We first met Donal when he showed up at the Volcano Huts, wearing his signature woollen sweater, driving his great white Defender with a photography drone following him way above in the air. Somehow this happy go lucky guy just wandered into Þórsmörk across multiple glacial rivers and impassable roads and has stuck with us since.
Few, if any, could match his inspiring enthusiasm and his drive to catch the right photo. It is with great privilege that we get to call Donal Boyd our friend and have him fill the position of the first Volcano Huts Wandering Artist. Check out his inspiring photography work and read his own account of why he calls Þórsmörk home.
The Valley - Where a Wandering Artist Found a Home
I had an impression all my life that something was missing, a lingering thought that I wasn’t fully aware of. When I arrived to the valley, something just seemed to fit, filling in the well that was missing, the sensation that felt lacking. I felt whole. I feel complete here.
Nestled between two glaciers, Þórsmörk, the Southern Highlands area known as “Thor's Forest”, or the “Valley of Thor”, is one of the most distinctive landscapes in all of Iceland. Carved by braided rivers of meltwater and massive floods resulting from volcanic eruptions beneath glacial ice, “the Valley” is host to immense waterfalls, staggering intricate canyons, and craggy mountain peaks.
My name is Donal Boyd and I’m a freelance wildlife photographer living in the Southern Highlands of Iceland who calls Þórsmörk my “home”. Originally from Boston, MA, USA, I visited Iceland for the first time back in June 2015 with a small group of friends. As we drove along the South Coast, I became enchanted by the fields of never-ending volcanic rock flecked by plush green moss, towering glacial-capped mountains amidst the wash of a golden midnight sun, and the forever changing weather systems that swept across the countryside. I was completely awestruck by the intensity of the landscape and felt such a strong connection to the nature that I became totally consumed by it. On this initial adventure, I decided that I couldn’t live anywhere else in the world. My outing to Þórsmörk as part of this introductory experience was quintessential in motivating me to make the move.
I’ve been living in Iceland since March of 2016 and fully base my operations out of Volcano Huts in the Valley. I fell in love with the Huts early on and it quickly grew into a place that I returned to when I needed somewhere to think, to plan, and to escape. I feel the strongest personal connection to the multitude of mountains here, to the foothills of wild birch-trees, and to the habituated arctic foxes that inhabit the region.
What I enjoy most about Þórsmörk is that there’s countless areas to explore amidst the labyrinth of canyons, chasms, and mountain peaks. And because the landscape is in a state of perpetual transformation, daily and seasonally, even visiting the same place more than once permits opportunity to photograph it in many ways. For instance, there’s one mountain right by the Huts called “Valahnúkur”, which I’ve hiked more than 20 times! Yet, each ascent I find the experience to be unique. The weather is always different, painting an entirely new mood upon the panorama. One mountain seems like many different mountains.
Living amidst this state of constant change, each day is distinctive and unlike the last. It’s what feeds my creativity and motivates me to continue seeking out the endless unseen sights of the valley. This strong element of discovering the unknown keeps me coming back and it’s the primary reason why I call Þórsmörk my “home”.
If you’re ever in the Valley, look for my white Land Rover Defender parked out back. If you spot me out on the trails, in the restaurant on my laptop, or on the campgrounds photographing the foxes, come over and say hi! I’d love to tell you all about my favorite spots to explore nearby!