The Faroe Islands with a hint of NORTHERN ireland and iceland

It's been on my short list of places to shoot for years

The problem is; the Faroe Islands are kind of hard to get to. They're in the middle of the North Atlantic, kinda all by themselves (they are technically an autonomous part of Denmark, and use the Danish Krone as their currency) and it never worked out that I could get there…until my friend Kim (a lights-out travel and landscape shooter) invited me and my brother Jeff as his guests aboard the private cruise ship "The World" (the ship was a trip unto itself. Unreal!).

It was like Iceland…but without all the tourists

I almost didn't get the above shot…

Because we almost just got back in our car and drove away. When we got to the shooting location, it was so fogged in we could barely even see the trail down to the waterfall. We're standing there in the fog, and I'm saying, "Should we even bother walking down there?" and my friend Kim says, "Hey, the fog could move out as quickly as it moved in. Think positive!" and so we grabbed our gear; took the short walk down, and sure enough, Kim was right — the fog started to clear.

Three brave photographers, heading out into the foggy nothingness, hoping to at some point find a waterfall, and simultaneously not fall off the side of a cliff.

We started setting up our tripods, and literally, right then Kim's tripod broke. He extended the leg on his Gitzo tripod, and the leg fell right out of its sleeve, with pieces of it lying there in the dirt. Kim just rolled with it. Once he picked up the pieces off the ground, he looked at me said "No worries (He's an Aussie by the way); I've got my Platypod!" He takes his ball head off his tripod; screws it on his Platypod and he's back up and shooting (see below).

That's Kim putting his Platypod on a fence post to shoot a long exposure with a 10-stop ND filter.
This is a shot of my big brother Jeff just for reference. Most awesome brother on the planet. We've been best friends since I was 9 (he was off in the Navy 'till then) and I love traveling with him. He loves life, loves to travel, and we literally laugh our way through trips.
Here's a pano taken about 30 minutes later after the sun went down.

A few minutes earlier, we were shooting cloud banks

On the way to the waterfall we saw the scene below; pulled over; and set up our tripods to shoot the tips of these mountains peaking up through the clouds.

Little did we know we'd be at the base of this massive rock on a small boat just a few days later.
That's me and Kim. We turned the corner, saw those clouds and a mountain peeking out of them, and we pulled the car right over; got out the tripods, and started shooting away.
This doesn't look like I'm up very high, and I'm not. I'm just a big scaredy cat.

That photo (above) was the scariest one of the trip for me

I'm terribly afraid of heights, and while probably nobody else would think where I was shooting from was scary, I surely did. I wound up slowly going down to a barbed-wire fence, and I took that shot from there with my camera sitting on a fence post.

Roofs with grass are a big thing in the Faroes.
Look at that small house on the far left for scale. That's a big ol' rock pano!

So, we took a boat tour. It was way better than I expected

And way warmer, too. It was summer, but VERY chilly in the Faroe Islands and it had been so cold on the ship's deck that morning I thought we'd turn into popsicles on that open boat, but as it turned out, it was fine, and despite the boat bobbing around in the water, and me having to boost my ISO a bit to get my shutter speed up enough to hope to get some sharp shots, it came out way better than expected. The reason we booked this tour ($70 per person) was to get out to see these sea stacks and the big mountain thingy sticking up out of the sea. Totally worth it.

This is what was sticking out of those clouds. We figured it's about 2,000 feet high (just a guess). The back side of it is sheared off like someone cut it with a knife.

Here's some more shots from the bobbing boat tour.

Got that last shot as we pulled back into the harbor. Looks like the boat was a little bigger than they had planned. LOL.
Another from the boat tour
This is from the boat tour — it's the base of the waterfall from the first shot at the top of this post. What you can't see is the boat bobbing around like mad.
That's Kim and I at the base of that waterfall that you saw in the first photo on that little boat tour. Thanks for the bunny ears, Kim (photo by Don Shewring).
This shot isn't as romantic as it seems (see below)
Yeah, this is the Behind-the-Scenes shot. So that previous shot was taken after I stepped off the tour bus, from the parking lot. I just framed it so you can't see the parking lot. Shhhhh, don't tell anybody.

Then we headed to Iceland, and stopped at a really cool island just offshore the main island.

Here's our ship, "The World" anchored just off Vestmannaeyjar.

Vestmannaeyjar - what a cool little island!

That's not the island. Well, it is an island, but not Vestmannaeyjar. This was my view from breakfast on the boat. I went back to our cabin, got my camera, and took this from the top deck.
Brought out the 70-200mm to get it tight on the one lone house on that island.

Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland (also known as "The Westman Islands")

We rented a car, and you could literally drive from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. I am not kidding. It was a gorgeous island, with a beautiful golf course (which my brother Jeff took advantage of, and said it was one his top 5 all-time golf experience, and that's saying something. He's played St. Andrews, Pebble Beach, lots of the great. I think because it was so spontaneous (we just happened to drive by it, and he could literally just walk on and play), and in such a beautiful place, that it really made the experience special for him, and I was thrilled that he got to play a round.

That's one of 'The World's' tenders heading into the small port at Vestmannaeyjar
This is a closer in pano of the scene in the previous pano. Just a different perspective.
One of the world's largest nesting areas of Puffins is on this island, but I was too chicken (heights) to get down to where they were, so I had to try and catch one as it flew by. Kinda lame shot. Oh, well.
They had a pretty cool old lighthouse in the middle of nowhere.
I left out mighty rental car in the shot. I kinda like it there. Did a Bleach Bypass thing on the sky.
It's like a lighthouse…on the surface of Mars. Apparently, I'm fascinated with this thing.
Last one of the Lighthouse. I promise. Time to move on.
This is the view from the opposite end of the island where the Lighthouse is; this is where Puffins go to hide from me.

A few more from Vestmannaeyjar

Over to the Mainland. Big Iceland.

We only had one day there before our flight home. First stop; we went to shoot the Geyser. It's cool to see, but it's not the most photogenic thing in Iceland (or perhaps even in the top 100), but we had all been to all the regular Iceland hot spots on previous trips, so…we went to the Geyser.

Here's a link to photos from my previous trip.

It looks like this, only wetter. Lots of standing around waiting - there's no warning when it's about to blow - it just goes.

We drove out to one of the glaciers

In just a regular rent-a-car. The roads were…well…I'm not sure they were roads. It was like driving on the surface of the moon, but with bigger rocks. We didn't have a special rental-a-car either. It was an SUV, but a standard old rental SUV, which made the whole experience rather hair-raising, and I'm probably sure that somewhere in that rental agreement it said something along the lines of "Whatever you do, don't try to drive out the glacier or this car will self destruct." At one point my brother, who was sitting in the back seat, said, "When we return this thing, they're going to have to sell it for scrap." He wasn't far off.

This was the view from the point we realized that we could go no further. It was quite cold, and perhaps it was because that white area on the far right was a freakin' glacier.
This is what the glacier looks like from our vantage point on the road of pointy rocks and boulders. If you're in Iceland, and you're lucky enough to get a rental car, I highly recommend not driving it out toward the glacier. Take one of the tours that takes you out on a super high rugged truck thing with 50" wheels, and they give you special suits so you stay alive on the glacier.
See those fools in front of us, heading down to what I'm sure will be certain death? At least they're in a Toyota Land Cruiser with semi large wheels. We were in like a Honda HR-V, which is a crossover that's low to the ground, and more like a small Toyota Camry but with weaker suspension. I took a picture of their vehicle because it can help the local authorities in identifying the bodies.
Then we went here. A national park where they filmed some of The Wall scenes from Game of Thrones. Not an awesome picture by any means, but that's pretty much all I got there.
Well, that and this, which was nominated for Bad Lens Flare shot of the year.
If you turned left and took a shot from that waterfall, this is what you would see. Needless to say, this was not a fertile shooting ground for me, like the rest of Iceland is. Kinda lame really.
We were kind of out of position for sunset, so we wound up heading back to Reykjavik where the boat The World was anchored and we got the classic shot of the Viking Boat that I always swore to myself I would never take because if I ever got back to Iceland, especially just for one day, I would do a better job of planning my sunset shoot location. Alas, I did not and well, here you have it. Great sunset sky though. Sigh.

Lets 'Time Travel' Back to the Start of This Trip

We actually boarded "The World" (which was a stunningly, incredible ship with ridiculously good food and absolutely top-notch service. Can't say enough about it. Really just wow!) in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was actually tickled to catch up with the ship there because there are two places nearby that happened to be on my shooting wish list as well — the "Dark Hedges" and the "Giant's Causeway" both of which are less than an hour's drive from Belfast. So, my brother and I came in a day before the ship sailed from Belfast, we got a rental car; got up early the next morning and headed to the hedges.

