Photography Workshops & Photo Tours: Iceland Autumn Highlands And Auroras September 2020

Dates:  15-25 September 2020 (11 days, 10 nights)   

Price:  $4300 USD or € or ISK equivalent

Availability: 3 of 6 places still available

Iceland Autumn Color Photography Expedition - 

Photographing the Autumn foliage among lava fields in the Myvtan geothermal areas, autumn snowfalls and waterfalls in the Highlands, fall equinox aurora borealis displays over epic landscapes, and icebergs around Jokulsarlon during a much quieter tourist season.

This in-depth photo tour around Iceland is meant for enthusiastic outdoor photographers looking for a hard-core photography expedition to photograph Iceland's autumn color, landscapes, and auroras of the fall season. Au tumn highlights in Iceland include the colorful birch scrub bushes among the starkly contrasting black lava flows of the Myvatn region, autumn color among lush green mossy lava fields, dustings of snow on the peaks in the Highlands region (which is all but deserted at this time of year), and the strong probability of seeing the aurora borealis in the night sky. Low-angle sun at the northern latitudes we'll visit allows us to capture extended magic light periods. We'll also photograph a plethora of other scenic and rural destinations including country churches, waterfalls, Icelandic horses, and possibly the local traditional sheep roundup still done on horseback. Autumn is simply a magical time of year in Iceland, perhaps the best season all year, with less tourists, accessible highlands, and dark nights.

We begin our tour by rapidly leaving Reykjavik city behind and heading straight to northern Iceland, which has large sheep farming valleys that come alive one weekend each fall during the annual sheep roundup. Perhaps northern Iceland is also the best region in the country for viewing the aurora borealis during the height of fall solstice, which statistically has the most frequently occuring aurora borealis activity. Nothern Iceland's Myvatn region is undoubtedly most beautiful in the fall. We will photograph the famous geothermal areas of Lake Myvatn Godafoss waterfall, as well as the Tröllskagi Peninsula mountains, based in Iceland's second largest town, Akureyri. The Akureyri region is ideal to view the aurora borealis due to its more northerly latitudes perfectly situated under the Auroral Oval region of greatest auroral activity. Connecting from the north to the south of Iceland via the scenic Eastfjords for a day, we photograph the obligatory and epic Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon region for a day. Then to wrapup our loop around Iceland, we'll drive the rough 4x4 Fjallbak route through the Highlands to the famous colorful Landmannalaugar area, staying overnight in the Highlands. We will be based out of fine rural guesthouses and hotels all around Iceland including Akureyri and Myvatn regions, allowing a great itinerary and filling our days and nights with rewarding photography opportunities all around the region.

Trip features:

  • Comprehensive itinerary packed with photo locations of both classic and off-the-track places
  • Expedition route through diverse regions of Iceland including Highlands and Myvatn utilizing 4x4 vans and internal flights
  • Ultra small group format and flexibility
  • Personalized in-the-field photographic coaching all the time as needed
  • Highly experienced trip leader who's guided 70+ trips to Iceland spanning the past decade
  • Includes waterfalls, glaciers, iceberg beaches, mountains, fjords, and auroras
  • 10 nights of potential Aurora Borealis hunting matched with epic foregrounds
  • Price includes all meals, accomodation, entry fees, guiding, 4wd van, domestic flights within Iceland


Day 1 - Secret Southern Highland Waterfalls and Canyons

15 September 2020


Pickup and collection of everyone in the early morning from Keflavik Airport if arriving on overnight flights or from Reykjavik or Keflavik hotels. Arrive no later than 8am. We'll immediately head out of the city and immerse ourselves headlong into the Icelandic countryside and wilderness photography. Throughout today we'll be photographing some remoter and lesser known waterfall canyons of the Southern Highlands, including Haifoss and Gjain. They are all breathtaking, awesome, and somehow all qualify as my favorite waterfall in Iceland. In the autumn season there will also be some wonderful yellow birch shrubbery complimenting the pure torquiose glacier waters of these river canyons. We'll also vist a restored grass covered medievel church. Sunset outing to another waterfall canyon in the Highlands, which shall remain unnamed for now. Overnight for the next two nights at the edge of the Highlands, giving us good access into the spectacular Landmannalauger Highland area. Possible auroras over Highland togopography.

Day 2 - Landmannalauger and the southern Highlands

16 September 2020


Full day of exploration around the beautiful southern Highlands green and mossy hills which rise above the black braided glacial river valleys. There are many off-the-beaten track 4x4 routes and river crossings, and both wide open and telephoto vistas of the color hills and patterns. This year's itineary allows this extra day in this region due to never seeming having enough time to do this area justice. Now at this time of year at the end of the season the area will be quieter. In the famous Landmannalauger (proper) area, you take a swim in the geothermal natural hot water river, and hike around the lava fields for views across the river to colorful ryolite hills. In the height of summer, Landmannaulager is a overflowing with campers and hikers, but now in late September we'll be the only ones around and can enjoy it all to ourselves. Eventually we had back out of the Highlands after sunset, for a comfortable stay in our country motel, overnight Hrauneyar. 

