Three weeks touring Iceland by bike (Fuji X-T1 and Ricoh GR (V)
by James Stevenson
Hi Brandon & Steve,
I’d like to share with you some photos from a cycle tour of Iceland I completed at the end of this Summer. I spent three weeks following a circuit of Route 1, Iceland’s ring-road.
It was tough finding a balance between covering daily distances whilst keeping in reserve the time and energy to take photos, especially since landscape photography is so often a game of patience. Iceland can be a brutally challenging place to cycle, and it pretty much brought me to my knees at times, but travelling the country this way rewards your efforts with astonishing views of places unlike anywhere else on the planet. I’ve written about the experience in detail in the blog section of my website (links below), including some useful travel information for anyone planning to go themselves.
My plan is for this to be the beginning of many such adventures which I’ll document and share. Reading other peoples stories was hugely beneficial for me, I’m hoping mine may prove to be for someone else!
I welcome any feedback or questions about the trip and hope you enjoy the photos.
Goðafoss, The “Waterfall of the Gods”, was the first of Iceland’s many iconic falls I reached. Eight days of riding, five of which were into headwind strong enough to blow me from the road, had left me with very little energy. I’ll never forget the effort it took to get here, or how happy I was to be lucky with a break in the clouds and a chance to test out my Nisi 10-stop ND filter, shooting some long exposures.
Reynisfjara is a stunning headland that features prominently in Bon Iver’s “Holocene” music video. The black sand beach sits against towering cliff of basalt rock columns and caves. Puffins buzz and whir overhead, bringing fish back to their grassy burrows from the churning Atlantic Ocean. The skyline here is pierced by huge, sharply pointed sea stacks.
The 60m thundering waterfall of Skogafoss was a real surprise to see, since I’d somehow failed to notice it was on my planned route! For a few short minutes the sun broke through the clouds causing fleeting rainbows to appear intermittently the fine spray. In landscape photography, my goal is often to capture things in a cinematic way, both with composition and processing. Some of my favourite photographers are actually cinematographers; I love Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on The Revenant and Stuart Dryburgh’s wonderful eye for composition on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Iceland presented some great opportunities to attempt to push my own style.
Detouring a little from Route 1 here to take the alternative coastal road, the dramatic East Fjords were a thrilling place to cycle. As he road drops out of the mountains from Egilsstadir, all around are sweeping valleys and breathtaking views.
Skaftafell National Park is beautiful location. Set against a backdrop of mountains and glaciers, Iceland’s tallest trees grow here (the country is largely treeless). Svartifoss waterfall is an impressive sight here, famed for its distinctive basalt cliffs.
I noticed this lonely looking bench whilst walking around the small Southeastern town of Höfn, with its view of the sea and an enormous, distant glacier. Not a bad place to sit and read! I never tired of surprising sights like this.
Jökulsárlón is a distinctive glacial lagoon, formed by a receding glacier that once met the shoreline here just 50 years ago. It’s a striking sight, so close to the main road that it really takes you by surprise as you approach. Here is where you’ll see many photographyers striving for shots of icebergs stranded on the black sand beach.
Something I love about seeing Iceland’s falls are that they are all so distinctive and unique. Many have campsites so close you drift off listening to the roar of the water. Seljalandsfoss is no exception, here you can walk a path into a shallow cave behind the falls. Whilst the light was flat on my visit, I still did my best to get a shot here of a memorable place.
Fujinon 10-24mm and 18-55mm zooms
Ricoh GR (V)
Lee / Nisi ND filters, Gitzo Traveller Tripod
Here’s my website, facebook and instagram pages.
Instagram – @jamesstevensonphotography
Keep up the great work on the website,
REFERENCE – Fuji XT-1 Review – Ricoh GR Review
Wonderful photos James ! I enjoyed looking at your website also. And noticed you live in Vancouver. I am quite close by on Salt Spring Island. I display and sell my photography and paintings in the well known Saturday market here (April to October). I’m just about to receive my first mirrorless camera, the Fuji XT-2 and have also ordered a couple of primes. Thank for your beautiful contribution here !
Thank you for reading, Dara! I’ve actually never been to Salt Spring but would love to visit, it’s on my bucket list! I’ll be sure to check out the Saturday market when I do and say hi 🙂
You’ll love the Fuji, it’s a great camera, I really enjoy using mine. The primes especially are great lenses too.
Do you have a link to your own work? I’d like to see it. Hope the storms aren’t too bad where you are! Stay safe!
Thanks for your response James. Salt Spring Island is a great place to visit along with the Saturday Market. The market is top-notch and very busy with world wide visitors/travelers in the summer months especially.
I’m very much looking forward to my Fuji XT-2 and my first 2 lens shall be 16mm f2.8 and 35mm f2.0. I’m waiting for the camera to arrive in a Victoria Photography Store.
At this time I have no link to my photography, but I shall send you my contact details through your website.
Thank you Dara, got it! I’ll reply shortly. 🙂
Some nice shots of what appears to be an amazing place. Shame the light wasn’t nicer.
Thanks Karim, I felt the same way in several locations – especially at Seljalandsfoss in that last photo. I had a clear idea of what I wanted from each location but the reality of a trip like this was that there was no real luxury of time for waiting around, I just had to make the most whatever the light was like in each place. It’s just a good excuse to return right? 🙂
These are gorgeous – well done with both the photography and the effort at creation!
