One of the main attractions of Iceland is the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón in eastern Iceland. This location is very easy to find since the main road A1 drives right through and signs and banners show commercials for the attractions of the lagoon.
The mouth of the lagoon forms a natural bottleneck for the icebergs, where they pile up until they break apart into smaller pieces and floats out into the sea. When the pieces of ice hit the sea they get pushed back into the beach by the waves. This phenomenon is a common subject for photographers. It’s not easy to get a good shot here. The big amounts of ice can often create chaotic and random compositions. When you’ve finally found something of interest you have both the waves and the light to combat. It’s highly recommended to bring some waders or other clothes so you can care a little less about the waves. Running back and forth for every wave is not ideal.
Lighting wise the icy beach mainly points southeast, which makes this location optimal for sunrises in the early spring, late summer, and autumn.
Capturing that beautiful light from the sunrise through the ice is spectacular.
It’s very popular to experiment with long exposures too at this location and the waves can make for some strong leading lines in your composition.
Night photography and light painting is also an option. In my pictures, I used the moon to backlight the ice, while I used my headlamp to light it from the sides. The shot below and the first in this post are both 30-second exposures. I spend approximately 10 seconds lighting the ice from camera right, then run to camera left and lighted the other side of the ice.
If you have time I can recommend a trip with one of the amphibians for a closer look on the icebergs in the lagoon.
Making great pictures by the lagoon can be as hard as at the beach. You can use one of the smaller chunks of ice as a strong foreground subject, while the larger icebergs can make up the middle ground and a potential sunset makes up the background along with the mountains.
Another option is to use the water for reflections – that is if the weather allows it of cause. The lagoon is also great for shooting the northern lights. Try to hit the lagoon around the new moon. You do want a little light from the moon to lit up the ice, but not so much that the light overpowers the auroras.
As a bonus you might be lucky to experience seals at this location. Two out of the three times I’ve been there I’ve seen seals. The first time was at the icy beach and the second was inside the lagoon.
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you want to see even more from my side, I have extensive video guides for a lot of locations in Iceland. Check out the video for this location below and my website, follow me on Instagram or look through my pictures on 500px if you like! If you want to buy any of my pictures as beautiful high-quality prints check out my Society6 page.
- See also: Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon - see the crown jewel of Iceland's nature
- Find Jökulsárlón tours here
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