Iceland Photography Workshop

Trip Report – Iceland Photography Workshop 2018

In Trip Report by Matt Shetzer

Iceland Photo Workshop

John, JJ, Lin, Sam and Matt during the 2018 Iceland Photography Workshop

The 2018 Iceland Photography workshop saw beautiful weather, colorful skies and lots of hiking to remote spots. We had a great group of eager photographers and covered an enormous amount of photographic locations over the week.

Joining us was Lin and Sam from California, JJ from Colorado and John from Michigan. Lin and Sam arrived a couple of days early and explored Iceland a bit prior to the trip. John and JJ arrived the morning the workshop started.


The group met for dinner and we headed out to a local restaurant at the harbor known for the local fish in the area. After an evening of discussing the days ahead, photography tips, and getting to know everyone, we headed back to the hotel for some sleep as we start early tomorrow.


We headed out at first light to make our way out of town to photograph some of the spectacular Icelandic waterfalls today. We started our photography at Seljalandsfoss waterfall which drops the water 200 feet from its rocky cliffs. The unique part of this waterfall is that you can walk behind it into a small cave, offering 360-degree access around the waterfall provides us with stunning opportunities to capture unique images.

After a couple of hours, we headed towards another waterfall that flows out of a gorge. With rain jackets on we endured the spray to get those unique shots.

Iceland Photography Workshop

John composing his shot at the Fjallsarlón Lagoon

We enjoyed a late lunch at the café at Seljalandsfoss, and then headed out to photograph one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland with a width of 82 feet (25 meters) and plunging 200 feet (60 meters) down. As the sun peaked out the mist produced a double rainbow right in front of the waterfall. We worked many different compositions of the waterfall and enjoyed the colorful light show of the rainbows.

As late afternoon came, we checked into our hotel and took a short break to check our images from the day.

Iceland Photo Workshop

JJ enjoying the beauty of on of the waterfalls in Skaftafell Preserve

As the sun fell lower in the sky, we headed back to Seljalandsfoss with hopes of a colorful sky at sunset. As we arrived, the crowds had thinned, and we setup in our favorite locations hoping for a colorful sunset. We were treated to very warm light, and some pretty pinks and blues in the sky as we photographed the lush vegetation around this unique waterfall. Everyone was very excited on the evening’s images. Once the colors faded, we headed back to the hotel for a late diner, and everyone enjoyed Iceland’s Lamb or Fish. When in Iceland!


We set out before sunrise to photograph Skógafoss again and work a few new compositions. We had a very moody sunrise with low lying clouds offering us very different images than our warm rainbows shots photographed yesterday. We then met for breakfast and headed out continuing our journey to Southeast Iceland.

After a short car ride to Sólheimasandur we hiked to the site of a US Navy C-47 Dakota airplane (military version of Douglas Super DC-3) with its remains on the black volcanic sand beaches. Over the years, this location has achieved a bit of a cult following, and a very fun location to photograph. We did notice the popularity of the location from newly weds as 3 different photoshoots of brides and grooms posed near the aircraft. Not sure if I would be able to talk my wife into our wedding photos at a wreckage. After many compositions were taken, we hiked back to the car and continued exploring coastal Iceland.

As we continued Southeast, we photographed at a very picturesque Icelandic Church, and a lighthouse with incredible views of the black volcanic coast with the white surf breaking. We then took a short break and headed to Vic for a tasty lunch.

In the afternoon, we continued our photography at another church with a red roof, and the coastal area consisting of the black sand beaches with interesting basalt formations set in the rugged cliffs providing countless compositions.

As we made our way back to Vic, we checked into our hotel. As sunset approached we headed back to the black sand beach to photograph a beautiful spire rock formation and managed to get some nice color in the background as the clouds went pink. We had another tasty meal, and off to bed.

Iceland Photography Workshop

Lin working on that perfect composition


Up before sunrise again, we headed to photograph the sea stacks in the background of the Vic Shoreline. Such a beautiful setting.

We all met for a nice breakfast and continued our journey with another good photography hike planned today. As we left the hotel, we headed up the scenic Vic church to enjoy the views over the town.

We had a very cloudy day, therefore stopped to photograph the mossy covered black lava rocks and create many abstract images with the patterns as the moss clings to the black lava rocks.

Continuing our journey, we took some time to photograph another waterfall that falls down the cliffs into a small pool. The small stream running away from the waterfall really added a nice leading line to the composition.

