The Icelandic Horse

Have a chat with a horse!

During the photo trip, one of my main goals was to capture the stunning natural beauty that is Iceland; after all, the country is filled with amazing sights, well-known for its glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, geysers, and lagoons. Although puffins were listed among our tour stops, the fauna of Iceland was not my main interest.

So, when we made a road-side stop to photograph some horses in a field, I did not expect to come away with a profound impression of how the Icelandic horse connects to this rugged land and its people.

Soulful and Rugged

As I helped several of the other photographers in our group to get some good shots by drawing the attention of several of the horses, I came to feel that there is a strong connection between this land and its horses. It’s as if the horse is a reflection of the country: not large, yet sturdy, able to withstand whatever nature throws at them, and filled with a strong character.

Built for the Weather

A coat that is able to grow for the tough Winter months, compact size and sure-footedness are some of the key characteristics of the Iceland horse.

The horse was brought to Iceland by the Norse settlers who arrived in the 9th and 10th centuries. From these horses, over the centuries selective breeding, as well as natural selection, developed the breed into its current form. The breed was almost wiped out due to the massive eruption of the volcano at Laki in 1783; the months of spewing of sulfuric aerosols from this event had a profound impact on the climate and landscape, reaching well beyond Iceland.

Eyeing the Human!

As these horses stand an average of 13 to 14 hands, many will consider them pony size, despite the fact that breed registries refer to the Icelandics as horses. They are also known for a spirited temperament and large personality, and have another unique characteristic: their gait.

The Icelandic is a five-gaited breed, as they have two additional gaits beyond walk, trot and canter/gallop. The fourth gate is a four-beat lateral ambling gait know as the tölt; this gait stands out due to its explosive acceleration and speed, while still being comfortable. The fifth gait is called a skeið or flugskeið (flying pace); this racing gait is fast and smooth, enabling the horse to reach speeds of 30 miles per hour (48 km/h).

Next time when you’re in Iceland, go check out these horses and don’t be afraid to talk to them; they are great listeners who prefer a good conversation over a handful of grass!

Snæfellsnes Evening – Day 1

Enjoy the view!

Our first day on the wondrous Snæfellsnes peninsula was drawing to an end, as we had a fantastic meal at Viðvík Restaurant and were just checking out the last of the sunlight.

And then we came across this location that was worth a stop…


You might recognize this location from an earlier Snæfellsnes teaser post, as we photographed this church on the next day as well with something more than our mobile phones.

Even with an iPhone 13 Pro Max this view stands out strong, particularly as we had a long clear view of the edge of the Snæfellsjökull National Park.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 4

Wrapping up our first day in Snaefellsnes.

As we follow the coastline of Snæfellsnes peninsula toward its westernmost point, we reach Svörtuloft (Black Sky) where we find a 4-kilometer long cliff and a wonderful lighthouse. It’s a slow, bumpy ride over the gravel road to get to this spot, but it’s worth the ride!

Svörtuloftaviti Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Svörtuloft strikes a strong figure as its 12.8m height towers over the cliffs and its yellow-orange hue stands against the blue of the sky. The lighthouse was brought into use in 1931, as sailing by this western tip of Iceland has always been rather daunting. Over the centuries many ships have stranded here, which usually resulted in the ship’s hull being broken into piece on the sharp, black lava cliffs.

Lava cliffs at Svörtuloft

The cliffs upon which the lighthouse is built present their origin in the black foundation: lava. Grasses and mosses find fertile ground here and are not easily discouraged by the stormy weather and fearsome seasons, which gives a much softer feeling to the landscape. Do not be fooled, as the edges of the lava are sharp and hard, which also makes for rather uneven footing.

Easy walks and a picnic area.

Luckily, Iceland provides a welcoming feeling to all tourists and easy trails and even a picnic area are available to get around the lighthouse here at Svörtuloft. Thanks to this German traveler for posing in this image.

Sturdy windows are important!

Construction of any lighthouse puts a premium on sturdiness, as the elements will wreak havoc with any point of weakness. For this reason, the windows in Svörtuloftaviti lighthouse are small and set strong in their concrete surroundings.

Svörtuloft Halo

In all, it was wonderful to visit this location, and it definitely made me look back as we were getting ready to leave. That allowed me to capture the Sun at just the appropriate location to light up this tower of strength, which, in turn, lights up to warn travelers of the dangers that are on its shores.

After this, our fourth stop of this day of arriving on the Snæfellsnes peninsula from Reykjavik, it was time to go in the direction of Hellissandur to find our lodging and a chance of dinner. Not a bad way to start our tour!

The images in this post are taken with my iPhone 13 Pro Max and Canon EOS EOS R5 using a Canon RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens. First level processing of the images was done using Skylum’s Luminar AI software; for these images, I created a template based on the Backlit Clouds template that is part of the Overcast collection of templates. Touch up processing was done in Photoshop.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 3

A mysterious beach with a wreck…

As we continued our tour of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, we came upon a mysterious black sand beach with the name of Djúpalónssandur, which translates to Deep Lagoon Sand. This name traces back to the initial first settlers of Iceland, some 1200 years ago.

Djúpalónssandur, or Deep Lagoon Sand, beach

One can imagine this cove during the days of yore, when it was home to 60 fishing boats, creating a strong economic foundation for people in this part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. If you look carefully, you see the strewn remains of the Epine (GY7), a fishing trawler that was wrecked here on March 13, 1948; the Epine hailed from the port town of Grimsby in North East Lincolnshire, England.

Another feature of this beach are the glistening pebbles that cover it, which are know as Djúpalónsperlur, or “pearls of the deep lagoon”. These pearls on the beach stunning and appealing, but should be left alone, as it is against the law to collect them as a souvenir of your trip!

