The Arctic Circle runs through Iceland’s Grimsey Island, so in the summer there can be more than 20 hours of daylight. Grimsey is reputedly home to a hundred people and more than a million seabirds. When I visited I was hoping to have a chance to get an interesting shot of one of the world’s most photogenic birds, the Atlantic puffin. Puffins are very common in Iceland and I was excited to have a chance to photograph them, but quickly realized that puffin pictures are almost as common as seabirds on Grimsey. Luckily, my visit to the bird cliffs coincided with a true midnight sunset. Arctic regions provide especially colorful and interesting twilight conditions because of the way the summertime sun strikes the Earth in the far north.
As the sun slowly sank, I realized that I might be able to use the colorful fading glow as a backlight to add an extra dash of color. I walked along the curving sea cliffs until I saw this trio of birds directly between me and the last rays of light. Carefully laying down in the puffin poo-covered grass, I slid forward on my belly, desperately hoping the birds wouldn’t fly out of the scene. As the sun finally hit the horizon, I realized the out-of-focus, sun-dappled water would provide the perfect backdrop for my shot. I also love the orange reflections on top of the birds’ heads. Standing up and looking down at my guano-covered pants, I had to smile anyway, feeling good to have my own puffin picture. One with a little something extra.
Photographed with a Fujifilm X-T1 and 55-200 mm zoom lens at 200mm. Exposure setting 1/250 sec, f/4.8, ISO 3200.
Dan Westergren is the director of photography for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow him on Instagram @danwestergren.