What is Cloudspot? Cloudspot is a fully customizable gallery service for photographers to send images to clients. Within Cloudspot photographers can also sell prints and products, run promotions, receive client-selection image lists for albums, share slideshows and videos, and even manage contracts.
With many other gallery services to choose from, we’ve narrowed down a list of ten reason why we think Cloudspot is the very best.
1. Cloudspot is created and supported by photographers who get it
This fact alone truly makes Cloudspot shine brighter than their competition. If we ever have an issue, the team is readily available to help, understands from a photographer’s perspective, and is always open to feedback to continually make Cloudspot the best it can possibly be.
2. Cloudspot is endorsed and used by industry leaders
Benj Hasih, Sean Flannigan, Katelyn James, Pablo Béglez, Wyn Wiley are just some of the incredible photographers that are part of the Cloudspot family. These photographers’ reputation of excellence alone prove the excellence of Cloudspot.
The ease of use, the clean galleries, the client experience, and the awesome customer service are all qualities praised by these photographers and more (including US!)—you can read even more testimonials here.
3. Cloudspot supports multiple file types, like GIFs
Our personal favorite feature of Cloudspot is the GIF support. By being able to upload our animated gif files directly into client galleries, we’re able to take the client experience to a new level—animated images make galleries come to life with real emotion and contribute greatly to our storytelling method of photography.
Like what you see? Check out this GIF-packed Sequoia NP winter elopement story here.
4. Cloudspot allows a “no hassle client experience”
Cloudspot gives photographers the option to add a direct download button in the first email sent to clients. A lot of other gallery providers (including several we used before we discovered Cloudspot), make clients jump through hoops and take multiple steps to request a download link. Cloudspot eliminates the hassle by providing a link to a zipped folder directly in an e-mail. No worries—the e-mail also gives a direct link to the client’s online gallery so they can see all their images, side-by-side, in a beautifully displayed collection from any device.
This is an example of what one of our e-mails using Cloudspot looks like:
5. Cloudspot Supports Mobile Use
Photographers that use Cloudspot can access their dashboard from a mobile browser and do pretty much any action, including creating, editing and sending galleries to clients, blogs and vendors. Photographers, as well as clients, can also save images to a phone for social media.
Below is an example of what the Cloudspot mobile interface looks like for both photographers (top row), and for clients (bottom row):
6. add a video or slideshow directly in a Cloudspot galley
With hundreds of images to look through, sometimes a wedding gallery can be a little overwhelming to our clients and their loved ones. Including a “storytelling” slideshow into our client experience has helped us put it all back in perspective for our clients. And our couples agree. One bride told us: “thank you for creating the slideshow, it really is an (unexpected) awesome, tangible and shareable way to experience the images and the moments you captured within them.”
Many other couples have shared with us that the experience of the wedding slideshow is a much better way of sharing their photos with their families.
Cloudspot allows its users to add a SmartSlides (which is the service we use), Animoto, Vemio, or Youtube slideshow/video directly into the gallery (which is also great news for photographers/videographers combined who want to present everything to their clients at once and in one place).
7. Cloudspot includes a fully customizable, 0% commission print store
That’s right—100% of the profit we make, stays in our pocket.
For the auto-fulfillment option, Cloudspot has partnered with WHCC; so we are confident that our clients are receiving top-quality prints. If you want to use a different photo lab, you can also chose a self-fulfillment option when you set-up your store. Everything is customizable, including pricing and sales tax for each state/province.
8. Cloudspot has a “banner” feature to help promote sales for all gallery visitors
When we send a gallery to clients, in all likelihood, our clients are going to be forwarding it on to their friends and family too. Promoting a sale directly in the gallery, especially a time-limited one, is a good incentive for clients to buy prints directly from us.
9. Cloudspot allows clients to create multiple favorite lists in their gallery
Whether our client is curating a collection of images to share on Facebook or making selections for an album, the multiple lists feature that Cloudspot provides makes this super easy (for the client and for us!)
