Iceland – Part 4: Leaving the South

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Our last full day in the south of Iceland was spent on an adventure to the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. This required a three hour drive from our cottage to the lagoon, and took us across mossy landscapes and cliffs that rose like monuments into the sky. We stopped along the way more than once to take photos, and we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for the ever-changing terrain in this part of the country. It was beyond magnificent.

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We arrived at the lagoon, and I was floored. I had never seen anything like this before. A blue lake stretched out for miles before me, meeting with glacial mountains in the distance. Continuously shifting icebergs floated from one end to the other. The air had a chill to it, but I wasn’t cold. It felt like a dream.

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A few months previous to my trip to Iceland, I discovered a costume shop near where I live in California. The place is amazing–costumes lining every wall in the warehouse-type building from every style, era, and purpose. It’s a photographer’s wonderland. I was there a few weeks before Iceland looking for dresses to bring on my journey, and this gorgeous white vintage wedding gown quickly caught my eye. I couldn’t resist. It had to be mine. And that was that.

When we arrived at the glacial lagoon, I knew I wanted to take some photos with this dress. The environment was stunning beyond belief, and I knew the dress would compliment it so nicely. While Rob, Lizzy, and Kelsey were off taking photos of their own, I gave myself time to explore the lagoon alone, and I soon found the perfect spot for my shoot.

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I don’t remember what I was laughing at, but I love this photo so much 🙂 That’s pretty much how I felt the entire time taking photos at the Lagoon. Just honestly, incredibly happy.

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I want to insert a quick word of thanks to my sweet friend Kelsey for doing my hair for that day! She made the most lovely crown braid in my hair (which ended up lasting for several days), and I think it totally made the shoot. Thanks, girl 🙂

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We probably spent a good hour just skipping rocks along the edge of the lagoon. It was such a fun time together, talking and picking out the best rocks to skip, and relaxing for the journey still ahead of us. It is a memory that will always remain in my mind and in my heart. I didn’t get many pictures of us skipping rocks, but I promise it will have a prominent role in the Iceland Film I am working on 🙂

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I was amazed at the ice formations floating around in the water all around Jokulsarlon. Such beautiful shapes and textures–I had never seen anything quite like it before. Chunks of ice would drift on by, catching the light here and there and creating such strange, otherworldly visuals.

We also made friends with a little seal that was swimming around in the icy water, and occasionally he would pop his head up above the surface to watch what we were doing. That water would have definitely been too cold for me to swim in, so I don’t know how he did it. Crazy seal.

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As we drove away from Jokulsarlon, we knew we wanted to stop at a glacier and take some photos in the evening light. We passed several places that seemed far too much like tourist traps before we finally found our spot. A dirt road that seemed less-traveled presented itself before us, leading to a gorgeous mountain range in the distance. We quickly parked our car at the bottom of the hill and we walked together towards the mountains, as the light flooded the sky all around.

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The sight that met our eyes that evening was too beautiful for me to ever accurately describe. Mountains rose before us, and the evening light and centuries of frozen rivers poured from its peaks. Hills ebbed and flowed like water in the valley, and the mossy land felt like cushions beneath our feet. It was chilly that evening, but we didn’t pay it any mind–not then. The beautiful place we had found was enough to make us forget everything else, and simply prompted us to be still and take in the view. And that’s exactly what we did.

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This was an evening that will remain in my memory until the day I die. As the sun dipped lower behind the mountains, there was a moment when all of us had separated, and had found our own individual spots to watch the sunset. I sat on the edge of a hill, Lizzy was to my left on an overlook, Rob was down below us at the edge of a river, and Kelsey and Sian were further ahead of us on another hill.

All was quiet as we took in that moment, each letting the peace and beauty of the landscape take precedence over reality and responsibilities. Time seemed to stand still, and to this day I don’t know how long we must have stayed there. The sun sets slower in Iceland, you see–something like three hours compared to our quick half-hour solar descent. We could have been there for hours and I wouldn’t have noticed.

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I made a post on Instagram that evening that pretty much perfectly described my thoughts in that moment. I’ll share it here:

As I was standing on that mountainside, it hit me harder than ever before. This is the reason. This is the reason that move didn’t happen. This is the reason those relationships didn’t work out. This is the reason I didn’t get that job. This is the reason that I didn’t get all those things I thought I wanted so badly. So I could be standing here, on the mountain, overlooking the world. So I could realize that I am so small, but I am so lucky, and for a moment, I am living my dreams. This moment reminds me that anything is possible. Dreams absolutely do come true.

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Friends climbing the mushroom rock on the drive back.

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The next morning, it was time to separate our groups once more. I hate goodbyes, and this one was just as difficult as I knew it would be. I wished so much that we were able to spend more time shooting with these girls, as they are all such beautiful souls, and I came to love them all in the short few days we spent together. Lizzy, Rob, and I were to be taking off on our journey around the Ring Road, Sian and Kelsey were going back to Reykjavik, and Autumn, Anna, Kassidy, and Chelsey were going on their own loop around the country. We got the whole group together on the hill behind our cottage to take a group photo. It was a sad morning, but we were all so excited for each other’s new adventures ahead.

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From left to right: Me, Rob, Kassidy, Autumn, Lizzy, Kelsey, Anna, Chelsey, and Sian.

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Soon, it was time for us to be on our way back to Reykjavik. We knew we wanted to stop at a hot spring we were told about by the other girls, with a name we couldn’t begin to pronounce. Apparently it was nestled in a mountain, and very secluded, and it was far less crowded than other hot springs we had been to already. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but it certainly defied expectations.

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The hot spring was an incredible sight. A natural mineral pool had been built into the valley with a bath house attached, and mountains loomed all around it. Waterfalls trickled down from the peaks of the mountains, and a river ran off to the side. It was like we had stepped into a movie, or a painting.

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There was another group of people there before us, and we quickly made friends with them as we swam around. They were all from the states as well, a couple of them from Seattle-where I will be moving soon-so I enjoyed talking to them between photo taking.

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This portion of our journey was another favorite from our Icelandic trip! I loved the lagoon, and the hot springs were to die for.

Stay tuned for the next leg of our journey, where Rob, Lizzy, and I voyage into the great wild North and take on the Ring Road–driving and camping around the entire perimeter of the island country in just about three days. You won’t want to miss it!

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