Icelandic Nights: Behind the Shot / by Gustav Thuesen

“Is this right?” we asked each other again. We looked at each other as the road had gotten increasingly impassable the last hour. Our (too) small rental car was struggling to move forward on the loose dirt track which we had been driving on since we left the ring road. We had been driving through a flat desertlike landscape the last hour hoping to find a place to pitch our tent for the night. It was getting late, but the Arctic summer sun was still up. We didn't want to turn around to drive another hour the other way. We were in the middle of flat, stony, nowhere. We continued forward. But then we had to stop. “4x4 only” a dusty sign said. We had already bought our tiny car to its limit. We were forced to turn around. As we drove back we decided to stop to reevaluate the plan. So we turned onto a byway we had passed earlier. We got out of the car to stretch our sore legs. Rather hopeless we walked around in the dusty gravel.


But then as a fatamorgana in a bad cartoon a flowing waterfall covered in lush green vegetation appeared. We had actually been driving next to this river almost all the time but it was down in a creek so we couldn't see it.
A weird stick with a blue marking was next to the river. And another one further down. A trail! This was our best chance to find a spot for the night. We quickly got our packs on and got going.


As we came around a corner what seemed to be an old river bed appeared. Perfectly flat with a view to the volcano Hekla. It was obvious: This would be our place for the night.
We quickly pitched the tent and heated some water for the freeze dried meals. Dinner at the world’s best restaurant - ok, maybe not foodwise but the view was epic.      

After dinner we played a game of cards waiting for the sun to set - which was fairly late due to the arctic summer. As we got closer to sunset i pulled out my camera and began to shoot some photos just to check different angles and compositions. When the sun was gone I jumped back to the tent to catch a bit of shut eye. But just a bit.
I had set my alarm clock to 2 AM as I wanted to get some “night shots”.
After 2 hours of sleep my alarm woke me up. I really wanted to stay in my cozy sleeping bag but at the same time I knew I would be missing out if I didn’t got up. So I pulled myself up, tied my boots and did the ever so slightly awkward crawl out of the tent. I was surprised that it wasn’t any darker. I could quite easily walk around on the uneven grass without the aid of a headlamp. Which was nice because I had left the headlamp turned on in the tent to light it up (which my buddy wasn't too satisfied with…).

There was a quiet breeze as I walked around with the tripod resting on my shoulder. Earlier I had spotted a location from where I could get a nice composition with the landscape and the tent. So I went there and shot a few photos. It was really incredible to just sit there taking in the view, listening to the water trickling and capturing the magic. But I finished the photo shooting quickly as I wanted to catch the sunrise too which meant that I had to get up before 4 AM.


I enjoyed the comfort of my sleeping bag for 1,5 hours until I had to get up again. My buddy was now slightly more pissed. I took a quick glance out of the tent to check the weather: The Sky was almost clear. Perfect. I got back in my clothes and tied my boots. The initial tiredness was gone as I made my way to the different spots. There was a cold breeze and I kept the feet moving to keep warm. Not soon after the sun came up over the horizon. Everything was now bathed in beautiful golden rays and I could feel the slight heat of the sun on my exposed skin.

A great memory of just being out there!

Want to see more of my photos from Iceland? Check out my photo series from Iceland.