Iceland in Winter

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What do the movies Fast & Furious 8, Rogue One, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Prometheus, Thor 2, Noah and Batman Begins have in common? Scenes in all of them were filmed in the otherworldly fire and ice landscapes of Iceland! This small volcanic island nation has become a favorite of Hollywood location scouts as a ready-made stand-in for distant planets, the beginning of time, or world apocalypse. Iceland's resemblance to some far-off planet is so convincing that nine of the twelve Apollo astronauts, who would later set foot on the moon between 1969 and 1972, came to Iceland to train for their space missions.
"Iceland in winter is beautiful, the glaciers are so blue and gorgeous snow covered mountains. The ice cave we visited was a photographer's dream. We even got an outstanding night of aurora borealis photography. I would definitely recommend this trip. "
- D. Gale

As a mere 20 million-year-old "infant"—compared to other lands on our 4.5 billion-year-old planet—Iceland maintains a freshness, a rawness and a newly-made aura that begs to be photographed. While this dramatic world of black lava landscapes, torrential waterfalls, crystalline glaciers and surging coastline should be enough to tempt any landscape photographer, imagine this setting in winter—envision an ice-shrouded frozen planet, punctuated with twisted lava forms, geysers and bubbling hot springs. Accessible and photogenic deep-blue ice caves, steaming fumaroles, an awe-inspiring iceberg lagoon, and the possibility of the nighttime aurora borealis spawn seemingly endless powerful graphic imagery.

Iceland's unpredictable weather—even more variable in winter—gives rise to swift, picturesque rivers with 10,000 thunderous waterfalls that flow across the tortured volcanic landscape. Ever-changing clouds accentuate polychrome rhyolite hillsides, striking basalt columns and sculptural sea arches. Snow, rain, sunshine, freezing and (almost) balmy conditions are all possible in a single day. But, as a destination for winter landscape photography, all you can say is Iceland is smoking hot!

We travel eastward out of Reykjavik along the coast road through dramatic volcanic landscapes to the town of Vik. Along our route, we stop at the impressive Seljalandsfoss—a 130-foot-high gauzy cascade plunging into an amphitheater-like pool—and Skógafoss—surging over a cliff in a broad sheet—and also capture images of the panoramic scenery. The area is renowned for wild and untouched seascapes. We photograph the rugged black beaches near Vik, and Reynisfjara and Dyrhólaey with their impressive sculptural coastal features, including the Reynisdrangar sea stacks.

Participants on our Iceland winter photo tourWe continue further eastward to the Vatnajökull region which was designated as a national park in 2008. Vatnajökull is Europe's largest icecap by volume—a relic of the last ice age. One of its outlet glaciers, Breiðamerkurjökull, calves into the picturesque Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. A short river flows from the lagoon to the ocean and, twice daily, the tide carries icebergs out of the lagoon and washes them up on the black volcanic beach. This is one of the most unique and dynamic landscape photography locations in Iceland—and the world. To make sure we capture its essence we stay four nights in the area. Our base is a nearby guesthouse—the closest accommodation to the lagoon and only about an eight-minute drive away. We make repeated visits to Jökulsárlón and the iceberg beach. Depending on accessibility and safety considerations at the time of our visit, we have also scheduled photography at the spectacular Vatnajökull ice caves. At night we direct our attention to any stretch of clear sky to see if aurora borealis appears over the icebergs.

Following our shooting days near Vatnajökul, our journey takes us further east into a dramatic fjord landscape. We spend the night on the coast before continuing to Lake Mývatn.

From our comfortable hotel base on Lake Mývatn, we photograph the nearby geothermal area and the otherworldly volcanic features surrounding the lake. We also visit the tumultuous Goðafoss waterfall—which should be partially frozen. At Mývatn, as well as at all other locations, we respond to any possible northern lights events by photographing after dark.

Our March Iceland winter photo tour is co-led by Jeff Vanuga and Icelandic photographer Daniel Bergmann who take you through the most diverse, dramatic and photogenic winter landscapes in Iceland. Join them and experience Iceland's hearty Viking hospitality, and capture the recurring interplay of light and weather that traverses some of the least photographed—and most unearthly—environments in the northern hemisphere.

Be sure to check out these trip reports from past Iceland winter photo tours:
2015 Trip Report by Joe Van Os
2016 Trip Report by John Shaw
2017 Trip Report by John Shaw

Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Depart from home.

Day 2 (Feb 16)

Most US flights to Iceland arrive at the Keflavik airport in the early morning and those from Europe land in early afternoon. Transfer to Reykjavik. Following our welcome dinner, with favorable conditions, we photograph the aurora borealis in a preselected scenic location. 