Don’t just take our word for it, try Cloudspot out for yourself. We know it can be daunting to make a switch like this, to help with the transition, Cloudspot offers free consultations to answer any questions you have about using Cloudspot for your business.
When we arrived at Ash Cave trailhead in Hocking Hills State Park for Ashley and Nate’s sunrise elopement, shadows, along with a serene quietness, still lingered heavy in the forest. The sound of the waterfall was cloaked by the morning doves’ song, but making our way down the trail, we could finally begin to hear it; softly, its voice guiding us through the woodland—echoing stronger until we felt its misty touch welcome us to its base within Ash Cave’s grandeur. Here, nature was the sanctuary, and in this shelter, Ashley and Nate poured out the contents of their hearts in precious, honest love. Vows for the future and vows for now, speaking to each other in the witness of evergreens and stones and streams.
Every love story is unique—and Nate and Ashley are no exception to the realness of this sweet cliché. Their affection for the outdoors inspired them to commit themselves to each other in a place, although hundreds of miles from their home, that was meaningful to their story and passion for nature. They welcomed the mud and dirt and chilly morning air, all as part of their wedding party, and the waterfall filled the outcropping with celebrant applause.
A Monday morning has never felt so wonderful. Thank you, Ashley and Nate, for inviting us into your wonderful. Being your elopement photographers was a beautiful adventure, and deepened our own admiration of our lovely Ohio home.
Enjoy their visual story below, and if you’re interested in our photography for your elopement or wedding, reach out to us here.
This wedding is also published by the award-winning wedding blog Easy Weddings.
Personally, the best day of my life wasn’t my wedding day, it was the day after. Where I woke up as a wife next to the love of my life, and asked God ‘Now what?’ All I heard was ‘Let’s begin.’
The wedding wasn’t my dream wedding, but the man I married is better than my very best dream.
Brides (and couples, but it seems to hit brides the most) usually have an idea of what their dream wedding will look like, feel like, be like—but after it’s all said and done, it’s just one day. Its glamor, smoothness, weather, style, etc. doesn’t define you. People grow and change and tastes change and fads fade. What remains is you, your spouse, and your marriage. A wedding is a celebration of that and of you and your life together. Couples should never be pressured to impress or give a performance, but again and again, they are.
The wedding industry is inundated with blog after blog showcasing style, details, expensive favors, and elaborate celebrations. It’s easy to see how the pressure to have the “perfect” wedding hangs heavy on every couple. Even from personal experience—when we got married (Eastlyn & Joshua) we followed many trends and the suggestions being thrown at us from multiple directions. Now, we look back on our wedding, not necessarily with regret, as we’re so happy to be married, but with new insight—realizing that those “extra things” are not even memorable and really, in the end, not meaningful to our relationship.
I asked Kezia to share a bit about her and Jordan’s personal story and their wedding day at The Hidden Hive (in Derbyshire, England), and what she shared, we believe is powerful and beautiful and so freeing for engaged couples to know: “One thing that keeps coming back to us from the day is that it was authentic. Authentic to us as people, to God, and that the tangible love felt was not from performance or perfection but from authenticity of two messy people letting God make something beautiful from our lives.”
We knew that there was something special about Kezia and Jordan just from their first inquiry. Then, from all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, on a video call, we met their glowing faces and heard their story; but we also saw their hearts—overflowing with love, even for us, strangers they had just met, honoring us with sincerest kindness. Their faith stood high above their ideas for a “dream wedding”—trusting that they didn’t need to wait another year to plan something “perfect,” but that “the time is now” to start their journey together.
We got their first message in July, and in September we were in England, eager to meet them in real-time, to be present on their shining day, expectant for all the goodness it held.
