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Simon Harrison

Imaging satellite engineer with a penchant for travel and landscape


Iceland is a land being torn apart. Straddling the mid-Atlantic ridge, the divide between two tectonic plates being forced asunder, its volcanic landscape is growing by centimetres every day. Unlike Scotland, which has some of the oldest geology on earth, Iceland, only 500 miles north west has some of the youngest. It is a land where fire meets ice, and heat meets arctic cold; in places it feels primordial like a protoplanet in a new solar system. Active volcanoes slumber under their glacial nightcaps, ready to erupt with devastating force. Barren wastelands of mossy lava stretch from volcano to coast, past old sea cliffs which stand proudly inland miles from the black sand shore. There are thunderous waterfalls of every size and shape; exploding geysers and bubbling mud; glacial lagoons full of drifting iceberg wrecks, where the frigid water reflects dancing aurora; and enormous icecaps from where long tongues of glaciers reach out to lick the sea. And with this plethora of dramatic subjects to choose from, what I did return home with? Well, mainly, a dozen pictures of leaf litter...

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  • Simon

    Thank you for a well written and interesting article, and I really enjoyed the images, especially ‘mossy lava’ and ‘pillow’. It’s refreshing to see some different images from Iceland.

    Regards, Michael

  • kevin-allan

    These images have certainly changed my impressions of Iceland and are really beautiful

  • David OBrien

    What a wonderful collection of images, thought-provoking and co-hesive. Certainly an unusual set for Iceland but your different approach has rewarded you with unique imagery. Really a brave approach and certainly many lessonsto be learnt here. A top read and superb imagery!

  • Scott A Murray

    Wonderful collection of photos, Nice to see something different coming out of Iceland. It’s somewhere I have been meaning to visit for years but can never seem to put the funds together when I have the time.

    This has inspired me to make a bit more of an effort in getting there!

  • Allan Harris

    Thanks for a very different view of Iceland and some wonderful and cohesive images. The article itself was a very interesting read and I like the idea of concentrating on a small aspect of the whole, rather than trying to encompass the whole variety of Iceland.

  • Thanks everyone, glad you enjoyed the article. By the way if you’re thinking of going to Iceland, it’s reasonably good value right now compared to historically, and much cheaper than my last visit in ’06. This is obviously in large part due to the flatlining economy but also at the moment they’re subsidising taxes in the tourist sector to make hotel costs cheaper. (I’ve heard though that next year the parliament is considering withdrawing this concession.) Also there are several budget flight carriers and more applying for routes going into Reykjavik. It’s only a couple of hours by plane and petrol costs are about what you pay in the UK. Food is still on the expensive side, though, but the local lamb is delicious…

  • Tamara Kuzminski

    I’m just really echoing everyone else, but I thoroughly enjoyed both your writing and your beautiful images. I’m planning a trip to Iceland for next year, and wanted to avoid the usual images that you see from the country, and this has really given me some ideas to think about.

  • Jack Marris

    Hi Simon, you raise an interesting question in how long you have to be in a particular area to understand it enough to photograph the true character of it. I suppose it would be different for everyone, but I would rather produce just a few key images over perhaps a year to five in an ideal world. I believe they hold so much more value if you really put that much time into the images but I can see the appeal of finding new and exciting locations especially in a place such as Iceland. Your thoughts?

    • Hi Jack,

      I guess what I was trying to explore is that if you have only a very limited time, it’s still possible to capture something evocative about that place if you focus on just a single aspect, rather than a travelogue series of disparate scenes and views. Given the 4 days I had that’s what I decided to do – to find things which linked Iceland’s autumn to its volcanic history (or present!). Building a cohesive set of images on a theme can be a great way to explore feelings about and reactions to a subject or place, and perhaps (hopefully) reveal something of its character. But as for a ‘true character’ of any place, I don’t think there can be such a thing; as photographers we can only portray things the way we each see them, and this portrayal is always going to be hopelessly biased to our own concerns, i.e. what subjects interest us into photographing them.

      I think Ansel Adams had a similar stance that he was happy if he only made a handful of ‘important’ images a year. I don’t think about my own ‘yield’ too much, I just get out into nature and photograph as much as I possibly can.


  • markjlacey

    Great article Simon. Fascinating read with thoughtful and well considered images.

  • Pete Hyde

    Hi Simon,
    thank you for a really interesting read. I like your selective approach and believe you achieved the objective of conveying an experience of autumn in this remarkable location. The collection of wonderful images is testament to your thoughtful approach and they certainly go way beyond the straightforward or purely descriptive. Its hard to pick out favourites in such a fine collection of shots, but I particularly enjoyed “Mossy Lava” and “Brook”
    Cheers, Pete

  • John Irvibe

    Phenomenal set of images Simon, providing me with a different dimension of Iceland – wonderful work :)

  • Adam Pierzchala

    And a thumbs up from me too! I like the writing style and the images you have selected show something of Iceland that I guess few visitors would normally see. I didn’t make it to Myvatn when I went there last year and your piece has made me think about it for the future. I would have never thought that there would be such glorious warm colours on this volcanic island. Good work and you certainly made the right decision to be selective. ‘Web’, ‘Asbyrgi’ and ‘Pillow’ particularly stand out for me.

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