Iceland Elves and Fairies, Really?

Mark Jansen in Iceland with Snorri
Frankly, when I first became aware of Iceland’s startling imagery back in 2005, I said to myself, this will be one of those places that would eventually find itself as one of our top expedition locations with Jansen Photo Expeditions. Hopefully our clients would see this as well and we would return each season and make this dream an annual reality. Little did we know that the Iceland elves and fairies would play a part in our tours there.

Like most landscape photographers, I really didn’t give much thought to the cultural aspects of the region. We tend to focus on the “The land” not the people that inhabit the land, or dwell inside the land, for the most part…

The Iceland Elves and Fairies Make Things Quite Interesting.

On my first trip, I picked up a pretty good paper road map of the region. On looking it over, I noticed some odd ghostly cartoonish figures dotted in various places on the map. I guessed it was a map geared to the younger set and didn’t give it much thought. It was a highly illustrated map showing geologic features, waterfalls and cliffs and Iceland’s amazing black sand beaches and glaciers. I had a quick look and packed it in my camera bag for future reference.

One the first morning, my Icelandic friend picked up my small group of 6 excited photographers in a comfortable 4×4 van, and we headed out into the countryside from a familiar European City. It’s quite a visual shock once you leave the confines of the city limits. The scenery changes from open familiar farmland to an alien stark windswept winter landscape, with limitless vistas, rimmed by snowcapped mountains.

We soon slowed to an odd detour in the road. I asked my good Icelandic friend about it. He said, there was a proposed road under construction that was stopped due to the fact that a family of elves lived there. I was a little caught off guard when he said this, I thought maybe it was a joke. I came back with “Really?”. He replied, “yes.” I then recalled the map I had picked up in Reykjavik. Things began to soak in a bit, he was dead serious. My friend and fellow guide and landscape photographer said that a detour was needed here because the main road would disturb a family of elves that resided in the location.

Iceland’s been going through some obvious growth these last few years. I’ve noticed the growth personally and I’m glad we are able to explore it at this time of year. There are new buildings and byways reaching deeper into the backcountry to accommodate new tourism. With this, there have been many reports from construction workers of heavy equipment breaking down mysteriously for no apparent reason. Interesting.

You then began to realize that the Icelandic culture is deeply rooted in folklore, where Iceland elves and fairies have a strong tradition in their culture and mythology.

I found a fresh respect for something that the U.S. culture fantasizes about in movies and fiction. Here in Iceland, all of this is as real as anything. I soon found this knowledge provided a new magic to my Icelandic landscape photography. I didn’t realize when I first pondered thoughts of leading photography workshops there back in 2005, that this would be an element of discussion during our workshops.

If you want to learn more about the elves and fairies in Iceland, or perhaps even learn something about landscape photography in Iceland, join us on our next Iceland photo expedition 

All the best,

Mark Jansen

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Mark’s interest in photography and love for landscape photography draws him into some amazing places and he freely shares this knowledge on his photography workshops. He researches his subjects extensively, making many trips to selected areas waiting for the perfect light, an interesting approach to the subject, and just the right moment. His goal of "freezing time for others to enjoy" is what drives him to create his visions and teach workshops.

Mark offers photographic workshops in numerous U.S. and International locations with his business, Jansen Photo Expeditions. He is an expert and personable instructor, expedition leader and award winning, visionary photographer. 

Mark has over 25 years of professional fine art and photographic experience. He has a passion for landscape and classic aviation photography and provides large scale commercial installations of his fine art photographic murals and print works throughout California. He works with both small and large corporate businesses in helping them project a powerful impact through his images.


About Mark and Holly
Mark and Holly Jansen
Jansen Photo Expeditions
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