Iceland Mag

11 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Photography: The wonderful sub-arctic light is his personal friend

By Staff

  • Sólheimajökull glacier An outlet glacier in the much larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier in South Iceland. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

There are only two photographers in Iceland who are household names. One of them is Páll Stefánsson, who has been travelling high and low around Iceland with his cameras since 1983. He shoots people, but mainly landscape. 


Páll Stefánsson At the Holuhraun eruption site last winter.

The wonderful sub-arctic light is Páll’s personal friend; it touches the mountain top whenever he wishes. Or maybe he is just a very patient man with the instinct of a hunter, knowing when and where to put down his tripod to capture the perfect moment.

Páll is a multiple winner of the Photographer of the Year award in Iceland and has received awards from Time, Life, and Europress.

Páll has published more than 30 books and shot more than 300 magazine covers. He is the editor and chief photographer for Iceland Review magazine but has also worked for The New York Times, Geo, UNICEF, Leica Cameras, Condé Nast Traveler, Hasselblad, UNESCO, and SONY, to name just a few. 


The Landmannalaugar region The blue-green mountains are called Grænagil or Green Ravine. You can see why. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

Páll has just published his newest book. It’s called Iceland Exposed and is a grand photographic opus on Iceland with an introduction written by Haraldur Sigurðsson, a world-renowned volcanologist and the owner of the great Volcano Museum in the town of Stykkishólmur, west Iceland. 

Included in the book are also a few short personal essays by Páll, or short stories from his travels around Iceland. Below is one, also featuring the other photographer whose name most Icelanders know. 

The southernmost glacier in the country, called Sólheimajökull, is a glacial tongue that extends south from its big brother, Mýrdalsjökull. Between the Ring Road and the tongue runs a six-kilometer stretch from which you can catch a glimpse of Dyrhólaey, the southernmost point in the country. 



Iceland Exposed Photographer Páll Stefánsson is born 1958. He is a legend in Icelandic photography.

The glaciers are retreating; Sólheimajökull is retreating the fastest. It has withdrawn a few kilometers since I first went there. And it’s never the same from one time to the next. In this glacier world the light intensifies, reflects off the white and black ice. There, the rainbow becomes strongest. I know. I’ve seen it, armed with my camera.

One autumn, I went there with my friend RAX, the photographer Ragnar Axelsson. I went up on the glacier, hypnotised by all the rainbows, the light. After hours of hard work, I came back down to find RAX sitting in the car. He played me his favourite song and it resonated in the stillness.

Happy, I told him about my victories, how I had beaten the light and the slippery ice far up on the glacier. Then darkness came. I had forgotten to take off my lens cap. I didn’t realise it until I unfastened the Linhof film camera with viewfinder on top, from the tripod. RAX’s song never became my favourite song. -PS

Iceland Exposed is published by Crymogea. You can order a copy here.

More photos from the book:


Laki Langisjór Iceland's most beautiful lake, end of discussion. Located in the south-central highlands. Photo/Páll Stefánsson


Upptyppingar Tuff mountains located in the north-central highlands. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

The Holuhraun eruption The spectacular eruption in the northeast central highlands lasted 181 day, from August 2014 ti February 2015. Photo/Páll Stefánsson


At Hrafntinnusker Geothermal detail. Photo/Páll Stefánsson


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