Thanks for the kind words Mark!
I have exactly the same plan, bicycling Iceland would be sort of the ultimate for me.
I have limited experience, three years ago I cycled from Antwerp, Belgium to Benidorm, Spain. I didn’t get there because I didn’t eat enough on the road and in the end I had to walk up 1% slopes.
As I said, the ring road around Iceland is one of my goals. I’m going to do it in steps: Next Summer I’m bicycling to Santiago de Compostela and back, 6,000 km in three months, and if that is positive, I intend to do the Transamerica bycycling trail. And if that’s positive, I think I’ll tackle Iceland.
I’m retired, so I don’t need to do it in three weeks. And I don’t mind walking next to my bicycle if the wind gets too strong.
Your blog is really good, very precise. The suggestion of doing the Norway Fjords is also very good.
The shots are extremely good, congrats!
Hi Dirk, thanks for writing. Your plan sounds really exciting. I just watched a show called Driven to Ride that’s on Netflix now about the Trans America, that looks incredible doesn’t it?
Iceland will be great if you have extra time – you can venture from the ring road to the Islands and arrange to get out to the harder to reach places by coach or 4×4 to break up the trip. I think that’s what I’d do given the time.
I’m glad you enjoyed the blog, I certainly learned a lot from others’ accounts and enjoyed seeing photos.
I wish you the very best with your own adventures, safe cycling!
Really enjoyed your pictures and text James.
Thanks for posting.
Thanks Huss! Glad you enjoyed it, it was fun to relive it writing about it.
Well if you are truly a hardy biker I recommend the route out of Bergen Norway up into the fjords in June when hundreds of waterfalls will be on route and apple and cherry blossoms will line the fjords. The ferries crossing them are cheap for a biker. The smorsburg (sp?) Half sandwiches and Dane beer are wonderful
I’ve since become a vegan and NA beer also available all over Europe. Stay in local homes each night. But you better be ready for some hardy climbs and wonderful coasting. I’d have a helmet mounted progear 4k video with me too. I got there via overnight boat from Newcastle UK.
BOB GALLAGHER CHICAGO
Hi Bob, this sounds like a great challenge and I’ve always wanted to see more of Norway. You’ve painted a vivid picture, I can imagine it’s beautiful! Staying in local homes also sounds great, did you plan ahead for that or just approach people en-route and ask if they had a place you could stay the evening?
I took a gopro but sadly didn’t really use it a lot, I’ve been practicing a lot since though and I’m getting back into video too after some time out.
I wish you luck on your future travels, share your photos! 🙂
Great images super trip -thanks for posting.
Thank you Fergus, it was definitely a memorable one. My pleasure. 🙂
nice pictures, good route, I have same camera but prefer prime lenses 23mm and 56mm
Thanks Ivo, the Fuji primes are amazing lenses I agree, I prefer them too on the whole but for landscapes, their zooms are in my opinion some of the best out there. The18-55 is a wonderful ‘kit’ lens, well made and faster than it’s competitors.
That 56 though… that’s special! I’m glad you enjoy it.
Looks like a great trip James. Makes me want to go there…..now! Some stunning images and what an experience.
Andy I’d love to see what you’d return with! I really value your comments, thanks a lot! If you ever go, PM me and I’ll let you know places I went, and missed but wanted to visit. Thanks for reading!
Immensely dramatic pictures! Thanks for sharing, but I should have liked to know which were Ricoh and which were Fuji – also now, if you have time.
Thank you, John. In actual fact now that I look, I think all of these were Fuji. On my website are several from the GR which I kept handy in my pocket. It’s a good point though, I’ll label them in the captions as I know I’m always interested in what people use too.
Great shots from a dangerous place…… 😉
Haha that really made me chuckle – lots is shot near Vik at Reynisfjara eh! Those sea stacks look mighty familiar. Mercifully I was spared scenes like this there!
Did the same trip (in a car, you are game!). Your photos bring back great memories and make me want travel back to iceland again. Will do the ring road clockwise next time I think!
Next time I’m taking a 4×4 and slinging a bike in the back! I’m so glad I did it, but would love to return with transport to make it to some of the harder to reach locations and see the highlands. Definitely a life experience. I’m glad you were reminded of a good trip Michael, thanks.
Nice. and tasteful post processing.. i was there in July. I wish mine were this nice
Maybe we crossed paths! My trip was from July 23rd into August – thanks for reading.
I have to go there! It’s the most amazing place for anyone who appreciates the beauty of nature. I would travel with a 4WD vehicle, though. I can’t believe you’ve done that on a bike. Good job!
Thanks Abe, yeah it’s a photographers paradise, there’s so much to see it’s a little overwhelming at times. 4wd is a great idea, you could see so much that way.
Your waterfall pictures are outstanding. And, the flat light is perfect to really allow the falls to take center stage. I spend a lot of time shooting moving water in mountain streams and falls, so I have a special appreciation for what you accomplished in these shots.
Thanks Bob, I really hoped for more dramatic light but that’s a nice way of seeing it! I’m enjoying shooting long exposures.
Very nice pictures!
Thank you P.S.J
wow… just beautiful and serene… funny you mentioned Bon Iver as this is exactly what i’m listening to while reading this…
Thanks Hope, yes there’s something about their music that fits this landscape well right?
My favorite is the one with the ruins near the lake. 😉
Thank you, Quhl.