Day 3

We travel along the coast road to the southernmost mainland town of Vik. We photograph Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls en route and the monochromatic seascapes near Vik, Reynisfjara and Dyrhólaey. (BLD)

Day 4

We continue to explore the spectacularly scenic glacier country of the southeast coast as we cross the Skaftafell region. This afternoon, we photograph at Jökulsárlón—where strikingly-sculpted, blue-tinged icebergs float in a densely-packed lagoon. Our guesthouse is at the foot of Vatnajökull—larger than all other glaciers on mainland Europe combined. As our primary goal of this trip is to create landscape images in the best available light, we are on location sometimes before sunrise for the pre-dawn light—waking at 6 AM and returning to our hotel for breakfast after the morning session. (BLD)

Photographing the aurora borealis on our Iceland winter photo tourDays 5–7

We return to Jökulsárlón lagoon these mornings. The icebergs, calved from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, are irregularly shaped and sized—marbled with black volcanic ash and sediment. For many photographers, Jökulsárlón is the photographic highlight, among the many fantastic landscape highpoints in Iceland. From our strategically-located base near Jökulsárlón we may photograph as far east as the Stokksnes Peninsula or as far west as Skaftafell. Each day's photography locations will be chosen based on weather and local road conditions. We plan to photograph Vatnajökull glacial ice caves (depending on their accessibility and safety factors). Rivers running under the glaciers form the ice caves but the locations of caves vary from year to year and conditions inside the caves (the amount of water being the primary concern) can change from day to day. As these ice caves are dynamic, the accessibility of a photogenic cave has to be decided once we're in the area. For our cave excursion we use local ice guides who provide us with appropriate safety equipment. (BLD)

Day 8

The main highway follows the coast eastward and then northward to Breiddalsvik. The small fishing village is located in the longest and widest valley in East Iceland and framed on two sides by mountains rising to 3,600 feet. (BLD)

Day 9

We plan on traveling to Lake Mývatn. Once in East Iceland, we make a decision based on road conditions further north. Due to the low population density in the extreme northeast, roads are not plowed for snow every day and drifting snow can obscure visibility. We obtain local (and reliable) road snow conditions and decide whether to spend additional time in the Eastfjord region before continuing to Lake Mývatn—a true winter Icelandic adventure! We reserve the right to adjust the itinerary based on local weather, snow and road conditions. (BLD)

Days 10–11

In the Lake Mývatn area we photograph the Námafjall geothermal area where boiling mudpools bubble and the steam of hissing fumaroles is accentuated by the frigid air. The spectacular Goðafoss waterfall is nearby and it is particularly photogenic in winter when much of its thundering cascade can be frozen. Our days are spent exploring the region, including the lakeshore and the coast to the east of Húsavík. (BLD)

Day 12 (Feb 26)

We drive to Akureyri for a domestic flight to Reykjavik. Transfer to Keflavik airport in time for late afternoon international flight departures. (B)

 
I am a solo traveler and although I do like the convenience of making my own itinerary on my own terms, traveling with Joe Van Os gives me the camaraderie of fellow photographers, a tried and true schedule with knowledgeable guides, and a guarantee for outstanding photography. When I travel with a group, Joe Van Os has been and will continue to be my preferred way to go.
—D. Davidson
 
Well organized tour with superb leaders and great places to stay and photograph.
—V. MacDonald
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Iceland in Winter

Feb 15, 2018 - Feb 26, 2018


1. REGISTRATION
A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.

2. PAYMENTS, CANCELLATIONS AND REFUNDS

All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa or MasterCard. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days priors to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of entire trip fee
100% of entire trip fee


No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

3. TRIP INSURANCE
Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

4. HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

5. CONTACT SCHEDULE
Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to info@photosafaris.com.

6. PHOTO SAFARI COSTS
Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

7. LOGISTICS
Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

8. RESPONSIBILITY
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Iceland in Winter
Highlights
  • Snow-covered volcanic peaks, crystalline glaciers, black lava landscapes, torrential waterfalls, and an ice-clad northern lake set amid extensive geothermal features
  • Four nights at a conveniently-located guesthouse near Jökulsárlón offers access to this photogenic iceberg lagoon, ice caves and glacial landscapes
  • Good possibility of aurora borealis at this time of the year
  • 4x4 vehicles and a flexible itinerary allow for modifications due to weather conditions
 
Feb 15 - Feb 26, 2018
Fee: $7,895 from Reykjavik, Iceland
Deposit: $800
Limit: 14
 
Tour Leaders
 
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