As you can imagine, travelling from Dubai to Iceland is no joke – you go from full-on summer temperatures into winter, even though March is considered to be “not so cold”.
When I stepped out of the airport in Keflavik, I felt like someone punched me in the face with a cold fist. I rushed to put on my furry shapka (which means a hat in Russian) and hoped my turn to get on the bus would come sooner. Transportation from Keflavik to Reykjavik was organized in a rather smart way – you can take two kinds of busses: one takes you to BSI (the central bus station) and the other one can drop you at your hotel, you just need to put it on the list when entering the bus. If you are going to BSI, there will be a smaller bus that takes you to your hotel, or you can take a taxi. The whole trip to the city takes around 45 minutes during which you can enjoy minimalistic sceneries of no trees, but lots of moss fields and funny Viking-inspired hotels and inns.
Connecting Flights To Go To Iceland
On my way to Reykjavik, I had to do 2 stops in various airports, each time almost missing my flight. It’s a lot of stress when you just manage to get off the plane and it’s already boarding time for your next flight, and you still have to enter the Schengen zone and check in/out your luggage or get to the other terminal. But thanks to the kind Norwegian people, it was possible for me to arrive in Iceland on time. They very kindly transported me alone on the bus to the plane but also made me drink a liter of water at the customs while I already needed badly to visit the facilities.
I ran into the Iceland Air plane and there was no one to check my boarding pass at the entrance – just welcome, come in, take your seat. We don’t assume you are trying to fly to Iceland without a ticket. What I loved most about Iceland Air – they have lights in the plane that look like Northern Lights, very-very cool. And they have a bunch of documentaries about different parts of Iceland on the entertaining programs, so if you don’t know anything about places you want to visit, this is your chance to familiarise yourself with them. You can also conveniently buy a sim card just for 2000 Icelandic cronas on board the plane, and won’t have to worry about it once you leave the aircraft. It is very easy to activate and gives you around 500 MB of data and some minutes to call anywhere. You can also easily top it up with a credit card at any time using your phone’s browser.
I love the way Northern European cities look like, love the minimalistic style, love the funny hats and beards you see everywhere and no tall buildings. It’s nowhere close to being glamorous and completely different from Dubai, but it has its charm if you are not attracted to shiny things.
Meeting THe Group
My Dream Photo Tours group meeting was scheduled at 6 PM in the hotel lobby, and my roomie Emily and I were the last ones arriving. However, we had to wait for one group member named Denny who got lost in the streets while trying to shoot the sunset. When we all got together, everyone introduced themselves and explained how they ended up here, and what kind of photography they do if do. We met our group leaders Ken Kaminesky and Patrick Di Fruscia, who also introduced themselves and told us how they ended up here. We had a good laugh about the fact that we had 3 people named Chris in the group and that we have to give them nicknames now to single out which one is which Chris. Everyone was amazed by the fact that I “won” the trip, especially considering how much they had to pay to be there. We were just two girls with the rest of the group being guys, but I love being in guys’ company, so I didn’t mind at all.
It was a clear frosty night, everyone was excited and jet-lagged. We walked down the icy streets of Reykjavik to go to Apotek Bar Grill, a quaint Icelandic restaurant with loooooots of food and a welcome glass of champagne. Our driver, the fabulous Siggi, joined us not long after we sat down at the table. I recognized him right away from F-Stopper’s videos with Elia Locardi and was ready to experience his “dark” sense of humour and he didn’t disappoint.
Apart from Emily and I, everyone else was from the United States and Canada, so they didn’t really suffer from being sleepy, but we did. Meanwhile, Siggi said there was a high chance of Northern Lights that night, and our sleepiness vanished without a trace. We all marched back to the hotel, grabbed our equipment needed for the night shots, and started off into the darkness.
Shooting Auroras For The First Time
When you guys need to shoot something at night, not in the city, it is a good idea to get your camera and lens settings right while you are still in the bus (or a car, or even a hotel) and there’s some available light, because it is freakishly dark out there! But you live, you learn.
The group unloaded itself in the unnamed location that only Siggi really knew (or at least we hoped that he did). It was rather comical because we all saw the mountain and started setting up tripods in that direction, and Siggi … of course being Siggi, said: “Look the opposite direction, you bunch of dumb photographers” and indeed, in the other direction we started seeing the green dragons dancing in the sky.
It was so exciting to see those for the first time that it was hard to contain ourselves. The amazement of seeing the Northern lights gives you a rush of adrenaline that somehow keeps you warm on a cold open-skies night (but believe me after an hour you will be frozen anyway). The location was not perfect, there wasn’t really any proper foreground to put in the shot, but the auroras are beautiful and unique even if the only thing you can wrap them around is a yellow bus. And why not?
We kept roaming around, getting into each other shots, swearing at each other, and growing as a group together by laughing our asses off at people who forgot to take their lens caps off and were wondering why are the photos being just darkness.
It was a perfect beginning of the trip, and though maybe most of our shots were not epic, we were happy and frozen, finished shooting at 1 AM, and then fell asleep full of emotions.
I hope you too get to experience this beauty at least once in your life: it is an unbelievable scene to see those lights dancing in front of you and trust me, no photo will show you how incredibly amazing they are.
5 thoughts on “Photographing Auroras For The First Time – Reykjavik, Iceland.”
Great writing, Anna. Glad you got to see auroras 🙂
Love the time-lapse!