The following Article was written by Eastlyn, with photos by both Eastlyn & Joshua and a few contributing artists named throughout the post.
We were invited to come to Iceland by the incredible Brain & Maria of 222Photography based in Columbus, Ohio to be the photographers for their destination ten year vow renewal. This left us speechless as we know that they're exceptional and seasoned photographers themselves and have many friends who are equally as talented. The fact that they decided to ask us is an honor that we do not take for granted. We're excited to share those images on this blog in the future, so please subscribe if you'd like to see more.
As we were planning our time with them, Joshua and I decided to make a little adventure out of it and drive around the coast before we joined them at the glacier lagoon in the south.
On so many of our trips together, we are photographing others, so Joshua told me before we left that he wanted to take a lot of images of me—and that he wanted to make our time together a personal project full of dramatic "fairytale-like" photos. In an effort to be more personal here, we're excited to share these images and stories with you today.
Please feel free to reach out of you have any questions about our experiences or need recommendations.
Day 1 - Along the Road: from Reykjavik to Godafoss waterfall
We flew Wowair from Detroit all night and arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland at 10am; but after picking up our luggage and car from IceRental 4x4 (a discounted & off-site 4x4 rental business that we highly recommend), we didn't start our drive north until about noon.
Our goal was to make it to an Airbnb just outside the little fishing town of Húsavík on the other side of Akureyri. Looking back, we're glad that we decided to drive all the way around the coast, but I don't think I would recommend it to anyone unless you have more time to fully enjoy it.
Simply put, we were exhausted. The intended six hour trip to our place took us about eleven hours because of how many times we had to pull over to take a nap. Staying up all night and then driving through snow blasted mountain pass roads all day is probably not the wisest decision we could have made.
Although we were exhausted, the views we saw still surprised us. After having experienced the south coast in 2016, we came expecting the landscape to look similar to the Iceland we already knew and loved—black sand and rocks, jagged mountains and rolling green moss. However, in many ways, the fjords, mountains and coastline reminded us of the landscapes we experienced in Alaska. Further in the north, the mountain passes looked like the images I've seen of Scotland, and the coast reminded us of our time in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. All this to say, Iceland's diversity astounded us in the best way possible.
That's one of our favorite parts of travel—thanks to the internet, we always tend to arrive with some sort of idea of what to expect, but without fail, we're amazed by what we find. Photos will never be able to it justice; truly, you have to experience these places in the flesh and blood.
The first pictures in this set were taken either from the road or by pulling off on the side of the road, and the images at the end were taken at Godafoss Waterfall after sunset.
- In mid May, the sun set between 10-11pm each night and it rose at about 4am each morning.
- We highly recommend the Airbnb we stayed in on night #1. It was spotlessly clean, the rainforest shower head was relaxing and the floor in the washroom was heated. Our host allowed us to come as late as we needed, and provided self check-in.
- Most of the F roads, especially in the north do not open until June. For instances, we were unable to see Dettifoss because the southbound road to it was closed due to thawing conditions.
- 4x4s require a lot of fuel, and fuel in Iceland is around $7-8 USD a gallon. That's something that we didn't bring into consideration when budgeting for this trip. If you want a 4x4 (which we did need for some of the snowy mountains roads that we decided to take, and also some of unmarked roads in the National Park) just make sure you consider your fuel expense.
Day 2: Hverir Geothermal Area
One of the places I really wanted to see on our road trip was the Hverir Geothermal Area near Reykjahlíð. In the morning before we arrived, we took a few backroads around the coast only to discover that the last road we needed to take to get there was closed. At first we decided to just keep heading south to make it to Hofn by the end of the day, but after a few moments, I felt an ache in my heart and started crying. Joshua knew why. He immediately turned around and we drove two hours back the other way so that we could see Hverir.
