I landed in Iceland to grey, drizzly skies and 12C ‘mid-summer’ temperatures and my first thought was ‘well, this is nothing like Jarrad Seng made it out to be’.
I’m not going to lie - what you don’t see in these photos (or maybe you do) was the cold wind and constant misty drizzle of rain, a small but crowded minibus of people and the slightly gross awkwardness of having to take down your wet umbrella and shove it by your feet, trying to juggle a 4kg camera, phone, phone charger (because it’s cold and your iPhone dies abruptly in cold!), water bottle, diary, trying to have some food, and not lose your lens cap (oh god, don’t lose your lens cap).
One day I will have the time and money to do a proper photographer’s trip to Iceland but as a first-time just-graduated tourist doing day trips from Reyjkavik - still not cheap, mind - this is sometimes the reality you have to deal with. So no, we didn’t see rainbows at Skógafoss or Seljalandsfoss, we were warned not to go anywhere near Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach’s actual water because of the high winds, we only got to stand and look at Foss á Síðu from a distance and we didn’t get to hike on a glacier (we could barely see it by that point). That beautiful golden hour light I had been dreaming of was emphatically not going to make an appearance.
I knew - intellectually - that I was still in frikkin’ Iceland. How many people in the world would ever get that opportunity? But it was still hard to get over the gap between what I had dreamed about and saved up to do, and the reality I was facing.
I always believe in being honest about how photography tells a lie. But the magic of photography - to me - also lies in the fact that hunting and creating a good photo puts you in a certain, optimistic frame of mind. To be able to find beautiful, unusual and interesting things, sometimes among the mundane or abandoned, requires a certain amount of positivity and a different, perhaps more abstract way of living an experience.
As someone who is naturally a pessimist, it was easier to focus on the striking contrast of radioactive yellow moss against black soil instead of the fact I was wading through mud, easier to see the soup-like fog against mountains as its own type of horror-movie gorgeous instead of feeling sad that half the mountains were obscured from view; I concentrated on feeling properly awestruck by the geometric patterns of the basalt rock columns, and I was so delighted at how I managed a clear shot of Icelandic ponies by the side of the road that I forgot about ruminating, I forgot my dismay and just focused on getting the best shots I could. And my steadily-getting-drenched non-repellent red coat…well, at least it was photogenic!
I often feel like photography changes my thinking, and Iceland proved that for me. And of course, this was only Day One. As I would soon find out, Iceland is anything but predictable…