Hverafell area, Myvatn, fall reflection





Day 3 - Landmannalauger Highlands and Fjallabak Nydri 4x4 route.

17 September 2020


We'll be crossing some small rivers and remote and rough country, accessing unique landscapes I've never seen anywhere else on earth, with steep green mossy mountains rising up out of black volcanic sands below. There's ample braided streams, mossy lava formations, and green mountains with linger winter snow gullies making great abstract patters, so we make lots of stops today. On this tour, you won't have a problem trying to convince your guide to stop the van, usually it's the other way around with you getting push to always be 'seeing' more, going deeper visually. This is going to be long day, as after a hundred+ kilometers of some rough driving, we eventually emerge out of the Highlands now in the eastern side of Iceland after having traversed eastward through the Fjallabak nature preserve and eventually coming out late into the evening to our hotel at the edge of the Highlands, in the Kirkjubaejarklauster area.

Day 4 - Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon regions

18 September 2020


Many photographers' favorite destination in Iceland is the famous Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon. So we have all day planned here, and the adjacent Breidamerkursander black sand iceberg beach. Iceland is utterly unique in that you can walk around these crystal clear chunks of ice on the beach that look like diamonds against a black velvet cloth. Even more magical is when the sun shines through these mini-icebergs making them glow glistening gold. It surely is easy to spend a whole week here in this Jokulsarlon and south coast region, but the emphasis of this photo tour lies elsewhere in the fall colors and remoter parts of Iceland, so we'll just enjoy a single day here. Overnight near Jokulsarlon, with any aurora photographed over the glacier lagoon.

Glacial lagoon icebergs floating out to sea, Iceland.







Day 5 - Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and iceberg beach

19 September 2020


Sunrise photography at the famous iceberg-littered black sand Diamond Beach. The coastline route northward winds around inspiring headlands along the Eastfjord Sudursveit coastline, eventually bringing us to the Hofn area which marks the northern side of the Vatnajokull glacier area and the beginning of the Eastfjords. In this region there's some really idyllic, quiet, and off-the-beaten-track glacial lagoons with their own icebergs, that we'll have all to ourselves. One such lagoon is Heinabergsjokull. This area is also great to stop to photograph friendly Icelandic horses that will come right up to you and give you a friendly and exploratory nibble - no telephoto lenses here! Then we'll conclude the day at Stokknes Peninsula with it's black sand dunes and the famous Vestrahorn Mountains. Vestrahorn would also serve as our classic landscape for sunset, and also our foreground for any possible aurora photography. Overnight in Hofn.

Red Glow at Dawn
This was the most spectacular red sunrise at Jokulsarlon's beach I've seen all season, shot while leading a group photo tour. Disclosure: I had to place the iceberg there on the beach, from one I found higher up in the sands. I didn't saturation the colors in my post-processing, which is something I'd normally do but not this time.







Day 6 - Eastfjords Coastlines

20 September 2020


Sunrise at the iconic Vestrahorn mountains on the Stokkness Peninsula, and then drive north along the east coast of Iceland, exploring the Eastfjords coastlines, secret waterfalls, old abandoned bridges too narrow for modern cars, imposing clifflines like Hvalsnes, and more. There are countless waterfalls and cascades streaming down from the hillsides, and every year we do this trip we always find another gem of a waterfall or shoreline that's worthy of a stop. The eastfjords offers many locations that are much less visited by photographic tour groups, offering us the best chance for solitude and harkening back to years past before the current Icelandic tourist boom. We'll stay overnight in a small Eastfjord community of Breiddalsvik.

Day 7 - Remote Easfjords

21 September 2020


Continuing our photographic journey through the Eastfjords, we'll visit a remote fjord of our choosing, either Mofjordur or Bakkafjordur Esteryi. Depending on time and weather, we'll do a hike up a waterfall canyond filled with colorful foliage or basalt columns or both, in the Laugarfljot lake region. Then it's a couple hours driving across the vast and barren northern plains of Iceland where the most interesting thing is the road going through the wide wilderness. We'll finish the day at Iceland's most remote farmstead Modrudalur, set out in the open plains of northern Iceland, we there's wide open vistas of conical shaped mountains, cake shaped mountains, and old rusty plows all inviting the photographer. Overnight at Modrudalur.







