Quick question, what is the cutest little town just shy of the article circle with not one but two light houses? Give up? Answer in the following.
In my recent visit to Iceland we decided to head west instead of just running for the south coast its many treasures. Our first stop after a brief afternoon stroll through Reykjavik, was the town of Akranes and The Gallery Guest House hostel. I have to admit that when I arrived it was a little bit of a shock to see we were staying in a hostel, lets be honest who wants to share a bathroom with strangers. But with a first time for everything attitude I followed the instructions to get the keys and check out the room. Small issue right from the start, the two bed room I requested was a single double bed. There was nothing to worry about though, a quick call to the help number, grabbing a different key from the office and a small move down the hall we had a room with two twin beds that would serve as home base for 2 days. Honestly the experience was fantastic. The house was wonderfully quiet in the evenings and it sits right next to a hospital (behind the shed in the photo) so there was not much traffic moving around either. I highly recommend staying here for budget friendly accommodations if you stay in Akranes. You can check out their website HERE.
That was all well and good but this is FREAKING ICELAND. I could not stand to sit in a room enjoying the quiet, it was time to get out and do something! Of course I had done a little research leading up to this trip and knew that Akranes was home to a fantastic pair of lighthouses. It was nearing 11pm local time and I knew the sun would be setting soon making the lighthouses the perfect first place to explore. People, these two lighthouses are RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER. It is literally two lighthouses for the price of one visit. It was maybe a 5 min drive to get there and if you get a little lost trying to find your way around the boat yard your in the right area. You park in a small gravel lot at the end of the board walk and have to walk in. As you start down the path you’re greeted by a small visitor center with restrooms on your right and a huge white light house, called Akranesviti, directly in front of you at the end of the boardwalk. Out past the board walk’s end perched on the rocks is the Old Akranes Light house. This first light house, Akranesviti, is a stark, round, monolith with smooth sides and fin shapes at the top and bottom with a little red cap on top housing the actual light. The second is much more geometric with a shape of stacked rectangles sitting on a square base.
Luckily we arrived just as the sun was nearing the horizon and painting the whole place in beautiful golden-orange light. Now imagine me, I am in the country of my photography dreams I have had very little sleep and there is a perfect golden hour happening! To say that I was freaking out is kind of an understatement and I made a classic photographer mistake… I started shooting everything and every angle I could without real thought. I must have shot 200-300 images in the first 15 mins before I caught myself and reigned it back in. I took a breath, then another and took a few minutes to take in my surroundings. I noticed the view of the sun setting over the ocean while listening to the waves crash on the shore breakers. The smell of wet grass and sea air on the breeze making everything just that much more perfect.
After I calmed down a little bit I formatted my memory card and all of the garbage I had just shot. The light was amazing and I just had to capture it. I started hopping around the rocks and getting some interesting shots. There was lots of unique lines and formations to enjoy and it was a struggle not to over shoot. I worked the scene trying different angles and heights looking for a unique shot. This was going to be the start of a trend that would carry through the rest of the trip. I was the shot finder granting permission to break from the norm everywhere I went! There was another photographer kicking around that was not so subtly coming behind me and trying to get the same shots. It was actually really funny and I have no hard feelings at all. I hope he got some keepers and gained a little confidence about doing something unexpected.
My two favorites shots are of Old Akranes Lighthouse below where the sunlight just kissed the rock faces leading into the lighthouse perched on them. I was kneeling in this small ravine trying hard not to dip the knees of my jeans into the the tide pool that smelled a little like fish pier and mud. My tripod was splayed over the rocks like a 3 legged spider trying to find stable purchase on the uneven rocks.
The other is the shot of Akranesviti reflected in a tide pool at the top of this page. As one of the lasts shots of the day I feel really lucky to have been walking back just the right way to catch the reflection out of the corner of my eye. . I was walking back from the lighthouse on the rocks and noticed the small puddle lined up with the lighthouse back on the board walk. I took some time and found just the right angle. This one was much more challenging due to the shape of the rock I couldn’t get my tripod close enough. I ended up just sitting my camera on my bunched up jacket while holding it as steady as I could to shoot across the little pool that might have been 3 feet across. That other photographer I mentioned did not see the jacket move and as we were leaving a little later I saw him struggling to solve the same problem I had.
BONUS: If you stay at the Gallery Guest House you get a discounted breakfast a a local cafe that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of. I found it on google maps but it used to be a clothing store and has not been updated yet. However the breakfast is about 700ISK or $5 and it was wonderful! You get 2 slices or fresh bread with some of the best butter you will ever try. Additionally there is a small fresh salad with deli meat and swiss cheese. The finale is the famous Icelandic yogurt with a little bit of honey, berries, and granola.