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Iceland photo tour with Ker & Downey. Our first ever Curated Journey will be embarking on February 19 under the leadership of accomplished photographer Andrew Hancock. Here Andy explains, in his own words, what he loves most about photography in Iceland, and what’s drawing him back for yet another expedition with this Iceland photo tour. 

Two of my biggest passions are photography and travel. The power of photography in travel is that you do much more than just visit a location…you get a much more intimate and involved experience. During my explorations of Iceland, I have had many memorable moments with a camera in hand. However, none have been as magical as the time I was treated to an 8 hour display of the northern lights in the lava fields near the Snaefellsjökull volcano on the western peninsula.

Iceland Photo Tour | Luxury Iceland Travel | Ker Downey

A blizzard had us holed up in our hotel for a couple days and the evening after the system moved out, there was a clearing on the peninsula, however the forecast for the aurora was very low. Minimal at best in fact. I was certainly disappointed as I knew this was the best chance for us to photograph the aurora given the short and long term weather forecast. However, I was not going to let an opportunity to make a picture pass me by and I was already starting to come up with other ideas and things to photograph with the stars while we were at the location.

Much to my surprise, shortly after dark, a magenta hue began to appear over the volcano. Soon, the show started in earnest. It began with a brilliant and slow moving and spectacular rainbow aurora.

The show would intensify and better from there. Bands and swirls of light kept appearing all around us and overhead. With each passing hour, the display intensified and continued. Few times in my life have I been that awestruck by what I was photographing than that display of the aurora.

Iceland Photo Tour | Luxury Iceland Travel | Ker Downey

I had four cameras I was operating and they were all in different places with different compositions and there was almost a mile between the first and last camera. I worked up a sweat despite the frigid temperatures. After six hours in the elements, photographing the aurora from the lava fields, black sand beach and the cliffs of the peninsula, my traveling companions and I decided to make a run for the black church at Budir.

The lights could be seen all around us on the drive and when we arrived at the church the show only intensified with auroral coronas opening up directly overhead. We decided to call it a night at around 4 a.m…and I was so excited and energized by the evening that I stayed up until 5:30 a.m. editing photos! It was a night that I will never forget.

I have photographed Iceland in both of its extremes of summer and winter and each have their own respective beauty. In summer the grasses and moss come alive in a brilliant emerald green. In the winter, the colors are powerful shades of blue from the waters of the North Atlantic, the rivers and waterfalls and the majestic glaciers. In fact, the best time to photograph the glaciers in my opinion is during the late winter as the colors are significantly richer than at any other time of the year. Winter is also the only time that you can explore the glacial caves beneath the glacier.

Iceland Photo Tour | Luxury Iceland Travel | Ker Downey

The charm and the challenge of working in Iceland is the unpredictability of the weather and the terrain. I have climbed basalt cliffs, mountain sides, on and underneath glaciers, on the coast and hiked through ancient (well, as ancient as something can be in this geologically young land) lava fields. The weather, while intense at times, is still certainly manageable.

In preparing for the journey, there are many things to consider. For photography, you will want your fastest lenses along with trigger releases, LED had lamps, tripods (carbon fiber helps keep the weight down), and an array of filters including graduated filters, polarizers and ND filters. For footwear, I tend to travel with two pair of boots. The first are a hightop gore-tex athletic hiker and the second is a pair of arctic expedition boot. Layers are a must as are gore tex snow pants and parka and gloves. While we will be out in the elements (some extreme) to make pictures, the efforts are worth it and when you are properly prepared and dressed, it makes the experience much more enjoyable.

I feel that with photography, you transition from being a spectator on your trip to being an active participant. While soaking in all of the experiences, you are also documenting the trip along the way. The result is a richer experience with stronger memories and a visual recollection that you are proud to share and hang on your wall. Pairing photography with your journey allows you to be much more involved and engaged with what you see not only in thought but also emotionally and spiritually as well.

This trip will also have a social benefit. The best part about traveling with other photographers is the camaraderie. Getting to share vision, creative ideas, techniques and photo is incredibly fun for me.

Iceland Photo Tour | Luxury Iceland Travel | Ker Downey

I tell people that photography isn’t just what I do, it is who I am as a person. I enjoy talking about photography second to being out and making pictures. Getting to share techniques and ideas and watching others make a photograph that they are proud of is incredibly rewarding for me. Each person, regardless of skill level, brings their own unique approach, and I find that I have something I can learn from everyone and I hope that others have things to learn from me. Being with a group of people who are passionate about photography and exploring the world is a special treat and a recipe for an unforgettable trip.

My goal is to help put everyone in the best possible position to succeed in making the best images possible. This includes helping anyone from a technical standpoint and providing suggestions and ideas in terms of composition and creativity for those who have interest. Iceland is full of inspiration, and I’ll be on the hunt for some amazing images myself as well. During the last trip, I did have one idea for a photo that I did not have the opportunity to pursue. That idea was in doing some light painting and portraits at night.

Beyond that, I am thrilled that we will get to visit Gulfoss in winter. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls I have ever seen. Gulfoss means golden waterfall and in the summer, the spray that the massive fall thrusts into the air catches the light and illuminates a spectacular color of gold. I have photographed this at sunrise in summer and I very much want to document the waterfall in winter as well.

My goal with this trip is to help enable everyone to make some of the best pictures of their lives. Iceland is a magical place and there are many pictures to be made, but the weather is very unpredictable. I will work with our local guides to determine the best places to go given our location and agenda and the best times to make pictures. This will mean some early departures and some late arrivals and with some luck, hopefully some long and incredible nights out under the stars with the unforgettable display of the aurora borealis dancing overhead.

Iceland Photo Tour | Luxury Iceland Travel | Ker Downey

Join the Iceland photo tour with Andrew. You can learn more about the trip here or reserve your spot. Contact us for more information. To stay up to date on all of our online content, follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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