Skútafoss Waterfall – East Iceland

Skutafoss Frozen
Skútafoss waterfall on a cold day.

 Double Waterfall

Skútafoss is a double waterfall near the East coast of Iceland.  It is a lesser known waterfall just a short drive from Iceland’s most famous mountain.  Skútafoss waterfall is in a valley just 15 minutes drive from Vestrahorn Mountain.  The waterfall almost falls into a cave and can be viewed from the roof of the cave.  The river is quite substantial and there are a few other smaller waterfalls along the river.

I used to visit Skútafoss waterfall on my Winter workshops.  The waterfall is often dramatic and the interesting landscape surrounding it make Skútafoss  a dynamic waterfall to photograph.  The smaller waterfall of the two can be a mere dribble, but it springs to life after heavy rain.

Skutafoss
The double waterfall after heavy rain.

Getting There

Access to Skútafoss waterfall is fairly easy all year round.  The track into the valley connects to Iceland’s ring road.  There is a parking area just a few 100 meters up the track and it is easy to hike the rest of the way to the waterfall.  The first waterfall visible is a man-made waterfall used for generating electricity.  After this Artificial waterfall the rest of the valley is 100% Natural.  The hiking trail give way to the river in a few places where there are rapids and small cascades.

Low level cascade
Low level cascade just before Skútafoss waterfall.

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Hidden  Treasure

It is only when you are a about 100 meters that Skútafoss waterfall become visible.  The river running through this East Iceland valley winds in an ‘S’ shape.  The path descends onto a rough river bed.  It is usually dry although in wet seasons the river can flood the area.

The mountains surrounding the valley are mostly loose scree slopes.

Frozen Falls

The very first time I discovered Skútafoss waterfall was in mid-winter.  The temperatures had been below zero for about a week and the river was frozen.

Skutafoss Frozen
Skútafoss waterfall on a cold day.

Only the blue pool and centre of the waterfall wasn’t frozen.  In very cold temperatures is can be possible to cross the frozen river. Most of the river after Skútafoss waterfall is only a few inches deep.

Mountain Scenery

One of the main challenges at Skútafoss is including the mountains in your composition.  When you are close to the waterfall, the mountains disappear behind the ledge and cave.  It is possible to include the mountains from further back, but then the waterfall doesn’t have so much impact.

Skutafoss Mountains
Composing with a mountain peak.

Inside the Cave

You can see the roof of the cave to the right in the image above.  Being in the cave is one of my favourites.  It can protect you from wind and rain which can be heavy here.  Inside the cave, I would recommend a super-wide angle lens.  Something like 17mm will include the outline of the cave.  From inside the cave, there is a nice composition of the blue pool and both waterfalls.

Skutafoss waterfall in winter
Skutafoss waterfall from inside the cave.

Waterfall Study

The rock around the waterfall is black.  This offers strong contrast with the white of the waterfall or ice and snow.  With such a dark surround, it is easy to isolate the waterfall to make a great, Natural object study.  The results can be very dramatic.

Waterfall Study
Isolating the main waterfall against the dark background. I under-exposed this scene to render the rocks very dark.
Skutafoss Waterfall Vertical
Looking down on Skutafoss Waterfall from the roof of the cave.

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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.