Join arctic explorer Chris Linder and Cornell Lab of Ornithology photographer Gerrit Vyn for this unique photographic experience during prime puffin chick-rearing season on a diligently customized route around northwest Iceland.
Iceland’s steep, rocky coastline explodes with life in the summer months. Atlantic puffins, black guillemots, northern fulmars, and kittiwakes all raise their chicks here before returning to a life at sea. Our primary subject will be the colorful, charismatic Atlantic puffin, and we will be visiting some of the best locations for puffin photography in the world. In addition to Iceland’s cliff-dwelling seabirds, we will also spend time looking for tundra breeding birds including red-throated loons, tufted duck, black-tailed godwit, whimbrel, European golden plover, red-necked phalarope, and redshank.
Renowned bird photographers Chris Linder and Gerrit Vyn will lead this nine-night photo workshop for ten participants, which will be focused on the remote Westfjords region of Iceland. Chris is a repeat visitor to Iceland, making his familiarity with the best photography locations, timing for optimal light, and personal contacts there a great benefit for the expedition. He is the 2015 Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards winner for the birds category and recently completed an assignment on climate change impacts on Icelandic puffin populations. Gerrit's 2016 photography book, The Living Bird, was a New York Times Bestseller and he continues to travel around the world to document wildlife and conservation stories. He is well-experienced in creating powerful photography, particularly showcasing birds as they can show affects from climate change and environmental challenges.
The itinerary has been carefully crafted based on numerous assignments to photograph Iceland’s puffins with Icelandic bird researchers, and includes some unique locations you won’t find on any other Icelandic photography tour. The expedition was developed with the focus of puffin chick-rearing in mind; mid-July is the best time to capture images of puffins bringing bill-fulls of spaghetti-like sand eels back to their burrows.
Our small group will travel in comfort in a specially customized bus with room for everyone to have a window seat, complete with Wi-Fi and numerous power outlets to enable us to edit our images while we're on the road. When traveling to the next location, we will take advantage of photogenic opportunities of the Icelandic landscape. Chris and Gerrit scheduled exceptional locations for more instruction inland, such as tiered waterfalls, and will look out for serendipitous moments as the bus rolls onward.
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We will make the most of light and weather conditions each day. Accommodations will be at quality hotels, with all meals and beverages included. On the last evening of the trip, we’ll return to Reykjavík, enjoy a final celebratory dinner together and spend the night at the excellent Hotel Holt, located in the city center.
The focus of this expedition is photography in the field. Chris and Gerrit will provide generous hands-on mentorship, sharing their expertise and professional insights on developing creativity and personal vision, composition, working with various qualities of light and changing weather, capturing wildlife behavior, and working landscape scenarios to best effect.
Constructive critiques will be included in the schedule to help participants identify where they are succeeding and how they might focus their energies to advance their vision and skills. During critiques, emphasis is first placed on identifying what participants are doing right with regard to chosen subject and composition, followed by discussion of ways to improve the execution of the image in light of the emotional response, concepts, and aesthetics that led the photographer to make the image in the first place.
Attentive group support during the expedition will be provided by experienced Icelandic guides, Sigurður Einarsson (Siggi) and his wife, þorbjörg Guðrún Markúsdóttir (Bogga), who are used to catering to the needs and requirements of photographers, anticipating how to make this expedition a first-class travel photography trip.
July 7 – Arrival day in Reykjavik: Transfers to Reykjavik’s Hotel Holt will be arranged for inbound guests from Keflavik International Airport (KEF). During the afternoon, there will be group introductions and orientation at the hotel's private library where wine and coffee will be served, as well as a photography session at the city pond. Our first dinner as a group will be held at one of our favorite restaurants in Reykjavik, with a menu designed especially for us by the restaurant's chefs. Overnight in Reykjavik at Hotel Holt.
July 8 – Heading north: After an early breakfast at the hotel, we will drive north to the town of Stykkishólmur on the south coast of the large bay Breiðafjörður. We will board the ferry Baldur, watching for puffins, white-tailed sea eagles, and other seabirds. Roughly halfway across the bay, we will disembark at the island of Flatey for a night on this tiny, picturesque island. In the evening we will explore the island and photograph a variety of seabirds, including black guillemot, puffins, and arctic terns. Overnight at Hotel Flatey.
July 9 – Westfjords: After a morning photo session and breakfast at the hotel, we will board Baldur and continue transiting across the bay to the Westfjords. Our hotel for the next three nights is located only a few minutes’ drive to the largest bird cliff in Europe, the famed Latrabjarg bird cliffs. Early dinner and evening photo session at the cliffs. Overnight at Hotel Breiðavík.
July 10-11 – Latrabjarg: We have scheduled three nights at this remarkable location to maximize our chances of good light and interesting bird behaviors. This is one of the few locations in Iceland where you will be able to photograph Atlantic puffins with wide angle lenses. Their complete lack of fear of people means they will often land within touching distance. In addition to the charismatic Atlantic puffins, we will also have the opportunity to photograph other cliff-nesting seabirds including kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots, and fulmars. Overnight at Hotel Breiðavík.
July 12 – waterfalls and fjords: After one final morning photo session at the Latrabjarg cliffs, we will continue driving northward through stunning Westfjords scenery. We will make a stop to photograph the seven-tiered waterfall Dynjandi on our way to the small town of Ísafjörður. After an early dinner we will board a boat for an evening tour of the island Vigur, where we will find black guillemots, arctic tern, and eider ducks. Overnight at Hotel Ísafjörður.
July 13 – Grímsey: After a quick morning shoot in the vicinity of Ísafjörður, we will drive around five deep fjords on the way to the town of Drangsnes, our base for the evening. After an early dinner, we will take a short 10-minute boat ride to Grímsey Island for an evening shoot. Grímsey has the largest offshore puffin colony in Iceland, with 30,000 puffin pairs, northern fulmars, and a cormorant and kittiwake colony on the northern shore. Following our evening excursion, we can enjoy geothermally-heated public hot tubs right on the shore of the fjord! Our accommodation for the night will be Hotel Malarhorn.
July 14 – Drangey: We start the day with a morning shoot at the nearby ponds and then drive east to the town of Sauðárkrókur at the head of the bay Skagafjörður, where we will check into our hotel and have an early dinner. That evening, we will visit the crown jewel of the puffin tour, Drangey Island, by boat. We will have several hours in the evening on a private tour to explore this seabird haven. The sound of thousands of seabirds wheeling overhead is almost deafening, and the views from the top of the island are exhilarating. Overnight in the main building of Hotel Tindastóll.
July 15 – Drangey and head south: In the morning we will revisit Drangey for another private tour to take advantage of morning light. After a hearty lunch we will begin driving back to Reykjavik, with a stop at the massive Hraunfossar waterfall. In the evening we will conclude with a celebratory dinner and slideshow, spending the night once again at Hotel Holt.
July 16 – Departure day: Wake up for breakfast at Hotel Holt, followed by time to see the sights and do souvenir shopping in Reykjavik's city center and waterfront for those leaving later in the day.
- VISA: No visa is required for stays less than 90 days.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE: We always strongly recommend arranging travel insurance. Travelguard.com is excellent.
- FLIGHTS: No flights are included. Please contact us if you would like recommendations regarding flights to and from Keflavik, Iceland (airport code: KEF)
- GRATUITIES: Baseline tips are included. Our local guides, driver, and lodging staff work very hard to make our experience in Iceland be the best it can be, and Visionary Wild budgets for a healthy group tip in recognition of their services. Guests are encouraged to tip additionally if they would like to recognize exceptional service.