When we arrived, intense winds were blowing dense clouds of dirt and sand across the valley below the thermal mountain. As we attempted to climb, sand kicked up into our eyes, temporarily blinding our visibility and loosening the trail into slippery, sliding gravel. We turned around due to the danger. However the blowing dust, although far from pleasant, was still mesmerizing us and we wanted to stay longer.
I always wanted to do portraits in this type of environment, so on a whim, Joshua and I collaborated to make it happen. To capture it the way it felt and looked, I put on a long black skirt that I had stuffed in our backpack, took off my winter gear (it was actually freezing!), and with eyes closed, I ran out into the middle of the windy valley.
As each new gust blew, we could see clouds of debris moving rapidly toward us and Joshua would yell, “here it comes, close your eyes!” I turned my back to the wind and like a ribbon dancer, lifted my scarf high, feeling the gale beat sand against my back and pour down my shirt. With limited visibility, Joshua took shots, hoping/wishing/praying something would turn out.
We jumped back into the Jeep as dusty as we could possibly be (and my hair more tangled than ever) and saw the images that we created. They will always be a reminder of my most favorite day in Iceland and how with so much patience, Joshua sacrificed two hours of drive time (and a lot fuel expense) to get us here because he loves me.
All in all, this area wasn't as impressive as I expected it to be, in fact it was pretty small, but the weather made up for that and gave us something to remember. During these conditions though, I would highly recommend wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes while you're walking the trails.
Also Day 2: East Fjords
The East Fjords of Iceland were unlike anything we expected. Just when we thought we found our new favorite place in the country, we drove around the next corner and changed our minds...
We were continually impressed to awe with the countless unusual mountain formations and how they sharply met the sea at their bases.
We found a small gravel road heading to the center of one of the peninsulas, and drove down it a bit (thanks so have a 4x4), stopped when it became too rocky, and just sat to stare at the snow capped peaks. I think it would take a lifetime of visits to fully understand what this tiny country has to offer. Iceland is so much more than its south.
We stayed in Hofn on night #2, which we highly recommend, but we did not like our Airbnb so I will not include its name here. If you're planning a trip here, we suggest that you book your lodging way in advance. There are limited options in this region of Iceland so the best places sell out quickly.
Day 3 - South Coast: Glacier Lagoon & Vow Renewal
Jökulsarlón Glacier Lagoon, although very popular (so usually crowed during the day), is one of our favorite places in Iceland. Its source glacier, part of Vatnajökull National Park, is the largest glacier in all of Europe. It lies on top of many active volcanos, one of which, Öræfajökull (pronounced er-eye-wha-jokull), was being watched extremely close while we were visiting because it was at a level yellow and speculated to become elevated at any time. The farms and regions of the park on the southwest side were as rick of glacial flooding.
While hiking in this area, Joshua and I laughed as were reenacted the scene from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty where the local is trying to tell Walter that the mountain is about to blow.
After hiking around the lagoon alone for awhile, we went back to the parking lot and met up with Brian & Maria to spend some with them and take their portraits at the lagoon and the surrounding area before their official vow ceremony that evening with their friends (some of ours too!). Like mentioned before, we will share that whole story with their images sometime in the near future (so subscribe to be the first to see).
- Whenever you're in public places nears locals, there's nothing to be concerned about in terms of the volcanic activity. They have an amazing system in place to protect their people and visitors. However, it's a good idea to check this site for recent activity if you're planning on doing any remote hiking near volcanos.
- On this night, we stayed at Hunkubakkar Guest House which was incredible. We weren't having much luck finding a place for this location on Airbnb, so we did it the old fashioned way and used google. There are a lot of guesthouses and lodging available in Iceland (and Europe) that you may not find on Airbnb, so keep that in mind. Here, we had an entire cabin to ourselves and were given a delicious breakfast in the morning. If you're looking for a place to stay between Vik and the Glacier Lagoon this is a great location. However, just remember that the south coast is the most expensive location to stay because it is the most popular but has limited options. So, this location's price is actually extremely competitive.
