Breath of Iceland
Founded by couple Guðjón Svanur Hermannsson (aka Gaui H) and Lilja Dögg Schram Magnúsdóttir, The Breath of Iceland project was originally supposed to be a hobby but it soon turned into something much more. Together Gaui H and Lilja take photos and write about amazing places in Iceland in the hope of reaching as many people as possible.
The project started a year and a half ago when Gaui H and Lilja went on a trip to the south coast of Iceland. They stayed in a cabin for a weekend and took pictures and videos and had so much fun they decided to do much more and share their photos and videos with the world. They are very passionate about their project, and because of their excellent work combined with their passion, in the last few months, their followers on Facebook have gone from 590 to 90,000. Also, their website and Youtube channel have a steady stream of visitors.
Sharing the Beauty
“We go on trips as often as possible, mostly using the weekends since we both have day jobs, devoting as many hours to this project as we can. Usually, we plan our destination during the week, but sometimes the weather dictates where we end up. Photographers often talk about the golden hour when the light is perfect for photography, but we use all hours of the day. Interesting shots can be taken in all light and weather conditions,” says Gaui H who is the main photo- and videographer. Lilja is his assistant, as well as taking behind-the-scenes photographs and making sure he doesn’t forget his camera in the middle of nowhere or fall off a cliff.
“Our vision for this project is reaching as many people around the world as we can and sharing the beauty of our home country with them. We are always looking for ways to improve, so we hope that people who see our pictures and videos, comment and let us know what they think, what they like and what they would like to see more of,” Gaui H adds.
Gaui H has been taking photographs since he was a child. His grandfather and grandmother gave him his first camera when he was nine, and after that, he was hooked. As an adult, he became more interested in digital photography and tried many types of cameras, but today, he only uses Sony.
Besides doing nature videos, Gaui has worked with a lot of Icelandic bands, doing music videos and photoshoots, such as Dimma, Kontinuum and Himbrimi. He also does photoshoots for Zo-on, an Icelandic company that makes outdoor clothing made for Icelandic weather. However, Gaui H’s primary job is for Þórsgarður. Þórsgarður owns, among other properties, Kvosin Hotel, a small and very cozy hotel in downtown Reykjavík. If you stay there, you will get to enjoy Gaui H’s photography, for in every room hangs a photograph by him, from his Reykjavík life series.
Lilja is the other half of this team. Lilja and Gaui are engaged to be married, and between them they have five children and even one grandchild. Lilja is a preschool teacher with a BA degree in English literature and a diploma in museum studies.
A Family Affair
Lilja and Gaui got engaged last year. Gaui popped the question behind Kvernufoss, a beautiful waterfall close to Skógafoss. They make a good team and like working together (which is a good thing, since they probably would never see each other if they were not always together on projects). “We try to involve as many family members in our projects as possible. For example, Lilja’s stepfather and brothers are composing music for the project,” says Gaui.
Beautiful photographs and fantastic videos are what guests can expect when visiting the Breath of Iceland website. “We try to put new photographs online regularly, and a new video every month. We will be on the road for most of this summer, so there’s lots of new material on the way.”
The Westfjords are Gaui’s favorite part of Iceland because of the untouched and pure nature there. “The beauty of the mountains rising from the sea is unlike anything else, and the people there are the most wonderful people in all of Iceland.” Of course, Gaui would say that, being born and raised in the Westfjords.
The majestic Mount Vestrahorn is another one of his favorites. “It is one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland, however, it is always breathtaking to see it and feel the energy and atmosphere surrounding it. Every time I go there I try to find a different angle to shoot,” he says.
Strandir, which is way up north, is Lilja’s favorite part of Iceland. “The drive from Hólmavík to Djúpavík (a very small but incredibly charming village) is just beautiful. There is no place on earth more beautiful. The waterfall, Gljúfrabúi is another one of my favorite places. It is a waterfall inside a cave. One of my favorite memories from our travels around the country, is when the car broke down and we were stuck by Gljúfrabúi for hours, waiting for someone to pick us up. There is just a fabulous atmosphere in that cave,” says Lilja.
Tips for Photographing in Iceland
When Gaui and Lilja are asked if they have any tips for those who want to visit Iceland and snap some photos they’re more than willing to share. “Bring your camera and a tripod. If possible, use different kinds of filters, and you can never have enough memory cards. Always remember to try different angles and don’t worry about the weather. You can still get a good picture even in terrible weather.” They recommend taking the Ring Road around Iceland, and if you possibly can, take your time.
“Remember to bring extra socks when you are out and about. Something Lilja learned the hard way; wet feet are not fun. The weather is unpredictable, and there are dangers, so don’t ignore warning signs. But mainly, always be well prepared, anything can happen in Iceland,” Gaui adds.
Finally, they say: “Be adventurous. Don’t just go to the typical tourist places. Take the road to you don’t know where. You might discover something spectacular.”