Magical Iceland: How to Photograph Narnia

Magical Iceland How to Photograph Narnia

We leave our homes, step out our doors into the world, and travel our whole lives not because we want to collect exotic T-shirts, […] but because it has the power to renew us – not the guarantee, not the promise, just the possibility. Because there are places our imagination can never build for us, and there are people we will never meet but we could and we could. It reminds us that there is always a reason to start over.
-Stephen Markley, Tales from Iceland”

It’s a bit tough to put words on Iceland. Others call it the land of fire and ice, but they omit much of it – the greenery, the changing hues, the untamed seas, the black sand beaches, the rainbows, the painted mountains, the hundreds and thousands of waterfalls all throughout the nation, and most significant to me, the green lights in the sky.

When you travel across Iceland you eventually stop to identify another waterfall and find that you can’t stop every time you see a photo opportunity since you just won’t move much further just around 30 kilometers in a day if you did. That’s amazing.

I visited Iceland in October, and it was the perfect time for numerous reasons: The weather was pleasant, the quantity of daytime and night light was roughly equal, and the fall colors coated the ground and covered trees.

That left me wondering whether I had destroyed the remainder of the journeys that lay ahead of me, just because I had maybe already visited the most beautiful nation in the world. Its official name is Iceland, but for me it was Narnia.

Here are eight photographs to show it, complete with camera settings so you can recreate them:

Observe the Northern Lights


One of the primary reasons to visit Iceland in October was the possibility to view the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) (Aurora Borealis). In summer there is scarcely any darkness and in winter there is hardly any daylight, which significantly limits daytime activity. The shoulder season turned out to be a beautiful blend of night and day.

Following some suggestions from Expert Vagabond, the idea was to have as much flexibility as possible. My buddy, Maksim, and I achieved this by hiring a motorhome and checking the Northern Lights prediction before determining which way to drive for our week-long Ring Road journey. We wanted to have the highest possible likelihood of a clear and gloomy sky.

That paid off, as we received three nights of aurora activity at a level 5, which is high. The way it swirled and whirled across the sky was beautiful, and it truly was as vivid as you see in the photo above.

The camera needs to stay totally motionless for such a long exposure, so obtain a tripod and remote, or use your phone as a remote. Also bear in mind that a wide-angle lens is often much better for night photography since you can capture a lot more sky in the frame.

Even if it’s not as bright for you, with the correct camera settings, you can still shoot it. If you observe gray in the sky or small movement, point your camera towards it using the following settings and you might be able to catch it:

Camera settings: f/4.5, 15 seconds, manual focus, ISO 2500

Equipment: Sony Alpha a6000, wide angle lens, tripod, phone as a remote control

Appreciate the only glacial lagoons in the world

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I peered out my RV window just as the sun was rising over these floating shards of ice. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of the only glacier lagoons in the world and an exceptionally magnificent lagoon. I ended up with so many hues of blue and purple, it was weird.

Camera settings: f/5, 1/160, ISO 160

Equipment: Sony Alpha a6000, 16-55m lens, handheld

Discover the greatest canyon in Iceland

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Asbyrgi is Iceland’s counterpart to the US Grand Canyon. While it’s undoubtedly smaller, it looked so gorgeous with the fall colors popping out like little orange and red cotton balls from above, and it has a particular beauty all its own.

Camera settings: Intelligent automated. While most of the time I like to play with my own settings, the Sony Alpha a6000’s automated settings are frequently just as excellent, if not better, in typical lighting circumstances, and it’s a far faster alternative when you hike, as we were.

Equipment: Sony Alpha a6000, wide angle lens, handheld

Wondering if we were on the moon

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Immediately after discovering the canyon vista, the scenery changed totally to brittle rocks and volcanic sand. It was the closest I have ever felt to being in another world. Honestly, movies about Mars could be (and maybe have been?) shot here.

Camera settings: Intelligent Auto

Equipment: Sony Alpha a6000, wide angle lens, handheld

The sort of waterfall that fairies use as a shower

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I have never seen a waterfall like this that has an entire trail to stroll behind. I plunged my face in the stream of many a few and slipped a few here and there, but this one didn’t even appear like a waterfall. That looked like a bridal veil.

Like many other locations in Iceland, it seemed like it was right out of a storybook, and I pondered how anything so lovely could ever exist.

Gear: Go Pro

A pony with a mane more gorgeous than mine

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Icelandic ponies are noted for their thick, silky coats and long, flowing manes of hair.

This one appears like a prior life, it was probably a unicorn, with that lovely white mane and one blue eye and one dark brown eye.

Camera settings: Intelligent Auto

Equipment: Sony Alpha a6000, 16-55m lens, handheld

A lovely waterfall embellished with gold

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Svartifoss, which means black waterfall, looks stunning any time of the year with its black, hexagonal basalt columns. Fall, though, found it clad head to toe in golden leaves of change.

I have seen hundreds, literally thousands of waterfalls in Iceland, but if I had to select a favorite it would be this one.

Camera settings: f/10, 1 second, ISO 100

Equipment: Sony Alpha a6000, 16-55m lens, tripod, filter, phone as a remote control

A waterfall wearing a cone-shaped hat

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Even though it was a 3-hour diversion from our Ring Road journey, when Maksim and I spotted this waterfall in images, we knew we had to go.

It was well worth the journey as it is so unique with its four falls and peak mountain behind it. Even though it’s popular with visitors, I was able to capture a photo without people just waiting for the masses.

From a photographic sense, a wide-angle lens was a major game-changer here, as I was able to bring together the entire of the falls and the mountain without cutting away elements of the environment.

Camera settings: f/10, 0.4 seconds, ISO 100

Equipment: Sony Alpha a6000, wide angle lens, tripod, filter, phone as a remote control

A waterfall that almost completes the loop

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This rushing waterfall, Godafoss, was massive, and the way the light decided to peep out from the clouds at that moment also made it golden.

Although my wide-angle lens caught some pretty beautiful images of the waterfall, my GoPro was the camera that really captured the contour and even emphasized it.

Gear: Go Pro

A lagoon as blue as glacier ice

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How can we talk about Iceland without mentioning the Blue Lagoon?

Although public baths are popular across Iceland with heated pools like this one, what sets the Blue Lagoon distinct is obviously the color and the mud masks you can put on your face to make one true spa day.

The GoPro was excellent for this as there is no trouble getting them wet, and the way they shoot photographs partially out of the water is very interesting!

Gear: Go Pro

Iceland is one of the most interesting and different nations I have ever visited. In one moment you are standing on a black sand beach and the next you are staring at hundreds of waterfalls at once.

If you get the chance to go, seize it with both hands and enjoy the unpredictable weather, harsh environment, and possibly stunning green lights in the sky.

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I have been living in Southeast Asia for over five years and I love to share my experiences on this blog. You will find stories about my daily life, as well as my travels around the world. From exotic tastes to stunning views and funny encounters from across the globe, join me on my amazing journey at www.theladyontheroad.com

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