Capturing Iceland on Film

Iceland is an amazing country to capture on film. The vastness of the landscapes and the awe that can appear in the smallest of details, to be allowed to film with Tröll was an unbelievably rich and valuable experience. I wanted to create a film about my relationship with Iceland, as well as attempt to capture what it meant for me to travel to new places. Iceland is a country of such natural beauty that it positions you almost instantly in awe of everything you see. I was especially keen to attempt to capture that feeling on film.

We started in Reykjavík and decided to capture some of the amazing views from the harbour. One of the most amazing things about Reykjavík is you’re so close to these unbelievable landscapes whilst still being within the heart of the city. The city often acts as the first point of call from Keflavík airport, it is often the first stopping point on visits to Iceland. There is an amazing excitement of being in the city and being able to instantly experience a taste of the magnitude of Iceland’s landscapes before you venture out further into the country. The city has this wonderful feeling of possibility and excitement on top of its rich culture and bustle.

Travelling further out into the country, that sense of scale becomes even more apparent. When developing the film it was one of the most impactful ways to frame the landscape. Often it can be just as fascinating to see our place within the landscape as the landscapes themselves. The almost otherworldly distance that’s created between us as visitors and the towering cliffs and caves surrounding us is so stark, that it’s quite a remarkable thing to behold. Often I feel that one of the most fun things when visiting somewhere new is not just to experience it for yourself but to also place yourself in relation to what you’re seeing. To be humbled by the unfathomable character of the surroundings almost becomes jovial in how stark the contrast can be at times.

Even in less than ideal conditions, there was still something unbelievably magical about Iceland. The way clouds and fog interacted with the landscape almost gave it this beautifully haunting atmosphere. Even though we couldn’t see as much, the drama surrounding us was even more heightened than we could’ve expected. Everything became very mystical and mystical all of a sudden, it was as if walking into a myth. Combined with how untouched much of the environment is, many moments almost felt as if I had travelled back in time.

Another profound element of Iceland is its sounds. Whether it was the waves crashing on the Black Sand Beach or the rushing water of Gulfoss, the power of sounds was something quite remarkable. The elements of nature were putting on these displays of sheer power as if taunting us, which is something that I will not forget. On top of their sheer scale, the sounds they made seem to live up to their visual spectacle. The roaring and crashing of the water, clicks and reverberations of the ice caves were all so amazing and bizarre, it was wonderful to be able to record them and bring them into the film.

Everything in Iceland whilst being so other is also so profoundly personal. To be humbled by forces at work that you’ve never been exposed to before is something quite extraordinary. The country itself almost feels like it could be the centre of the planet, a rich and dramatic centre for the foundational building blocks upon which the rest of the world has been created. Great mountain rages, the expansive glaciers, the tectonic fault lines, the volcanic activity: they are all elements that seem to combine to create somewhere so rich and mythological that it can deeply inform our experience as human beings. It was a pleasure to attempt to capture this country on film and I feel that Iceland is somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their lives, if not for curiosity sake then for the awe-inspiring consummation of nature itself.


Louis Johnson
Director of Snowglobe, a film shot in Iceland, Sponsored by Tröll Expeditions.