And it was just that—a day glimmering with their God-given grace. Kezia shared with us: “Although we were burgled two weeks before the wedding, had family members not able to come, and battled from outfit disasters to illness…We came before the Lord with all that we had and gave him everything, to make what he wanted from it. We believed that guests at our wedding would see the real power, glory and love of God on display and that some would meet with him for the first time…God had asked us to be a display of his love and generosity so we knew that our day would be centered around people.”
They centered their day around what is most important to them—their faith and people—and people encircled Kezia and Jordan like an embrace.
We’ve never experienced a wedding quite like it—nonstop hugs and tears and stories of the impact this couple has already made on so many individually. We were approached by guest after guest that just wanted to share with us what Kezia and Jordan have etched on their hearts. The toast time was nearly two hours long—it seemed as though there were not enough words to describe this couple’s abundant love.
Even though things didn’t go as originally planned and the days leading to the wedding were full of mishap and disaster, we know that Kezia and Jordan’s lives, and this day joining their lives together, has and is still impacting hearts. They’ve surely impacted ours.
Credits: Brides Gown: WED2B / Brides Shoes: ASOS / Bridesmaid Shoes: ASOS, Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing / Bridesmaids Dresses: ASOS / Cake: Zoe Flavin / Caterer: The Alpine Pizza Co, The Horse Box Diner, KK Catering, Tilly's Ice Cream Parlour, Jerk Kitchen / Celebrant: Ps Malcolm Baxter / Entertainment: Silent Noise / Flowergirl Dress: Monsoon / Flowers: Tina Maclean and Co. / Grooms Attire: Suitsupply / Groomsmen Attire: ASOS / Hair: Victoria Hutchinson, Sophie Burrows / Invitations: DIY, Mixbook / Make-up: Bethan Lloyd / Photobooth: Deuce Hire Event / Rings: Temprell / Venue: The Hidden Hive / Videographer: Parisian Polo Club / Wedding Planner: Samantha Gill
The space where you choose to get married sets the feeling for the entire day. This simple truth can add layers of stress to the already daunting task of wedding planning. The hard part is that many couples, maybe you included, don’t know where to start when it comes to searching for the venue that’s right for you and your partner.
So, to help, we’ve complied this list of beautiful venues found across Ohio from the photographer’s perspective—a lot of factors went into consideration for our top dozen, but mainly, we chose places that have tasteful interiors and beautiful, dreamy light for your photos. The country or nature locations have gorgeous outdoor settings like elegantly (and sometimes wildly) landscaped gardens and plenty of shade trees; and for the city lovers, the urban spots have large windows and clean settings with an industrial edge.
Canyon Run Ranch
We chose to start the round-up with Canyon Run Ranch, because out of all the places we’ve photographed in the Dayton area, this one is our favorite. It’s hard to beat the impeccable style of the owners, Amy and Gary Ward. Their home, where brides get ready, features stunning hardwood floors, stain glass windows, stone walls, tasteful antiques, and even a completely glass conservatory.
The property is quite large, offering couples multiple options for their ceremony site, including a wooded setting (The Forest Chapel) and a garden location. On the land, you’ll find bubbling brooks, fields of wildflowers, old growth trees, picturesque wetlands and acres and acres of woods.
Additionally, the reception barn isn’t your typical Midwest “barn wedding venue.” It still boasts its classic historic beauty like other barns in Ohio, but the owners have added a modern edge, again with their flawless eye for beauty and design. When the sun sets, the already dreamy setting, is magically lit by thousands of twinkling fairy lights.
If you love nature, but still have a classy and hip wedding vision, then Canyon Run is worth a visit.
The Lake Erie Building is a large, nontraditional space, offering couples a minimal setting to enhance with their own style, creating the wedding they’ve always wanted. White walls, large windows, high ceilings and polished concrete floors make this venue an industrial dream come true.
Apart from the actual wedding space, this location also offers outdoor options for rad photos too.
