Typically, Geography field trips are dull. Everyone knows this. It usually involves measuring and discussing soil. This is how I was introduced to Iceland, we discussed Basal Creep and Embryo Cames and other VERY exciting geological features. This was all very nice but what I really wanted to do is photograph it!

Millions of years of volcanic activity and glacial fluctuations give the ultimate experience to this geographer turned photographer. As I studied Geography at University, I attended up to 6-7 lectures at least and from what I learned was that Iceland was sort of a big deal. A quick glance around at the abundance of beards, flasks and plastic anoraks nestled within the haphazard landscape confirmed this. Iceland is like Geography porn. Everywhere you look, there’s some sort of feature to analyse. I liked this very much but was forbidden to discuss them on our long drives around the country.

According to a cashier at Reykjavik airport, so we can take this as fact, it has been the warmest December in 150 years in Iceland. Having packed all of winter clothing from a family skiing holiday in 1997, I was bitterly dissapointed as I firstly wanted to live in my all-in-one ski outfit for 5 days like some sort of tragic Onesie and secondly, I had come here specifically to photograph wintery, glacial scenes. On this spontaneous trip to Iceland, I encountered many challenges that you landscape photographers I’m sure will appreciate.


The journey to get to this spot was fairly hazardous. As we departed on our 1.5 hour hike to the gorge, a sign clearly mentioned that a tree trunk had been removed to stop tourists from crossing the river, so we took note and began our walk. Soon we reached the river, where we quickly realised that a tree trunk had been removed to stop tourists from crossing the river…and we couldn’t get across.

However, having come all this way, we were not going to be stopped by some raging torrent of glacial meltwater. After an hour of looking for potential spots to cross the river, we finally found a relatively safe route through the river. We were still up to our waists but we were careful in our approach. The water was absolutely freezing. I initially rolled up my trousers so they would be dry when I reached the other side, but the water was so cold I actually felt sick. I quickly realised that trousers all the way down was the best option and we managed to cross the river with drones, £1000s worth of camera equipment all in tact.

Once we got to the other side and the view was certaintly worth the effort.

Black Sand Beach

Its black volcanic sand, massive rolling waves and jagged outcrops make an impressive spectacle. But with salt spray from the waves, unpredictable swash and heavy rain made it an almost impossible scenario to take pictures in, but it was my last day and I was certainly going to give it a try. I eventually dug my tripod into the sand, held it down and as stable as I possibly could with the massive winds, and took about 10 photographs in succession, hoping to have at least one of them to be sharp. Luckily I got 2/10 that were sharp enough to use!

John Alexander
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