Land of Ice and Fire - Winter Landscape Photography Tour
High up north just outside the Arctic Circle, underneath a magnetic sky that weaves auroras violet, red and green, there is a land where glaciers and geysers, and fjords and volcanos intermingle to forge a land of ice and fire.
Navigate through this mercurial land this winter to reach a state of landscape photography bliss. And in the land of the opposite forces, achieve unity with the magic that spins around the sun by the name of Earth.
How is it?
Iceland is nothing if not alive. It's a living, changing landscape that breathes through its volcanos and bubbles through its geysers. And when things go south, looks cheerfully at you with its lush pastures and gushing waterfalls.
It wasn't always like this. Iceland is one of the planet's youngest landmasses, with all this geological bustle having mushroomed as recently as yesterday plus 25 million years ago. And it's still growing, at a positively pubescent 5 cm every year.
That rate of expansion for so long would make even an ant a giant, and surely enough, that's what Iceland is: the second largest island in Europe (after Great Britain) and the 18th largest on the planet. And the giant wears many robes.
In the southwest, moss-covered steaming lava fields are the choice outfit for some contrasting Arctic sizzle, while in the northwest, soaring fjords are the pick from the wardrobe for that flowing look. The coveted centre is attired in barren highlands to offset all the razzmatazz, while the terrain generally is bedizened with impressive peaks, plateaux and lowlands.
But the most striking aspect of this accoutrement is the dark hemline, in the form of black-sand beaches on the tortuous 5000 km coastline, striking enough to evoke memories of The Swan Queen and peculiar enough to feel like a scene from medieval fantasy, Game of Thrones, large and impressive parts of which are fittingly filmed here.
And with a sparse population and over 80% of Iceland's area reeling in joyous desertion, experience pristine seclusion as you set about witnessing a dazzle that's uniquely Icelandic in its 'Arcadian rhythms', and the convergence of elements in all their untamed colours: red, green and violet in the sky, blue and brown underneath — held together with lots of ice and a little fire.
What you will see and photograph:With so much going on, it's little wonder that the subject of this Tour is the land itself, in all its glorious forms.
SNÆFELLSNESOur voyage will begin with an unforgettable experience in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, famously known as a miniature model of Iceland, due to the way it encapsulates all the magnificent landscapes seen on the island, and home to the iconic Snæfellsjökull Glacier, a 1446 m-high active volcano that starred in Jules Vernes' classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and is the subject of much intrigue as alleged possessor of many mysterious attributes.
The glacier is surrounded by the Snæfellsjökull National Park, Iceland's first national park, with amazing lava formations, gorges and waterfalls, lovely towns and harbours, and an assortment of fascinating attractions.
GOLDEN CIRCLEYou will then journey to the Golden Circle and onwards to the South Coast and travel through the Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered Iceland's 'national shrine'.
In history it's home to the country's first parliament, from 930 to 1798 AD, and in the Game of Thrones world, backdrop to Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane's memorable journey through mid-Westeros, and birthplace of the rare 'Dragonglass' Obsidian, which is actually a piece of cooled lava from the wilderness of Thingvellir.
You will also visit the Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall and take a walk through the geothermal active area, Haukadalur, where you'll see the geyser Geysir, the etymological mother of the English word, and the excitable Strokkur, which is given to erupting every ten minutes.
In the South Coast, one of Iceland's most scenic regions, you'll discover the island's volcanic action first-hand, visiting such landmarks as the black pebble beach of Reynisfjara with its pyramid-shaped basalt columns, and the basalt sea stacks, Reynisdrangar, which, according to folklore, were trolls before sunlight turned them stolid.
This element of mythology, of trolls, elves and assorted supernatural creatures, which is an integral part of Icelandic culture, will be a constant companion on the Tour, adding an enchanting dimension to your experience. And in suitably dramatic environs, nothing will ever seem incongruous.
VATNAJÖKULLLying next to Europe's largest glacier is Iceland's largest national park of the same name, Vatnajökull, also encompassing Skaftafell in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur in the north, which is considered one of the country's most romantic and magical places. In all, the park covers some 13% of Iceland's area, and is among Europe's largest national parks.
