Gallery: Extraordinary images of Iceland captured by photographer James Rushforth

Award-winning photographer James Rushforth shares his favourite photos of Iceland. And offers advice on how you can capture the breathtaking beauty of this country too

8 mins

James Rushforth is one of the most acclaimed landscape photographer in the world. He has won countless awards and his work appears in newspapers and magazines around the world. His photo book about the Dolomites was extraordinary.

Now he has turned his keen eye towards the ethereal beauty of Iceland with the release of a two-volume series, Photographing Iceland.

The books contain over 1200 incredible images of the country, as well as advice on 150 not-to-be-missed locations. All the most beautiful places on the ring road are covered as well as multi-day overnight hikes to glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, hot springs, lava fields, craters, volcanoes, mountains, coast, beaches and cliffs. The country’s abundant wildlife is covered too.

James’ books are also a goldmine of information for budding travel photographers. He carefully explains how each image was captured and offers priceless advice on the techniques he used, the best time of day and season to capture shots and co-ordinates for each location.

Here’s a selection of James’ favourite shots to inspire you, not just to book a trip to Iceland but to improve your photographic skills as well.

The Ring Road in winter

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

A lone vehicle travels along Ring Road in southern Iceland.

The road – running parallel with the coast, soft sky, and blanket of fresh snow – presented the opportunity for a wonderfully minimalistic scene comprised of many horizontal lines, with some excellent symmetry.

Nikon D850, 70–200mm at 200mm, ISO 400, 1/800s at f/8.

Icelandic islands

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

Bjarnarey and Elliðaey are two of some 15 islands and 30 skerries or stacks that make up Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands).

Situated just eight kilometres from Iceland's southern coast, this volcanic island group has a very different ambience to that usually associated with the mainland, displaying almost tropical characteristics in good weather.

The solitary hunting lodge can be seen on Bjarnarey, while a rainstorm partially obscures Eyjafjallajökull in the background.

Image taken from a light aircraft using a Nikon D850, 24-70mm at 50mm, ISO 200, 1/800s at f/9. CPL.

The turf church at Hofskirkja

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

Constructed in 1884 by carpenter Páll Pálsson and dedicated to St. Clement, Hofskirkja is one of six remaining turf churches still found in Iceland and one of the few that continue to function as a practicing parish.

This is a cropped panorama of three images taken at 14mm.

Nikon D850, 14–24mm at 14mm, ISO 64, 0.5s at f/22, tripod. 

An Icelandic canyon

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

After I spent two hours getting soaked while exploring one of Iceland’s many canyons, the rain eventually stopped and some magical light finally started filtering through the clouds.

I took hundreds of frames trying to capture the many fulmars inhabiting the ravine, with a particularly exciting moment when I thought I had spotted a sea eagle flying overhead.

Unfortunately, on closer inspection, it was actually a great skua, a notoriously aggressive seabird found inhabiting Icelands coastal regions.

Nikon D850, 24-70mm at 50mm, ISO 400, 1/800s at f/5.6.

An ice cave in Iceland

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

Sunlight filters down a large ice cave, creating hundreds of tiny sun stars as the ice reflects the light.

These miniature sunbursts can be accentuated by using a narrow aperture, taking advantage of lens diffraction.

Nikon D810, 24–70mm at 30mm, ISO 100, 15s at f/16, tripod.

Hellnar church under the northern lights

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

Mount Stapafell and Hellnar church during a spectacular display of the aurora. The remote location on Snæfellsnes peninsula enjoys very little light pollution and is perfect for watching the night skies.

Nikon D810, 14–24mm at 14mm, ISO 1000, 10s at f/2.8, tripod.

An Icelandic crater row

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

A spectacular crater row in Icelands vast interior. The intense red on the rims is caused by the scoria being coloured by the oxidation of the iron minerals in the lava. This is turn contrasts sharply with the surrounding basalt.

The scene is completely otherworldly, especially when coupled with the remote location. A white four-wheel-drive vehicle can be seen driving the road beneath the craters.

DJI P4P, 24mm, 1/320s at f/5, ISO 100.

The Ódáðahraun Desert

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

Situated in the vast rain shadow of the Vatnajökull ice cap, the Ódáðahraun desert in northern Iceland is characterised by a striking volcanic morphology and conspicuous absence of water.

So otherworldly are the landscapes here that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins spent time training in this pseudo-lunar environment before their successful landing on the moon.

This is a cropped 20 image panorama taken with a Nikon D850, 70–200mm at 70mm, ISO 100, 1/80s at f/4.

A geothermal rainbow

(James Rushforth)

(James Rushforth)

An aerial view of a geothermal hot spring deep in the Icelandic highlands. This particularly site is unusually high in silica content, resulting in some beautifully intricate formations of polished white geyserite, surrounded by vibrant multi-hued mineral veins.

DJI P4P, 24mm, ISO 100, 1/40s at f/3.5, CPL.

Order your copy now

Photographing Iceland Vol. 1 & 2 are published by fotoVUE and available now.

You can order signed copies directly from James – along with an exclusive Adventure Map.

They are also available from all good book stores, including Amazon.

Buy now

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