An Adventure in Húsavík, Iceland

A fishing boat in front of distant mountains in Húsavík, Iceland.

The photos in this post were made in the whale watching town of Húsavík in Northern Iceland.

Húsavík is a beautiful place. While situated 58 km (i.e., 36 miles) below the Arctic Circle the town experiences the midnight sun from June 11 to June 29 each year.

Húsavík is said to be the first place in Iceland to have been settled by a Norseman, in this case the Swedish Viking Gardar Svavarsson.

The town is famous for whale watching and the site of several interesting museums, not to mention a monument honoring the Apollo astronauts that trained around Húsavík during the 1960’s.

A close up of freshly caught fish in the seaside village of Húsavík in northern Iceland.

What We Photograph On Our Adventures

The world is full of fantastic things for us to photograph. I love making portraits, landscapes and, on occasions, architectural photos.

While I wouldn’t refer to myself as a wildlife photographer, given the chance, I find photographing all manner of wildlife to be very exciting.

I also enjoy telling stories through the photos I make. For example, the photo at the very top of this post, as well as the close up of the fish on a pier in Húsavík, provide an insight into one of the town’s major industries.

A wall of fish packing boxes on the wharf in Húskavík in northern Iceland.

How We Photograph Separates Us From The Pack

Take another look at the photo at the very top of this post of the fishing trawler, moored to the pier in Húsavík.

Notice the impression of compression I’ve created through the use of a telephoto lens. I made the image, on a full frame Canon 5D Mark II camera at a focal length of 260 mm, primarily to reduce the visible space between the fishing trawler and the distant mountains on the other side of the bay.

My reason for doing this was to emphasize the mountainous terrain that surrounds this very large bay. The intention is for you to feel the power of the landscape.

A slightly jarring result is achieved where, instead of thinking about the space and depth of the scene, you’re confronted with a brooding, slightly menacing landscape.

With luck you’ll also feel encouraged to consider the composition, particularly the similarities of tone and color between the fishing trawler and the mountains.

The photo of the crates piled on top of each other, on the pier in Húsavík, was made to draw attention to the balance and repetition within that particular scene. As you can see it’s a highly symmetrical image.

In this case I’m not merely documenting the crates, I’m creating a study in composition.

Tourists look out hopefully for signs of the elusive Blue whale from a vantage point on top of a former fishing boat in the waters of the town of Husavik in Northeast Iceland.

Why We Photograph Speaks To Our Uniqueness

The passion with which one approaches their photography is probably the defining difference between the enthusiast and a snap shooter.

Likewise, it’s the meaning and message we choose to imbue our photos with that separates the artist from the enthusiast photographer.

You see the world is what it is. But what gives the world meaning to us is based upon how we perceive it.

An artist works to communicate their perceptions through the photos they produce. It’s not so much about what you’re photographing, but how you feel about what you’re photographing that matters.

And it’s your very own, unique and personal experience of the world that’s being recorded in the art you produce.

That’s just one of the reasons you’ll never hear me say cheese when making photos.

Wildflowers, Botnstjorn, Iceland

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Should we be looking to accentuate or compress the sense of three-dimensional space or other elements of composition such as texture and color?

It all depends on why you’re making the picture. With that in mind it’s absolutely critical to understand the following:

  • The why must inform the what (i.e., subject) and the how (i.e., technique, style) in your photography.

  • It’s attention to the why that makes it art.

  • But it’s the way we select and deal with the what and the way we execute or apply the how that determines whether or not it’s good art.

As my favorite photography tutor and mentor, from days gone by, Les Walkling used to say, "Now, are you with me?" 

How’s Your Life Going, Really?

Actually, that’s a lesson that goes way beyond photography.

The reasons why we do things should also inform our relationships, our work, our hobbies and our search for spiritual connection.

If we don’t understand and can’t completely align ourselves with why we do things there’s a very good chance that we’re either doing them wrong or shouldn’t be doing them at all.

As an example, going to work to provide ourselves with enough money to live on until the next pay day is a poor reason to go to work. Yet, let’s face it, that’s the primary reason most folks work.

Given that work and sleep probably fills up at least 70 percent of our lives, things could certainly be better.

My view is that the work you do should be a vocation. As a matter of fact it shouldn’t even be considered work. I prefer the notion of service, craft or art to describe what it is I do.

If you don’t feel good about what you do it’s important to look closely at your own motivations and behavior.

If you believe yourself to be stuck in a toxic and unsupportive environment then you might want to consider moving on as a way of exorcising that particular cancer from your mind and body.

The lovely Húsavíkurkirkja church in the town of Husavik in Northeast Iceland.

What’s the Answer To Our Malaise?

It seems to be that we must approach our lives with a sense of purpose and that our endeavors should, wherever possible, bring us closer to the path that’s right for us.

At the end of the day there is only one certain destination in life: death. Rather than focusing on our journey’s end, let’s all do what we can to re-align ourselves to our true life’s purpose and get on with living the life we were born to live.

Life is meant to be lived, each and every day.

Tourists enjoying a thrilling whale watching cruise on Skjalfandi Bay near the town of Husavik in Iceland.

Off You Go Then

But while death is the ultimate destination, the journey is what matters most. And the journey must be experienced based for it to be of value to our spiritual and psychological growth.

Life was not just meant to be lived. Life needs to be experienced, at a deep level. We are, after all, meaning seeking creatures.

All we have to do is reach out and experience life, each and every day. And it all starts with getting off the couch and, more often than not, walking out the door.

Off you go, into the fresh air and into the light. And if it’s light and fresh air you’re seeking, then Iceland may be the place for you. I know it was for me.     

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru