Kirkjufell, Iceland


One of the most photographed sites in all of Iceland is Church Mountain, or Kirkjufell, on the north coast of the Snaefellness Peninsula.  It has become the signature, must have photo memory which invariably results in quite the tourist jam during the summer.  The traditional image is taken from the southern side of the road to include the relatively small Kirkjuefellfoss falls, making them look unrealistically large with the mountain in the background. In order to capture something different, I took an alternate approach.

The summer 'night' began as I turned east from the tip of the Snefellness Peninsula past Hellissandur and, according to my calculations, I would traverse the northern coast, gas up at the midpoint town of Olafsvik, the only civilization before my destination, and arrive at Kirkjufell at approximately 4am. I was hoping for solitude, good dawn light to shoot, and ultimately to call it a day in Grundarfjur to find a precious shower!

The Witch's Hat shape of the Kirkjufell rising to 463 meters above the sea is unmistakable as you approach the mountain from the west. The Hound's  'arrowhead mountain' vision in Game of Thrones episodes 6 and 7, as the company goes north of the wall to capture a wight, is truly fantastic in person. The episode's film location shows astonishing images of Kirkjufell snow covered in the dead of winter and I was thrilled to be standing at its base completely at peace.

It is a grand site with the isolated peak jutting into the sea like the Icelandic version of Mount Saint-Michel in Normandy.  As I hoped, there was not a soul in site as I explored and scouted the various vantage points around the entire basin.  Surrounded by a glacial estuary, there are thousands upon thousands of migrating birds perched and feeding on the surrounding rocks or seaweed-covered beach.  Ultimately, climbing down onto the beach and walking out towards the sea, I found the image and feeling I was looking for.  A low, wide angle perspective from sea level with the mountain in the background backlit by the first rays of the day created the Ying-Yang shape I was fortunate to capture.