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Playing in Iceland with Photojournalist Jordan Rosen

Playing in Iceland with Photojournalist Jordan Rosen

Posted by Joel Kneedler on

An Arctic Wonderland

To Jordan Rosen, the world is his playground.

As an adventure lifestyle photographer, Rosen has been to almost every corner of the earth.

If you ask him to rank his favorite spots, you can bet Iceland is near the top of the list.

“I’ve been to Iceland ten times now. I love it there,” said Rosen.

Rosen can’t get enough of this arctic wonderland. And neither can we. We at Groove Life use many of his stunning photos on our website and on social media.

Why? Because they’re awesome. #productplacement

A Fishing Village and an Ultra Race

On his most recent trip, Rosen and his family traveled to a remote fishing village on the northern coast of Iceland.

A town called...wait for it...Siglufjörður.

“I have an old friend there, Gestur, he’s my best contact in northern Iceland,” said Rosen. Gestur decided to host an endurance race during the summer and he wanted Rosen to film it.

The race is Gestur’s brainchild.

Siglufjörður is covered in snow most of the year. So hosting a race during the summer is a great way to attract tourism to this remote village on the arctic circle.

Gestur teamed up with a local glaciologist, Helga, and together they became co-owners of the race.

They decided to call it the North Ultra Race, 56 kilometers (34 miles) on the Trollaskagi Peninsula, a scenic, rugged tundra in northern Iceland. A native of Iceland, Gestur is a mountain guide, and occasional EMT.

“Gestur knows the local landscape like the back of his hand,” said Rosen.

For competitors, an Ultra Race near Siglufjörður offers a wild, untamed background with stunning views.

For Rosen, it provides another great excuse to return to Iceland and stock up on more incredible footage.

For Gestur and his fellow villagers, it means commerce.

The North Ultra Race

Gestur and his crew hustled to set up the race path, recruit volunteers, and build sponsorship. 

 built a website for race registration and information, and then advertised the heck out of it.

“He arranged for the race to stretch from fjord to fjord,” said Rosen. 

“Knowing a race in this rugged terrain would be high stakes, Gestur also had to prepare for advanced rescue capabilities, so he reserved a helicopter to be on stand-by just in case.”

The race quickly attracted the top 20 elite runners from all over Iceland. 

And even though Iceland is among the most vaccinated countries in the world, because of flight restrictions on international travel due to the pandemic, the majority of participants were local Icelanders.

Time Warp

“Traveling to Iceland can be a bit of a time warp,” said Rosen.

As with any remote fishing village in the Arctic Circle, resources are scarce and you have to take good care of the things you do have.

Self-reliance is an obvious theme in Siglufjörður.

“You have to have basic survival skills to make it in northern Iceland. Survival is not only a first generation thing, it resonates to this day,” said Rosen.

Most locals drive old trucks that still run well. They methodically repair their old fishing boats because their livelihood depends on it. The older villagers have spent their lives working hard to simply survive the inhospitable conditions of an arctic fishing village.

So when the young, athletic runners show up for an Ultra Race, to “play,” many of the elderly residents scratch their heads, wondering why. But when race day comes, they are out there to cheer them on.

Retro Film for a Retro Region

Rosen knew exactly the type of film he should use for the photo shoot: 35mm Kodak Ektachrome. Sometimes the old ways are the best.  

Retro film for a retro region.

Utilizing his Mavic drone and hand held Canon EOS 1V 35mm camera, Rosen was set to follow the grueling race by land and by air.

There is no shortage of breath-taking views in this part of the world, so Rosen’s cameras would be busy.

Gestur was also ready for race day. As he made his way through town, he reviewed all of the preparations and greeted every participant. He was ready.

Rosen was also ready. When the race kicked off, he flew into action. 

  • He captured drone footage of runners carving their own path over the wild tundra.
  • He captured stunning shots of gigantic mountain slopes running straight to the sea.
  • He captured the bright green grasslands divided by streams of freezing arctic runoff.
  • He captured a beautiful, colorful fishing harbor pushing back the encroaching fog bank.
  • He captured photos of a local villager playing catch with his Labrador.
  • He captured steaming hot springs filled with locals enjoying the relief.

He captured the heart of Iceland, an arctic wonderland.

For generations Icelandic sheep herders carved natural, small paths in and out of the fertile valleys. Yet, the further the runners ran into the mountains, the harder it was to find a clear path.

Welcome to life above the arctic circle.

In the end, the race was a big success, for both the runners and the people of Siglufjörður.

Isolation and Exploration

Rosen says Iceland is like a huge, treeless, alpine mountain top jutting out of the sea. The perfect playground.

If you jump in a truck, you can be isolated in your own personal valley in no time. Iceland offers plenty of solitude. Lots of empty roads.

“If you get lost, or run your truck into a ditch, there is most likely a farmer coming around the corner who will be happy to help,” says Rosen.

“I love it there. I always feel like I am exploring and on a big adventure. Can’t wait to go back.”

Neither can we.

Groove Life. Ready for Adventure.

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