We are starting the 2017 Summer Iceland Workshop. For me, this is kind of a bittersweet start. I have been doing Iceland workshops since 2005. Sometimes we’d do two a year, as we have the last few years. We did a workshop back in March of this year, and we tried something different, doing it with just eight people. This coming summer workshop will have 11 attendees. At one time I did workshops here with up to 30 people. That was way too many, although it was a successful workshop. You can view many of my past Iceland images on my personal blog kevinraber.com.
What I Am Shooting with In Iceland Video
In the video below I talk about the gear I’ll be taking to Iceland. For this trip, I have chosen to shoot with the Fuji X system. I’ll be bringing a Fuji XT-2 and X-Pro2 along with a wide assortment of lenses and filters.
So, why the bittersweet? Because this is the last workshop I have planned in Iceland for the foreseeable future. I love Iceland. It’s one of the most amazingly beautiful countries on the planet. That is also what is wrong with Iceland right now.
In 2005, when we started doing workshops in Iceland, the ring road was still not completely paved. We never ran into any other photographers, and we could just stop anywhere and check into a hotel. There was always room. Not anymore. Tourism in Iceland is out of control. Maybe it’s a good thing for Iceland, and maybe it’s a bad thing. All I know is that I need a break from the big buses dumping out hordes of tourists who run all over the place screaming and taking selfies. I need a break from crowds in the city and drivers on the road who have no business driving cars, much less driving them in Iceland. I have even watched these clueless tourists try to take a small rental car on the beach and then wonder why they get stuck.
I have made many friends on my travels in Iceland. In my opinion, you won’t find friendlier people anywhere. But even the Icelanders are getting frustrated. Since their economy, for the most part, is based on tourism, this increase in visitors has benefited the country. Or has it?
The crowds and the recent rise in the Icelandic kroner have made some tour companies cancel trips there. It is one of the most expensive countries to visit. For me, though, the bigger problem is not being able to take photos of my favorite locations because of the hordes of tourists showing up with selfie sticks and iPads. Waterfalls that never had barriers up now do because there have been so many accidents with tourists doing stupid things, and many of these places are getting trampled. Steel grated stairs and paths are becoming the norm to prevent people destroying the ground.
I have had the privilege of working with my friend Daniel Bergmann over all these years. In my book, he’s the best Icelandic tour guide, as well as one of the finest landscape and nature photographers I know. Daniel knows every road and path in Iceland as well as every inhabitant, or so it seems. He’s got a sense of humor like no one else I know and is always a gentleman. He loves his country and is happy to share it with the folks on our workshops. Daniel is worried about all of this too.
On our workshops, we don’t follow the tour routes. If you want to see the so-called Golden Triangle, which most visitors see and believe is Iceland, then arrive in the country before our workshop starts or stay on after. There are a lot of tour options available if you want to see that area.
We typically head out and start to drive to the farther points in Iceland. The real gems. We visit these places before and after the tour buses, which also means we see them in the best light. Many of the places we go to aren’t visited by tour buses as they are remote and inaccessible to big vehicles. Our mode of transportation is a custom four-wheel-drive Mercedes Sprinter with big, 46-inch tires. There is practically no place in Iceland we can’t visit.
So we will get great images, and we will, for the most part, beat the crowds and tourists. Nowadays we also run into a lot more photo workshop groups. These have multiplied exponentially as more and more photographers try to supplement their income doing workshops. Many are inexperienced and not using guides. Social media is full of horror stories about some of the experiences photographers have had with these workshops. Research your workshop carefully.
I could go on and on about this, but for the next year or so, I am backing away from Iceland, and I know a few others are too. We may lead a private tour there or do something different, but for now, it’s time to give Iceland a break.
All of this means that we are going to make this workshop really count. We have what looks to be a great group. We will be traveling all over the island. We’ll be spending time in the highlands as well as along the coast. We have almost 19 hours of daylight a day, which means long days of photography. Sleep is optional on this trip.
Our tour begins July 26 and will end on August 5. I will be keeping a GPS log of our route, which I will share in an article after the trip along with images from the trip. I will post on my Facebook and on Instagram so check these sites regularly for images.
P.S. We still have a berth left for our Greenland workshop in a few weeks. If you move fast, you can be part of that fantastic trip. Also, don’t forget our Antarctica trip next February. Workshops for the next two years will be published soon.