Returning to Iceland and chasing the Northern Lights!

After 9 months of planning, the day had finally arrived! Christine and I boarded the plane in Malta on our way to Iceland! We were about to have an amazing adventure, living out of a camper van for 2 weeks and driving all round Iceland! We flew to Norway first, with an 8 hour lay over, and finally arrived in Iceland about 15 hours after taking off from Malta…

We spent the first day exploring Reykjavik and got an early night as we would be picking up our camper van first thing the following morning. With the rental agreement signed, we headed straight to Þingvellir national park and the golden circle, then spent the next few days exploring the south coast.

Our first proper stop as we drove round the golden circle was Bruarfoss waterfall, it wasn’t hard to find this amazing spot, but it was dull and raining when we got there, which made photographing it quite challenging. Below is my favorite shot from Bruarfoss, the dramatic rain clouds contrast really well with the calming and soothing waterfall.

Bruarfoss waterfall looks otherworldly with its gorgeous blue hues!

Bruarfoss waterfall looks otherworldly with its gorgeous blue hues!

We then visited the rest of the touristy spots in the golden circle, before getting more adventurous and driving the hour long, very dodgy gravel road to Háifoss waterfall. When we arrived it was pouring rain, but luckily this cleared within about 20 minutes, and we got to see this amazing view!

A pano of Háifoss in the highlands of Iceland.

A pano of Háifoss in the highlands of Iceland.

The weather was pretty miserable all throughout the first 3 days, with thick clouds, wind and rain being the main order of the day, so there wasn’t any hope of seeing the Northern Lights in these first few days. On our 4th night we slept near Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, the Aurora forecast was predicting some activity, and the weather forecast predicted clear skies, so we had hope!

My strategy for Aurora hunting is not particularly easy or fun, it involves setting an alarm on my phone every 45 minutes throughout the night to get up and keep peeking out the window to see whether the Aurora is visible or not.

Having already woken up to check for Auroras about 5 times that night, my alarm went off at 02:15 and as with all the other times, I peeked out the window. This time though, I saw some suspiciously green looking clouds in the sky. I wasn’t sure if I was imagining or just hallucinating from a severe lack of sleep, but I wasn’t willing to risk it, so I got dressed, got the camera out and took a test shot.

As the screen of the camera lit up when the photo was done, I couldn’t believe my eyes! The sky was green! Light bands of aurora danced across the sky! I woke Christine up and continued shooting for a few minutes from the side of the road before I decided to drive to Fjaðrárgljúfur in order to get some interesting foreground, and captured the 2 shots below.

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) over Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon.

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) over Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon.

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) over Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon.

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) over Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon.

The next day we continued along the ring road, visiting a couple of places before finally getting to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. We spent the night here in the hope of getting a great sunset or sunrise and if we were lucky, see the Northern Lights again. The weather forecast showed clear skies all night, but the Aurora forecast was not promising at all, showing that there would not be any activity, so it was the ideal time to recover from the previous night and get some well deserved sleep!

For sunset, I wanted to capture a simple composition that would really give a sense of location, after lots of walking along the shore of the lagoon, I finally came up with the below. What better way to show Jökulsárlón than with a crystal clear block of ice and huge blue glacial icebergs in the background?

A block of crystal clear ice sits on the shore of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

A block of crystal clear ice sits on the shore of Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

After sunset, we made dinner and got to bed. I didn’t bother setting an alarm this time as the forecast indicated there wouldn’t be any Auroral activity that night, and I was completely knackered from the previous night and long day we had had.

At about 01:10am I woke up to sound of grown men screaming and shouting, alarmed, I didn’t know what was happening and peeked out of the window to see what was going on. I immediately recognized the ‘Suspiciously green clouds’ that I had seen the previous night, and realized that the grown men screaming and shouting must be because they were seeing the Northern lights for the first time! I scurried to get dressed and grabbed my camera and tripod, found a quick composition and captured this shot. I kept shooting to try get better shots, but within 5 minutes the lights had disappeared, and although I spent another 2 hours waiting for them, they never returned!

Some purple and green Auroras over Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Some purple and green Auroras over Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

After a very hectic first 6 days, with lots of travelling and being fairly sleep deprived, Christine and I needed an easy day to relax. What better way to do that than to sit in a geothermal hot tub surrounded my mountain views and a glacier?! This was the perfect way to chill and recharge our batteries.

Amazing little hot tubs with a view! Perfect time for some R&R!

Amazing little hot tubs with a view! Perfect time for some R&R!

We then drove to Stokksness later that afternoon and reorganized the camper van. We had some of the most amazing light at sunset, and we were at my favorite place in all of Iceland, what more could we want?! I had been to Stokksness in 2016, but never got to see the mountains as there were clouds covering the peaks, this time though, there wasn’t a cloud in sight!

The pristine sand dunes and gorgeous mountains at Stokksness!