Day 8 -  Waterfalls and Canyons of Jokulsargljufur

22 September 2020


Dettifoss is Europe's most powerful waterfall by volume and is magnificant to witness the power of nature, and Selfoss is just upstream. There, Dettifoss falls into the hard-to-pronounce Jokusargljifur canyon, which offers some interesting canyon vistas, and spectacular examples of columnar basalt formed from cooling lava. Detail abstract shots, and yellow birch foliage in front the basalt, can be found down in a canyon sheltered from the wind. Then we drive further north along the west rim of the canyon Asbyrgi, a huge horesshoe shaped canyon that shelters a birth forest that is sublime in autumn. All these locations provide for amazing abstract or detail photography, with the yellow foliage set against patterned black rock. This is also a sheltered canyon, so it can be a respite from wind or rain if the weather is poor. We'll have dinner in the fishing town of Husavik, and go out for possible nighttime or aurora photography over Myvatn formations. Overnight in Myvatn next 3 nights.







Day 9 - Myvatn Lake and Geothermal regions

23 September 2020


Today is dedicated to fully exploring the Myvatn regions and lava fields of Hofdi headland, Dimmuborgir lava formations, Krafla crater and geothermal power plant, Namafjall mountain, and Hverfell colorful mud pits. The schedule is flexible, and we're focused on finding the best color of the yellow birch shrubbery amid the black and contrastring lava stacks. It's easy to spend hours just wandering around a moss-covered lava field with both our wide angle and macro lenses. We also have the option to head to Dettifoss waterfall again from its opposite side that we were on the day before, as further options in this area. Sunset at one of the classic Myvatn landscapes, possibly overlooking Lake Myvatn and it's psuedo-craters and lava formations in the lake, with auroras above later that night, hopefully.







Day 10 - Aldeyjarfoss Highlands and Godafoss Waterfalls

24 September 2020


After a final sunrise opp around the Myvatn lake area, we'll take a rough backroad shortcut from Myvatn to the Highland waterfall Aldeyjarfoss, centered between basalt columns and spreading out in a lovely star-shape that's accentuated with slow shutter speeds. More Highland waterfalls and turning yellow birch stands are more possibilities, further into these northern Highland areas. There's so much to explore here in the fall season, especially the red color of fall blueberry bushes and shrubbery growing out of pockets of contrasting black lava. We'll also allow plenty of time to thoroughly photograph the famous waterfall Godafoss, from all of its lovely angles, including sunset here facing west. Overnight in the region once more, our last night and chance to photograph the aurora borealis over Godafoss waterfall.







Day 11 - Akureyri and departure

25 September 2020


After one last chance for sunrise at the famous Godafoss waterfall in northern Iceland, we'll drive through a brand new built tunnel shortcut over to Eyjafjordur fjord, on the shores of which lies Akureyri. Akureyri is Iceland's 2nd largest town but with only 10,000 epople it's a distant second to Reykjavik. Despite it's photogenic setting on the fjord, there's not much to see or photograph here, and so it provides our logical end to the trip. We'll fly back to Reykjavik from here, which is included in the trip cost, arriving back to Reykjavik by around noontime, and in time to catch your afternoon international flights, or staying on in Reykjavik for a well deserved rest and time in the city on your own. Please note there you'll be transferring between two seperate airports, so allow a couple extra hours, if flying out today the 25th. (departure KEF no earlier than 14:30pm)











General Trip Information

Group Size: Maximum size of 6; minimum size of 3.

Start/End: The tour starts on the morning of September 15th, and after a large 2000 km loop around Iceland, concludes back in Reykjavik midday on September 25th 2020 (accommodation not included that night). We'll be so immersed in the Icelandic countryside for our entire time as a group, that we have left no time to enjoy the sights of Reykjavik, so we encourage you to stay in Reykjavik for a couple days on your own, either before or after the tour.

Included:

  • Professional photography guide with you the entire trip providing instruction and in-the-field coaching.
  • Ground transportation in a comfortable 4x4 van/minibus.
  • Domestic flight from Akureyri back to Reykjavik completing our loop around Iceland and maximizing our time shooting. 
  • Accommodation for 12 nights in ideally located and charming guesthouses and country hotels, in twin rooms. Cost is based on double occupancy. Most of our locations have ensuite baths, but a couple nights may not.
  • All meals and food (breakfasts provided by our guesthouses; lunches sourced from local cafes, convience stores, and/or grocery stores to facilitate on-the-go lunches; and 2-3 course dinners at restaurants and/or our places of accommodation)
  • All entry fees and activity fees listed in this itinerary

Not Included:

  • Flights to and from Iceland
  • Your time in Iceland before and after the trip
  • Transfer between the airport and Reykjavik round trip.
  • Trip insurance (required)
  • Souvenirs, gas station snacks and purchases on the go, etc.
  • All drinks at sit-down meals, alcoholic and non-, where Icelandic water is free
  • Anything else not listed as being included
  • Single room upgrade fee is $80/nt extra if requested. In the event that a solo-traveller cannot be paired up with like-gender person, then automatic upgrade to single room will incur a 50% subsidized single room upgrade fee.

