Bed and Breakfast basis with the intention of spending the week photographing this small area.

Western Peninsula

The backbone of the Peninsula is the imposing Snaefellsnes Glacier which dominated every landscape and the Snaefellsnes National Park with its endless lava field. An unforgiving yet beautiful landscape.

Snaefellsnes Glacier and Lava Field

Snaefellsnes Glacier

When planning for the trip I was unsure which camera to take with me. I took the full frame Sony A7mk2 camera with a Sony A6300 as a backup. Taking a backup camera was a good decision as the full frame camera failed to operate in the extremely cold conditions. Most of the colour shots on the trip were taken with the cheaper A6300 which worked flawlessly and produced the two images above.

The most difficult decision to make was whether to take my Sony A6000 720nm infrared camera. Infrared is normally associated with dreamy white landscape's filled with foliage but there isn't a tree to be seen on Iceland. What persuaded me to shoot in infrared was an article showcasing the Iceland infrared photographs of Andy Lee. I'm glad I took the camera as infrared enhanced the other worldly feel of this beautiful landscape (below) 

Snaefellsnes Glacier - 720nm Infrared
Black Church of Budir - 720nm Infrared
Hotel Budir - 720nm Infrared
The Black Church - 720nm Infrared
Mt. Kirkjufell (The Witches Hat) - 720nm Infrared

I did as much photographing in infrared as the light would allow, switching cameras from colour to infrared to capture the same scenes and below is Mt. Kirkjufell in standard colour using the Sony A6300. It's a close run thing which version came out the best. 

We chose the Western Peninsula because it was off the main tourist route concentrated on the South coast but it was still impossible to capture the classic shot of Mt Kirkjufell with the Kirkjufellfoss waterfall in the foreground due to the large number of photographers with their tripods surrounding the falls so I had to be content with a tightly cropped image of the falls on their own.

Mt. Kirkjufell (The Witches Hat) in standard colour

The week was far more tiring than I'd imagined. The group would eat a hearty breakfast. We'd then drive to a location and spend the daylight hours photographing in the biting cold before eating again at around 7pm. We would then continue shooting at night attempting to capture the Aurora before returning to Arnarstapi for midnight. Spending all day wrapped in three layers of clothing and attempting to operate a camera wearing gloves was extremely hard work and trying to concentrate in the cold wasn't easy.

Of course staying on the Western Peninsula meant plenty of opportunity for coastal shots. Being a volcanic island the dramatic looking volcanic beaches were covered in either black sand or black pebbles sometimes dusted in white snow.

Dritvic Black Pebble Beach
Dritvic Beach
Hellnar Fishing Village near Arnarstapi

During the week we were blessed with fine sunny weather except for one day of snow which covered the mountains before slowly melting away towards the end of our stay. The weather produced some glorious sunrises with the best shots to be had only 400 meters from our hotel at Arnarstapi. It was a case of rise at 6am, get the shot in the bag then a short walk to the warm restaurant for breakfast.

The Break of Day, Arnarstapi
Statue at Arnarstapi

It was a trip of a lifetime. A one off for me. Tiring, hard work, cold and the food and drink was expensive but the photographic opportunities of Iceland made it well worth the effort. My only disappointment was seeing the Aurora during four nights of our trip and not getting a shot worthy of processing. Night photography is a skill I've yet to learn.