Here you will be treated to fantastically diverse landscape despite a large part of it being underneath the icecap of the Vatnajökull Glacier, due in part to the constant interplay of volcanic activity and glaciers. In George Martin's universe, Vatnajökull is the mysterious land Beyond the Wall, home to mythical creatures and White Walkers. It's as mythical in the real world as it's real in the mythical world.
Here, spectacular photo opportunities are the byproduct of icebergs from Vatnajökull Glacier falling frequently into the lagoons and floating around until they melt or are small enough to be carried by the river to the sea.
The southern part of Vatnajökull, which envelops Iceland's highest peak, the mouthful Hvannadalshnúkur, is punctuated by the majesty of mountain ridges, with outlet glaciers gracefully descending betwixt them onto the handsome lowlands.
As for wildlife, Arctic foxes are the only originally native mammals on the island, while Icelandic horses, although not wild, are an absolute joy to photograph, particularly against such exquisite backdrops, and birdlife is rich to the teeth, although winter's not the best time to find them.
And amongst all this, whenever the weather conditions are conducive, we'll be hunting for the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) with enticing Icelandic nature in the foreground — just because we can, and because an outstanding thing can always be made even more surreal.
Especially if it's on the marvellous island of Iceland.
Oli Haukur is an Icelandic photographer specialising in landscape photography. After studying at the New York Institute of Photography, Oli made giant strides in his work, and photography soon became his second nature. Master of many trades, Oli regularly undertakes projects in architecture, commercial and wedding photography.
But the piece de resistance of Oli's portfolio is certainly his landscape images of Iceland, in which the country looks even more surreal than it is. Oli strives to portray the intimacy he feels with the place through evocative images shaped by the ever-changing light and the ethereal Aurora Borealis, combining his passion for travel and a reverence of nature to make images that speak eloquently of the lands he's worshipped.Oli may be followed on his Facebook Page and more his work may be savoured at www.olihphotography.com.
Read more about Oli here.
Behind Jayanth's awe-inspiring work are a fierce commitment to nail the composition in the field, an assiduous abstinence from digital manipulation, a nearly devotional love for quality, and zero appetite for compromise. Jayanth uses the strengths of his tools to his immense advantage, creating powerful vignettes of optical excellence designed to pamper the aesthetic corner of a nature lover.
Jayanth is one of the co-founders of Toehold and you can have a look at his work on his website www.wildlifetimes.com or keep a tab on him on his Facebook Page.
Read more about Jayanth here.
WHY GO ON A TOEHOLD PHOTO TOUR?At Toehold, we are passionate about photography just as you are, which lets us understand your travails and needs perfectly. And we use this insight to specially design our Photography Tours so they give you a toehold to excel at the art and set you up for success.
The Toehold team at your disposal will keep you tuned and geared, so you come in empty-handed but go out with bagful of images and tales of an experience that is better lived than heard.
- A clinically organized tour with utmost attention to your comfort and needs
- An open, informal environment that promotes interactive learning
- A team that will strategize and work to a plan to optimize opportunities and ensure a great tour
- Practical, hands-on assistance in photography from the tour Skippers both in the field and off it
- A wealth of subject matter knowledge
- Individual interaction with the Skippers over general or specific issues
- First-hand learning from the masters in the art and craft of photography
These exclusive, informative and interactive sessions are -
TESTIMONIALS BY OUR PREVIOUS TOUR PARTICIPANTSPhotography enthusiasts who were a part of a similar Tour previously said:
The Iceland tour with Toehold was an unforgettable experience. The landscapes were dreamy and incredibly varied, and it seemed like photography opportunities were around every corner. All thanks to the wonderful skippers who ensured that I made the most of the chances and came back with images that will haunt me and make me want to do the tour all over again!
- Shaji Mohammed, Dubai
Please click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.
- DAY 1 22 January 2017, Sunday: Arrival and Overnight in Reykjavik
Participants in Reykjavik arrive from various places, and once everyone has checked in to our hotel, we meet before dinner for a round of introduction and orientation, where Skipper Jayanth Sharma will set the tone for the Tour and brief the group on what to expect over days to come. We dine and retire for the night in hot anticipation of the icy-cool time to come.