One thing we believe that sets The Lake Erie Building apart from other venues is that when rented, according to their website, you have “access to the space for nearly a week, from Wednesday through Monday, so there is no rush to set-up or tear-down, and you'll know the room is ready for your event.” Now that's what we call a stress-free venue!
Pine Springs Estate
Imagine a place with an elegant, historic home, open space, gardens, small lakes and towering evergreens—That’s Pine Springs Estate in Union, Ohio.
The wedding that we photographed here didn’t go as originally planned—a sunny ceremony by the lake—but rather, it down poured for the entire day. However, the property offers plenty of space for large tented ceremonies and receptions, which is exactly what the couple needed.
The home welcomes guests with a large front porch that is perfect for taking photos in case of rain, and it has plenty of gorgeous rooms for portraits too.
The best part about it raining on this wedding day, was that during the reception the sun finally came out and a gorgeous rainbow appeared. Without the large open areas surrounding the home and lawn, we wouldn’t have been able to see it, let alone get once-in-a-lifetime portraits with it!
Pine Springs Estate is still a fairly new venue, so we recommend it to couples who want to do something different than all their friends.
Image via The Madison
The Madison is Cleveland’s best kept secret. As it didn’t officially open for business until 2018, the Madison is still not widely known. So, if you’re looking for a clean, industrial wedding space, you should jump at the chance to be among the first couples to rock this spot for your nuptials.
The owner is a Cleveland-based event professional, and so being in the industry, he thought of everything you could ever need to make your wedding run smoothly, comfortable and in style.
The getting ready rooms were design by none other than classy Restoration Hardware, and provide plenty of natural light to get those dreamy portraits and candid shots. The main space offers clean white walls, 20-ft. ceilings, and as the website describes, their “open layout promotes creativity to empower you to design the event of your dreams!”
There is also a secure private parking lot for your guests’ convenience…Oh and speaking of guests, the Madison has enough space to accommodate more than 500!
All-in-all, we believe this venue is worth a tour during your search.
Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park – Hines Hill
Jorgensen Farms new Oak Grove location is a one-of-a-kind wedding venue in central Ohio. Its most alluring feature, and the main reason it’s included in this report, is the magical greenhouse—which can be used for the ceremony and/or reception. The Oak Grove location also offers an open-air courtyard, cottage and a main hall. This serene property features old growth oak trees, a reflective pond, and a lovely garden.
Strongwater in Columbus, Ohio, offers couples that on-trend industrial look with more of a vintage vibe. This century old warehouse showcases stunning natural light with its original skylights and large pane windows. The open-duct ceilings and exposed brick walls give the space a cool edginess; and the open-air courtyard adds to its unique character.
Since Strongwater also has a restaurant space, they offer multiple bar options with a full liquor license and can cater your wedding with their incredible food.
Scarlet Oaks Estate
Set in the quiet countryside of Findlay, Ohio, there is a fairly new and enchanting wedding venue called Scarlet Oaks Estate. Surrounded by huge trees and a white picket fence, it’s grand and old, full of character, wood floors and Victorian-style windows that fill the home with rich natural light.
The property includes two homes, which is ideal for couples who wish to get ready separately. The historic barn is great for receptions, but couples can also use the front lawn.
Because we love it so much, if you’d like to see more of this venue, we featured a wedding here on ourblog.
A springhouse, flower bordered lawns, rolling hills, historic barn, antiques galore, restored milking parlor, full vegetable garden, and even a greenhouse…the Rural Society at Warwick Farms is eclectic and a bohemian masterpiece.
Featured by Free People, this venue in Mt. Vernon, is a working sheep farm, Bed & Breakfast and the location of a bi-annual antique and garden show, “where vendors from all over the nation come and transform [The Warwick Farm] home into one of the most eclectic antique markets.”
We haven’t found another venue quite like it. If your searching for serenity and whimsy, this may be your place.
It’s no secret that Hocking Hills is a paradise for nature lovers in Ohio. Thousands of people visit each year to hike the rolling hills, gorges and river edges. Especially beautiful in autumn, this natural park offers glorious colors—a delectable palette for the eyes.
