My grandfather is a nature lover who has traversed the country many times on horseback. He brought all of his six children with him to the stables and taught them how to ride and care for horses, and to appreciate riding trips outside in the unspoiled nature.
After his children were all grown and had families of their own, it was his grandchildren’s turn to learn all about horsemanship. I’ve gone riding with my father and grandfather, uncles and cousins since I was six.
While riding, my grandfather likes to tell me stories of past riding trips. Like the time his daughter Gudrún, with her braids of thick blond hair, sat down in the grass beside her grazing steed on a sunny summer’s day, asking: “Dad, do you hear the silence?”
I thought of this story while flipping through the pages of Kristján Ingi Einarsson’s photography book Iceland – So Quiet. All of the 120+ photographs are an image of tranquility—a feeling experienced by many a tourist outside in Iceland’s nature.
It’s not that the nature is soundless: springs bustle, waterfalls roar, grass rustles in the wind, flies buzz, icebergs crack, waves wash up on the shore, mud springs bubble, hot springs erupt and bird cliffs are so loud you may want to cover your ears.
But while enjoying the surroundings, especially when traveling in solitude, there is a sense that time stands still, all stress drains away and there is pure joy in taking in the landscapes and environmental sounds. Quiet enjoyment.
The book, small and handy, contains a variety of photographs from serene locations all around Iceland, frequented tourist attractions such as Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss waterfall, but also places off the beaten path like the Melrakkaslétta plains, northeast Iceland (p. 32-33; 84-85) and Ólafsdalur valley in the west (p. 68).
All the main regions are represented in the book.
Einarsson pays attention to details, presenting close-ups of flowers of various kinds, such as cotton flower, buttercups and dandelions, and birds like colorful puffins, a ptarmigan with its hairy feet and a whooper swan mother with adorable little chicks.
And let’s not forget the ever-faithful Icelandic horse; there is a photo of riders passing through the Jökulgil canyon in Landmannalaugar in the highlands on p. 100-101, for example.
The pictures are taken in all seasons: Thingvellir National Park in striking autumn colors (p. 26-27), Öxnadalur valley in spring thaw with the awesome Hraundrangar peaks dominating the scenery (p. 18-19), the half-frozen Skógafoss waterfall in winter (p. 38-39) and a white-sand beach on Snaefellsnes peninsula on a warm summer’s day (p. 70-71).
The book is sparse with words, although a caption accompanies each photograph and there is a foreword by writer and geophysicist Ari Trausti Gudmundsson. On the last page there is a map showing all the different locations photographed.
The book is in fact a smaller and simpler version of The Essence of Iceland, a large photography book with poems and factual texts about the locations, another collaboration of Einarsson and Gudmundsson’s.
While it certainly would be interesting to learn more about the places pictured in Iceland – So Quiet, the book serves its purpose of emitting the calmness of Icelandic nature. It doesn’t jump at you but sure is an enjoyable little book.
Iceland – So Quiet was published by Salka in 2010. It is available on the publisher’s website in English, Japanese and Chinese.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir