I never planned or desired to write about this trip. This trip was personal having recently gone through a break up, due to feeling a deep depression and a loss of who I was at the moment. However this trip turned into a bucket list check off, and a mental rebuilding of sorts. It has taken me over a year to realize how this trip has changed me in a positive way, we all have some demons in our life, its how we handle them that really shows who we are. If sharing my story can help even one person than it was all worth it. (short story: buy the ticket and go, you will never regret it!)
Have you ever been in a mental place in life where you just weren't "there" or able to slow down enough to figure out where you even were? Have you ever felt the world on your shoulders but you weren't sure why? Did you ever wonder what you were going to do the next day, hour, minute because you just felt so alone? Pushing a cart up hill is obviously harder than when on flat ground, but it gets much more difficult the more you are carrying in that cart. For me I could not unload anything mentally and was adding it by the day. I was lost and had no idea what way to go, my compass was not functioning but I knew I needed to do something or go somewhere.
Over the past 7 years I have enjoyed learning all different styles of photography, yet landscape photography has always been a passion of mine. As an outdoorsman I have enjoyed many beautiful vistas, waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets. It wasn't until I started creating images that I would take hikes or plan camping trips around a specific photograph I wanted to capture. All landscape photographers at one point or another find themselves chasing the light. They find a location and start photographing in the best light nature has to offer; be it a golden sunrise, a pastel filled sunset, to sun bursts through the trees as you photograph a waterfall. It is what drives us all to get up at crazy hours for first light or be standing on a mountain top awaiting sunset while our friends are enjoying an after work drink.
Photography had become my way of decompressing from the stresses of life and work. I would chase after the next image, even shooting the same places more than once a month as weather and lighting conditions changed. But in the winter and going into early spring of 2016 I was in a rut, something most photographers and creative types face more than once in their careers. I lost the desire to shoot landscapes, portraits, and rarely brought my camera anywhere with me now a days. With a mix of life stresses, feeling "I shot it all" (which is impossible by the way) and an ever deepening depressive state I didn't care much about photography. I would wander with a camera but just never seeing "the photo" I wanted. Even though looking back I was shooting photos like this photo to the left, however I just didn't know it.
On a random night at the end of March, beginning of April in 2016 I was reading about some friends who were planning their trip to Iceland. I started getting jealous about their trip the more and more I saw photos of amazing landscapes, stunning waterfalls and almost glass like icebergs. As I was talking to my friend Ben about his trip planning I started to realize it was much more accessible and affordable than I ever expected. Flights through WOW Airlines were almost a steal at well below $400 round-trip. Also with it being off season pricing I was able to find very reasonable rentals for a van I would drive and live out of for the entire trip. Okay, lets be honest, a normal person would not just start buying plane tickets, renting a van in another country for less than a month away but what did I have to lose? That is when it started, a random middle of the night decision to go to Iceland, becoming one of the best decisions I've made.
After going to work and securing the days off I needed for the trip I was 100% in now. By the time I got home that evening I had made the decision I would take on the Route 1, aka The Ring Road, a 1,332 kilometers (828 miles) route that circles the entire country of Iceland. After reading many, many blogs and traveler stories that night I figured to do it without rushing I would need minimum of 7 days but preferably 10+. Work was allowing me 8 days so I started planning what I wanted to see, do and photograph.
Something to know about Iceland, it is a waterfall and landscape photographers dream location. You can not look in a direction without seeing a waterfall, mountain vista, or amazing landscape. (If you do not believe me you'll see soon enough, but also watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) As badly as I just wanted to go with the flow I knew I also needed to have some basic logistics in place to of all the locations I wanted to visit, and so began the intensive Google Map you see above. (interactive maplinked below) I started with top locations throughout the country via google image searches to personal blogs, etc. Then I started hunting the smaller less known waterfalls and locations as I would be traveling solo without a hard and fast itinerary due to the flexibility that the rental van gave me. I was not locked into hotel or campground reservations as Iceland you basically can pull off the road anywhere and set up for the night.
My list started to look like gibberish with names of waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Svartifoss and Goðafoss. Then there were places that had nothing to do with waterfalls. For example where a United States Navy plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, in the South Coast of Iceland in 1973, or seeing all the lighthouses that were positioned throughout the entire island for ships to navigate around. I was realizing Iceland was full of beautiful locations to visit. I would do my best to see them all, but also wanted to keep everything very flexible.
Click the link: Iceland Logistic Map 2016
After the plan was roughed out I started putting together the gear I would need for my trip. First and foremost what camera equipment would I bring? Travel light and fast or with a bit more than normal? However when it came down to it, as you can see in the photo, I packed quite light for an 8 day trip. (This was due to the extra costs involved with checking bags on WOW Airline, so if you do use them please look into their checked baggage costs before you buy your tickets. It could cost you more in the long run if you aren't smart.)
At this point I was excited and slightly nervous, but ready! Each day went by so slow until it was the last day of work before my trip. I barely slept the night before, and was looking over my maps, trip plans, google searches making sure I wasn't missing anything. I woke up the day of my flight to my parents having a small birthday celebration for me because I was flying out the day before my 35th birthday. Ironically I celebrated this birthday a total of 5 times...twice in the US, once over the Atlantic thank you to some observant flight attendants, and twice in Iceland, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I flew out of Logan International Airport in Boston, MA at 9pm and would arrived at Keflavík International Airport in Iceland at 430am. This is when the journey that changed my life really began.