- DAYS 2 and 3 23 and 24 January, Monday and Tuesday: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Our exploration of Iceland will start with the Snæfellsjökull Glacier and the charming villages and friendly people who nest around it. For two full days we enjoy the nature and the wildlife the area offers, and photograph the exceptional lava fields and formations, and fill our eyes and memory cards with its gorgeous gorges and waterfalls, lovely towns and harbours.
- DAYS 4 and 5 25 and 26 January, Wednesday and Thursday: Golden Circle and South Coast
We proceed down the island from the West to the South Coast and enter the famous Golden Circle. We visit the Thingvellir National Park absorbing the nation's history, and move on to examining certain more geologically significant features of Thingvellir, and observe how the faults and fissures of the area make evident the rifting of the earth's crust. We'll walk through some of those fissures and get a glimpse of Iceland's history and learn why Thingvellir is a World Heritage site. The day includes stops at Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall and a walk through the geothermal active area, Haukadalur, where we will see the geyser Geysir and an eruption from the geyser Strokkur.
We'll spend the next day on the South Coast of Iceland, from Reykjavík to the Vík, a charming village. We'll discover the island's volcanic activities while passing by some of the island's active volcanoes, and behold their most recent eruptions. Along the way we enjoy the sight of the black-pebble beach of Reynisfjara and the basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. Dyrhólaey, Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss and Sólheimasandur and its notorious plane wreck are amongst our stops.
- DAY 6 27 January, Friday: Glacier Lagoon
We'll visit the magical and romantic Jökulsárlón, a large glacial lake on Iceland's southeast coast, close to the beautiful Skaftafell and the Vatnajökull National Parks, and witness the floating of the icebergs from the Vatnajokull glacier to the lagoon.
- DAY 7 28 January, Saturday: Ice Caves
We'll also visit an icecave underneath Vatnajökull (ice caves form under the glaciers in the autumn and last through the winter), venturing in with helmets, head-torches and crampons underneath our boots. Caves can be found in several different locations on the south side of glacier Vatnajökull, and the surroundings are magical.
In the evening we're dropped off to the airport hotel, Keflavik.
- DAY 8 29 January, Sunday: Checkout and Departure
After breakfast we checkout and are transferred to the airport, whence, having enjoyed an enchanting time on the exotic island of Iceland, we fly back home.
Inclusive of taxes
Inclusive of taxes
Inclusive of taxes
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who should participate in this Tour? Are there any eligibility criteria?
Anybody interested in Arctic or general wildlife and/or wildlife, landscape or bird photography and is above the age of 18 (unless accompanied by an adult) can participate in this Tour. There are no eligibility criteria.
I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. In fact, if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour, we recommend that you be familiar with at least the basics of photography. Please talk to us for more details.
I am not into photography. Would you still recommend this Tour?
Most certainly! While photographers will probably derive maximum value from this Tour, non-photographers will enjoy the expedition equally.
How cold will it be?
The weather is variable, but the average hovers between –10 and – 20°C. There will be considerable wind chill.
What fitness level is required?
Although this is not a very physically intensive Tour, some basic amount of physical fitness is required, chiefly to withstand the cold, undertake short and easy to moderate walks and treks. If you suffer from known illnesses, please consult your physician before signing up for the Tour.
By what mode will photography be done on this Tour?
We'll be using vehicles to get to the places of attraction, but most or all of the photography will be done on foot.
Will you provide visa assistance?
Yes. You need a valid Schengen visa to enter Island, and while the Tour cost does not include visa expenses, all the assistance you require in procuring a visa will be duly provided.
How sure are you about this Tour being photographically productive?
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our photography were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment and are visiting in the winter, we do not claim that the conditions will always be conducive to photography.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
The focus of this Tour is on landscape photography, so a good ultra-wide-angle lens and a wide-angle zoom are musts along with graduated neutral-density, neutral density or variable neutral density, and circular polarising filters, a fisheye lens being welcome, too. For the occasional portrait and to photograph the horses, a 50mm or equivalent normal lens would be desirable. A tripod is absolutely necessary, and so is an intervalometer if your camera doesn't feature in-built interval shooting, or just a wireless or cabled remote release otherwise, for bulb photography.
I do not own appropriate equipment. What do I do?
If you do not own adequate photography gear, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Click here to see what we offer. What's better, you enjoy a 10% discount on all equipment hired on our Photo Tours!
How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven't experienced themselves, Toehold Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.
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