After much research, we’ve found the perfect venue for couples that want to get married here, but are still looking to have the modern conveniences of traditional wedding venues.
Set within the Hocking cliffs, Crockett’s Run is a property that provides multiple lodges/cabins and glamping. This venue has enough room to offer overnight accommodations for up to 90 of your guests; golf carts to shuttle, and on-site staff to direct parking and keep things running smoothly throughout all the wedding day shenanigans.
At night, there is even a fire pit in the gorge that allows for a bonfire—the whole experience taking you back to your childhood days at camp.
Images via Airbnb, Balsley House
The Balsley house is unique in that it’s actually a Dayton Airbnb. The host, Clive, has already helped a couple throw the perfect wedding in this home. Because of it’s size, it’s the ideal setting for an intimate family wedding of thirty people or less.
The home features an elegant dining room, a sumptuous parlor, a library room, gourmet kitchen, six bedrooms, four and one half bathrooms, spiral staircases, a sauna, luxurious furniture/fixtures, and most importantly lots and lots of glorious natural light.
We know that this isn’t really a venue, but we had to include it in our round-up because backyard weddings are our favorite of all time. The personalization and sentimentality found in having the nuptials in your own space (or that of a family member) can’t be topped.
The gathering of your tribe, your people in a place that already means the world to you, will only add to the memories of it. The significance here will mean more to you than anywhere, because there really is no place like home.
We hope this list has helped a little during the planning stages, but remember, no matter where you chose to celebrate, it’s all about you and your partner—that’s what is truly making your wedding special, beautiful and memorable.
A wedding day is just a commemoration of the rest of your lives together. We wish you the best, always.
As dawn broke on this cold February day, the brisk southwestern wind whistled through the surrounding woodland, and the first light of day filled the tree house cabin with its warm good morning rays. Stephen started the morning by making Dagger Mountain Coffee pour-overs, and he and Kaity enjoyed the warmth of their mugs as they cuddled on the corner couch. The rest of the day was filled with music, worship and a little bit of forest dancing.
Stephen and Kaity are incredible people and truly are shining lights in this dark and hurting world, and we wanted their photos to compliment that truth. So as it illumined their genuine love, and formed around their embrace, Joshua and I were determined to make the morning rays feel tangible. With a special technique, and the use of shadows and harsh lighting, we were able to accomplish our goal for their photos in the tree house.
Joshua and I are so humbled and honored to be part of their lives, not only in photography, but also to be their friends. We love them.
“Beth and Marcus, our insanely kind and free-spirited couple from England, knew that they wanted to get married abroad. It was important to them that their wedding day felt like an adventure—just like their relationship has been—always jetting from country to country, and even getting engaged in front of a waterfall in Iceland.” If you missed the previous post detailing Beth & Marcus’ intimate garden wedding, you can catch up here.
To give their day more of a relaxed feel, and to stay true to their hearts for adventure, we decided to take most of Beth & Marcus’ portraits the day after their wedding a few hours away at the Cliffs of Etretat on the Normandy coast.
Unlike their nearby sisters in Dover, England, the Cliffs of Etretat are naturally white, but also rugged and draped in verdant foliage. The beach is covered in polished stones, and seeing the Arch in person, was like walking into one of Monet’s paintings.
On our way to Étretat through the countryside, we followed Marcus and Beth and watched as Beth hung her head out the window, allowing the wind to whip it as it willed. She closed her eyes and smiled, feeling the moment deeply as she painted the air with her hand. She is a true free spirit, and both she and Marcus are compassionate toward all life, loving and dreamy.
Beth’s words, in even the most casual conversation, are strung together in poetry; and Marcus has a heart of gold, dripping in kindness. The way they both see and feel life, to us, is like a work of art. When we were talking about travel, and seeing the northern lights in Iceland, Beth told me that seeing them, for her, was like hearing music, as if they play their own symphony across the midnight. Nothing is rigid with them, it’s fluid and melodic and intentional.
