Iceland Westfjords + Highlands + Glaciers + Midnight Sun Expedition
Dates: June 24 - July 07, 2020 (14 days, 14 nights)
Status: spaces still available!
Cost: $5400 USD | All-inclusive except airfare and personal travel days
15 days of adventurous photography touring in this workshop exploring Iceland's most stunning and remote locations via 4x4 vehicle, offering a unique itinerary that's simply unmatched in terms of breadth or price, guaranteed. This incredible 14 day photography tour and workshop around Iceland, the legendary land of fire and ice, is meant for passionate outdoor photographers who desire to see and photograph Iceland in depth. After the continued success of this Westfjords and Highlands trip annually for the past four years, in 2016 we're changing our route slightly through Iceland to include a complete circumnavigation around the island! This intensive itinerary is designed to help you photograph the most variety of regions, the under-photographed, and the most beautiful and rugged of all of Iceland’s diverse geographic areas, and also includes photo stops at many of the popular natural attractions that are considered must-sees. We photograph hidden treasures and remote outposts many Icelanders have never even visited, by driving in a large loop through the Westfjords peninsula, then through the geothermal areas and glacial river canyons of Northern Iceland, and completing our circumnavigation around the rest of the country travelling through glacial regions, beginning and ending at Reykjavik.
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 classroom workshops or presentations. Photographic topics that will be covered while shooting include classic landscape photography composition and technique, HDR (High Dynamic Range) imagery, panoramic photography, adventure and travel photography, tilt/shift focusing, and slow shutter speed effects. We may also be going on a couple shorter hikes (1-3 hours) to truly experience Iceland. Group participants may wander on their own occasionally if they wish to pursue individual photographic objectives, enabling each participant to get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. A maximum group size of 7 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.
Pro Leader: Johnathan Esper of Wildernesscapes Photography LLC, based in the USA, will be leading the trip. Johnathan is a full time photographer and experienced international photo trip leader, and this will be his 70th+ trip he's led to Iceland since beginning trips in the destination in 2011. Every trip so far has been an incredible experience for the participants. Johnathan has a unique background that's widely travelled around the world, and his preferred trip style is one that has a comprehensive packed itinerary, strong focus on photography, and is under-sold and over-delivered.
Day 1 - June 24 2020
Depart Reykjavik and Snaefellsness Peninsula. Our epic journey begins. Pickup at the airport or your Reykjavik hotel in the late morning hours, then after everyone is collected and settled in our van we'll drive north to the Snaefellsness Peninsula. Popular sights to see and photograph are the Arnastapi sea arches and basalt cliffs, Hellnar church, Snaefellsjokull mountain, Londrangur cliffs and lighthouses, shipwrecks, the Rif church with lupine wildflower fields, and finally ending in the Grundarfjörður area for evening shooting. Sunset over the iconic Kirkjefell conical shaped mountain and triple waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss. Overnight at Grundarfjörður.
Day 2 - June 25 2020
Morning photography around Grundarfjordur and Kirkjufell, the Beserksjraun green mossy lava fields, and the small harbor town of Stykkisholmur. We'll have a nice lunch there, and then catch the ferry Ferry Baldur which daily crosses Breidafjörður Bay between Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and Brjánslækur in the north of Iceland. A ferry trip shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. We will disembark the ferry for an overnight on the car-free and secluded charming island of Flatey, renowned for its birdlife. Our vehicle will continue on the ferry without us, and wait for us to catch the following day's ferry North. The rest of today and this evening will be spent walking around the peaceful island by foot, photographing forlorn Icelandic country cottages, old fishing boats, and soaking in the stillness of this beautiful little island. Overnight in a boutique country hotel in one of the homes on the island. Overnight Flatey Island
Day 3 - June 26 2020
We'll walk to the pier and catch the next ferry north to the Westfjords, whereupon we'll disembark and rejoin our waiting vehicle that went ahead of us. We'll do a few scenic stops along the westfjords shorelines, but our main objective for this evening is the famous Latrabjarg bird cliffs which have thousands of puffins. They are very cute birds with bright orange beaks, and in the evening time they return to their nesting cliffs after being out on the sea during the day. Here they are very used to humans, so you can crawl on your stomach close to the cliff's edge and be able to get up close and face to face with the puffins. Overnight near Latrabjarg for unparralled opportunities to photograph the puffins with the summer solitice never-setting midnight sun over the Arctic ocean! Overnight Latrabjarg.
Day 4 - June 27 2020
If last night's weather was too poor, we'll return to Latrabjarg. Otherwise, up next is westfjords coastline photography including fjord views and old shipwrecks, as we drive on potholed dirt roads from Bíldudalur, and to the huge fan-shaped Dyjandi waterfall. There's a whole series of falls to hike along and up to the base of Dyjandi, which is an experience to remember standing under that waterfall. Overnight in Pingeyri. Possibility of photographing local women in hand-crafted traditional dresses, for an outdoor portrait session.
