For our first night, we went to sleep early; setting an alarm for 1:30 AM. According to the weather forecasts, this night was likely to be the only clear one of our entire trip. With that knowledge, we looked up the Aurora Forecast, researched best sites to watch from, and went to bed. Groggy and delirious, we headed out at 1:30 am. at 2:15 we arrived at Grótta Lighthouse, with high spirits, low expectations, and the warmest gear we could muster.
At first, we were a little disappointed. There were a few other cars out there, but no dancing lights. We decided to walk the stretch out to the lighthouse anyways. On our way over, we crossed a very dark, muddy field. There were bushels that looked like Trumps Hair and within reach of the lighthouse, we stopped at a stone wall. How weird is that? Why would there be a stone wall there? We climbed over and set up our tripods, buckled down and hoped for the best. The sky was electric, but still.
A few minutes in, I thought to take a picture of the sky, regardless of its inactivity. Maybe the stars looked cool, I didn't know. I used a few night-photography tricks my cohort taught me and started clicking. When I saw the images flash in my viewing screen, I teared up. "Those aren't clouds!" I shouted to my team members, "they're the northern lights!!" We focused our lenses toward the ocean and went for it. Though they were little, they filled our hearts. We danced and praised and eventually found the perfect angles to take our portraits against the dim, dancing sky.
Though I wouldn't call our final images the "best quality" I think they may be my favorites memories from our entire trip. It was just day one, and we were already filled with so much awe. We all laughed together and thought "man, we're pretty cool." We did our thing for about two more hours, until it was early morning and we wanted more sleep. So we packed up our gear and started to head back. We hopped over that strangely placed wall to get back, but as we walked toward the field, our way back was no longer there.
In its place, were waves. It was three am, and thanks to the high tide we no longer had a field to cross. Instead, we had a long, skinny row of icy rocks. We tightened our packs, rolled our sleeves over our hands, and slowly crossed the natural bridge that separated us from The Atlantic and Iceland. As we crawled and slid over the boulders, water splashed up on either side of us.
Those moments were equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. Hell, I wasn't even wearing gloves, and yet there we were; scaling boulders to evade soaking our gear and ourselves. Emily lead the way with one of two headlamps; the only lights other than the lighthouse that were leading us. And boulder by boulder, we made our way there. After 20 minutes, we set foot on land, looked back, and saw the first wave crash over the rocks we had just climbed. We exhaled, adrenaline rushing through us, and laughed at how terribly unprepared we were for the wilderness that is Iceland.
We headed back to the hostel, ate hummus on the heated kitchen floor, and dreamed of the next 11 days ahead of us.
Naturally, we awoke at 3 pm the next day, and with a reservation at the blue lagoon, we relaxed into our routine and headed for the natural hot springs around 5 pm. We drove through what felt like mars, and knew we had arrived when we quite literally, smelled farts. To be honest, Iceland kind of smells like farts. With it being very volcanic, sulfur wafts through the earth; a smell that eventually starts to become home. At the Blue Lagoon, we got our towels, our lockers, and spent a good thirty minutes in the dressing room doing conceptual makeup. My vision for the blue lagoon was to reflect the song 'Crystals' by Of Monsters and Men. So we shaded our eyes baby blue, painted our faces with white accents, applied blue lipstick and scurried out to the milky blue waters. Emily, Carissa, and I immediately hopped in. Kyle, however, was absolutely AMAZING and stayed out in the wind and cold to capture videos and portraits of our crazy makeup.
We laughed and shivered as we tried out different poses and sequences that reflected and interacted with the water. Some looked otherwordly, beautiful. Other times it seemed like we were drowning and had mustaches; The above photo was one of the successful attempts. It was with this project that I realized how much I loved concept work; the idea that instead of attempting to be beautiful, your only job is to be the art. It's a perspective that allows for open, fun, and truly artistic portraits. Kyle put up with us for about an hour, and then it was time to put the cameras away, and enjoy the hot springs for their saunas, water-side bars, and interactive caves and waterfalls.
Check out our full Blue Lagoon Concept, here.