We flew from Hawaii to Iceland to spend about 10 days driving and exploring around the whole Island. Our early morning arrival (6 am.) allowed us to get our Toyota 4Runner 4x4 quickly and start driving to our first hotel that night. We came prepared for really cold temperatures, especially since we came from the Hawaiian heat, but aside from our first day the weather was incredibly nice and sometimes even with blue skies and t-shirt temperature. I did a lot of location scouting online beforehand but seeing Iceland in person is something you will never forget. Make sure to read through this blog entry to see the final video in the end. I promise, you won´t be disappointed!
Thanks to our super early arrival, we had a whole day ahead of us and we started our round-trip right away. Our first stop was about 3 hours of driving from the airport, but you will definitely spend more time driving and taking pictures than you planned. The country is just that gorgeous so after doing some grocery shopping on the way we found the first scenic detour to take with lots of fog. It was kind of rainy so I couldn´t fly just yet, but the silence was breathtaking. No one was around, just us and nature. We made our way up to Grundarfjörður and had some time to drive around a bit more after checking into our hotel. The wind was so strong that waterfalls would flow up instead of down. The Inspire 2 being a beast could even fly the 45mm lens without any major issues. Definitely a wonderful opportunity to practice flying under extreme conditions.
For every day I had planned about 3 hours of driving so that we had a good pace that would show us around the whole island without having to stress out about making it to our next stop or not having time to stop to take pictures and to fly. Our next stop was Hotel Reykjanes in the Westfjords. What a wonderful part of this island it was. Right at the beginning of the fjords we took a little detour to drive around the opposite fjord-side that our hotel was at and found some crazy cool river beds.
Once we turned around and drove to our hotel we spotted humpback whales hunting in a fjord. I didn´t have a whole lot of batteries left so I tried my best to get them on camera, but they wouldn´t stay up for long that day. I promised myself to come back the next day.
During one of our stops that day I noticed there was an arctic fox sanctuary about 2 hours down the road from our hotel, so we got up early the next day and drove all the way down the fjords. We got lucky and got to see a fox with a huge fish in his mouth in the wild. The sanctuary was lovely and we stayed there until noon to head back to the whales in the afternoon when they are usually the most active. That afternoon I got some of the best whale footage I had ever gotten, because the whales would hunt together in circles and in a fairly small area close to the shore. The whales were so “easy” to find again after diving that I actually could film them with the 45mm lens.
In Akureyri I had made a deal with a local whale tour company to shoot aerial footage of their fleet/tour. Being able to come incredibly close to the whales and having them in visual sight was wonderful and made filming them comparably easy as the whales actually seemed interested in our boat. The tour guide and captain were wonderful with explaining and answering questions on the whales and their behaviors. If you are ever around Akureyri and have around 3 hours to spare make sure to check out the whale company, they´re called Elding and have a wonderful crew there and a location in Reykjavik. Check out the video I made from their tour below.
We kept driving around the island in a clockwise direction and eventually ended up in the more touristy areas in the south of the island. The closer we got to the “famous” destinations the more cars would pass us going the other way and spots got generally more crowded. One of the highlights down there were the many glaciers and lagoons. It was impressive to see those giant ice-bergs sitting in the water in the Jökulsárlón Lagoon. Make sure to get up really early to beat the crowds, it is so worth it being there alone and in silence. We got there around 7 am and by 9 am the lagoon got pretty crowded. There are a few more glaciers with little lagoons further to the west as well that are worth checking out.
The last highlights of our trip was probably between Laugarvatn and the Þingvellir areas. While driving towards Þingvellir I spotted some really dark mountains surrounded by low hanging clouds that looked absolutely incredible. We went on the dirt road leading towards those mountains and they did not disappoint. You could see how the rain had slowly spread the black rocks from the top towards the ground, overgrown by greens and the clouds on top of that made a beautiful picture. But see for yourself..
On our last day we got into some incredibly thick and wide-spread fog in the south-west area from the island. No flying for most of the day since you couldn´t see further than 50 meters that day, but those cliffs looked so mystic that day. We eventually found a smaller chapel that was surrounded by fog and I decided to fly a little while staying always in line of sight and low to avoid any danger. When I landed the Inspire 2 was dripping wet from the water in the air, but after drying it off quickly it was good as new. Everything for the shot! Towards the end of the day the sky cleared up and I got some final lighthouse shots on our very last stop.
With the challenging light conditions in Iceland that can change within a few minutes I was incredibly happy to have my PolarPro filters with me at all times. I could land and change the filters within seconds to be back in the air as soon as possible. Another huge advantage was that they would not just allow me to slow down the shutter speed, but would protect the lens underneath from dirt, sand and water. The regular ND filters for the X5S balanced my 45mm lens perfectly with a step-up ring that allowed me to take incredibly smooth footage even in strong wind. I actually hit 169 km/h with tailwind in Iceland to give you an idea of the conditions there at times.