Day 5 - June 28 2020
Ísafjörður region exploration during the daytime. Ísafjörður is the largest town in the Westfjords, as it worth a short stop, if not quite an overnight. We will be able to drive up to some awesome 1000 meter cliffs overlooking the ocean from here. Possibility of photographing local women in hand-crafted traditional dresses, for an outdoor portrait session. Pingeyri peninsula has a rough 4x4 track going out it's outer trip, and this is an exciting excursion for chance to photograph the midnight sunset again out over the Arctic ocean. Lighthouses, shelf-roads, and mountainous fjords are all waiting to be photographed. Overnight in Pingeyri.
Day 6 - June 29 2020
Backtracking a bit back through Ísafjörður, we'll then continue around our Westfjords loop and along the northern coastline, stopping of course plenty of places for photography of fjords and seascapes and waterfalls and abandoned old shipping and whaling docks. There are fur seals that often rest along the shoreline rocks, so keep your telephoto lens out today. After surely another full day, evening around charming village of Holmavik. Overnight Holmavik.
Day 7 - June 30 2020
Scheduled today is a charter boat out to Drangnes Island which is filled with nesting puffins. We'll get to walk around them, take as many photos you want, and also try our hand at deep-sea fishing for cod via weighted line while on the boat. Driving eastward another 2 hours, we'll finally conclude our Westfjords travels and for a short time rejoin Iceland's famous Route 1 Ring Road before branching off again as we drive around the mountainous Tröllaskagi Peninsula. Here we have basalt columns at Hofsos and will hold up our tripods above our heads as extension poles as we photograph the circular medieval turf roofed stave churches. Finally, after another long day, we'll arrive to the quiet fishing town of Siglufjordur. Siglufjordur used to be the herring capital of Iceland before fish stocks crashed, so there's alot of history in this area, and an excellent herring and history museam in town, right across from our 4 star oceanside hotel the Siglo Hotel.
Day 8 - July 01 2020
In Siglurfjordur in the morning you'll have the chance to visit the herring museam (entry included), and you'll walk around and photograph the harbour right outside our fine hotel, swim in their oceanside hot pool, and otherwise enjoy a nice morning relaxing and being off. From Siglufjordur, we'll photograph a picturesqe Icelandic church with a white picket fence on the edge of Iceland's longest north-south facing fiord Eyjafjordur, and arrive to Akureyri. Akureyri is the 2nd largest town in Iceland, but at only about 10,000 residents it comes in at a distant second, and not much to do there. So you'll have an hour off in the town to walk around and shop, and then we'll go Iceland's best bakery for lunch, where your trip leader is sure to over-buy on giant cholocate Icelandic pastries and other sweets, and then compell you to help him out. From Akureyri, we'll drive through a brand new tunnel to the famous horseshoe-shaped Godafoss waterfall, and then onto the Myvatn lake and volcanic area for the next couple of days. Popular areas to photograph include the colorful Namafjall geothermal area, Myvatn lake and psudo-craters, Dimmuborgir lava formations where Icelandic trolls are said to hide, and Krafla geothermal area, and colorful geothermal mud pits, and the baby blue color Myvatn Nature Baths, which is a quiter and less busy alternative to the famous Blue Lagoon. The baby blue water is rich in silica, and a byproduct of a nearby small geothermal power plant.
Day 9 - July 02 2020
In the morning we'll wrap up any last unvisited sights around Myvatn lake and geothermal area, with interesting lava towers and formations, birch forests set amid the black lava, psuedo-craters, and huge craters. Then we drive north of the Myvatn area to Dettifoss (Europe's most voluminous waterfall) and Selfoss waterfalls, Asbyrgi canyon, and some secret puffin cliffs on the far north coast, from which would be a fantastic place to photograph the midnight sun setting just clipping under the northern horizon over the waters of the Arctic Ocean. After a very late night, we'll eventually return back to our accomodations in Myvatn.
Day 10 - July 03 2020
After a late morning checkout, we take some 4x4 shortcuts through the wilderness over to Aldeyjarfoss waterfall in the Highlands. Aldeyjarfoss markes the start of the famous Sprengisandur Overland route. Be sure to pack everything well, as we'll spend many hours today jostling over washboard gravel and swirving around rocks. We'll stop at a couple Highland huts like Nyiadalur for a stretch and photo break, and eventually after a couple hundred kilometers through the heart of Iceland's Highlands we'll arrive to our accomodations at Hrauneyar. Sunset and midnight shooting will done at the deep gorge and double waterfall of Haifoss. Overnight at Hrauneyjar, Highlands
Day 11 - July 04 2020
Landmannalauger Highlands and Fjallabak Nydri 4x4 route.
