Iceland | Diving Between Two Continents

By Steve Miller

If you browse the list of tours on adventures.is website, you will see things like ice cave tours, northern lights viewing, glacier and volcano hikes, fjords, hot springs, waterfalls, and for underwater photographers - diving between two continents in the famous Silfra fissure. Iceland has everything!

Steve Miller Silfra Glacier

A group pauses to gear up before beginning a glacier hike. © 2022 Steve Miller

The water in Silfra is just above freezing and originates from a glacier some distance away. Before it flows into Silfra it has percolated through rock for many years giving it a clarity unlike anywhere else in the world. Feel free to take your regulator or snorkel out and have a cool drink.

Byron Conroy

Drysuit certification and previous drysuit experience are required to dive Silfra. Snorkelers can experience Silfra even it it's their first time in a drysuit. © 2022 Byron Conroy, owner of adventure.is

Diving and snorkeling tours are run daily, with all necessary gear provided. The facilities that support the beautiful park are excellent. Even if you don't get in the water, the hiking trails and crystalline streams around will keep you there to explore.

Steve Miller Silfra Snorkel

Snorkeling group beginning their tour. © 2022 Steve Miller

Silfra offers the photographer an opportunity to break some of the key rules we usually think about - namely the first rule of “Get Close!" With 300 feet (91.44mm) of visibility you can approach the site as a landscape photographer and not worry that anything in the distance will be soft and monotone as the water eats all of your color and light.

Byron Conroy Silfra Halfull

Silfra Hall. © 2022 Byron Conroy 

The wide lens will be, for most photographers, king here. Wide angle lenses make everything look smaller and farther away. This perspective can be forced in a way that makes the water look like air, and the dive site look like the Grand Canyon filled with pure water. The iconic shots we see of Silfra give the illusion that it is much bigger than it actually is. If you were to snorkel through the whole run as fast as you can it would only take a few minutes.

Byron Conroy Cathedral

This section of Silfra is called The Cathedral. A wide angle lens will make use of this incredible visibility by making Silfra appear even larger than it is. © 2022 Byron Conroy


Lessons Learned

Depending on the time of year that you visit (we were there in mid-September) there may not be a lot of sun. We checked out the site on a sunny Monday and shot topside, images of snorkelers laughing and having a blast. When we returned for our dive two days later, it was overcast with wind and rain. Modern cameras, like the Canon R5, can shoot in low light easily, and lenses like the Canon 14-35mm can collect a lot of light so I didn’t give this a lot of thought.

Steve Miller Silfra Buoyancy

The first thing you will probably see when you put your face into the water is your guide performing a buoyancy check. The visibility is staggering. © 2022 Steve Miller 

The solution is to ramp up the ISO on your camera. I used 800 ISO for most of the images, and a wide open lens at f/4. With these settings I still needed a slow shutter from around 1/15th second to 1/30th second. This wasn’t a great choice for the day. The ISO needed to be closer to 1000 or higher to be able to stop the lens down for better depth of field, and a slightly faster shutter to stop motion, ideally 1/60th second or faster. A better solution would be to get lucky and be diving on a sunny day! But, the best solution would be to dive, shoot, then take a hard look at the images on the laptop and go back the next day to build on what you learned. 

Steve Silfra Waterfall

Iceland is full of waterfalls, some you can even walk behind. © 2022 Steve Miller

  

Steve Miller Ikelite AmbassadorAmbassador Steve Miller has been a passionate teacher of underwater photography since 1980. In addition to creating aspirational photos as an ambassador, he leads the Ikelite Photo School, conducts equipment testing, contributes content and photography, represents us at dive shows and events, provides one-on-one photo advice to customers, and participates in product research and development. Steve also works as a Guest Experience Manager for the Wakatobi Dive Resort in Indonesia. In his "free" time he busies himself tweaking his very own Backyard Underwater Photo Studio which he's built for testing equipment and techniques. Read more...

 

  

Additional Reading

Canon EOS R5 Underwater Photos and Review

Behind the Shot: Until the Ice Melts in the White Sea

When to Change ISO Underwater

Lundy Island: The Best Seal Diving in the World

Caverns and Cenotes Underwater Camera Settings

Freediving with Orcas in Norway 

Freshwater Underwater Camera Settings and Technique

Canadian Splash: Destination New Brunswick 

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