Iceland Photo Workshop

Sam explores the historic turfed roofed buildings from the inside and out

As we arrived the Vatnajökull National Park we had a quick lunch before our hike to a couple of remote locations. After about 45 minutes of hiking up hill in the Skaftafell preserve, we arrived at a spectacular waterfall which pours over black basalt columns. Everyone explored all over the area achieving different compositions of this special place. We then continued our hike over to a historic turf roofed farm with beautiful views of the glaciated valley. The excitement of the group was contagious as we explored inside and out of this farm with so much character. What added to the experience was that we were the only ones there. It’s amazing how a little hiking thins the crowds.

As the day went on, we continued our hike out of Skaftafell preserve and the Vatnajökull National Park and headed towards our last shoot of the day, an old turf roofed church.

As we arrived in the little town, we explored the old church that is still in use today. The church offers so many compositions with its grave yard surrounding the church, stone walkways leading in, and lush grass covered stone fencing all around. As the light began to fade, we headed to our hotel for the next two nights.

We relaxed tonight after an extremely busy day as we didn’t expect a colorful sunset tonight and enjoyed a long dinner while looking out at the impressive views.

We left the hotel at 5AM this morning all dressed in waders in hope of a beautiful sunrise, and did we ever get one. We headed to the Jökulsarlon Ice Beach where the glacial ice washes up on the black volcanic sand beach. As the waves brought in new clear ice, the sky added color to the water and ice. For over an hour we all photographed the colorful ice and ever-changing composition as the waves would move it around. The images shot this morning will be some of the favorite of the trip.

Iceland Photo Workshop

John lining up the shot

Once the colorful sky faded, we headed over to the ice lagoon and photographed the large blue ice bergs as they floated in the lagoon after calving off the largest glacier in Europe. After such an exciting morning, we headed back to the hotel for a little rest after our very early start to the day.

During the mid-day harsh light, we spent a little time discussing post processing techniques with Lightroom and Photoshop, and even spent some time discussing luminosity masks to make selective edits.

In the afternoon, we headed back out to another glacial lagoon, the Fjallsarlón Lagoon. We shot many landscapes of this beautiful lagoon with its blue colorful ice, until the sun went down behind the mountains.

Back to the hotel for another impressive meal, and to bed early as we are going to Jökulsarlon Ice Beach again tomorrow morning.

Up and out with our waders on again this morning, an hour before sunrise to make sure we get all the color possible. As we arrived at the Jökulsarlon Ice Beach the light was just coming up with a touch of color. We had another great morning, and everyone kept working on their ice photos, looking for different compositions than the day before. Once the color faded, we headed back for breakfast at the hotel, and started our trek back to the Northwest side of Iceland.

Iceland Photo Workshop

As we retraced a lot of our steps, we stopped and re-shot a couple of locations that were in better light. We also took a little time to explore the beautiful Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and another couple of picturesque waterfalls. As we approached Vic, we stopped for lunch and a bit of a break.

As we entered the Snæfellsnes peninsula arriving at our hotel, the thick and low clouds came in eliminating our sunset plans. We opted for a nice dinner at a local pizza parlor, and some beers. With full bellies, we are off to bed, as we have a big day tomorrow.

At first light we headed out for a sunrise shot with beautiful Mount Kirkjufell, and then headed back for breakfast at the hotel.

We then started our trek across the Snæfellsnes peninsula with many photo opportunities. We started off photographing a very modern church with many different angles, and then followed by an old church with great leading lines. Changing our subjects, we then photographed two scenic orange lighthouses on the coast.

As the day continued we photographed the sea stacks off the coast, and then were treated to a black church with very nice skies.

With favorable skies for a nice sunset, we hiked up to the gorgeous Kirkjufellsfoss waterfalls with Kirkjufell mountain in the background. We were treated to many pink clouds in our compositions. It is such a beautiful scene, and so glad everyone was able to get a great shot.

Iceland Photography Workshop

JJ enjoying the beautiful scenery

Our last morning of the workshop, we set out for a sunrise shot of Mount Kirkjufell followed by breakfast. We checked out of our hotel and started the drive back to Keflavik and to the airport.

We had such a great group, and so many photographic opportunities. Thanks to Lin, Sam, John and JJ and their excitement for travel, exploring nature and photography.

Trip Report – Iceland Photography Workshop 2018 was last modified: February 6th, 2024 by Matt Shetzer