Together they are the real life version of who I’d imagine to be the hero and heroine in a beautiful fairytale.
Hopefully their adventure wedding portraits at the Cliffs of Etretat will give you a small glimpse into their epic.
See and feel the beauty.
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everything started to feel so real. My dad told me to stop shaking, and tears started spilling down my cheeks. Marcus was looking at me, he was crying too.
Beth and Marcus, our insanely kind and free-spirited couple from England, knew that they wanted to get married abroad. It was important to them that their wedding day felt like an adventure—just like their relationship has been—always jetting from country to country, and even getting engaged in front of a waterfall in Iceland.
They decided on Normandy, France, and then began their search for the perfect venue. One evening while scrolling through Airbnb, they came across the most enchanting storybook-like farmhouse filled with whimsy and things like corky art, antique furniture and carved wood doors. They were so sure that this home was the perfect setting for their intimate celebration that they didn’t even visit it before the wedding week. Although Beth does admit, “In some ways I was a little anxious about fitting everyone and finding wet weather solutions,” but continued, “I'm so glad we waited until our wedding week to see it for the first time…it made the experience so much more magical and exciting.”
Their utmost desire was that their day be intimate and simple; removing the useless distractions so that they could focus solely on their love for one another and their closest humans—their parents, siblings and a handful of friends. Their aesthetic vision combined borrowing and making everything they could until, they shared, “it formed a big, beautiful mess.” There was little need to buy anything as the farmhouse was already plum full of details like lanterns, carved tables, chairs, rugs and cushions. Marcus and a few friends made the long floor tables for the reception, Beth’s mom hand-stitched the napkins, and the women arranged their own foliage for their bouquets and crowns. Crafting the day with their loved ones “made the day so much more special,” Beth warmly elaborates.
The day of wedding, Beth and Marcus strayed from tradition and spent the morning together, writing letters to each other in the sun and then reading them in a relaxing, hot bath. Beth wore temporary watercolor tattoos on her feet, which we're staying bare, and adorned herself in a colorful embroidered dress from Needle and Thread London.
The ceremony was held in the orchard between an apple tree and a plum tree, with handmade dream catchers as the backdrop. Poppy, one of the bridesmaids, sang an opera version of Can't Help Falling In Love, by Elvis, as Beth proceeded down the aisle. Beth describes the moment:
“…everything started to feel so real. My dad told me to stop shaking, and tears started spilling down my cheeks. Marcus was looking at me, he was crying too.”
The evening was spent sitting on rugs and enjoying a completely vegan feast prepared by Beth’s mom and aunt. In place of favors, the couple wrote letters for each of their guests, individually thanking them for everything they'd done for them throughout their lives.
Beth concludes their wedding story: “The garden was lit up only by twinkle fairy lights, candles and the Milky Way shining above. Marcus and I shared our first dance on one side of the pond in a little overgrown gazebo, whilst our guests watched with sparklers on the other side. The day reminded me of a fairy tea party.”
And it was. Joshua and I woke up here on Saturday, the morning of the wedding, opened the pained window, and peered into the garden as the sun rose. It felt like a fairytale, like a dream. Beth, Marcus and their friends are all genuine and loving people, and spending time with them was a highlight of our year.
The next day, we went to the Cliffs of Etretat for Beth and Marcus’ Day After Adventure Session. See the session here.
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The cover image of this session was published by National Geographic Your Shot in the online edition of the magazine, as well as in their Instagram.
In June, we went on a family trip to the Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and stayed at Cades Cove Campground. During our time there, we drove the Cades Cove loop several times, and seeing it in different light and times of day—sunrise and sunset—sparked a desire to bring a couple here for a full length engagement session or elopement. So, when Arianna reached out to us about location suggestions for their pictures, we were quick to share our longing to go back.
