Richard James Taylor Captures Iceland for National Geographic Traveller
London-based photographer Richard James Taylor has been working for National Geographic Traveller since 2012. In that time, he has traveled to Barcelona to photograph the city through the eyes of local residents, as well as to South Africa to photograph elephant populations. For his most recent project, Richard traveled to Iceland for NGT's January 2019 issue involving iconic Icelandic horses.
While researching the country's horse-driven culture, Richard and NGT discovered the extraordinary Icelandic annual round up event Laufskálarétt. The event takes place in Skagafjörðurit, which is just four hours northeast of Iceland's capital Reykjavík. Laufskálarétt is the most popular horse corral in the country, celebrating the return of wild horses to their farm homes every year in late September. Thousands of people gather together to spend the weekend riding, singing, and commemorating this monumental event.
Prior to the shoot, Richard traveled to Iceland to gain a better understanding of how the events would unfold. The great horse corral could happen only once, so it was essential to have a good grasp on the sequence, as well as the timing. Once underway, the round-up moves at a fast pace and the area of the events are incredibly vast. There were several key assistants throughout the process, making sure everyone was well-informed. Emily Olsen at the Brighter Group helped the team get in touch with Icelandic government group Horses of Iceland, who were able to aid with the logistics of the shoot. Mirjam Horn, an expert on Icelandic horses, was familiar with Laufskálarétt and had attended the event in previous years.
“The real challenge was keeping up with the action and making sure all elements of the round-up were covered. This involved a lot of racing around in a 4WD in the initial stages. It was critical to understand the vantage points of the route the horses would take, from the final valley to the corral where they would be sorted.”
The weather in northern Iceland is difficult to predict, however, Richard was delighted to find overcast and snowy conditions on the morning of the event. Had the sun been shining, the atmospheric look of the photographs may have been compromised.
“I was hoping for conditions that suited the soft, high key vision I had for the shoot and, in fact, just minutes before the horses were due to be driven over the final mountain ridge, it started snowing, adding another element to the overall atmosphere of the scene.”
What was your favorite part of this project’s execution?
“I would say that the moment 500 or so wild horses came thundering over the final mountain ridge and into the pastures of Laufskálarétt was pretty special!”
Is there anything interesting you’d like to note about this project?
“I am fortunate to work in some amazing locations, but I was blown away by the landscapes of north Iceland. It was my first visit to the country and I would love to go back and see more.”
Client: National Geographic Traveller
Art Director: Chris Hudson
Senior Designer: Philip Lay
Check out more of Richard James Taylor at richardjamestaylor.com!
Check out our other great photographers on our Find Photographers page.