There is something about the glacier lagoon at Jökulsarlon that brings out the dangerous side of tourists. People will risk their lives by climbing onto floating ice for a selfie & some photographers risk the chance of broken legs if they wade into the sea at the Diamond beach for a more unique perspective. Some of our guests will unbuckle their seat belts and try to jump out of the car before it has stopped at Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.
Jökulsarlon Glacier lagoon
Jökulsarlon adds a bit of magic to any trip to Iceland!
Icelands famous glacier lagoon is the main feature of most of our popular photo tours. The Jökulsarlon glacial lagoon is now Iceland’s deepest lake with parts deeper than 200m in places. The huge lake holds thousands of tonnes of ice that has broken off the Breiðamerkurjökull which is an outlet of Vatnjökull Glacier. It is the only place where ice actually makes it from the glacier to the open sea. The ice on this lake fell as snow in the days of the Sagas. Now the ice retreats at a rate of 100 meters per year.
Jokulsarlon sits on Iceland’s longest fjord. Most of the fjord has been covered with glacier since the mini ice age over the last 8 hundred years. Global warming might just reveal the fjord for the first time in hundreds of years. In the days of the saga, the mighty Vatnjökull was described as 2 smaller glaciers. It was possible to hike between them.
The East side of the Jökulsarlon lagoon with the cafe and boat tours is now a National park. Camping is forbidden there, but nobody seems to bother the camper vans parked there late every evening. Except the aurora hunting photographers who come to Jökulsarlon for fantastic aurora displays.
A place to reflect
In the summer the lagoon is the perfect place to spend time. The ice chills the air nicely as the Arctic terns buzz around above your head. Families of seals try to get away from the groups of tourists but seem fascinated by tripods and telephoto lenses.
The shelter of the ice means that perfect reflections are common on the lagoon. They can be easily disturbed by a passing seal of the crashing of one of the bergs as it turns over. The perfect reflection make the glacier lagoon a favourite place for photographers because, in the early morning or late evening, it is nearly impossible to take a bad picture.
The location has been used for many films including James Bond, Batman and Tomb Raider. If Jökulsarlon is good enough for James Bond, it is good enough for you. The only problem is that it is at least a 4.5 hours drive from Reykjavik.
Try to focus on foreground and find a nice piece of ice which will lead into the bigger scene. Experiment with a polariser. Try some long exposures if you can, but be aware that the ice moves. Take a long lens to photograph seals. Telephoto landscapes – try to fill the frame with as many different textures as you can find. Shooting seals needs around 400mm. Adjust your exposure compensation to expose the seals correctly. Adjust your exposure around 1 to 1.5 stops over to correctly expose the ice. Don’t forget to visit the beach! During night shoots, be courteous with your flashlight.
Jökulsarlon is probably the best place to photograph northern lights. We are often rewarded with an Aurora display over Jökulsarlon on a Multi-day tour. The article Night of Ghosts was written about one of these experiences.
These photo tours visit Jökulsarlon