Power and Wonder - Skogafoss, Iceland

Did you ever have a friend who saw a movie and hyped it up so much that upon seeing said movie you were a little letdown because your expectations weren't fully met? That was my experience with Skogafoss.

The Build Up

Thanks to the modern marvel that is social media and photo sharing websites, I've seen numerous photos of Skogafoss, a waterfall in the Golden Circle in southern Iceland. I think the first time I saw this waterfall was on Flickr back in 2006, in fact I left a comment on it that day.


Over the years I have added numerous photos of Skogafoss to my favorites, on Flickr alone there are at least four and there are probably lots more on 500px. So yes, it's fair to say that I had my hopes up while we were driving to Skogafoss. Thankfully, we didn't go straight there and we stopped at Seljalandsfoss which was unexpected and really, quite a bit better than Skogafoss in retrospect. I had heard very little of Seljalandsfoss before the trip, other than viewing Colby Brown's photos of the waterfall so my expectations weren't nearly as high for that waterfall. Still, while we were at Seljalandsfoss I was thinking to myself that Skogafoss was just around the around and that would be the prime waterfall.


We make the short drive from Seljalandsfoss to Skogafoss and let me tell you, it's a gorgeous waterfall that you see from miles away. You've looked at the thing for a good five minutes before you actually turn off the Ring Road. I remember thinking to myself, "this is it! We're at Skogafoss!" while walking up to the waterfall with tripod and camera in tow. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought that getting shots of that waterfall would legitimatize the trip that I was on, that somehow THEN I had gone to Iceland. 

Here's the problem with Skogafoss though;

  • The weather probably sucks. Iceland is a tiny island in the middle of the north Atlantic, odds are the weather is going to be terrible or at the very least, cloudy.
  • It's extremely popular. Skogafoss is world famous for a reason and the adoring world wants to see Skogafoss in person. Every tour bus stops at Skogafoss. Every person walks near the base of the falls. Everyone is taking selfies in your shot.
  • It's actually harder than it looks to get a good shot. While not difficult, it's harder than it looks and good luck not getting people in your photo.

The Letdown

I tried to take good photos of the waterfall, I really did. Vertical, horizontal, panorama, HDR, getting closer, drawing back, including people, taking long exposures to blur said people, etc. I tried everything and I didn't walk away with an amazing photo like the ones I thought I would get there. In fact, I would say that I didn't get more than one good shot there. Don't get me wrong, I loved the experience but it wasn't because I knew I was going to sell tons of prints. I had a great time there because the people I was there with were fun, they were having a good time, and honestly, who cares if you get a great photo of an iconic location?

The bottom line is that I thought it was going to be this wonderful moment and it was, it just didn't look like I thought it was going to look like. That's not a bad thing.

This was easily the best photo that I got of the waterfall and it's not at all what I wanted.

This was easily the best photo that I got of the waterfall and it's not at all what I wanted.