Caving Photo Shoot
Today, the Arctic Adventures marketing team (plus special guest photographer Elli Thor!) is headed to a photo-shoot in Þingvellir National Park, in the southwest region of Iceland. We will be taking pictures in the otherworldly Gjábakkahellir cave, a volcanic cave that is the site of some truly incredible natural rock formations.
We arrive at location, hop out of the car, and begin preparing. The clothing for the shoot consists of bright orange helmets, headlamps, and warm clothing. It’s not exactly the glamorous ball-gown that most people dream of for their modeling debut, but everyone has to start somewhere. I adjust the strap of my helmet and watch Thorir jokingly turn on the “strobe-light” setting of his headlamp. Then comes the final touch—a colorful Marmot jacket for each one of us. When everyone is ready, we walk up to the cave, and descend stylishly into the darkness.
It is one of the best backdrops for a photo-shoot that I have ever seen, although to be fair, this is my first photo-shoot. The cave contains beauties that are vastly different, and perhaps more unexpected, than the ones above ground. Once my eyes adjust to the darkness, I’m treated to views of impressive rock walls, ceilings, and floors. It is a legitimate museum of rocks: stalagmites, stalactites, smooth boulders, rough ridges. The shadowy interplay between our lights and the oppressive darkness makes everything seem tinted with magic. Even the name, Gjábakkahellir, has the ring of a Dr. Seuss invention, and seems to imply a surreal and wonderful world.
The shoot begins. We take turns working behind and in front of the camera lens, sometimes holding and adjusting the lights, other times freezing in natural walking positions against the rocks in the background. The poses aren’t natural but our smiles are as we joke about ogre snot on the walls and bat-caves hidden in dark corners. As I pose in the background, I can’t help feeling like a doll posing in a false, plastic world. How else can I explain the setting around me? It is hard to process that such a flawless, scenic place was naturally constructed.
After we are done shooting, we set up lunch right outside the mouth of the cave. The sun hits our faces as we recline on soft mattresses of moss and feast on a picnic full of delicious, but unfamiliar, snacks: Skyr (yogurt), Lava Bites (chocolate wafers), and Harðfiskur (dried fish). Nothing is perfect, but this can’t get much closer.