I use google earth as my main planning tool when preparing for a photo trip. I look at the terrain and use the feature that displays geo-referenced photographs to try and find the places I wanted to explore.
I also brought a paper map (which proved to be my main navigation tool as Apple Maps and Google Maps had a lot of difficulty finding their way around).
I had planned to rent a small car and drive myself around and that was probably my biggest mistake of the trip (the small car). It prevented me from going into the interior of the island to get to some of the more incredible waterfalls that I wanted to photograph because the roads are so bad it's actually illegal to drive on them in small cars. Next time I will rent an SUV - which will be incredibly expensive, but a necessary expense for me. Also a word of warning - gasoline is also incredibly expense. When I was there it worked out to about $9-$10 US dollars per gallon.
There are tourists buses all over the main road from Reykjavík to Vík í Mýrdal(more about Vík later). If you are wanting to visit Iceland primarily for photography, do not waste your time with the tour buses. Driving around Iceland was no problem at all as long as you obey the rules which aren't much different than anywhere else. Almost all the photographs I ended up taking were places I hadn't planned on visiting and that the tour buses don't visit. Exploring the island at your own pace is the best way to go.
My bases for the trip were in Selfoss and Patreksfjörður.
I planned on two 'home bases' for my trip. For the first half of my trip, I rented a cabin north of Selfoss which was centrally located for many of the areas of South, Iceland that I wanted to photograph. For the second half I rented a flat in the town of Patreksfjörður which is in north-west Iceland in Westfjords.
I chose August/September for my trip for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted it to get dark enough at night to see the northern lights - not something that happens during the summer. I also wanted to avoid the huge crowds of people that tour Iceland in the summer.
Below you can see everything I brought along for the trip. It all fit into two suitcases as well as the large carry-on sized camera bag.
I went grocery shopping when I got there for food and snacks and cooked my own meals. I was on a very small budget so I only ate out once.
1. Carbon Fiber Tripod | 2. Sturdier aluminum tripod for the big lens | 3. Nikon 500mm F/4 | 4. Nikon 300mm f/2.8 | 5. Nikon 50mm F1.4 | 6. Lighting: two speedlights and three remote triggers | 7. Nikon Micro 105mm f/2.8 | 8. Nikon 85mm f1.8 | 9. Nikon 24mm f/1.4 | 10. Two Nikon D810 cameras | 11. plastic trash bags (water protection) | 12. Map and guidebook | 13. Neutral density and polarizing filters | 14. Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 | 15. Laptop, Memory Cards and Batteries | 16. Shutter release cables and chargers | 17. Power plug adapter | 18. GoPro Camera | 19. Large Camera Bag | 20. Lightweight camera bag | 21. Suitcase for normal clothes | 22. Second Suitcase with cold weather outerwear just in case (and padding for the camera gear)
I flew direct to Reykjavík on an overnight flight. I knew I would need to sleep on the flight so I deliberately got very little sleep the night before my flight so that it would be easier to sleep on the plane. Unfortunately, I underestimated my excitement for the trip and I was not able to sleep a wink on the seven-hour flight.
While reading a novel I had brought along I remember seeing flashes of lightning out the window out of the corner of my eye. It took me a few minutes to realize how unlikely it would be to see lightning that far north and that time of the year so I slowly turned my head to gaze out the window to see the flashes of light were actually green and there were no clouds. For the first time in my life I was seeing the flashes of the northern lights dancing across the sky.
The aurora borealis is something I have wanted to see for my entire life. I'll admit I was emotional upon finally seeing it and shed a tear or two. I lost track of time as I stared out the window. Everyone around me was asleep and most the windows were shut, today I still wonder if I was the only one on the plane to watch the beautiful light show besides (I'm hoping) the pilots.
After my sleepless night crossing the Atlantic the plane landed at sunrise giving me a full day to begin my photography trip and get my bearings.
On my first evening in Iceland I saw this young couple taking a selfie in front of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall in southern Iceland.