Day 4 - South Coast: Reynisfjara Beach
Day four as a whole was probably our favorite day in Iceland. Instead of spending most of our time driving like we did on the previous days, we spent time resting, slowly taking in each spot and in community. We met up with Brian & Maria again and their crew (like our friend Paul Woo, and new friends Jen, Jared, Amiee, Ashley, and a few others) near Vik and went down to Reynisfjara Beach, also know as the Black Sand Beach. When you travel with photographers, you know there will be photoshoots of each other!
I modeled for Joshua, and Jen, Jared and Aimee modeled for me (and us).
Running barefoot on the beach may sound like a romantic notion, but it sure does hurt.
This image by Brian Gluys at the black beach is now one of our favorite photos taken of us (and we already have it hanging in our home):
Also Day four - Dyrhólaey Lighthouse and point
After our time at the Black Beach, we warmed up in the group's home, and then headed to Dyrhólaey lighthouse to see views of the coast from above. When we arrived, fog lingered heavy and it was impossible to see the crashing waves that we were hearing. However, we lingered here a long while and spent time walking around the point. The fog finally lifted to show us a view of the sea and surrounding landscape like we had never witnessed before.
Seeing this spot in rain, fog and sunshine gave us a perspective of patience and reward.
If you go to Dyrhólaey, be sure to not only walk to see the light house and land bridge, but also walk the opposite way to see the view of the surrounding landscape. It'll take your breath away.
Also Day 4 - Seljalandsfoss (Waterfall)
There's not much more to say about this beauty.
Last time we were in Iceland we didn't have the opportunity to walk behind Seljalandsfoss because of the bus loads of tourist that were there on that day, but this time, we wanted to make sure that we did the short hike. The mist spraying from the falls was freezing, and soaked us both head to toe, but the experience was worth the chill.
After you experience Seljalandsfoss, walk down the path further and you'll come upon Gljúfrafoss, nick-named "The Hidden Waterfall."
Also Day 4 - Hella
After our time soaking ourselves in the waterfall, we made our way to our Airbnb for that night. It was in the farmlands near Hella. Once we arrived we changed into dry clothes and went out to one of the fields to experience that last bits of day.
- We loved our Airbnb, but it was also pretty toasty at night and we didn't have the ability to open a window. If that doesn't bother you, then check it out here.
- If you have the space, we also recommend packing instant oatmeal packets and spoons. You can then get cups of hot water at the petrol stations, like N1 (our favorite for the hot beverages). Joshua and I ate these almost everyday for breakfast and also to warm up after our times outside in the elements.
Day 5 - Purafoss
A little side story: I found this song (quoted above) while watching a show on Amazon and asking Siri to identify it. Its poetic language really speaks to the place I’ve been in over the last nine months. I’m grateful for the support of my community—family and precious friends, that have been there and are continually there for me during the hardest season of my life.
One of those sweet people is dear Nicola Harger. Even though she is miles away in Nashville, I have felt the outpouring of her care. Through patience and grace she has been a support for the rickety house that is my heart.
Completely unplanned, we both had shoots in Iceland at the same time! For our final day there, we met at Reykjavik Roasters and the drove to Thingvellir National Park, hiked, and explored a few back roads. Along one of those roads we past a movie filming (so cool and weird at the same time) and then found Porufoss Waterfall and hiked down into the canyon to see it up close. It was wild and cold and so alive!
Nicola asked me if I would take a few images of her with her ONA camera bag for a piece she was writing for them (you can read her interview here). Joshua and I both took advantage of this opportunity to take a whole collection of images of her.
These are the times that I treasure—the moments spent with people that impact me with living, breathing, restoring life.
Below, these final images are from Nicola of us:
Thank you for taking the time to read about our adventure! As always if you have questions, please comment below and we'd be more than happy to answer them. If you like to see more posts in the future you can also subscribe below.