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LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN

Sun setting behind Kirkjufell mountain on Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland in the summer.

Summer Night's Dream

5 sec, f/13, ISO 64


Icelandic landscapes are spectacular in any season, but one phenomenon makes summers here especially unique - known as the "midnight sun". For a period in the summertime, the days in Iceland are literally never ending, with the sun just barely dipping below the horizon around midnight and rising again after a brief period of twilight. It never gets completely dark (curtains and an eye mask were a must for me to sleep). If you're willing to stay up late, you can witness the entire day-twilight-day transition in the span of a few hours, and might be lucky enough to find yourself alone at some of the most popular locations on the island!


On one such occasion, after watching the sun set shortly before midnight, we set out to see it rise again on the south coast - at the famous Reynisfjara black sand beach near Vik.


Reynisfjara beach is one of the most visited locations in southern Iceland, and so even at this time of "night" I expected to see at least a few people there. But we were completely alone.


I captured the below photo as we watched the soft transition from twilight to day. It's rare for Reynisfjara to be as calm as it was, being generally known for extreme winds and dangerous sneaker waves. We walked the shore and watched the sun rise at the far end of the beach. The tide happened to be low that morning as well, allowing us to make it over to an often unaccessible part of the coast and get a closer view of the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks.


It was eerily quiet. There was a light breeze, and the calm but powerful Atlantic waves broke the silence as they rolled onto the shore, crawling up the black sand towards us. After enjoying a few moments of tranquility here, we decided it was time to get some rest - we'd been awake for close to 18 hours by this point and still had a 2 hour drive ahead. A cold wind was starting to pick up as we walked back to the car along the long stretch of sand.


I felt so incredibly fortunate to have experienced this place the way we just had.

Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks at Reynisfjara black sand beach in Iceland at sunrise.

Giants of the South

13 sec, f/13, ISO 160


Another favourite destination of mine is a waterfall by the name of Bruarfoss.


Bruarfoss is one of those places off the beaten path and, although it can no longer be considered a "hidden gem", it certainly doesn't see half as many visitors as some of Iceland's most popular locations just off the Ring Road. This waterfall is a bit of a drive from Highway 1 and is further hidden about a 3 kilometre hike into the woodland. It's famous for its brilliant turquoise colour and a series of smaller cascading falls ending in a majestic swirl.

Cascading waters of Bruarfoss waterfall in the summer in Iceland.

Elixir of Life

1.3 sec, f/10, ISO 125


The lighting in the images may not make it obvious but these photos of Bruarfoss were taken just after midnight - a common theme on this summer's trip. I took one with my longer zoom from a lower angle to capture some of the fall's quaint cascades in the distance and, of course, a wide angle from the bridge to show the full glory of its enchanting flow.

Bruarfoss waterfall in the summer in Iceland.

Midnight Magic

0.4 sec, f/9, ISO 250


One of our days was dedicated to Snaefellsnes peninsula in the west of the country.


This area feels like a world of its own, within the already unique experience of Iceland. It's an area full of mystical mountains, lava fields, waterfalls and, of course, volcanos. It is also home to one of the most famous churches in all of Iceland - the black church of Budir. It sits in the middle of a lava field, within a scenic area near the Atlantic coast. Many of the lava fields in Iceland, by the way, don't have the look you might expect - they are often covered by moss or other vegetation and don't give themselves away until you notice the rock formation beneath, or massive cracks in the earth's surface (venturing off trails is not recommended).


As I took this photo, the bright sun behind me illuminated the foreground, with clouds rolling in over the mountains ahead, making for an ideal backdrop for the black church.

Black church of Budir on Snaefellsnes peninsula in west Iceland in the summer.

Church in the West

1/160 sec, f/11, ISO 125


Further inland, and also a distance from well-travelled roads, lies Hraunarfossar ("Lava Falls") - a beautiful product of ancient volcanic activity. This waterfall is a series of creeks and cascades streaming from beneath a lava field, pouring over the rock into a river below. Spanning over half a mile, this series of waterfalls makes for endless beautiful compositions.


My favourite was this close-up of the cliff face with several streams emerging from between rocks and greenery. I hear it's especially beautiful in the fall - a perfect excuse to come back!

Streams of Hraunarfossar waterfall emerging from beneath a lava sheet in Iceland in the summer.

Earth's Fountains

2.5 sec, f/9, ISO 64


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