Iceland in 16 Days: Day 1, South Region, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Welcome to Mish Moments!

Please visit my About Page for my background, guest submissions, and information about the focus of this website.

I kick off Mish Moments with a series of articles on Iceland. In the summer of 2015 my wife Liz and I had a glorious trip. We spent 15 nights (16 days) on the island.

We will take you around Iceland, and the amazing trip we had with scenes of waterfalls, ice beaches, puffins, whales, geysers, rainbows, glaciers, and colorful fishing boats in small harbor villages.

My free Iceland Guide is packed with information about what to bring, where to go, what to do, where to stay, what to expect in each location, and what literature to read before your trip.

Feature Image Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 22MM, F/14, ISO 100 for 1/13 second. This is my favorite general purpose lens. Check out my Equipment List page for additional ideas and discussion.

Iceland Day One

We arrived in Reykjavik at 6:00AM. It was cold and rainy. We could not get our Garmin to work. I feared the entire trip might be the same.  Such fears were soon dashed. Once outside of Reykjavik, the weather turned, the sun came out, and we were on our way.

I had a bad case of jet lag, not getting any sleep on the Icelandair flight from Boston.  Seriously tired, we pulled into the Hotel Ranga for breakfast, between Reykjavik and Vik, with Vik being our first night’s stop.

The operators were extremely generous. They saw me half-asleep on one of their benches and said we could lie down for a while in their beautiful upstairs sitting room.

After a few hours nap and an excellent buffet breakfast, we were on our way to Vik.

We passed two major waterfalls along the way. Seljalandsfoss, shown here, was the second. Skógafoss was first, but I will comment on Skógafoss in a collection of images between Reykjavik and Vik.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall


Best Angles

There are two very nice vantage points for photographing Seljalandsfoss. The first behind the waterfall. The second is high up the hillside parallel or slightly above the waterfall. Down below, where most people were, is an inferior location.

Depending on wind direction, it may not be possible to photograph from behind the waterfall. As it was, I was wiping off the front of my lens after every shot. Spray is a huge problem even if the wind is not blowing at you. Most of those behind the waterfall gave up.

Get a box of lens-cleaning wipes. I nearly used an entire box when photographing waterfalls in Iceland.


There is a huge variation in light in the sky and light on the cliff behind the waterfall. There are several ways of dealing with contrast.

  1. Expose for the highlights and let the shadow areas go black
  2. Take multiple exposures and blend them with an HDR (High Dynamic Range) program
  3. Take multiple exposures and manually blend them yourself in Photoshop
  4. Take a single exposure pushing the exposure as high as you can without blowing out the highlights, and working as best you can with a single image

The feature image at the top uses method 3. The image above uses method 4.

I tried using Lightroom’s HDR merge program but the results were not acceptable. Part of the problem was my own doing. I did not capture the shadow exposures correct. The result was purple-green in shadow areas. I did better blending multiple exposures of the scene myself, using Photoshop.

Words of Thanks

  • To my beautiful wife and best friend Liz, with whom we have shared many special moments traveling the United States, Europe, and Iceland.
  • To all our friends and the many people we met on our many travels
  • To the folks at WordPress for spending countless hours tweaking this layout until I was finally convinced I had it correct.

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Up Next: In and around Vik

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

15 thoughts on “Iceland in 16 Days: Day 1, South Region, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

  1. Great explanations of the trip and photographic procedures. Looking forward to the next installment. I also use Canon gear and was/am considering the MK IV.

  2. Would it be possible to have a permanent link between MishTalk and MishMoments on the toolbar? Thanks.

      1. Thanks. I usually cannot carry my Canon around with me so invariably I only have the Sony at hand and no tripod to take multiple exposures. The quality of image is amazingly good considering, much better than the uploads above, Apple used to have the edge but I think other platforms have caught up. Anyway, as I am closer to 35mm and no editing I don’t worry about perfection and just try to capture what awes me as best as possible 🙂 . I think we are pretty much spoilt nowadays, a lot of great photo essays came from very basic setups, but landscape certainly deserves the highest grade possible.

  3. Awesome. That waterfall photo…

    Personally, I’d recommend you try large format photography (B&W, using Ansel Adam’s Zone technique, too) Less many images, but then your pursuit is a fine print, not lots of junk files.

    Quality beats quantity. Now try a high end digital back, when you can afford one 😉 Medium format is good, too. Try iy for yourself. It’s like driving a big V-8 for the first time after being used to Citroen CV2 “Duck” or the VW “Bug”

  4. Hi Mish, this is a great series of articles! I do have a small request though. Could you append details on how much you spent on your trip to Iceland in your Iceland Guide? That would be extremely, extremely helpful (at least for me) to know how much you spent because I have been planning an equivalent two week, Iceland full circle/Ring Road trip for the longest of times. However, I have never pulled the trigger on the trip, instead spending my vacations in other locales, because I am extremely petrified of the costs of an Iceland trip.

    I would definitely appreciate knowing (if you’re willing to provide this information):
    – How much you spent on the airline tickets
    – How much you spent on your hotels
    – How much you spent on the rental car (did you have to buy the full gamet of insurance – windshield insurance, ash and sand insurance, etc.
    – How much you spent on gasoline
    – How much you spent on food (I’m really afraid here. I have read that you can spend an average of $50/pp on an average dinner at a decent restaurant). Yes, I’m aware you can go to the grocery store and buy food during the vacation, but I would hate to do that because it is a “vacation.”
    – Other incidentals

    I know that the Icelandic Krona has fallen quite a bit in value since ten years ago but it has appreciated recently. And of course, there are all the horror stories of the high prices in Iceland even with the krona devaluation. I am just afraid I will need to spend at least a total of $10,000 USD for a 2 week vacation. Did you have to spend that much? Also, did you book through a tour company like NordicVisitor or which offers self drive vacations (they set up the hotels and rental car as a package) – or did you book the hotels and rental car yourself?

  5. Beautiful picture and vantage point. Microsoft is using the same vantage point as their Log On picture on 12-28-2016. I immediately recognized the waterfall from the picture you took.

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