Getting that ONE shot in Iceland

How I got this shot in iceland

Ever since I was very young, I have wanted to visit Iceland. My grandfather was a deep sea fisherman during the 60’s and 70’s and spent a lot of time there. With all the stories he told me, I knew I just had to visit one day.

I’m going to cut straight to the chase and show you my favourite image of the trip with some insight in how I shot it.
Like every adventure there are many stories to be told so I’ll carry on the tale afterwards.

The Vestrahorn: How I got the shot

The conditions in the morning we were at Vestrahorn were fantastic. The sun came up giving us some great light and amazing colour. There was quite a bit of cloud in the sky and a breeze in the air, so I decided to go for a long exposure.

Photos of Iceland.

Using a LEE filters Polariser, .9 Soft edge graduated filter and a Big Stopper, I set my exposure and started shooting. My final image was a two minute exposure at f/11, ISO 100 and although I’m fully aware that it’s not the best shot of Vestrahorn ever taken, I’m extremely happy with the result. I’d love to go back to photograph this location again and again during different times of the year to see how it looks though the different seasons.


Processing this image back home was pretty straight forward.
In Lightroom, I started by enabling the lens correction and slightly sharpened the image. I adjusted the shadows and highlights, upped the contrast and vibrancy and increased the blue and orange using the HSL sliders and finished by warming the image using the temperature slider.

Photos of Iceland.

In Photoshop, I cropped the image and cloned out a photographer who was standing on the beach and a small patch of grass at the bottom of the image that looked a bit out of place.

Photos of Iceland.

The finished image made me very happy and so glad that I was able to go on this trip. I came back with lots of great images from all over the south of the country, but this one is by far my favourite.


As I mentioned at the start, hearing all the stories from my grandfather, Iceland has been a destination that I had always wanted to visit.

During my time as a photographer, I have never really ventured outside of the UK as I spend my time focusing on the beautiful landscape we have to offer, but a desire to travel had to be fulfilled at some point and while photographing the stunning Northumberland coast for a couple of days with some great friend and amazing photographers, an idea was spawned that we should plan a trip to Iceland. I think every landscape photographer has Iceland on their bucket list and within a couple of months we had all committed and the trip was booked.

We wanted to see this amazing place in our own way and in our own time, so we booked somewhere to stay in Reykjavik, hired a 4×4 and did our best to combine our lists of locations and make a plan. One location was on everyone’s list; The Vestrahorn.

Photos of Iceland.

We had a brilliant week driving around, seeing lots of different locations in varying conditions. We had left this location until the end of the week as we were going to drive across the country on the Thursday, stay over night in Höfn and have a go at shooting it in the evening and then again on the Friday morning.

The cross country drive was a fantastic little adventure with stops at a few iconic locations including Seljalandsfoss and Jökulsárlón glacier beach and lagoon. The flat tyre we had to deal with was all part of the adventure but put us back by about an hour, so we decided to skip the plane wreck on Sólheimasandur beach and visit it on the way back on the Friday.

We arrived at Stokksnes a few hours before sunset and as you see the mountain range from the road, you are seeing it from what could be classed as the back and from this side it looks no different to any other mountain range.
We paid the toll at the Viking Cafe (800 ISK) and made our way onto the black sand beach.
When you drive around and see the iconic view of the mountain for the first time with your own eyes, it is an awe inspiring moment. Seeing it on a phone or computer screen does not do this place justice.

The evening shoot wasn’t great due to the conditions. Clouds had rolled in and covered the peaks of the mountain, as you could imagine it doesn’t look as impressive when you can’t see them.
The light was poor and the only good thing was the reflections on the wet sand. I did manage to get one shot that I quite liked, but it wasn’t great. We packed up and set off back to Höfn and enjoyed some delicious pizza and a few beers at Íshúsiđ Pizzeria to set us up for the following day.

Photos of Iceland.

After a good night’s sleep at Höfn Hostel, we were ready for another long day of photography and the day would start off with another visit to the Vestrahorn.
We got there a short while before sunrise and I set about finding a spot on top of one of the sand dunes.

The conditions in the morning were fantastic and the sun came up giving us some great light and amazing colour. There was quite a bit of cloud in the sky and a breeze in the air, so I decided to go for a long exposure.

This takes us back to the start of my post.

Photos of Iceland.

I hope to travel back to the Land of Fire and Ice in 2018 and I’ll definitely re-visit the Vestrahorn to see what I can do in different conditions.

– Lee Gale

Instagram: @leegalephotography

2 thoughts on “Getting that ONE shot in Iceland

  1. Ernie Stripling says:

    Great Image! I was so happy to read that you just do a few adjustments with LR sliders and HSL. Would like to hear more on your blog about how you chose Iceland and why and how you organized the physical mapping of the area. Its on my list so I am comparing notes.

    Thanks for sharing your incredible image.


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