A 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. 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. 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. Tonight will be shared cabin accomodation with our whole group in a bunk-style cabin and sleeping bags (provided). Overnight Holaskjol
Day 12 - July 05 2020
Morning photography amid the lush moss-covered lava fields behind our highland cabin. There's also a beautiful waterfall just a 5 minute walk away. After spending a bit of down time here, we'll drive another couple hours out of the Highlands, emerging back onto Route 1 highway and well-appreciated paved roads. We'll do some touristy stops midday today at classic places such as Skaftafell region glaciers like Svinafellsjokull, Hofskirjka turf church, or others. However, the main gem of the today is the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon choked with icebergs calving off the mightly Vatnajokull Glacier, which is Europe's largest glacier and covers about 7% of Iceland. We'll photograph through the midnight sunset hours and well after all the other crowds and have left and gone to bed for the night, around the Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon or iceberg-littered black Diamond Beach, enjoying it all to ourselves.
Day 13 - July 06 2020
We'll probably have already spent the first early hours of today through the night at Jokulsarlon through sunrise, but in case weather didn't coorperate we'll return once more during normal hours if desired by the group. At this point, we turn back westward and drive a couple hours along the Ring Road, until the Laki Craters side trip. This is another tough day of long and rough dirt roads, but the Lakigigar craters are quite impressive, and especially from the air if you bring a drone. Once again, our goal on this trip is to access some pretty remote and spectacular terrain the majority of other travelers in Iceland don't visit, and this certainly qualifies. After spending however many hours as is called for, we'll depart the Laki Craters region in the Highlands, drive a couple hours back to the main road and eventually crash into our accomodations around Kirkjubaejarklauster.
Day 14 - July 07 2020
Today is our final day, and we'll surely be all exhausted but hopefully filled with a year's worth of photo editing and a lifetime adventure. So today we drive back toward Reykjavik the final 4 hours, making touristic stops at some of the famous sights like Selffoss, Skogafoss, Reynisdrangar, Dyrholeay. Drop-off in Reykjavik after a late dinner, whatever time that ends up being. Accomodation is included in Reykjavik tonight, we don't want anyone planning to fly out today. End of Trip.
Day 15 - July 08 2020
On your own. Flights can be booked starting anytime today.
General Trip Information
Group Size: Maximum size of 7
Start/End: The trip begins in and concludes in Reykjavik Iceland. Pickup in morning of the first day, and conclusion in Reykjavik with included hotel the last night.
Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5 boots. Most photographic sights involve only short walks and vehicle access around Iceland is excellent. There may likely be a couple 2-4 hour round trip hikes, depending on weather and the group mood. Opting to skip out on the hikes would not severely impact your overall experience of the trip. However, general physical well-being is required. In addition, our days may be long, so good travel stamina and attitude are important! This is a long trip, which is why it's rated 3 out of 5.
- All photographic opportunities and professional instruction
- All 4x4 van transportation throughout Iceland.
- Boat tour to a puffin island.
- All fees for activities listed in this itinerary
- All dinners and breakfasts.
- Accommodation for 7 nights. Accommodation will be chosen based on optimal locations to photograph, and will vary including Icelandic guesthouses, fine hotels, and a couple Highland cabins with shared bunk-style sleeping. Most accommodations whenever possible have private bathrooms among the rooms. Prices are based on double occupancy -- optional single supplement (on nights where it's possible) may be available for an added fee of $1100.
- Trip insurance
- Alcoholic drinks
- Extra ordering beyond standard 2 course dinners
Experience Level: This tour is open to digital photographers of all skill levels. A packing list will be provided. If you have additional questions, the trip leader will be happy to answer them over the phone or by email.
This photo workshop is all about in-the-field field photography and situational instruction, working alongside your trip leader, and there will be no classroom workshops or presentations, unless there is extra downtime from rainy weather. Photographic topics that will be covered while shooting include classic landscape photography composition and technique, HDR (High Dynamic Range) imagery, panoramic photography, adventure and travel photography, tilt/shift focusing, slow shutter speed effects, and exhaustive use of filters. We will also be going on some shorter hikes (2-5 hours) to truly experience the land. Group participants may wander on their own occasionally if they wish to pursue individual photographic objectives, enabling each participant to get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. A maximum group size of 7 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 is a full time photographer and experienced international photo trip leader, and this will be his 70th+ trip he's led to Iceland since beginning trips to the destination in 2011. Every trip so far has been an incredible experience for the participants. Johnathan has a unique background and an intimate knowledge of Iceland from living out of a car, exploring and photographing Iceland intensively for months at a time. He specializes in wide panoramic landscapes and adventure photography in Iceland and the Adirondack region in the USA.
Deposit: A $1200 deposit is due at the time of registration. Until payment is sent, your place is not guaranteed. You may conveniently pay your deposit securely with your credit card, processed by PayPal payment processor, by manually entering your payment of $1200 here. 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 four weeks 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 permission), 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 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.
Johnathan A. Esper
Wildernesscapes Photography LLC
372 River Road, Lake Placid, NY 12997
phone: 001 518 241 3363 (USA)