Photographing Ice & Beauty on an Iceland Photography Workshop


As a landscape photographer and workshop leader, I am pretty proud of my record this year. I traveled thousands of miles and took 1000’s of pictures, but I only lost two lens caps: one in the Merced River in Yosemite and one in the North Atlantic!  Wow that was quite an accomplishment!  My Yosemite loss was just carelessness, but losing the lens cap in the North Atlantic on a South Iceland black sand beach, was something of a badge of honor. On our recent photo workshop with Jansen Photo Expeditions to Iceland, this was one of my favorite locations on that trip.

Rain and wind made my photographic progress a bit challenging, but we were prepared with plastic coverings for the camera. It was just a little hectic with hats, scarves, gloves, 5 layers of clothes and a balaclava covering my head, but we were determined to get the shot in this amazing environment.

I was feeling warm and comfortable even though we were getting a taste of the Icelandic weather. I brought my new gloves to Iceland with articulating fingers that allow you to use your iPhone and camera touch screens even with gloves on. I found out within a couple of days that these gloves were not going to be warm enough, but a pair of Icelandic wool fingerless gloves would! (The wool sweaters and gloves in Iceland are incredibly beautiful!) My old gloves now became a base layer where I could put the Icelandic fingerless gloves over and remain warm. To top it off, I put a set of hand warmers inside the gloves to direct all the heat to my hands. Hand warmers are little bags of harmless chemicals that when shaken, heat up to a nice toasty temperature and keep at least that part of your body warm. When you are not worried about staying warm, it is much easier to be creative.

Diamond Beach, Iceland Photography Workshop

This was an adventure I won’t soon forget. We were on the famous Diamond Beach and Glacier Lagoon in South Iceland and this was the most spectacular beach I had ever been to in any weather.

When we arrived there, our group all piled out of the van like a bunch of little kids running for the ice cream truck.  None of us had ever seen a scene like this before, and as photographers, this was kid in a candy store stuff.

The beach was made up of coarse volcanic black sand with boulder size chunks of ice scattered all over the shore. The ice was clear and blue in different shapes and sizes and the ocean flowed up and around trying to pull them back out to sea. The ice had calved off the nearby glacier and floated though the lagoon to the sea and washed back up on the shore.

Diamond Beach, Iceland Photography Workshop

Beautiful ice sculptures created by water and wind dotted the black sand beach giving it an other worldly look.

Lining up the pieces of ice in compelling compositions was a creative challenge. (It brought to mind the sign I saw when arriving at the airport in Iceland, “be prepared for Icelandic conditions”. Now I know what that meant.)

Icelandic ConditionsSmall

Photographing in these kinds of exciting conditions can be extremely compelling at first, causing you to overlook what’s Important in the scene. The ice was very dynamic, as some of it was sitting on the beach, some of it was moving through the water. It was very important to create compositions where the pieces of ice were separate and not overlapping each other in the frame of the image. I wanted to be sure my clients created much more of a story than a pile of ice on the beach.

Diamond Beach, Iceland, Photography Workshop Ice2 ice 1

The other challenge for our clients was to show the stationary ice on the shore with the ocean moving in and around it. This is another reason to be intentional about the type of photograph you want when composing a scene. Do you want the waves to be frozen in time or appear to be free flowing?  I tried both and here are my results.


Where might I lose my next lens cap?  Stay tuned, you never know where it might land!

We are looking forward to our return trip to Iceland in February of 2016 where we will be experiencing the Aurora Borealis and Ice Caves on the South Coast of Iceland.

If you are an adventurous photographer (with a few extra lens caps) ready to explore the Southern regions of Iceland with us, February 20 -27, 2016, please go to our website for more information and to sign up. We still have a couple of spaces left!

Want to see more about Iceland?  Here’s a video from our trip to get a taste of our February 2016 photo expedition.

We also lead a variety of domestic winter photographic workshops in the Western United States, highlighting the beauty of the American Landscape in Big Sur, Yosemite and San Francisco. Join us for an upcoming workshop.


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Holly Higbee-Jansen

Co-Owner and Workshop Leader at Jansen Photo Expeditions
I am a passionate photographer and workshop leader, and I have been exploring my fascination with light since I was a young child. As a co-owner and guide for, I love taking our small groups of clients to beautiful places to help them explore their photographic creativity. Join us on one of our photographic workshops in the American West, Iceland and Central America: or take one of our online photography classes.  Live life creatively!  Reach me by email at:
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  • Gloria Miele, Ph.D.

    Glad you had some extra lens caps, because it was worth these fabulous shots. The scene is unreal. Thanks for capturing and sharing.

  • Where in the world is Holly’s Lens Cap? Sounds like a new video series to me. LOVE your images. And that you had this fabulous adventure.