Photographer Captures Incredible Amber Glow Inside Iceland’s Ice Caves

Iceland Ice Caves by Sarah Bethea

Photographer Sarah Bethea‘s love for nature and adventure started at a young age. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, she would spend weekends skiing at Mt. Hood with her family. Over time, she also grew to love photography and has combined both passions, in an effort to send a message about the fragility of our planet. This has led her to travel far and wide, but nothing has attracted her more than the arctic climate of Iceland. While there, she spent time in incredible ice caves located on the southern coast and came home with some inspiring imagery.

Iceland's glacier ice caves are formed within blocks of ice and are visitable during the winter season. Bethea made two journeys to visit them, with decidedly different experiences. As the ice caves are fairly accessible by car and require just a half hour of walking on the glacier to arrive, they are a popular tourist attraction. Bethea got lucky on her first trip. It was December and she had the caves all to herself. She took advantage of the situation and the lighting produced at that time of the year to take one of her most memorable photographs.

“Although it was mid-day, it was December and the days were short and the sun stayed low on the horizon,” Bethea shares with My Modern Met. “For five minutes or so, the sun lined up just right with the cave entrance, and the ice was lit up to look like amber.”

The striking image of her model reaching out and touching the amber-tinted ice is a revelation. Within one frame, she has captured the emotion and fragility of the environment, while demonstrating the tight bond that all humans should have with nature.

When Bethea returned a second time in February, her experience in the ice caves was undeniably different. Crammed with hundreds of tourists, it wasn't the ideal environment for the photography she desired. On her next trip, she plans to explore some lesser known caves in order to see what else she's able to achieve creatively.

As her photography continues to lead her around the world, Bethea can't help but remember her childhood reading National Geographic. Inspired by the photography and pushed to appreciate a wide variety of cultures, Bethea's career path is shifting away from travel photography and towards conservation photography.

“I have always wanted to be a conservationist,” she admits, “and I think photos are a great way to inspire love and appreciation of nature. They can help us connect to and care for places we have not yet seen, and can illustrate important issues and the need for action. I think it’s wonderful if people see my photos and are inspired to get outside and see these places for themselves, but first and foremost I hope to connect people with nature, and show them that these places are worth saving.”

Ice appears to glow like a piece of amber in this incredible photo taken inside Iceland's ice caves.

Photo of Ice Caves in Iceland

Photographer Sarah Bethea was able to visit the famed caves in relative solitude during a trip to Iceland.

Iceland Ice Cave Photo

Picture of Ice Cave in Iceland

“Iceland is such a unique place with so much natural beauty in a relatively small area. The country is often described as ‘the land of fire and ice,' and this is absolutely accurate.”

Iceland Ice Cave Photo

Iceland Ice Caves by Sarah Bethea

“The disappearance of the glaciers and ice caps would be a major loss, and would impact all of us around the world.”

Iceberg in Iceland by Sarah Bethea

“I would feel great to know that my work could connect people to these places, and maybe even persuade people to change their actions…”

Iceberg in Iceland by Sarah Bethea

Sarah Bethea: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Sarah Bethea.

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Mystical Ice Caves of Iceland Look Like Abstract Oil Paintings

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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