Experience Needed: This tour is open to digital photographers of all skill levels from beginner to expert. A trip packing list will be provided to help you maximize your photos. If you have additional questions, the trip leader will be happy to answer them over the phone or by email.

Photography Instruction

This photo workshop is all about in-the-field field photography and situational instruction, working alongside your trip leader, and there will be no formally scheduled classroom workshops or presentations, although on trips we usually do an indoor session or two covering photography concepts and editing skills and image critiquing, weather and time allowing. We will always being prepared to go out to photograph the Aurora Borealis should it occur. Aurora Borealis viewing depends on 2 main factors: solar activity and clear weather. The chances of us photographing this phenomenon are very high, given that we're out for so many nights, and way away from the city of Reykjavik and the southern coast of Iceland.

Photographic topics that will covered while shooting include nighttime and austral photography, Aurora Borealis photography, classic landscape photography composition and technique, HDR (High Dynamic Range) imagery, panoramic photography, adventure and travel photography, and slow shutter -speed effects. Our full 12 days and 12 nights of photography potential, allow us to see a variety of well-known Icelandic natural wonders around Akureyri, Lake Myvatn, and the central Highlands, combined with austral wonderment, enabling each participant to get the most out this once-in-a-lifetime trip. In good daytime weather and clear night skies, September days can long; sometimes our groups are putting in 14+ hour days! A maximum group size of 8 photographers ensures you will receive ample personal photographic coaching in the field from a full time working pro, maximizing the group's flexibility and ability to shoot more places, more spontaneously based on light and weather, and provide an intimate small group adventure experience.

Johnathan Esper of Wildernesscapes Photography LLC, based in the USA, will be leading the trip.  Johnathan Esper of the Adirondack Mountains is the pro photographer behind the company and principle tour leader, having worked with hundreds of clients across 90+ highly successful trips spanning a decade, and beginning trips to the destination of Iceland starting in 2011. Johnathan ensures all trips provide unparalleled value and comprehensive itineraries, with focus on photographic field coaching, facilitating unique experiences and pushing and immersing ourselves in the locations. Every trip so far has facilitated once-in-a-lifetime outdoor and photographic experiences for the participants, without exception.

Wildernesscapes Photography LLC is a USA-based photography tour company which offers unforgettable and adventurous small group trips to select locations around the world.
Wildernesscapes Photography specializes is the Adirondack Park region in the United States, as well as the Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Faroe Islands and more. Our tours are for passionate outdoor and landscape photographers, seeking photographic location guiding, personalized coaching, and exciting and packed itineraries offering excellent value.

Trip Terms

Deposit: A $1000 deposit is due at the time of registration, and the remaining balance is due by the trip start. Until payment is sent, your place is not guaranteed. You may conveniently pay your deposit here (near the bottom of page) securely with your credit card, processed by Paypal payment processor. The deposit portion may also be paid via personal or bank check for USA and Canadian clients. Please contact me if you need any assistance in signing up!

Final Payment: The final payment for the balance due on the trip (after your paid deposit), is due one week prior to the trip start. Payment options include bank transfer to my Icelandic bank account (details on request), cash in person at the trip start (with prior arrangement), personal or bank checks (preferred for USA and Canada clients), and credit cards (a 2% credit card fee will be added for final payments with card).

Cancellation Policy: In the unfortunate case if you need to cancel, cancellation policy is: Deposit payments are refundable as 100% future scheduled trip credit up to 120 days before trip start, 50% future scheduled trip credit if cancellation is 120-60 days before the trip start, and non-refundable less than 60 days before start. Final payments for the full trip balance are 100% refundable as cash until the trip start, and non-refundable after the trip start. If I am able to fill your empty spot on the trip, half of what you'd lose will additionally be returned to you, for all the above situations. If I cancel the trip for some major reason, such as overwhelming volcanic activity, trip leader health crisis, etc, then I fully refund everything in cash or Paypal, or a pro-rated amount if the trip must end early for the same reasons. I am not responsible for reimbursing you for travel or other ancillary expenses you incur in prep for the trip.


For more information, contact:

Johnathan A. Esper
Wildernesscapes Photography LLC
PO Box 326, Long Lake, NY
United States
johnathanesper@gmail.com
phone: 001 518 241 3363 (USA)