NOTE: I had wanted to shoot the Dark Hedges years before they were featured in Game of Thrones. Well, I can't say that for sure, because I only binge-watched GOT in the past year, so it could've been featured before I knew about them, but I wanted to shoot there before I knew they were famous. I'm not quite sure why I'm telling you this other than to say, "While I am a Game of Thrones fan boy, I did not shoot the Dark Hedges out of fandom. That was just a bonus."

The Hedges are dark and full of terrors. I mean Instagrammers and influencers. So yeah, terrors. If you face this way, this is the view.
If you turn around, this is the view from the opposite direction (you enter right at the end down there. It's a short walk from the parking lot, and hotel, and snack stand.

But it really looks more like this when you're standing there

This was the first shot I took when I got there, and I thought to myself, "I must be doing something wrong. This just looks like a tree-lined road. Not dark. Not scary. Not hedgy." I actually was doing something wrong — shooting with a wide angle lens. Once I switched to my 70-200mm and took a shot, I was like, "ohhhhh, yeah, this needs the compression of a long lens." Boom. Done.
The Hedges are dark and full of Scott.
This scene, this house and grounds are directly across the street from the Dark Hedges.

But even with having to patiently wait out, or clone out, an Instagrammer or two, it was still way better than my experience at the Giant's Causeway.

SPOILER ALERT: If you don't go at dawn, don't bother bringing your camera. It is over-run with tourists, many of whom must think it was a filming location for Game of Thrones, but I don't remember seeing it in the series, so I'm thinking not.

Here's what it looks like an hour or so after sunrise:

Breathtaking isn't It?
There are tourists walking over everything everywhere. Plus, it's a crazy long walk down there. TIP: Pay the few bucks and take the round trip shuttle bus. Walking down to it wouldn't be bad but the trip back up hill for like 2 miles wouldn't be awesome. I saw people begging and bribing workers with golf carts to give them a ride back to the visitor center (which is actually quite nice, but it's far enough way that it's in a different area code, and they use different currency).

So, I came up with a game.

The game was to try and take a photo of the stone pillars without having a single tourist in them. Now I know there are some Camera and Photoshop tricks I could have used, but the only work if everybody is continually moving from place to place. However, these folks would pick a rock and camp out. Some literally brought breakfast and would eat it on the rocks. There were first aid people everywhere because I can't imagine that people aren't tripping and getting hurt, or possibly killed left and right. People have fallen and died. Children have been swept out to sea by an unexpected wave. I am not making this up. I can't believe they allow anyone, let alone children, climb pretty much anywhere out on these stones. One little slip and it's goodbye, Charlie. Anyway, back to the game.

I managed to get three shots. It wasn't the most fun game.

So, should you visit the Giant's Causeway?

"Super no!" Well, how about super-maybe, but probably "no!" Unless you can be there and get set up in place before dawn, and you get lucky and get a great cloudy sky, which of course there's no real way to know that 100% in advance, I would say skip it. In fact, I'm not certain it's worth even getting up early for.

I saw where MSN.com wrote, "Northern Ireland's Giant's Causeway is the most disappointing tourist attraction in the world, according to a survey conducted by the Irish Times." That may be a little strong, but I'd say it has to be in the top 5. Also, if you're not taking a long lens to the Dark Hedges, you can skip that one, too because when you're there, you wouldn't actually know you're in the Dark Hedges at all. It's more of a photographic effect. It looks great in pictures. In real life? Meh.

How about some behind the scenes shots of "The Lads" (OK, mostly me, but also my brother Jeff, Kim and his buddy Donny).

I don't look at that cold in this shot, but if you look behind me you'll see a Glacier. Just after this was taken, I froze into a solid block of ice, and had to taken to the hot springs to thaw out.

A few last shots from the Faroe Islands

Thanks for letting me share my Faroe Islands trip with you

Thanks to my friend Kim for inviting Jeff and me on this trip — it was an absolutely epic trip and one we'll never forget. I have fond memories of our breakfasts each morning, our Karaoke night; hanging out in the bar after dinner telling stories, riding around in various rental cars and praying for our lives while driving way too fast on the surface of the moon. So many great, and yet harrowing times! Wouldn't change a thing! :-)

CAMERA INFO: All photos (except the Behind-the-scenes shots, mostly taken by Jeff) were taken with a Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless using a Canon 16-35mm f/4 lens; a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens; a Gitzo traveller tripod, an Oben BE-117 Ballhead, and a Platypod Ultra camera base. Also, 10-stop and 3-stop Haida ND filters.

Created By
Scott Kelby


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