To be frank, the weekend traffic is annoyingly heavy, but honestly, that's because the magic of the cove is alluring, drawing visitors from all the surrounding states and beyond. Encircled by the verdant Smoky Mountains, it’s a wildlife playground of flower clothed rolling hills and grass that looks like ocean waves in the wind. At both the sun's rising and its setting, mist fills the atmosphere and herds of deer come out to graze.
Although the air was drier than our last visit and we had to patiently abide the traffic, our short weekend with these two was still perfect. Seeing Ari again and meeting Isaac for the first time, witnessing how much they love each other and how deeply their individual stories overlap to bring them together now, is nothing short of divine providence, and it refreshed us.
On our sunset session, dramatic clouds were the backdrop to the mountains, and occasionally rays of light seeped through to paint the hillsides gold.
During sunrise, a thin layer of fog refracted the morning light, blurring a soft haze over our lenses.
Our hope is that these images show their love for each other and life, their joy and their strength in both the storm and the quiet.
In between breaths, And steps, And the space from me to you, I find the quiet beauty of love, A liminal space filled with Divine, Connecting my past and future to this moment, Here with you.
July Saturday Night: Evening, Sunset & Blue hour
The following Article was written by Eastlyn, with photos by both Eastlyn & Joshua and a few contributing artists named throughout the post.
We were invited to come to Iceland by the incredible Brain & Maria of 222Photography based in Columbus, Ohio to be the photographers for their destination ten year vow renewal. This left us speechless as we know that they're exceptional and seasoned photographers themselves and have many friends who are equally as talented. The fact that they decided to ask us is an honor that we do not take for granted. We're excited to share those images on this blog in the future, so please subscribe if you'd like to see more.
As we were planning our time with them, Joshua and I decided to make a little adventure out of it and drive around the coast before we joined them at the glacier lagoon in the south.
On so many of our trips together, we are photographing others, so Joshua told me before we left that he wanted to take a lot of images of me—and that he wanted to make our time together a personal project full of dramatic "fairytale-like" photos. In an effort to be more personal here, we're excited to share these images and stories with you today.
Please feel free to reach out of you have any questions about our experiences or need recommendations.
Day 1 - Along the Road: from Reykjavik to Godafoss waterfall
We flew Wowair from Detroit all night and arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland at 10am; but after picking up our luggage and car from IceRental 4x4 (a discounted & off-site 4x4 rental business that we highly recommend), we didn't start our drive north until about noon.
Our goal was to make it to an Airbnb just outside the little fishing town of Húsavík on the other side of Akureyri. Looking back, we're glad that we decided to drive all the way around the coast, but I don't think I would recommend it to anyone unless you have more time to fully enjoy it.
Simply put, we were exhausted. The intended six hour trip to our place took us about eleven hours because of how many times we had to pull over to take a nap. Staying up all night and then driving through snow blasted mountain pass roads all day is probably not the wisest decision we could have made.
Although we were exhausted, the views we saw still surprised us. After having experienced the south coast in 2016, we came expecting the landscape to look similar to the Iceland we already knew and loved—black sand and rocks, jagged mountains and rolling green moss. However, in many ways, the fjords, mountains and coastline reminded us of the landscapes we experienced in Alaska. Further in the north, the mountain passes looked like the images I've seen of Scotland, and the coast reminded us of our time in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. All this to say, Iceland's diversity astounded us in the best way possible.
That's one of our favorite parts of travel—thanks to the internet, we always tend to arrive with some sort of idea of what to expect, but without fail, we're amazed by what we find. Photos will never be able to it justice; truly, you have to experience these places in the flesh and blood.
The first pictures in this set were taken either from the road or by pulling off on the side of the road, and the images at the end were taken at Godafoss Waterfall after sunset.
In mid May, the sun set between 10-11pm each night and it rose at about 4am each morning.
