S-Curve in Ring Road #1, near Höfn, Iceland.

S-Curve in Ring Road #1, near Höfn, Iceland.

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S-curve in ring road number 1, near Höfn, Iceland.

When I drove through the Ring Road Nr. 1 in Iceland from Vik to Höfn, I went all the way to search a special shape of the road and a background that were representative of the zigzagging landscape I was seeing. Have to say that in my outbound journey I did not find anything that matched the idea I had in mind, but on my way back to Vik I took this image and the first one of this series I shared some weeks ago. It is not usually easy to find a location that fulfills all the conditions you have in mind.


All the landscape the National Ring-road 1 is built on is conformed of volcanic gravel and rock. Cars that go off-road use huge size tires (like American Big Foots) with a special damping system that allows them to go into the volcanic gravel. You can see many of these ‘beasts’ — most of them destined for tourist transportation — when you are driving this road that surrounds all the island. 

Composition & Lens Selection

It took some time for me to find a stretch of road that formed a line that was able to carry the look of the viewer from the foreground to the background, and represented the typical path full of ups and downs the road runs in the plains of Iceland.

The telephoto seemed the most logical choice of lens to use as it allowed me to focus in a relatively distant road section.

At first I thought about including some sky above, but thought that it did not add any of value to this image and opened the composition, so l turned a bit the ring of my Nikon 80-200 zoom from 100mm (my initial setting) to 135mm, to remove the white and leave a raw of rocky cliffs in the upper part of the image.

The absence of natural trees is complete in Iceland — winter is too harsh and it seems to be too windy all the year around for them to grow — but have to say I did not miss them. It is the essence of the landscape, and if you feel the landscape is a bit dreary at any moment, you can just take a look at the beautiful ever-changing skies above. Clouds are continuously passing above at high speed leaving rain, hail, and snow (early in the morning) interrupted by long periods of sunny blue skies.

Tripod Tips

To get an accurate composition in an image like this one, a tripod is an absolute necessity. You have to compose the image checking the borders and trying to get the cars in the position that tells the story in the best possible way. There are two types of head for still photography: Three-axis head (the one I use) which allow you to move each axis independently, and ‘Ball’ head (which allows you to move and block all axis with one movement). The only genre of photography I would recommend a ball head is fast photography (sports) where speed is the difference between getting the picture or missing it.

The best choice I have found in the three-axis head segment is the Gitzo 1372M Magnesium Alloy head. It is not the cheapest option available, but it is sturdy and very well manufactured. The possibility of moving and blocking each axis independently allows you to get maximum precision on each composition, at the expense of making the process of selecting the final composition a bit slower. Gitzo has the best mechanization system I have ever tested on a tripod. Threads go smooth and when you tighten a screw, it gets perfectly blocked. The lack of vibrations is incredible for the amount of metal they use —this head is slimmer and smaller than others designed to bear the same weight — and the capacity to withstand a heavy lens is amazing. If you plan to use a telephoto lens on a tripod, it is a possibility you should think of. 


Bits of Advice for a Road Trip in Iceland

Renting a car is the best way to enjoy Iceland with freedom, as it allows you to stop wherever you want. Here are some recommendations if you are planning a road trip in Iceland:

  1. Fill up often. There are long distances in the ring road where there are no gas stations.
  2. Hold the DOOR firmly when you open it! I saw a car with one door deformed. The owners had opened and the strong winds had bent the door over.
  3. Do not go off-road. Most F-roads and gravel roads are impassable for two-wheel drive cars, even during the summer.
  4. Choose the right season. Winter is long in Iceland, and spring and autumn last only three weeks.
  5. Book accommodation well in advance if you go during the summer. I went at the end of April. Did not book all the days and there were empty rooms, but during this season there are more tourists and most hotels and guesthouses are fully booked. 
  6. Get ALL the insurances when you rent the car. Yes, ALL. Sand and ash storms are common. I would not recommend this option in other travel destinations, but the weather can be capricious in this remote island.

This is maybe the most representative image of the ‘Road Trip’ I took during my stay in Iceland, the one that resumes in the best possible way a road journey in a location surrounded by some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes you may find in Europe.

Hope you like it and that the information I am sharing is useful for you!

Related Image: Another image taken on the same journey: Storm clouds, Ring-Road #1, Iceland.

Related Image: Clouds above Petursey.

Camera Model: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 80-200 AF used at 135mm
SETTINGS: Aperture: f5.6 | Shutter Speed 1/500 | ISO 200

Tripod: [Legs: Manfrotto 055 Pro] & [Head: Gitzo 1372M Magnesium Alloy]
Backpack: LowePro with rain cover (absolutely needed in Iceland)
Filter: No filter.
Memory Card: Sandisk SD Extreme 64Gb

NEXT SCHEDULED POST: Dyrholaey Cliffs and Beach, Iceland.

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