Incredible Iceland…Reykjavik


Northern Lights near Reykjavik, Iceland
Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm @ 14mm
ISO 800 8 sec @ f2.8


I’ve just returned from an awesome ten days in Iceland exploring and photographing the rugged beauty with the two B’s, Barry and Byron, and our most excellent guide and fellow photographer, Tim Vollmer.  We had the first day on our own to explore Reykjavik and with a few ideas in mind off we went to see the sights.  Down at the harbor, a charming gentleman was putting a new coat of paint on one of the ships…

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Red, White & Blue
Nikon D4, AF-S 80-400mm 4.5-5.6 VR @ 220mm
ISO 100 1/1500 sec @ f8


I had seen photos of the Harpa Concert Hall (from Wikipedia):

Harpa is a concert hall and conference centre in ReykjavíkIceland. The opening concert was held on May 4, 2011.

Harpa was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in co-operation with DanishIcelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The structure consists of a steel framework clad with irregularly shaped glass panels of different colours. The building was originally part of a redevelopment of the Austurhöfn area dubbed World Trade Center Reykjavík, which was partially abandoned when the financial crisis took hold. The development was intended to include a 400-room hotel, luxuryapartmentsretail units, restaurants, a car park and the new headquarters of Icelandic bank Landsbanki.

The completion of the structure was uncertain until the government decided in 2008 to fully fund the rest of the construction costs for the half-built concert hall. The building was given its name on the Day of Icelandic Music on 11 December 2009, prior to which it was called The Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre (IcelandicTónlistar- og ráðstefnuhúsið í Reykjavík). The building is the first purpose-built concert hall in Reykjavík. It houses the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and The Icelandic Opera.

It didn’t disappoint…

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Harpa: Reykjavik Concert & Conference Center
Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm @ 17mm
5 Frame HDR with ISO 100 1/350 sec @ f8 as the base exposure with 1 stop brackets


Close ups revealed colorful graphic patterns to work with.  I could have photographed in there for hours, working the paly of light, the reflections, the details…

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Patterns in Glass
Nikon D4, AF-S 80-400mm 4.5-5.6 VR @ 175mm
ISO 100 1/180 sec @ f8


Our next stop was Hallgrimskirkjam Church (from Wikipedia)…

The Hallgrímskirkja (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈhatlkrimsˌcʰɪrca]church of Hallgrímur) is a Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish church in ReykjavíkIceland. At 74.5 metres (244 ft), it is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland after Longwave radio mast Hellissandur, the radio masts of US Navy atGrindavíkEiðar longwave transmitter and Smáratorg tower.[1] The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 to 1674), author of the Passion Hymns.[2]

State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson‘s design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.[3] It took 38 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986, the landmark tower being completed long before the church’s actual completion. The crypt beneath the choir was consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings were completed in 1974,[3] and the nave was consecrated in 1986.[1]Situated in the centre of Reykjavík, it is one of the city’s best-known landmarks and is visible throughout the city. It is similar in style to the expressionist architectureof Grundtvig’s Church of CopenhagenDenmark, completed in 1940.

I positioned myself so that the building partially blocked the sun using it as an aperture that created a starburst.  A small aperture of f22 also ensured the maximum star effect.  Knowing that lens flare would be a problem, I chose to work with it using it as a creative element to lead the the viewer’s eye diagonally through the photograph to the building…

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Hallgrimskirkja Luthern Church
Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm @ 14mm
ISO 100 1/160 sec @ f22


From Wikipedia…The church houses a large pipe organ by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. It has mechanical action, four manuals and pedal, 102 ranks, 72 stops and 5275 pipes.[1] It is 15 metres tall and weighs 25 tons. Its construction was finished in December 1992. It has been recorded by Christopher Herrick in his Organ Fireworks VII CD

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Hallgrimskirkja Church Interior
Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8 @ 24mm
5 Frame HDR with ISO 100 1/3 sec @ f16 as the base exposure with 1 stop brackets


Turning 180 degrees, the view was equally beautiful in it’s simpliticty with shafts of light creating God beams that shone onto the pulpit…

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Hallgrimskirkja Church
Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8 @ 17mm
ISO 100 1/20 sec @ f16


From Wikipedia…The church is also used as an observation tower. An observer can take a lift up to the viewing deck and view Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains. The statue of explorer Leif Eriksson (c. 970 – c. 1020) by Alexander Stirling Calder in front of the church predates its construction. It was a gift from the United States in honor of the 1930 Alþingi Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD.[3].

In 2008, the church underwent a major restoration of the main tower, and was covered in scaffolding. In late 2009, restoration was completed and the scaffolding was removed.  I enjoyed the simple, yet colorful beauty of the architecture and was impressed at the cleanliness everywhere with virtually no litter…

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Raykjavik from the Observation Tower, Hallgrimskirkja Church
Nikon AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR @ 40mm (cropped to pano during processing)
ISO 100 1/250 sec @ f11


We met Tim for dinner at a lovely restaurant in Reykjavik and then took a ride to find an overview of the city at night.  I used Photomatix to make an HDR image from a single frame creating the surreal look and feeling that I experienced looking past the city lights into the deep blue of twilight in the distance…

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Reykjavik Nightscape
Nikon D4, AF-S 80-400mm 4.5-5.6 VR @ 165mm
ISO 100 30 sec @ f19 Single frame HDR


The skies were clear and upon Tim’s suggestion we headed out of town and away from city lights in hopes of seeing and photographing the Northern Lights.  We had a faint showing that enabled us to make some images (see opening image).  Luckily we had that one opportunity as the rest of the week we experienced overcast nights.  Northern Lights are high on my wish list for 2014 when I will be leading an Excellent Photo Adventure to Incredible Iceland (as well as a second trip to Greenland) with Tim Vollmer.  Contact me for further details at

Stay tuned for more photos from Incredible Iceland…