Chasing the light in Iceland – Ólafsvík

Chasing the light in Iceland – Ólafsvík

This post was updated on February 24th, 2019

Saturday, November 25, 2017

I woke up just before my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m.; anxious about getting ready to leave for some sunrise photography. But first to meet up with Emma, Michelle, and Mark over breakfast at 5 a.m. We only have a very short meal, and Mark promises us bacon and eggs along the road.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrive at the place where we could have eggs and bacon we don’t have enough time to have them. No one is starving anyway.

Sunrise over Arnarstapi

Our way leads us to the North-West and the Snæfellsnes peninsula to the well-known basalt sea stacks of Arnarstapi, where we arrive just in time for the sunrise. Finding my spot for the next hour or so to photograph from is no hard work. There is so much beautiful seaside around me, but still with the bridge like structure in front of me I realize I have found what I didn’t know I was looking for. Mark’s advice to use a 2-stop hard graduated filter proves to be perfect for the scenery ahead of me. I suspect I would have forgotten that I bought the NiSi filters with me. I am going to need a few more soon, but for my time in Iceland, those that I have and maybe one or two borrowed from Mark will do the trick for me. We will have to wait and see.

A group of tourists arrives at our spot, and it undoubtedly disapproves of us to have taken up this exact area at the sea stacks. Before they can get into our photographs, we are leaving for the harbor of Arnarstapi, from where we will have a great view toward Stapafell (engl.: Butte Mountain) and Snæfelljökull (engl.: Snowfallglacier). Arnarstapi once was a booming fishing town, but of that is little left these days. Now it is mainly a tourist spot, known for its magnificent views and its relatively close location to Buðir, known for its black wooden church.

Finding shelter for the night in Ólafsvík

For us, the way goes on toward Ólafsvík, not without another photo stop at a little emergency cabin hidden in the mountains. The sun caressing the snow-covered side of the hill and the tiny hut in the foreground make for another good subject to photograph. Once again time just flies by. I don’t really care about my cold feet and cold hands, all that really matters is to take all these beautiful surroundings in.

From this beautiful place, our drive continues to Ólafsvìk, where we stop at a little shop for some lunch-dinner before we book the place where we are going to stay for the night. Now is, however, not the time to find the apartment and leave our bags there. We need to capture the sunset first. For this, we leave Ólafsvík behind us and travel to the Kirkjufell (Church Mountain).


Kirkjufell, the 463m high mountain (plus snow during the winter), is, of course, a very well known location. So there are plenty of photographs of it, but with the right weather, it still looks stunning. Walking up to the waterfalls of Kirkjufellsfoss is not easy, even with cleats. The path is icy at times, and I am wondering how to get back to the car afterward. However, I really don’t have the time to wonder about that now. Photos are waiting for me to be taken. The path is well marked, and below the ice and snow, I can spot rubber mats to keep it from eroding too much. Unfortunately, I also can see tourists in sneakers crossing the barrier to get closer to the waterfall. They are even crossing the river between the two waterfalls. It is saddening to watch this behavior, in this case, it did not lead to an accident.

Once more time passes fast, and we are on our way back to Ólafsvík. It is time to get the key for our apartment and bring the bags inside. Just a short break later we are out again. Looking for the Aurora near that little mountain cabin we spotted earlier today. Unfortunately, despite a wonderfully clear night lightened up by the waxing moon, the Aurora never came. But we get some beautiful shots of the Milky Way instead and have a great night out again.

It is past midnight when we return to our apartment. But still, we have a cup of tea before we all go to bed. Tomorrow we will go somewhere else…

If you liked this post, you might also like the other stories from my Chasing the Light in Iceland adventure:

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