65° 41’ N, 16° 47’W September 29, 2003 Each footstep landed with a hollow thud as I trekked along a faint path in the blackened earth. Around me steaming cracks vented sulfurous clouds that disappeared into the desolation. It was an active volcanic area in northern Iceland, and yet I could not imagine the rivers of molten rock flowing underneath my feet.
63° 55’ N, 21° 59’W September 23, 2002 I often returned to Lake Kleifarvatn during several years of shuttling from North America to Iceland because I found peace in its calm waters. On this trip, I found that a great crack in the earth had opened and into it flowed the lake. Its waters had fallen. Thermal springs, once hidden, formed steaming pools of boiling mud.
65° 34’ N, 19° 7’ W September 27, 2003 I left the West Fjords hoping to reach Akureyri by late afternoon. I was soon in a trance-like rhythm as I passed up and over many mountains on the roads leading out of western Iceland. Sometimes, the rhythm was accented by a moment, like the sight of cloud-cloaked peaks hiding bright valleys.
63° 53’ N, 22° 03’W April 26, 2004 Beneath the steamy surface in the thermal pools at Krýsuvík, swaths of color were like a painter’s palette. What was before me, what I imagined as primal life, was also a muse.
64° 09’ N, 19° 46’W April 23, 2003 Like scars, the colors of rhyolite — a volcanic creation — were embedded in the hills that surround the blackened valley floor. In the shadow of the epic volcano Hekla, once fertile land remains a remnant from its battle with fire and ash.
65° 50’ N, 18° 24’ W September 30, 2003 If I had followed the traditional rules of landscape photography I would have returned when the waterfall was bathed in perfect light. In this narrow canyon, the rays of light illuminated only the rising mist and not the falling water creating it. I like to capture Iceland despite the imperfect conditions it often presents.
63° 49’ N, 22° 41’ W September 23, 2002 Pools of sludge boiled and churned in steaming holes, and putrid air burst forth. Every time the earth coughed so did I. Many people find geothermal areas to be hellish, but I find them to be entertaining and a welcome sign of life.
64° 41’ N, 20° 43’W September 21, 2003 Along a snowy country road on the edge of the Icelandic interior, I watched a storm develop above a mountain. Then, a trickle of light sliced through the clouds, glided across the land and disappeared. I wondered if this is how Iceland’s ghosts travel.
64° 04’ N, 16° 11’W April 20, 2004 At Jökulsárlón, I stood on frozen shores and watched a journey end. It began maybe a thousand years ago when snow fell atop distant mountains and formed a glacier. The ice forms crept along, carving great valleys into the land. At the lagoon, ice peppered with mountain rock reaches its destination, the sea.
64° 37’ N, 20° 47’W September 27, 2002 Sun and storm battled each other all day in Kaldidalur. I was just a casualty after a rainbow that jumped into the sky teased me on more than one occasion. I left the valley with a photograph of a lonely road and the memory of chasing a rainbow.
64° 15’ N, 14° 59’W April 23, 2004 The crags of Vestrahorn were a welcome sight during my daily drive home from work. When I saw them, I knew I was near the town of Höfn — my home when I explored southeast Iceland. But in the shadows of twilight, I discovered the dark side of my new friend while exploring its foothills.
65° 38’ N, 24° 18’W September 24, 2003 My arrival in Patreksfjörður was coincidentally timed with the setting sun. Perfectly placed clouds drifted above the cliffs across the fjord as I raced through town. I found a vantage point amidst debris from the fishing docks and captured the dying of the day.
63° 47’ N, 22° 42’W September 23, 2002 I stood for perhaps an hour oblivious to the chill from the salty ocean spray that comes in gusts. I watched waves explode through cracks in tide-worn rock. The waters seemed alive — each drop battling to reach the shore revealing a different personality.
63° 36’ N, 20° 00’W September 25, 2002 Absolute silence can be scary. I found it often in the Icelandic wilderness where even a slight wind can rustle the senses. The silence faded as I neared the hissing ropes of silky droplets. Thunderously they fell in dark waters.
64° 47’ N, 23° 43’W September 22, 2003 My trip along the gravel track to Snæfellsjökull ended before its summit came into view. I had weighed the odds of having my car get stuck in a snow drift, so I turned it around. As I struggled, clouds slightly parted to reveal slopes leading to the hidden peak. Again, Iceland provided me with good fortune just when I thought the opportunity to make a photograph had disappeared.
