The first time I set foot in Reykjavik, I was will 11 other photographers anxious to prove their worth. It was unspoken, but clearly felt.
At that time, a decade ago, I was unknown compared to the others. Yet there I was. And I wanted to find my place among them. The book "Lost in Iceland" was popular in 2006. The feeling was familiar.
Ten years later, I returned with more photographers. This time, I was older than my comrades, and I no longer wrote for a major publication, as they did. I was sovereign in the land of independent people, and quite fine with that.
It's interesting when you no longer care what happens outside your craft. Whether I was exploring an uphill street in Reykjavik, walking along the black sands of Vik, or marveling at the steam rising out of a mountain, it was just me, the land, and my camera.
I carried less gear than anyone. In my mirrorless shoulder bag, I packed the OM-D E-M1 Mark II that we were testing for Olympus. I had two lenses for it, the 12-100mm f/4, and the 25mm f/1.2. I brought along my versatile TG-4 to record GPS coordinates and capture shots for social media, since we were not allowed to publish shots from the E-M1 quite yet. And that was all I needed... other than warmth.
I had no less than four layers of clothing at any given time: a thermal long sleeve, collared shirt, down vest, and waterproof overcoat. I complemented this outfit with a stocking cap, scarf, and gloves. And there were many moments when I was still cold.
But this was a great adventure, and I wanted to feel every biting moment of it. Walking down darkened snow-covered trails to capture the Northern lights, watching hail stones bounce off astonished visitors then settle on the ancient moss, and feeling the icy spray of a waterfall on my face - this was Iceland, and I was immersed.
There were many moments when I enjoyed the company of my travel mates, but kept to myself otherwise. I never felt lonely or judged. I ate Iceland hotdogs for breakfast and drank local beer at night. In-between, I was focused on the stunning landscape before me.
I thought about how nervous I was 10 years ago when I first visited Reykjavik. As it turned out, my apprehension unwarranted. I made a good showing then.
But this time, I belonged the instant I stepped off the plane, to Iceland itself.
"Who's the tall guy with the small camera bag?"
"I don't know, but I think he's been here before."
So true, in so many ways.