The pristine sand dunes and gorgeous mountains at Stokksness!

Checking the weather forecast showed that we would again have clear skies that night, but it was going to be very windy and cold! When checking the Aurora forecast, which became a habit every afternoon, I couldn’t believe my eyes! The forecast was KP6! KP6 is extremely strong activity, it is very rare and is actually strong enough to be seen from parts of the UK, if its not raining!

An insane KP6 display of Aurora at Stokksness in Iceland.

An insane KP6 display of Aurora at Stokksness in Iceland.

What a show! Auroras dancing above Stokksness in Iceland!

What a show! Auroras dancing above Stokksness in Iceland!

Below is a quick time-lapse of the Northern lights dancing above Stokksness!

We spent a good 6 hours shooting the Aurora from as many angles as we could find! We even had time to pose and take some selfies!

A Selfie with a great display of Northern Lights in the background!

A Selfie with a great display of Northern Lights in the background!

A Selfie with a huge Aurora display in Stokksness.

A Selfie with a huge Aurora display in Stokksness.

That night was the best night of my life, being in Iceland with Christine, being treated to such an epic display from mother nature and just feeling at peace! The view the next morning was also incredible, as the wind had dropped and we got to see the epic mirror reflections that Stokksness has become famous for!

Can reflections get any better than this? A pano of stokksness.

Can reflections get any better than this? A pano of stokksness.

We next couple of days were uneventful in terms of Auroral activity as the weather was miserable. We continued driving along the road, visiting loads of locations, including some of the biggest landmarks and waterfalls in the North of Iceland.

The next location was a tough one to get to. We had a nightmarish long drive in heavy wind and rain, to finally get to Aldeyjarfoss waterfall. This was one of the locations I was most excited to shoot on this trip, as I had not visited it previously and had seen some absolutely stunning images from this location. Unfortunately, the weather did no cooperate when we were there, thick clouds and constant drizzle is all that we got. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to leave this location without some photos, and I managed to capture the below image just before sunrise.

Aldeyjarfoss before sunrise.

Aldeyjarfoss before sunrise.

We then visited Hvítserkur. Hvítserkur is an absolutely amazing, 15 meter high natural basalt rock formation which looks like a monster or dinosaur drinking from the sea! We got there before sunset, but it was cloudy and rainy and there wasn’t a sunset at all! I managed to get one good shot from the beach before the tied cut me off, and I had to get very very wet to get back!

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The forecast did show it should clear up overnight and that there might be some Aurora activity, so I set my usual alarms to ensure that if there was any Aurora, I could capture it! at about 03:00 I got up to what I immediately recognized to be Auroras, got dressed and headed down the trail to the viewing platform and captured this image.

Hvítserkur under the Northern Lights from the viewing platform.

Hvítserkur under the Northern Lights from the viewing platform.

After loads of debating, I then plucked up the courage to climb down the slippery cliffs in the dark all alone, as Christine was asleep in the camper van. I climbed down slowly, using my tripod as a walking pole and finally got down to the beach. I am glad I did, as I managed to capture this shot, which is one of my favorites from the trip!

The Northern lights dancing above Hvítserkur, with reflections in the wet sand.

The Northern lights dancing above Hvítserkur, with reflections in the wet sand.

We spent the last 2 days on the Snæfellsnes peninsula visiting all the usual touristy spots, but also in the hope that we would get some great conditions around the famous mountain Kirkjufell. We got a decent sunset on the first day, with a little color in the sky, this was captured from the usual viewpoint, where you can include Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall in the foreground.

An awesome sunset at Kirkjufell.

An awesome sunset at Kirkjufell.

For sunrise on the next day, I explored the surrounding area and found this great composition with a near perfect reflection of Kirkjufell.

Reflections in a little lake near Kirkufell before sunrise!

Reflections in a little lake near Kirkufell before sunrise!

The first night was completely cloudy, but the second wasn’t… And wow, what a great night it was!

Thin clouds roll in as the Northern lights dance above Kirkjufell mountain.

Thin clouds roll in as the Northern lights dance above Kirkjufell mountain.

Aurora bands dance above Kirkjufell with Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall in the foreground.

Aurora bands dance above Kirkjufell with Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall in the foreground.

The next day we headed back to Reykjavik and slept close to the airport as we had to be at the airport by 06:00 to return the van and get on our return flight. Below is a photo of our camper van, as you can imagine, we needed to give it a good wash before we returned it!

Our trusty little Nissan Camper Van! We spent 14 days living out of this little home away from home!

Our trusty little Nissan Camper Van! We spent 14 days living out of this little home away from home!

That was the end of our amazing trip, it was my second trip to Iceland and Christine’s first. We were really lucky to have seen the Aurora on 5 occasions in 5 different locations! I got some really great shots throughout the whole trip, even when faced by some terrible weather. You can can see all the images from this trip and other trips in the gallery.