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Bella Howard - Iceland
Courtesy of Bella Howard

Glimpse the wonders of this road trip around Iceland

For the first in our series of travel diaries, nomadic photographer Bella Howard captures the land of ice and fire

The DZDNMD Diaries is a new travel series on Dazed. We’ve invited four of our favourite globetrotting photographers to document their adventures of inspiration and exploration. In a digital age of Instagram geo-tags, the series in collaboration with adidas Originals, offers a deeper view of the places these creative nomads are checking in to.

For fashion photographer and snapper of the stars, Bella Howard, home is as much the Big Smoke as it is the City of Angels, the Big Apple, the City of Love, and, lest we forget, her British home county of Yorkshire. But it was Iceland, AKA the land of ice and fire (or, as locals will tell you, elves, trolls and pixies), that had always been her dream destination, until it became a reality a few weeks ago. Known for her candid, brazen snaps of music style icons including Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Lana Del Rey and Courtney Love, alongside colourful editorials for the likes of DazedHoward escaped the world’s fashion capitals for the first of four journeys in the DZDNMD Diaries series – a five-day roadtrip capturing the wonders of Björk’s home country.

“I’d heard that it was such a magical place that I’d always wanted to go,” she says. And, as she discovered on her mini-odyssey, Iceland is defined by dreamlike extremes: its landscape unfurls from volcanic furnaces to icy glaciers, and while the island boasts long summer days, in winter it endures sunsets from as early as 3pm. That said, Iceland hosts the world’s greatest natural light show, the Aurora Borealis, and annually comes close to topping official rankings of the globe’s happiest nations. Maybe that’s because it’s the only Nato country with no armed forces, and more or less runs itself on renewable energy. With a population not much larger than Howard’s home borough of Hackney, Iceland’s wilderness is any photographer’s fantasy.

Driving in a Hummer with her boyfriend Oscar, Howard made it from the island’s southwest capital of Reykjavik to the southeast glacial lake of Jökulsárlón, and then back again, crossing fields of moss-covered lava, black sand beaches and milky blue lagoons. Although the only things playing on the car radio was Adele’s “Hello” and local Icelandic music, the couple arrived on the island just as Björk was celebrating her 50th birthday. “By chance, I got a text from my friend saying we should come down to Björk’s party, where my friend Arca was DJing for her that night,” Howard says. “It was the most electric evening, the cherry on the cake to our trip.” Follow her Nordic adventure by scrolling down below.

“We didn’t want to go on a tourist trip so hired a hummer to be our chariot. We picked it up at sunset from a tiny rundown airport on the outskirts of Reykjavik, and drove back to the hotel to get towling robes, slippers, more layers and our swimming costumes. With grand ideas of hot springs and the Northern Lights, we headed off south...”

“When we smelled rotten eggs and saw steam rising from pools on the side of the road in the headlights we thought we were in luck. Got out of the car to see signs saying, ‘Do not cross line – 200 degrees celsius water!’ so we explored further and found a muddy swamp with steam rising. Oscar decided to get in, but I wimped out and took pictures instead of the swamp creature from the black lagoon.”

“We walked up to the geysir on one side a road, and on the other was bubbling mini-geysirs and algae streams with greens, yellows and blues on the ground. We waited a few minutes and then the geysir errupted to ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the surrounding groups of people. We were in the golden circle, a haven for tourist day trips outside of Reykyavik.”

“We drove for two hours south in pouring rain on a tiny road, stopping off to stroke wild Icelandic ponies in the darkness.”

“We drove past an awesome old burnt-out truck and decided to go back and take pictures of it.”

“We had researched Iceland’s oldest geothermal swimming pool and found it was a five-minute drive and a 20-minute hike from our hotel. There were no signs, just vague directions to the pool, i.e. get to a car park (AKA a dead end at the end of the road) and hike to the end of the valley across a stream and over a hill to the pool. Our excitement to find the pool was overwhelming – an outside lido swum in by schoolchildren and people for over 100 years.”

“We drove back towards Jökulsárlón to see if we could have a boat tour. On the way the sun was breaking over the top of the black beaches. We found an opening down to the beach, pulled over and climbed down to the bank. The tide was coming in and we spotted blocks of ice that looked like broken glass. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen, these huge quartz-like sculptures set on black sand against the rising sun.”

“We stopped off on the edge of the road and went for a walk in a valley filled with moss and pine trees, it really felt like something out of a fairytale. I’m not surprised that 80 per cent of Icelandic people believe in elves, pixies and trolls, living in a landscape like this.”

“We found our own ice lagoon far more impressive then the popular tourist destination down the road. We were all alone with the ice and surrounding mountains, we walked around the edge of the lagoon to piles of ice and took photos. But nothing will do justice to actually being there, especially on such a clear day.”

“As the sun was setting we came across the Skógafoss waterfall. It was really quite dark and the fog and rain had returned, we walked up to it in the mist of the huge waterfall.”

“Driving to the blue lagoon you smell it before you see it, and then you’re faced with the most milky blue water settled in black rocks. The lagoon was full of people – understandably, as it is one of the world’s 25 wonders. We got our towelling robes and headed in. First things first, we got a drink from the bar and waded out to slather our faces in mud then sipped prosecco in a quiet area of the lagoon. It was a very chilled two hours before dropping off the car and flying back.”

And the soundtrack to Howard’s trip was...

“Got a text from my friend saying it was Björk’s 50th birthday if we wanted to go. DREAM!! Turned up to the party in downtown Reykjavik in a really amazing venue. It was 10.30pm and the party was in full swing, the whole place was alive, never seen a party at that time of the night where everyone was dancing. Arca provided the songs so it was pretty hard not to get involved. It was pure energy, and one of the funnest parties I’ve been to.”

See below to glimpse more of Bella’s journey and find out about our #DZDNMD competition

For a special winter edition of #dazedandexposed, we want you to INSPIRE us with your travel photography! Inspired by adidas Original’s new NMD silhouette, show us your global nomadic spirit – summer road trips, winter escapes, jungle adventures, futuristic cityscapes. The best posts will be shared on the Dazed Instagram and featured on dazeddigital.com as well as the adidas Originals Tumblr

To enter: 
TAG your post #dazedandexposed #DZDNMD #NMD @dazed @adidasOriginals.
TELL US about your best experience in that place in one sentence.

Recent and new posts are best.
Only posts with all hashtags will be considered.
Deadline: January 10, 2016