We highly recommend the Airbnb we stayed in on night #1. It was spotlessly clean, the rainforest shower head was relaxing and the floor in the washroom was heated. Our host allowed us to come as late as we needed, and provided self check-in.
Most of the F roads, especially in the north do not open until June. For instances, we were unable to see Dettifoss because the southbound road to it was closed due to thawing conditions.
4x4s require a lot of fuel, and fuel in Iceland is around $7-8 USD a gallon. That's something that we didn't bring into consideration when budgeting for this trip. If you want a 4x4 (which we did need for some of the snowy mountains roads that we decided to take, and also some of unmarked roads in the National Park) just make sure you consider your fuel expense.
The snow ceased for a moment and the sky quakes, splitting in half, pouring its beams out onto the shimmering fjord. It has been so much like life here—obscure darkness and fog and storms, made breathtaking by flashes and glimpses of heaven.
Day 2: Hverir Geothermal Area
One of the places I really wanted to see on our road trip was the Hverir Geothermal Area near Reykjahlíð. In the morning before we arrived, we took a few backroads around the coast only to discover that the last road we needed to take to get there was closed. At first we decided to just keep heading south to make it to Hofn by the end of the day, but after a few moments, I felt an ache in my heart and started crying. Joshua knew why. He immediately turned around and we drove two hours back the other way so that we could see Hverir.
When we arrived, intense winds were blowing dense clouds of dirt and sand across the valley below the thermal mountain. As we attempted to climb, sand kicked up into our eyes, temporarily blinding our visibility and loosening the trail into slippery, sliding gravel. We turned around due to the danger. However the blowing dust, although far from pleasant, was still mesmerizing us and we wanted to stay longer.
I always wanted to do portraits in this type of environment, so on a whim, Joshua and I collaborated to make it happen. To capture it the way it felt and looked, I put on a long black skirt that I had stuffed in our backpack, took off my winter gear (it was actually freezing!), and with eyes closed, I ran out into the middle of the windy valley.
As each new gust blew, we could see clouds of debris moving rapidly toward us and Joshua would yell, “here it comes, close your eyes!” I turned my back to the wind and like a ribbon dancer, lifted my scarf high, feeling the gale beat sand against my back and pour down my shirt. With limited visibility, Joshua took shots, hoping/wishing/praying something would turn out.
We jumped back into the Jeep as dusty as we could possibly be (and my hair more tangled than ever) and saw the images that we created. They will always be a reminder of my most favorite day in Iceland and how with so much patience, Joshua sacrificed two hours of drive time (and a lot fuel expense) to get us here because he loves me.
All in all, this area wasn't as impressive as I expected it to be, in fact it was pretty small, but the weather made up for that and gave us something to remember. During these conditions though, I would highly recommend wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes while you're walking the trails.
“Feel, feel the sun again Let it all begin, let it fall upon your shadows like a whisper on your face.”
Hidden in New Hampshire's White Mountains like a diamond in the rough, we found a trail to Mount Willard Point in Crawford Notch State Park. After hiking a steady incline for a bit less than 2 miles, up ahead, we could finally see a clearing in the woodland. As we walked the final stretch of path, the air was calm and moist, causing the earth to delight our senses with its cedar aroma. Just before making it to the top, a returning hiker warned us of the extreme wind that we were about to encounter. And then, stepping from beneath the trees onto the precipitous rocky cliff, we were blasted with damp clouds and stunned by wonder.
Here, we witnessed the best view we have seen in the White Mountains, the full spectrum of Crawford Notch. It was cold, mostly due to the approaching weekend storm, but we embraced it as hard as we knew how to.
Mikayla let down her hair to allow the wind to whip it as it willed, and Luke, bundled his bride to keep her warm.
Their fierce love, complimented by the fiercest wind, was wildly beautiful. With each gust, in flashes and glimpses, raindrops defied normality and fell upward to kiss us. These are the type of moments in life that leave us speechless, yet filled. This is adventure.