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4 Things I Learned In Iceland

It’s been four months since my epic roadtrip around Iceland. I promised I’d fill you in, and if you kept an eye on my Instagram stories, you’d see I micro-journalled my day by day.

Don’t worry if you missed it, it’s available on my profile as a highlight!

But since then, life has taken over, work has been crazy, and my own blog has taken off. Finally, I’m back to normality (if there is such a thing) and want to share some important lessons I learned and that have stayed with me from this trip.

4 Things I Learned by Casey-Drew
4 Things I Learned by Casey-Drew

1. If you think you’re prepared, you’re not!

You can pack all the kit you want, but at the end of the day, you work with what mother nature throws your way. I showed you the kit I’d packed before I left, but perhaps I should have extended this to give you an insight into what clothing and accessories I packed.

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Despite my warmest coat, several layers of jumpers, a hat, scarf, and with my hood up, nothing prepares you for chilblains when you’re already in your tried and tested warmest pair of gloves! Given that I visited just before Iceland’s idea of “summer” kicked in, I’ve never been colder.

Trialling my Tenba Tools BYOB insert
Trialling my Tenba Tools BYOB insert

So the moral of the story is: if you can’t feel your fingers and they go purple, shooting becomes impossible! Pack extra layers, extra gloves, and even some pocket handwarmers, it will mean less trips back to the car to warm up (but oh, those heated seats!)

Also when you misplace your eyepiece cover, but are too far from the car/your kit bag, use a glove! Well, we don’t want light leak. But, we don’t want cold hands, either…

The weather meant that I was often unable to reach my destination
Brimketill on a stormy day, shot at ISO800, 32mm, f/22, 1/80s and with added rain! I gave up trying to shield the lens…

2. Learn to adapt

I’d planned a route for my trip, had the shots I wanted to take all jotted down, but again the weather meant that I was often unable to reach my destination. Terrible snowstorms made roads impassable, at times you couldn’t even see one foot in front of you! This meant I had to re-plan the trip as I went along, even cancelling and finding new accommodation, and adapting to take shots of wherever I found myself.

You can never be guaranteed a great signal, so use of data can be a bit iffy; a great idea is to a) always travel with at least one folding roadmap (and maybe a guidebook too) and b) to have a back up plan in mind if you think there’s a possibility you’ll be in the middle of nowhere!

I found an even better hot spring in Reykjavik!
If you want some real Icelandic hot springs, check out Seltún, just off of route 42 – easily reachable on a day trip from Reykjavik instead of the Golden Circle, this is much quieter and also one of the coolest roads to drive!

My rearranged plans saw me exploring Reykjavik – which I didn’t think I’d get to go to – and finding an even better hot spring area than the super-touristy Strokkur/Geysir.

3. Everyone does the same thing, so be different

Standing on the top viewing platform at Gullfoss – notoriously popular because of the “golden circle”, I looked around, and honestly, I laughed. I was one of seven photographers, quite literally in a line, set up with ND filters, shooting long exposures with my SRB ND1000 Rugged filter. It was comical; everyone eyeing each other up, checking out their gear. I was the only female, I will add, which seemed to amuse some of the “hardcore male explorers” in their annoying yellow jackets (honestly, they should be banned).

Snowfall at Gullfoss

I took the shot, because you know, I was there, but I swiftly looked around for another angle, a way to be different. Luckily, staying at Hotel Gullfoss just up the road meant that I was the only person there first thing in the morning, taking shots of the fresh snowfall over the waterfall, and this time shooting from the lower platform.

Gullfoss in the snow
Gullfoss after fresh snowfall, it pays to get up early! ISO100, 20mm, f/29, 30s with SRB ND1000 Rugged filter

It’s a given if you go somewhere touristy that there will always be a barrage of other people, shooting the same subject as you (worst of all is when you get a great angle, then emerge from looking through your viewfinder to see you’ve drawn a crowd and others are doing it too), so what better reason than looking for those places that many overlook?

Seljalandsfoss waterfall
The first Icelandic waterfall I stopped at, don’t be tempted to walk behind it on a stormy day with all of your kit…you will look like you’ve had a shower… ISO800, 11mm, f/20, 1/30s, handheld
Reynisfjara
Not the shot I’d counted on capturing, but one that fully encapsulates my experience of this weather-beaten coast. I had to fight the wind just to stand up and take this one! ISO400, 21mm, f/8, 1/40s, handheld

4. Enjoy the little things

Your fondest travel memories will often be the unplanned ones. The silly, nonsensical things. Running to the car in a snow storm, your black coat white with snow, shaking it off and soaking the interior, putting on the heated seats, and laughing at how much fun freezing your ass off is if you’ve got a pretty view.

Our car at Stampar Crater Row
Exploring Stampar Crater Row with the aid of our trusty hire car. Always shoot all the stuff you don’t think you need to, you’ll thank yourself later!

The hot coffee at the independent café you just happened to drive past. The seal, bobbing its head up and down amidst the glaciers. Climbing in waterfalls. Sitting on the bonnet to have lunch in front of a mountain. What do these things have in common? No camera. Put the camera down, and take the time to enjoy your surroundings. This will make journeys you will never forget.

The mountains at Vik
Shooting from the car window is a great way to capture the in-between moments of your trip. I was in awe of these snow-capped mountains just outside Vik.

About the author

Check out much more of Casey-Drew’s amazing work at her websiteTwitter and Instagram!

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