Photographing in Iceland
Iceland is adventurous and unforgettable so naturally you'll want to get on the best photography tour available.
Ice caves and active volcanoes, black beaches, rugged lava and rocky coastlines; mountains, waterfalls, natural hot springs and geysers, not to mention amazing bird life, the midnight sun and the alluring northern lights; Iceland truly offers exciting opportunities for exploring and photographing.
Professional photographer Eyjólfur Már Thoroddsen, or Ao Thor as he is better known, is the person to go to if you are looking for truly adventurous and unforgettable photography tours in Iceland.
For years, Iceland has been a dream destination for photographers. Many of the growing number of tourists visiting Iceland come here exclusively to photograph the country, and no wonder, Iceland truly is a photographer's paradise. But landscape photography in Iceland is not always easy. Some of the country's most photogenic locations can be far off the beaten track and you might have to do quite a bit of uphill hiking or cross treacherous rivers to reach prime vantage points. And since traveling solo is not always feasible in an artic country notorious for its fickle weather conditions, having a well-trained and informed photography guide to escort you offers the ideal solution.
A photographic dream come true
Ao Thor is the driving force behind Arctic Advanced, an innovating travel agency specializing in adventure tours in Iceland. Through his company, Arctic Advanced and his website, Photography Guide, Ao makes amateur and professional photographers' dreams of shooting in Iceland come true. His work also entails producing workshops for professional photographers who want to bring their clients for photography workshops in Iceland.
Throughout his work, Ao's passion has been landscape photography and while working for film and advertising companies, scouting the country for ideal locations, Ao was able to visit and discover stunning locations around the country, frequently locations not even known to the average Icelandic traveler. Ao's job as a location scout and photographer took him on top of glaciers, into deep and often dangerous ice caves and to places not exactly within walking distance from the Ring Road. Consequently, Ao is thoroughly knowledgeable about the country and its dangers, something that can be vital when traveling in Iceland.
Bespoke photography tours
A large part of Ao's work involves organizing special tours for individuals around the country, where the focus is firmly on photography. “Throughout the year we offer a selection of package tours where a local photographer and other experts guide people on how to go about shooting the most stunning places in Iceland, such as Jökulsárlón, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Hvítserkur and Dettifoss. It's up to the client how much time he wants to spend on the tour, what kind of photography he's interested in, where he wants to sleep and what he wants to eat; we cater to our clients every wish. If your dream is to combine photo opportunity with whooshing across a glacier on a dogsled, then that's what we'll provide for you. That's actually quite an interesting thing to do while in Iceland as those dogs can be very photogenic,” says Ao.
Last year, Ao assisted British photographer, Natalie Dybisz, otherwise known as Miss Aniela, on her Fashion Shoot Experience workshop in Iceland. Miss Aniela specializes in surreal fashion shoots and does workshops all over the world, where landscape and gorgeous dresses melt together in amazing images. “When shooting fashion, we usually have about 30 people in the group; the photographer and his assistants, models, stylist, hairdresser, a person in charge of the expensive designer dresses, guides, plus the clients attending the workshop. The clients get to photograph the models on exotic locations around Iceland. Six months of preparation went into the pre-production of the Miss Aniela workshop.”
The roads less traveled
Some of the locations visited during Ao's tours are too dangerous and secluded to travel to on your own. “The Icelandic highlands are often our destination and we frequently have to cross open rivers, wet sands or drive across glaciers. To reach our destination we use specially modified 4x4 trucks, driven by experienced driver guides, so that we reach our destination safe and sound. During the summer we often head towards the West Fjords or the East Fjords of Iceland, whereas most tourists visiting Iceland tend to explore only the south coast.”
“The West Fjords are my favorite place in Iceland for photography. The light, the raw arctic landscape and the dramatic high mountains, it's just captivating. It's by no means easy to work there since quite a few locations are difficult to reach, some of them only accessible by boat. But the West Fjords offer a large area to cover so the trips there are usually at least 5 days, but mostly 10 days or even more. Although each and every part of Iceland boasts a great deal of natural beauty, I would have to say that the West Fjords are in a league of their own.”
Find cheap flights to Iceland from USA, UK and Ireland with WOW air. For those interested in knowing more about Ao's Iceland photography tours and the workshops, we recommend a look at Ao's websites, aothor.com, photographyguide.is and arcticadvanced.com.
Text: Gerður Harðardóttir
Photos: Ao Thor