View toward Djúpalónssandur Beach

The path down to the beach is a bit of a steep descent (and climb on the way back), as the parking area is high and dry upon the volcanic cliffs. As you walk toward the beach, you may want to test your strength to see if you would qualify to work on one of the fishing boats. The four Aflraunasteinar, or Lifting Stones, are along the path toward the beach. These stones range from Fullsterkur (full strength) weighing 154 kg, Hálfsterkur (half strength) weighing 100 kg, Hálfdrættingur (weakling) weighing 54 kg to Amlóði (useless) at 23 kg; to qualify for work on a fishing boat you should at least be able to lift Hálfdrættingur.

A word of caution is that this is definitely not a swimming area, as the Atlantic Ocean has unpredictable and strong rip currents here that will pull one far into sea. Also, it is not wise to go wading here, as surprise waves will often come far onto the beach.

On the photography part, both images were capture with my Canon EOS R5 mirrorless, using a Canon RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens. First level processing of the images was done using Skylum’s Luminar AI software; for these images, I created a template based on the Backlit Clouds template that is part of the Overcast collection of templates. Touch up processing was done in Photoshop.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 2

Another stop along the paths of the Snæfellsnes peninsula

One of the things that I cannot overstate about Iceland is that there are great views wherever you go. Even when the weather might not be perfect, you’ll find yourself in awe of the landscape, just about no matter where you are in this gorgeous island nation. And when the weather plays into your hand, you find yourself almost overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounds you.

During our first day on the Snæfellsnes peninsula our tour leader, Loren Fisher, just about blew our mind with the number of great locations and the vistas that we experienced. Even when he took us on a little detour from the main attractions, there appeared a great photographic subject in front of our lenses.

Arnarstapi Vista

In real estate the operative words are “Location, location, location”. That doesn’t begin to describe where we see this house that is near the little harbor in the village of Arnarstapi, also known as Stapi. The house is called Amtmannshúsið in Icelandic, as it was the residence of the Danish Prefect during the time that Iceland still belonged to Denmark. This is now a historical site.

In the background you see the snow-covered peaks of Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000-year old glacier-capped stratovolcano. For the readers who remember Jules Verne’s book ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, you may be interested to know that Stapi was the last stop before climbing Snæfellsjökull, where they enter the interior of the planet through a tunnel.

To the left, we see the slopes of Mount Stapafell, a pyramid shaped palagonite mountain; atop the mountain sits Fellskross, the dwelling of the “hidden people” or elves. It is rumored to have magical powers!

The hill in the right hand side of the image is part of a lavafield, a landscape feature that is ubiquitous in Iceland.

For the photography nerds among you, this image was captured with a Canon EOS R5 using a Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens. I shot this at ISO 800 and an aperture of F/11 and 1/640 sec shutter speed.

Processing was done using a combination of Skylum Luminar AI and Adobe Photoshop. In Luminar AI, I created a template for the Snæfellsnes images that was based on ‘City – Cozy Streets’ from the Ultimate Travel Collection of templates by Albert Dros. Starting from this template, I added warmth, structure and strength to the sky, as well as several other adjustments, resulting in what I named ‘Snæfellsnes Drama’. Photoshop was then used for some minor adjustments and a bit of soft light and contrast.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 1

A while back, I presented you with a teaser with some images of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which provides an incredible variety for photography, ranging from stunning landscapes to history and wildlife.

Today, I’ll highlight one of the early encounters on our trip: Búðakirkja in the town of Búðir.

Búðakirkja standing strong under a heavy sky

This is one of a set of so-called ‘black’ churches in Iceland, which stand apart from many other churches due to their exterior being covered with tar pitch, so that they could better withstand the elements.

Búðakirkja was built originally in 1703, when it was a small turf church with a cemetery to provide consecrated grounds; burials have taken place here since 1705. Due to the rough weather and economics, the church fell into disrepair and was abolished by royal letter in 1816 due to its poor condition.

In the mid-19th century, a local widow, Steinunn Sveinsdóttir, applied for permission from Church authorities to rebuild a church at Búðir. Her efforts led and paid for the building of the wooden church that we know today.

Búðakirkja with mountain range in the background

Construction of the church finished in 1848, and it was consecrated in 1851. Steinunn passed away in 1854 at the age of 77 years; she is buried in Búðir cemetery, where a gravestone still stands in her memory.

The church itself is rather small, as it measures approximately 9m x 5m, which is a single space; it seats about 50 people and is still available for ceremonies. Just be aware that there is no heating or running water in the church, so you may have to rough it a bit.

Búðakirkja holds one’s attention

Visiting this location definitely provided me with a sense of mystery and a deep appreciation for the people who made (and make) this area their home. It takes dedication, perseverance and faith to be successful in this rugged land.

More details about the church can be found at its website link.

photo roberts blog 2

ich zeige euch meine stadt wie ich sie sehe

The Wee Writing Lassie

The Musings of a Writer / Freelance Editor in Training

Pencil Notes

Pencil on paper. Images arise. Message received.

nancy merrill photography

capturing memories one moment at a time

Mama Cormier

.... my journey to a healthy life, making new memories and so much more

Don't Forget the Half

Loving the sum total of all my parts!

sound mind journal

a quiet place where our minds meet

My Camera & I

This blog is my creative outlet where I can share my photos, my travels, my random thoughts and a bit of myself.

Maria Vincent Robinson

Photographer Of Life and moments

Does writing excuse watching?

Wasting time on the couch.

Dare Boldly

Artful Words to Inspire Everyday Living