How I Got the Shot - Icelandic Horses in the Westfjords - Holly Jansen Photography

How I Got the Shot - Icelandic Horses in the Westfjords

The cool breeze was blowing with the jagged green mountains of Iceland's Westfjords in the background. Off in the distance we could see a heard of Icelandic horses.

We have seen them many times before, and they are generally very friendly and willing to let us photograph them, but on this day, they did not find us very interesting. No matter how many times we called to them, there was still no response. The grass they were eating must have been tasty, as we were clearly of no interest.

I put on my 100mm-400mm lens with hopes that I would be able to capture an acceptable image of them at this range. Then, one of our workshop participants had an app that made horse sounds. She turned on the app and a series of whinnying and neighing sounds came out of her phone.


All of a sudden, the horses perked up their ears and looked at us and started to gallop (not walk) in our direction. This was an unexpected response to these sounds.

Once they got closer to us, they slowed down as to not break down the fence and checked us out. Next thing we knew, they were right next to us, nuzzling and looking for attention.

Icelandic horses are a treat to see as they are known for their easy going friendly nature. They were also apparently looking for the horse who had made the sounds.

Icelandic horses are beautiful in both summer and winter and are willing photographic subjects. In the winter, their hair grows quite long and their shaggy look is quite appealing. They are a unique breed of horses.



According to Icelandic law, no other breed of horses is allowed on the island and if an Icelandic horse is exported, they are not allowed back in the country. The breed originally came to Iceland with the Vikings, and Icelanders want to keep the breed pure.

We were able to capture several images of them galloping over to us with their mane blowing in the wind and some close ups of their beautiful faces.

You never know what’s going to happen when you are shooting animals. It’s good to have a plan in mind and be flexible and able to change your plan mid-stream. Keeping a high shutter speed to freeze the action is important and also be mindful of your lens size.

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