Fire, ice & light

Wade Carpenter's Iceland Trip

Gastonia lawyer Wade Carpenter traveled to Iceland to watch the summer solstice. In this video, he captured sunset at Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall with a 200-foot drop, around midnight.
Up Next
Gastonia lawyer Wade Carpenter traveled to Iceland to watch the summer solstice. In this video, he captured sunset at Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall with a 200-foot drop, around midnight.

My friend Josh Agajanian and I had talked about traveling to Iceland for the past six years.

Iceland isn’t a place everyone thinks of visiting. But while off the beaten path – just south of the Arctic Circle – it’s only a 4 1/2-hour flight from New York.

Initially, we wanted to venture to Reykjavik, the capital, and enjoy the nightlife and culture. As the years passed by, we both honed our photography and film-making skills. Josh is a producer and director who splits his time between the Charlotte area and his native Los Angeles.

We both realized Iceland is a photographer’s dream destination.

Especially in June, when we made our one-week trip. I wrote a poem in high school about the “Nocturnal Sun” and always wanted to experience that light. And we were there for the 2015 summer solstice, when the sun sets just after midnight and rises again less than three hours later.

It never truly got dark, even though the sun dipped below the horizon. Our last night there, we got lost in Keflavik, 40 minutes south of Reykjavik, and could not find our hotel. While driving around, we noticed this bright orange ball of sun to the west. It was the midnight sun, and we were able to capture this on film and on camera just as it dipped below the horizon. A perfect way to end an incredible trip to the land of fire and ice.

Iceland is a land of stark beauty.

The landscapes are unworldly.

The powerful waterfalls alter the terrain in a fury of mist and thunder.

At the same time, the glacial lagoon is so peaceful and serene. The different hues of blue and gray paint the icebergs floating in the water.

The images of ice washing ashore on a black sand beach seem unreal and beckoned me.

Moss-covered volcanic rocks looked alien, as did the black-sand desert in the shadows below gigantic glaciers.

Iceland should be on everyone’s bucket list.

We are in post-production of our 10- to 15-minute film, “Nocturnal Sun” – William Huang, of Mind Over Matter Films, was with us on the trip – and will debut it in Charlotte, along with our still photography, from 7 to 11 p.m. Sept. 19 at Hart Witzen Gallery, 136 E. 36th St., in Noda.

Iceland’s highlights

1. Watching the summer solstice sunset at Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall with a 200-foot drop, around midnight.

2. Filming Gullfoss – an enormous waterfall and one of Iceland’s top attractions – from different perspectives. We were covered in mist as we filmed the lower part of the falls and felt its power and chaos.

3. Climbing to the top of Skogafoss, another powerful waterfall, after midnight (the sun never set) and filming from above and beside the falls. The trail we climbed leads to the nearby Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which erupted in 2010.

4. Watching the icebergs calve and then float from Jokulsarlon Lagoon into the ocean. The silence of the lagoon was interrupted only by the crash of new icebergs and the barking of seals.

5. Filming/photographing ice that washed up onto the black sand beach.

6. Driving through a black sand desert and watching a rainbow form over a gigantic glacier.

7. Soaking in the Blue Lagoon at 10 p.m. – and it was still daylight.

8. Filming/photographing Vesturhorn Mountain and its black sand dunes in southeastern Iceland.

9. Dining on delicious Icelandic hot dogs and (during separate meals) Arctic char and the small, pink lobsters called langoustines.

10. Filming a time lapse of the “midnight sun” setting exactly at midnight on our last night in Iceland.

11. Filming/photographing beautiful fields of purple lupine flowers that bloom in June.

12. Climbing to the edge of Svinafellsjokull Glacier to film.

13. Driving through so many different landscapes during 24 hours of daylight.

Wade Carpenter is an attorney in Gastonia. Josh Agajanian works for Motorsports Management International.

What I wish I knew before went to Iceland

1. How to pronounce all of the incredibly difficult Icelandic words.

2. Despite Iceland’s small size, you need three weeks to properly experience this amazing country.

3. Buy your tickets to visit the Blue Lagoon online ahead of time. We couldn’t get in on our first attempt.

4. Keep your gas tank as full as possible, given the scarcity of gas stations outside of Reykjavik.