64° 16’ N, 21° 06’W September 24, 2002 My companions were slick trails and steady rain as I hiked through deep rifts. The site of the ancient Icelandic parliament was empty, the summer crowds long departed. This is how I preferred to experience Iceland — alone, without herding tourists. People are usually the subject of my photography, but in Iceland solitude is my best friend.
63° 32’ N, 19° 20’W September 25, 2002 My first encounter with a glacier was not typical and grand. I was facing the leading edge covered in chalky grit instead of looking out over a massive plateau of icy crevasses. I shifted my thoughts from the mud I just trudged through and imagined myself looking at art on a gallery wall.
63° 23’ N, 19° 02’W April 18, 2004 The rock formations just offshore on the south coast had once been trolls who were turned into stone — or at least that’s what Icelandic folklore says. I spent lots of time on deserted roads thinking why people invented such tales. But occasionally, I imagined the stories as truth.
63° 53’ N, 22° 03’W April 20, 2002 I was afraid I would miss something special, so my eyes intensely scanned the mountains and valleys around me. But the special shot was at my feet – a rock whose colors and form were shaped by heat and chemistry at this geothermal site.
64° 42’ N, 20° 47’ W September 27, 2002 I had driven through the barrens of Kaldidalur several months earlier, oblivious to the glacial stream that flows parallel to the road. The angle of the driver’s seat had kept it hidden. But this time a friend in the next seat spotted the gray waters carving their way through old lava.
63° 26’ N, 18° 52’ W April 18, 2004 I trust my instincts. You have to, working as a photographer. But when they’re wrong, as they were near the southern coast town of Vík, a valley that seemingly holds little promise for pictures turns out to be photogenic with amber grasses.
64° 57’ N, 22° 43’ W September 22, 2003 The drive to the town of Stykkishólmur challenged me. As I descended the mountain pass, snow blown by harsh winds hid all but a few meters of road in front of me. I found comfort in calm skies when I left the mountains. In my rearview mirror I noticed the strange play of light hovering over a distant peak. I turned away from town and headed back to the edge of the storm.
64° 01’ N, 21° 12’ W September 26, 2002 On a dark and icy December morning, I hiked into the mountains near Hveragerði and soon became lost in the foothills. I expected hot springs, but instead discovered a golf course. Frustrated and amused, I gave up. But I returned almost a year later — map in hand — to find those hot springs.
64° 00’ N, 16° 52’W April 20, 2004 Next to Svínafellsjökull I studied patterns in the cliffs overlooking the glacier, realizing the powerful force of ice. It crushed and carved such strange features into the mountains towering over it. I realized water really does have the strength to move mountains.
64° 22’ N, 14° 50’W April 22, 2004 I found the tidal lagoons along the southeast coast devoid of life. I had hoped to photograph the colonies of swans that made this their summer home, but they hadn’t yet arrived. I thought again about the abstract and concentrated on simple shapes like the ones I found when photographing glaciers.
64° 44’ N, 23° 43’W September 22, 2003 For hours I drove among ridges of lava covered in moss and thought of being on another planet. It surprised me to burst onto a freshly paved ribbon of road cutting through fields of grass. For a brief moment I was in the American West, but then the jagged points and emerald moss reappeared.
64° 30’ N, 21° 53’W September 21, 2003 I had hiked all day in search of something dramatic to capture. Fearing the day would end with only tired legs and an unused camera, I settled into a motel south of Borgarnes. As I opened the curtains, golden crags trickling down steep slopes filled the window, and I found my moment.
63° 46’ N, 18° 16’ W April 19, 2004 In Icelandic, lokið means closed. The word was painted in bright letters on a barrier blocking the road to my destination — the volcanic craters at Laki. My plans having collapsed, I decided to wander. I turned onto the first road I found — just another country path, I thought. What I found was a lush canyon where I spent the afternoon hiking and exploring.
63° 55’ N, 22° 00’ W September 23, 2002 My boots sank deep into the slushy grit as I hiked along Lake Kleifarvatn’s shoreline. I paused and looked behind me. My footprints trailed off toward a point on the horizon and disappeared. I thought of a cliché of “footprints in sand” created on a tropical beach. I laughed. I was alone on a cold and desolate island. I found inspiration in a speck of life struggling to survive.
64° 10’ N, 21° 10’W September 24, 2002 It was a typical autumn storm in Iceland and the afternoon drive was miserable. High winds and pelting rain were spawned from a sky the color of slate. As a curve in the road straightened, a lake appeared on the horizon. I saw beams of silver and white erupt from the sky, and had just enough time to capture this brief but bright moment.