Iceland: Land of Contrasts for the Landscape Photographer

Every time we go to Iceland it’s different. The weather is very changeable in the late winter, and you can experience the whole range of the Icelandic climate.

That’s what makes our travel and photography workshops interesting and unique.

One of my favorite places on our Iceland workshop is the area outside of Vik where we are overlooking an amazing scene of sea stacks and shoreline. I have been there twice now in completely different conditions. One time it was snowy and grey creating a unique black and white image, even though it was shot in color. The second time, it was sunny with interesting afternoon light and beautiful cloud formations. Both times I was completely enthralled with the experience and created some interesting images as a result of the dramatic weather.

Landscape photography is about photographing the elements: land, sky, water and how they all interact with each other.

That’s why photographers are continuously going back to the same spots and are able to create something new and different each time.

Landscape photographers need to embrace the weather and know that changing conditions could potentially create photography masterpieces. Inclement weather makes for great photography. Morning light, cloudy days, rain, and snow can create unexpected conditions that will give you amazing results.

On our 2015 photo workshop, we visited this location, it was quite snowy and dreary on our drive up to the overlook of Eagle rock.  As I was getting out of the car, I wasn’t inspired. Black and white and snow all over was all I could see. As is always the case, when I’m in a new environment, it takes a few minutes to “see” the creative photo opportunities. Once I starting imagining the possibilities, I was pretty excited about what could be created here. Here’s my favorite shot from that day. You may think that I converted this to black and white, but no, it was just that kind of day, spectacular even with it’s cloudy, grey sky.

What makes this picture interesting is the contrast between the black sand and the white snow and waves. To create the flowing water on the beach (I’m set up on a tripod, of course), I waited for the waves to start to recede, and on a slow shutter speed of 3 seconds at f.19, I took the shot. 3 seconds was just long enough to give the effect of the water receding on the beach and gave some softness to the waves.

On our 2016 photography workshop, we returned to this same location which has now become one of my favorite spots in Iceland. The weather was completely different, and we were there in the afternoon, so had the opportunity to get some nice light in the image. Here’s my result from the 2016 afternoon’s shoot at Eagle Rock.

When we return next year, what will Iceland have in store for us? 

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Holly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly's Free E-Book on "Landscape Photography and the Light" and find out about her newest workshops at


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Jansen Photo Expeditions
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