1. Few, if any, places in the world are the equal of Iceland for stark, but surprisingly attracting, desolate landscapes and a contrasting abundance of wildlife and plant life. This is because Iceland is located where the Earth is re-inventing itself, where violent natural processes are destroying as they are also creating new land and the nutrients life needs to grow and succeed.
2. For the photographer, it’s as if Mother Nature offers a unique, creative palette every morning that has never been witnessed or photographed, and never will be again. One of these places is the small island of Heimaey off the southern coast of Iceland. It is the largest island of the
Vestmannaeyjar, or Westland, chain; all created by volcanic rock rising from beneath the sea. Heimaey is home to millions of puffins, especially the west coast and southern end. Many other seabirds and migrating species nest and congregate here.
3. Iceland is in a constant state of reshaping itself, which is why the former island of Ingólfshöfdi is now a cape connected to the mainland of Iceland. Ingólfshöfdi is a flat promontory open to the sky and sea and surrounded on three sides by cliffs. It’s another bird photographer’s paradise, with another large colony of puffins as well as the great skua, greylag goose and dunlin. Fulmars are found in great numbers to the north on the Cape, where guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes also perch on the cliff face.
4. The coastal hamlet of Vik on the southern coast of Iceland may be very small (population less than 300), but many residents along the coast rely on it as a source of supplies and services. The serious photographer comes here for a much different reason and that is to capture the incredible vistas of its black sand beach and surrounding seascapes. The sea, wind and deep forces within the Earth have sculpted the land into natural works of art, dramatic cliffs, striking headlands and thrusting seastacks.
5. The photographer on the hunt for another magical Icelandic landscape should follow the Ring Road to the northwest from Vik to Vatnajökull National Park. The land within the park’s boundaries accounts for 13% of all of Iceland and is the largest national park in Europe. Its centerpiece is the Vatnajökull glacier, also the largest in Europe.
The park is so enormous that it presents a grand variety of vistas and natural splendor for any photographer. To the north is the highland plateau, crossed by glacial rivers that swell into torrents as they rush to the sea.
One of these is the River Jökulsá á Fjöllum. Where the highlands end, the river cascades over the edge, creating many waterfalls, including the thundering Dettifoss. The river then sweeps through the bottom of the spectacularly shaped Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon that is has carved into one of Iceland’s most impressive river canyons.
In the southern portion of the park, Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur, and other magnificent mountain ranges dominate the scenery. Skaftafell National Park benefits from the glacier runoff of water and ash from the volcanoes to create a land of abundant wildlife, colorful meadows and more great waterfalls.
6. Jökulsárlón is an amazing display of ancient glaciers returning their water back to the sea. As the largest glacier lagoon in Iceland and located in southeastern Iceland, Jökulsárlón is filled with a slow, quiet procession of giant icebergs that have separated from the glacier and float to the sea.
7. Landmannalaugar, a region in the southern highlands of Iceland, is filled with the dramatic results of the Earth splitting and rending itself. The environment is a volcanic garden of black lava formations, hot openings into the Earth’s interior and bubbling hot springs spread across a terrain that is one of the most alien on the planet. The effects of the northern, cold light on this nightmarish land offers every photographer the rarest of opportunities to bring home photos very few have captured.
8. You can be sure your Icelandic photography adventure is a great success and a learning experience like no other, as a member of Visionary Wild Iceland Workshop, August 12–19, 2012. Just 9 serious photographers will spend the week with polar explorer-photographer Chris Linder and landscape photographer Justin Black, visiting and photographing many of the locations in this article, and others.
Chris Linder is famous for his documentation of scientific studies in the Artic and Antarctic, combining his widely acclaimed photography skills and oceanography career to create more interest in and awareness of these critical eco-systems of the planet.
Justin Black, a protégé of the famed photographer Galen Rowell and co-founder of Visionary Wild, will serve as the trip leader and co-instructor. Justin is also a well-respected photographer, having been published in National Geographic Adventure, Sierra, American Photo, Outdoor Photographer and many other magazines.
Visit the Visionary Wild Web Site at http://visionarywild.com/workshops/iceland-land-of-fire-and-ice/#more-1479 for workshop details and the other workshops throughout the world scheduled during 2012.
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