Photographing Iceland's Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Sunset, Seljalandsfoss

It was my third trip to Iceland, my second time around the Ring Road — researching a landscape photo book. Shooting the country along the 1,000 mile Ring Road was phenomenal. But even with a couple hundred images of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, I had nothing usable. 

Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most iconic spots, a high waterfall backed by a mossy, womb-like cave. On my March and May trips, the waterfall had been mired in cold rain and snow. That's just Iceland. It was August now, my final chance at getting the "shot" of Seljalandsfoss before flying home.  

I was eating in Vik that final evening when I noticed the sky clearing. And as I drove, I got into shot planning mode. The waterfall is 40 miles off on a 2-lane blacktop – with less than an hour of available light.   

I got there in 40 minutes with the last tour buses heading home. Grabbed my wide angle and tripod. The falling water turns the cave into a big, cold steam room so I adjusted settings before heading in and slipped the camera into my parka.

I walked the dark, muddy path to see how the shot elements aligned. The falls and stream were a leading line, the misty sunset was magical as was the soft, backlit moss. It was the first time I'd experienced direct sunlight in the Seljalandfoss cave. I found my spot and stood, back to the wall, breathed it all in. Shot. Wiped the lens off, recomposed. Another shot, wiped the lens, another, as the sun set.