Iceland From Above

A new perspective on a waterfall as a river makes its way to sea, a river we could follow from its origin at a glacier to its intersection with the ocean.

Soaring above Iceland in a four seater plane during our final cookbook photo shoot last month transformed a nation I thought I knew from one craggy end to the other into something completely new. It put all the river, mountain and glacial pieces together into one cohesive, interlocking landscape of extraordinary beauty and I fell in love with Iceland all over again.

Its colors and contours, jagged peaks and windswept glaciers felt fresh and alive and I was able to experience that moment of wonder and awe I thought only struck once. It’s something I would recommend to anyone looking for a new perspective on Iceland and a better understanding of how the planet’s pieces fit together.

Here are a few photos from our trip that I hope tempt you to book a flight of your own. Flights are surprisingly reasonable and leave conveniently from Reykjavik’s local airport right in the center of the city.

Our pilot Agust Kristjansson was a gem. He’s primarily a commercial pilot and flight instructor but said he enjoys flying recreationally because he loves seeing the reaction people have to his country’s extraordinary beauty from the plane. Contact me for more information.

Our four seater plane

My partner in crime and photographer extraordinaire Evan Sung.

A lava stream that is now a permanent fixture in Iceland’s geography. We saw these everywhere, covered in moss, houses nestled into benign and gentle edges that were once fierce and molten.

In some places the ground looks like rough grey elephant skin and in others its tawny surface is laced with malachite streaked rivers.

It was a little disconcerting when our pilot Agust joked about “no hands on the wheel.”

It was even more disconcerting to know a photographer from Brooklyn who doesn’t own a car was flying the plane.

Every time Evan flipped open the window I felt both a rush of anxiety wash over me and a frigid gust of air on my face.

It was worth a face numbing blast of glacial air to hover over the mountain tops.

We flew directly over the crater of Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that caused such a headache to flight patterns in Europe in 2011. To see steam rising up from it made you realize how active it still is.

Every time we stopped for a photo we hovered above the landscape like a metal bumblebee, the stall signal started beeping, and the air pressure from the mountains made the plane heave and skip.

Old snow that rarely melts clings to the glacial tops, the decades softening it to stiffly whipped meringue.

Agust was simply showing Evan where we were but it did make me laugh (sort of) to think that we needed the map because we were lost.

Turns that put us at a 90 degree angle with the gound were another heart stopping feature of the flight I couldn’t get used to but somehow loved at the same time.

We made a pitstop to refuel

Our fantastic pilot Agust Kristjansson, a lifelong friend of chef Gunnar Karl Gislason.

It was refreshing to see the familiar tourist stop Gulfoss in an entirely new way.

Watching Geysir, another touristy feature on Iceland’s Golden Circle, from a fresh perspective.

A new understanding of Reykjavik

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