Typically, being a wedding cinematographer in New York City, I don't get many weekends off during the summer. It's peak wedding season and I'm getting my hustle on since I don't shoot many weddings from November to March. Since this is the case for me, I rarely get to travel in the summer. So when I checked my calendar and saw that I had a random open weekend in July, I instantly started looking up plane tickets for a week long trip out of the country. I looked into about 6 or 7 countries to go to and plane tickets were all crazy expensive, except for Iceland. Even during peak tourist season there, plane tickets from NYC were still only around $500 on Delta.
On the first day, we decided to keep it simple and drive into the city of Reykjavik to see what Iceland was all about. First stop was checking out hallgrímskirkja church which is well known looking like the trap rocks along Icelands beaches and landscapes and also for having a nice view of the city. I go more into detail about this church and the lookout experience on our travel website that you can check out here.
One thing I noticed while walking around the city of Reykjavik was how bad people park. I constantly ran into cars that were crooked, sticking out, halfway up the sidewalk. As a New York, I found it pretty funny. You can see all the poorly parked cars while looking down this street.
One unique thing about Reykjavik was that you can be in the city one second, and then walk down the block to get a view like this the next. It looks like it was taken in the middle of nowhere but theres a major road right next to us.
The Harpa concert Hall would stand out in any city, but it is truly unique in Iceland. It was the only structure being built in 2008 during Iceland's financial crisis. Even if nothing is going on, the Harpa is cool to walk around in and explore with its unique windows and colored reflections. We later on ended up seeing a comedy show at the Harpa which was funny but also informative about Iceland's history and the locals.
A friend of mine told me about a cool lake that was only about 30 minutes south of Reykjavik, so we took a little trip down there after exploring the city. We were jet lagged, so this started at about 9 or 10pm. I was described many times that Iceland is like being on another planet and if you really want that experience, you have to drive to Kleifarvatn. I don't think many people visit this area, but in my opinion, it was one of the coolest places we went all week. It's full of lava fields, cliffs, horses and hot springs galore. In the couple of hours we spent there, we ran into maybe 2 or 3 people and a music video shoot (random), so it's a pretty neglected area.
What I'm about to say right now was one of the best decisions we made, and I highly recommend it for anyone who plans on visiting Iceland during the summer. If you don't already know, there is 24hrs of sunlight during the summer and the sun only barely sets for 3 hours or so at night. We used this to our advantage since we slept in late during the day and would go out to start our adventures around 6-7pm. This way, we would skip all the crowds from tourists at a lot of places. I'm so glad we did this and I feel it completely changed our whole Iceland experience.
We drove the Golden Circle on our first full day, which is a drive to get the best bang for your buck. You can hit at least 4 or 5 cool locations in one long day. We did everything from hiking, to hot springs, to water falls, geysers and driving off road. This was another venture that we did late at night to avoid tourists and only the first location we hit had other people there, but the rest were pretty much all ours.
The following day, we drove up the western coast along the peninsulas and our first stop was Akranes Lighthouse. The sun came out as soon as we got there and it was one of the most fun places to shoot photos on our trip.
The next stop up the western coast was Búðakirkja, or the black church. This was a place that Amanda and I both wanted to see and it one of the coolest churches I've ever been to. It's really tiny, probably the size of an average living room and can only fit a handful of people. It's in the middle of a lava field thats covered in moss which gives the area some color.
One of the unique things about Iceland is that you can just drive around and find random things on the side of the road to check out. As we drove along this road, we noticed a car parked off to the side and people walking around towards a mountain. I was curious to what they were doing so we went to check it out also. It's called Rauðfeldsgjá ravine, and it's nothing more than a little crevasse that's barely wide enough for a person to fit in with a small river flowing through it. There's a tale about a half human, half troll (yes, some Icelandic people believe in trolls) in the sagas of Iceland from hundreds of years ago that took place here.
Just as quickly as the blue sky came out at the lighthouse earlier in the day, it went away and fog so thick rolled in that it was nearly impossible to drive. We pulled over to take a few quick photos and this one became one of my favorites from the trip. I had another Photo Of The Week post about this shot that you can check out here.
Our last stop that day was at one of the most iconic places in all of Iceland, Kirkjufell Mountain. As a photographer, I've seen this photo a million times and didn't really plan on going there at first, but it ended up being in the same area so I had to stop by and I'm glad I did. This mountain is massive in person and wasn't what I would've imagined it to be like. You can spot this mountain from miles away and it looks so different from the angle you drive up to it from the road on. There's a perfect path for photographers to get this classic shot, which I found pretty hilarious. I had to get one for myself so I just took out my camera and shot this photo.