Did I mention that I'd been to Iceland? by Neil Alexander

Voices Inside My Head. Jökulsárlón, Iceland.

You may have read that I was planning on going to Iceland. I may have mentioned it once or twice. I was very excited just prior to the trip to say the least, and I'm glad I can report that it far exceeded my expectations.

First of all, I did not go alone. While I’m happy to drive from Manchester to the Lakes, Skye or even Ibiza on my own, renting a 4x4 and getting lost on my lonesome half way up a glacier was not top of my list to do. So when I saw that Ken Kaminesky was leading a photo tour round the joint, I jumped at the chance. There was Ken, Patrick di Fruscia and Elia & Naomi Locardi leading the tour, all of whom are awesome photographers, along with myself and nine other photographers from all over the globe hungry for some Icelandic action. Poor Rochelle had even flown for 48 hours from Australia! 

So I viewed this trip in two ways: first and foremost it was a fantastic opportunity to mix with some like-minded folk, see some amazing shit and make some photographs worth selling on my return. And secondly, in case the weather was not on our side, also as a scouting mission should I ever decide that I would like to go back again. That decision was made within minutes of checking into my hotel in Reykjavik and spending a few minutes wandering round the city. Never have I felt less apprehensive walking round a strange land. In fact I felt more comfortable meandering around downtown Reykjavik than I do vast swathes of Manchester. Lovely place. Bet it’s great for a city break weekend. The flight from Manchester is only 2 ½ hours you know.

Driven To Tears.

Hrauneyjafoss, Iceland.

Anyway, I digress. The trip. I really ought to have taken more notes, or even some notes but I relied primarily on GPS to allow me to search place names and background information on my return but in spite of this, there’s some I really can’t caption. The mapping software places the coordinates on the middle of a nameless hill. We had an extremely knowledgeable local guide, Sig from Iceland Is Hot with us the whole time so it was stupid not to have made notes of some kind. That’s me told off.

The scenery around the island is absolutely spectacular and there are more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at. As a famous photographer once said (I forget who. It might’ve been Jim Richardson) “If you want to take better pictures, stand in front of better stuff”. So here I was in front of some jaw-droppingly beautiful stuff and snapping away to my heart’s content. Happy as a pig in shit.

And then I think it must have been the fifth night, the first time I really took a minute to look at the images I'd shot so far. The days had been so action packed that the end of each day had been a case of arrive at hotel after dark, quickly put batteries on to charge, start memory cards downloading and dash off to dinner. On returning from dinner were all so knackered and had such early starts ahead of us that we just crashed. Now bearing in mind that for the previous five days we hadn’t really seen anything other than grey and overcast skies. When I went through my photographs in Lightroom that night I was somewhat disappointed with what I’d amassed. I’ve been at this photography malarkey long enough to know that in spite of the poor light, it is possible to make great images. But I hadn’t. Not even close. To make matters worse I had the opportunity to see what some of the other guys had managed to capture. Several of them had managed to make really great photographs at exactly the same locations I had been,  under the same crap light. I felt low. I had a real “Crap man, I suck!” moment. I felt lower than low. 

Giant Steps Are What You Take....

On the road to Landmannalaugar, Western Iceland.

So I took the plunge. I decided to seek help. I felt like I was drowning under my own negativity, and rather fortunately the very amiable Patrick di Fruscia threw me a life jacket and hauled me back on board. Myself, Jim and Patrick then talked shop until far too late and I crashed into my pit feeling rather more positive, though that may partly have been a result of a few extra Icelandic pale ales (They’re very nice but at £5 a pop, not cheap).

"The afternoon has gently passed me by
The evening spreads its sail against the sky
Waiting for tomorrow
Just another day
God bid yesterday goodbye."

Jökulsárlón, Iceland

The highlights for me were definitely the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón and the waterfalls at Hrauneyjafoss. That’s primarily because they’re where I feel I made the best photographs. But to be honest there were so many highlights. We had such a blast. I made friends with people from all over the place and whilst they say that relationships that are formed under extreme circumstances are doomed to failure, I do hope I manage to stay in touch with them all. 


The bloody rain and wind. I don’t mind rain. Nor do I mind wind either. Together, they don’t make it easy to produce good photographs. The first problem is keeping the tripod with camera on top from blowing over. Then there’s the rain. The first time out for my newly acquired (specifically for this trip )  AquaTech SS-200 Sport Shield performed admirably though the clear plastic that’s supposed to sit over the LCD has separated from the cover already. I hoped it would be better made than that but with some carefully applied duct tape, the gap was temporarily repaired. Which was just as well because at Seljalandsfoss  & Skógafoss in particular, I got absolutely soaked to the skin. You just try keeping the front element of your lens dry and make a photograph without splodges of water all over it. It was nigh on impossible.  
And then there was the endless fogging. I found out very quickly that the hotel rooms were so hot that the transition between hot indoors and cold outdoors was a major problem. On early mornings, I often found that my wide-angle lens and the displays on one of my bodies would be completely fogged up no matter what I did. The only solution was to remove the memory cards and batteries on arrival at a hotel and leave the camera bag on the bus where it would stay relatively cool overnight. 

"The young man agreed
He would satisfy their need
So they danced for his pleasure
With a joy you could not measure.
They would wait for him here
The same place every year.
Beneath the sheltering sky
Across the desert he would fly."

Brunnhorn & Vesturhorn, Iceland.

To conclude, Iceland is quite simply a spectacular country and it’s inhabitants a very friendly bunch indeed. I will most certainly be returning in the not too distant future to make those photographs I missed now that I’m a little more knowledgeable as to what I should expect and where I can go. And I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the guys over at Blame The Monkey if you were thinking of joining them for a photo tour. There wasn’t a dull moment! They have trips planned for next year to visit Italy in May, Bolivia & Chile in August, and possibly a return to Iceland too I heard on the QT.

Note: Some of these images and possibly a few more from the trip will be appearing in my print store pretty soon. Sign up for my newsletter and be the first to know.

As I stand here alone in Iceland by Neil Alexander

As I stand here alone, in the midst of an ancient sea of fire and brimstone, 
thoughts on the insignificance of life and time fill my mind and simply, it is blown. 

"As I stand here alone"
On the road to Landmannalaugar, Western Iceland

Iceland was amazing. A photographer’s wet dream. I have a great deal of emotional attachment to many, if not all of the images. Even those where I fought tooth and nail (often in vain) to keep my camera, lens front element and less successfully myself, dry still feel very fresh. The emotions the place evoked were so strong. So I’m letting them rest a while. 
I’ve pulled out a few and processed them in a manner that I felt was in keeping with the drama of the environment. Some scenes struggled with contrast though have produced beautiful monochrome images others have colours so vivid I have had to tone them down so as not to make them appear surreal (even though the landscape often was).
So here’s the first. The location was in the interior of Iceland, on the road to Landmannalaugar. The road snakes and winds through the middle of the 600 year old  Laugahraun lava field. The “road” is so rough that rental cars are banned and only 4x4 vehicles are permitted to drive the route.
There is nothing but rough uneven jagged rock as far as the eye can see traversed boldly by the completely linear electricity pylons standing like a monument to man’s fight to continually subjugate nature.

I felt that David Bowie’s Space Oddity was the perfect track to accompany this photograph, but whilst looking for an embeddable mp3 player I stumbled across this rather marvellous remake over on Soundcloud.

"For here 

Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do

Though I'm past
one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much
she knows”
David Bowie - Space Oddity