This is a blog about my photographic experience in Iceland over a one week period in the winter with my family. We clearly didn't cover all of Iceland but I can offer some thoughts on the sites we did visit and on photography in Iceland's winter. I'll begin with some high level comments, then I'll cover various locations and I'll end with my gear.
I had high expectations for Iceland (given all of the hype) and I was a bit worried that they were too high. However, we were lucky with the weather and I can confirm that the photographic opportunities in Iceland are bountiful and truly amazing.
Why winter? I can't speak to what Iceland is like in the summer, but I can highly recommend, somewhat counterintuitively, visiting in the winter. Ironically, it was warmer in Iceland than most of the east coast of the U.S. That said, it is still cold (think 23 to 32 F) and windy (think up to 25 mph). And the most notable feature of their winter is the light. The sun rises in early January around 10:50am, never gets more than 3 degrees into the sky, and sets around 3:20pm. That is only 4.5 hours of direct sunlight (assuming the sky isn't completely overcast). However, the "blue hour" is really an hour both in the morning and in the evening. So you actually have light to work with from about 9:45am to 4:15pm, which is 6.5 hours. That said, 6.5 hours of light per day is not a lot to work with. But it is essentially sunrise/sunset quality light throughout the entire day. One strategy for maximizing the available light is to eat a hearty breakfast around 9am and then skip lunch, or as my family insisted, at least grab a light/quick lunch.
Aurora. Another reason to visit Iceland in the winter is for the aurora. But don't bet on it. You need to be lucky. There needs to be solar activity (check the KP index on http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/ ) and you need dark, clear skies. More on this later.
Cost. Iceland isn't too expensive to fly to, but be prepare for major sticker shock when you are there. I didn't do the math (for fear of the answer) but it might have been the most expensive week of travel (not including airfare) that we ever experienced.
Tourists. We were shocked at the number of people in Iceland even during winter. Cram all of those people into a select few sites, in the few hours of the day, and with few opportunities to walk where others won't venture, and you will need to deal with crowds. Sometimes it can work to your advantage (people can give perspective to a photo), and sometimes it is fun (like when a tourist gets soaked in a wave on the beach), but most of the time it is frustrating.
Cliché vs creativity. I had a list of shots that I wanted to get, mostly based on what I had seen on the web. Let's call those the "cliché" shots. Show one of those photos to somebody who hasn't seen the clichés and they will go "wow", which is why we seek them. But spend too much of the limited time trying to get the cliché and you are not spending time thinking creatively about the unique shots that are your own. Worse, you might be disappointed in the setting or light that you have, which causes you to not think creatively, thereby missing out on an opportunity to do something different. Getting this balance right is hard, especially in a place like Iceland. My suggestion is to be aware of this tension so that you don't find yourself leaning too much one way or the other.
Reykjavik is a beautiful city, but very crowded. We first went to the Sun Voyager statue and I was immediately frustrated by the people, but patience can still leave with a photo worth recording the experience.
There are many opportunities for street photography.
We stopped here for lunch (which was quite good). I don't recommend spending too much time here. After Yellowstone, it is hard to get excited about geothermal areas. And it is super packed with people.