Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – South Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Summer horses

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

This tall falls is famous for being the waterfall you can walk behind.  This feature gives Seljalandsfoss a great photography advantage. Viewing a waterfall from 360 degrees gives you infinite composition possibilities.  The ultimate shot is to have an amazing sunset sky with the mass of water cascading in front.  Sunrise can never bee seen from the waterfall due to its Eastern face.  Sunset can be seen at Seljalandsfoss in the Summer Fall and Spring.  It is not possible to see the sunrise or sunset during most of winter.

From the road it can look small, but being up close or behind the falls lets you experience the true size of the waterfall.  Seljalandsfoss waterfall from behind is never boring. During the Winter, the owners restrict access behind the falls due to danger from falling icicles etc.

Small Group Ice Caving

Waterfall Seasons

Seljalandsfoss never sees the sun in the Mid-Winter months. The constant spray and freezing temperatures can make the surrounding area look like a crystal palace. This can also make the area extremely dangerous as the path behind the falls becomes a skating rink. Recently, they have been discouraging access behind the falls after weekly accidents. Winter nights feature 2 spotlights which light the falls. This makes it a poor choice for night or aurora photography.

Photo tips

Seljalandsfoss is very wet. This makes it a challenge to capture with big landscape lenses. This is because they have large elements and get wet very quickly. Forget square filters if you are getting close.

Although you might have been hoping for a big colourful evening sky, the waterfall works well in rainy conditions. Successful photography is a matter of protecting your camera, lens and self from the spray. A clear plastic bag works well if you are able to compose and focus through the plastic. Then lift the plastic off the lens to take the shot. Eventually your lens will become wet. Take paper towel to soak surplus water and a dry cloth to polish. Start with filters on and work to filters off. Have an assistant help to protect and dry your lens.

Experiment with S (Tv) mode. This waterfall looks good with around 1/20 sec exposure. This sort of speed is good for mono-pod. Most photographers use a tripod, but behind the falls it can be better to have a more fluid system.

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Seljalandsfoss Rainy vertical
Seljalandsfoss Rainy vertical

Summer Sun

There can be good light in the evenings. In the Summer, the sun sets in the North Western sky.  It is possible to capture incredible sunsets from behind the falls which includes the setting sun and all the sunset colours in the sky.

Seljalandsfoss Summer sun
Seljalandsfoss Summer sun

Safety First

This photo was taken from behind the waterfall on a cold winter’s day.

Behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall

I was obsessed with this photo for a while.  I wanted intimate details on the mossy rock while it gets a soaking from a part of Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.  The main part of the waterfall plummets into the pool in the background.  The snow and ice is slowly melting as temperatures climb above zero for the afternoon. 

Soon after taking this photo, a large icile from the roof of the cave hit the ground just a few inches from me.  The icicle smashed into a thousand pieces on the frozen ground.  If the large icicle had hit me, it could have been fatal.  Admittedly, it is bad luck to be killed by an icicle, but if you hang around under frozen waterfall caves, you are asking for bad luck. 

The path behind Seljalandsfoss can get extremely slippery in the Winter.  The waterfall spray is constantly adding more layers of fresh ice.  I once saw a woman (with poor quality spikes) slip down one of the higher icy banks into the pool at the bottom.  Although she was not harmed, she was in a state of shock for a while.

Read about the Dangers at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.

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Arctic Shots Photo Tours

By Tony Prower

Tony Prower spent over 15 years photographing the landscapes of Iceland. Tony Prower is a pioneer of the Magic Cloth Technique and ran thousands of photo tours in Iceland over 10 years.