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Arnardrangur, or Eagle Rock, on a stormy day on Iceland's black sand beach.

Eagle Rock

3 sec, f/14, ISO 64

From ancient lava fields and hidden waterfalls to mysterious rock formations decorating the coasts, there is something mystical about Iceland's landscapes. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these places are shrouded in myth, featuring stories of trolls, elves, and other curious creatures, some of which are still believed to inhabit the country.

The famous Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks seen in these images, standing tall just off the coast at Reynisfjara black sand beach, are said to be trolls turned to stone. As the tale goes, a three-masted schooner had been damaged in bad weather one day, and the sailers brought it to shore here, near the town of Vik. When a troll came by and asked the sailors for passage on the ship, he was turned away, and the ship set sail. The troll then had his friend join him to steal the ship. Together, they waded into the sea and started dragging the ship back to shore, when daylight broke and the sunlight turned them and the ship into stone.

It is said that their voices can still be heard in the howling winds of the sea.

Sunset at Reynisfjara black sand beach near the town of Vik in Iceland.

Reynisfjara's Light

1/500 sec, f/9, ISO 100

I took this photo of Reynisfjara beach on my first trip to Iceland in the middle of winter, as the golden hour light illuminated the snowy mountain side and basalt sea stacks. If you look very closely, you'll see two people walking on the black sand along the coast, as the rough waves roll onto shore. We admired this beautiful scene from the top of town at Vik church.

The tale of this airplane, however, is no myth. This US Navy DC-3 has an incredible true story and, despite the appearance, a good ending. The entire crew aboard this aircraft survived.

Solheimasandur plane wreck on a black sand beach in Iceland.


1/400 sec, f/7.1, ISO 250

To the best of my knowledge, it went something like this. During its mission near the Arctic, a drastic drop in temperature caused the engines to freeze over and start sucking in ice, leading them to stall. This happened just as the plane ended up in fog so thick that the crew couldn't see the tips of its wings. The 26-year old lieutenant, a pilot-in-training who had only flown 21 hours in this aircraft type, feared the worst: certain death upon crashing into a mountain. In a daring attempt to save himself and his passengers, he opted for the better of a few bad choices - trying to land on the waters of the Atlantic. As the plane lost altitude, the pilot remarked that they were gliding over “some goddam thing that looked like the moon” (having walked this coast, I'd say that's a fair description). With the engines now shut down, the pilot managed to bring the plane down onto the frozen black sand beach. The US Navy received a mayday call and, along with local farmers, quickly came to their rescue.

This eerie piece of structure lies a few kilometers' walk from the Ring Road, on the black sands of Sólheimasandur. The journey out to the plane wreck was an adventure in itself. We drove about 3 hours from the capital region early in the morning. At the time we visited, there was no indication of it on the map, and with it being unaccessible by car we had to rely on vague instructions from blogs I was able to dig up online. The harsh weather and rough terrain of the rocky beach made the walk somewhat challenging. Eventually, we spotted the shiny aluminum structure laying far in the distance amidst a sea of black sand. We were in absolute awe as we explored the area and walked the interior of the metal structure.

Kvernufoss waterfall in Iceland in the summer.

Treasure of the Gorge

2 sec, f/11, ISO 64

Iceland is home to over 10,000 waterfalls, and while many are near the Ring Road and in plain sight, others are hidden among the mountains like this one. Over the years, more and more of these hidden gems are being discovered and popularized, likely thanks to social media. This waterfall is only a few kilometres away from one of the most popular locations on the Golden Circle and, with everyone visiting Skogafoss, this one often gets overlooked. A walk between cliffs, deep inside a beautiful gorge, takes you here.

The endless rocky lava fields are another one of Iceland's unique character traits. This is an image of one blanketed in snow in the winter, under a rising moon. There was something beautiful about this barren expanse of land, long frozen in time, under golden hour light.

Rising moon over a snow covered lava field in Iceland at sunset in the winter.

Desolate Beauty

1/60 sec, f/11, ISO 800

Hraunarfoss is another lesser known waterfall, and is truly one-of-a-kind. It gets its water from under the Hallmundarhraun lava field, named after the giant Hallmundur who it is said used to live there. This unique series of waterfalls spans almost a kilometre across. The water originates from the Langjökull glacier, filtering through the lava field and reappearing here before pouring into the Hvítá river.

Iceland is truly a world of its own, full of beauty and mysteries.

Cascading waters of Hraunarfoss waterfall in Iceland in the summer.

Nature's Layers

2 sec, f/11, ISO 100

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