Iceland Aurora PhotoTours Reviews

Night Sky Photography Workshops, Tours, Talks

Other reviews: Maine Stargazing & Photography, Astromaster La Palma, California Nightscapes

2023 Tour Reviews

Will Tsai, Washington (Northern Explorer September) The Aurora photography tour and workshop is ideal for beginners as well as intermediate photographers (or even for those who simply wish to see the Aurora). I used a camera and a cell phone for night photography.

Babak and his partner guides take on the work (and stress) of Aurora sky hunting, allowing you to focus on sharpening your night photography or simply relaxing and enjoying the views. It’s a lot of challenging work to chase the Aurora even in Iceland — for reference we had friends who visited Iceland on their own during the exact same time we were there on Babak’s tour and they did not catch a single glimpse of the Aurora while we were treated to four magnificent nights of the spectacular light show, all thanks to Babak’s and Saevar’s efforts!

I absolutely broadened my skills during the workshop! I learned how to better adjust focus on the stars for night photography as well as new tricks in editing, such as de-fringing and optical correction based on lens model. I learned how to better challenge myself to find more unique compositions and also the “finger tricks” for determining what focal length lenses to use. Babak has some amazing daytime photographs as well (e.g. I remember one of an insanely creative fragmented building reflection) – would be great to hear more stories and learn more about what he looks for when creating pictures like that!

This tour was a great balance between learning about photography, astronomy, and local Icelandic culture. It helped that our local guides were so knowledgeable! The food and hotels were wonderful and certainly exceeded my expectations, especially given how remote some of these locations were. As for suggestions for improvements: More down time between dinner and night excursions as well as later starts on days that don’t have a strict driving schedule (e.g. during the 3-night stretch of same hotel). It was also nice to spend longer times at a single hotel so we could avoid having to lug baggage into each hotel when we only stayed for one night. Slight exhaustion from sleepless nights is to be expected!

Photo © Will Tsai

Binazir Karimzadeh, Georgia (Northern Explorer September) I am passionate about night sky and followed Babak’s work for a long time and always wanted to participate in his workshops. I recently had the privilege of participating in Babak’s aurora photography tour in Iceland, and it was nothing short of extraordinary.

I had never taken photos at night before. I learned about composition and techniques for night photography, like how to set up my camera and the golden numbers for the northern light photography. This program was a great value for money and I absolutely recommend it.

This experience not only provided me with invaluable knowledge about night sky and aurora photography but also offered me a deeper understanding of the captivating beauty of Iceland itself. Babak’s expertise in the field of aurora photography is truly remarkable. His passion for this celestial art form is evident in the way he imparts his knowledge, patiently guiding each participant through the intricacies of capturing the elusive dance of the Northern Lights. From setting up the perfect shot to understanding the nuances of long exposure, every aspect was covered with precision and enthusiasm.

One of the highlights of this tour was the opportunity to learn about the unique geographical and astronomical factors that make Iceland a great destination for aurora enthusiasts. Babak’s explanations were not only informative but also delivered in an engaging manner, making complex concepts easily accessible to all participants. Aside from the enriching photography lessons, the sightseeing aspect of the tour was equally outstanding. Exploring the breathtaking landscapes of northern part of Iceland, from waterfalls to dramatic volcanic formations, added an extra layer of magic to an already enchanting adventure.

Participating in Babak’s aurora photography tour was a transformative experience. I walked away not only with a newfound proficiency in night sky photography but also with a deeper appreciation for the natural wonders of Iceland. We were so lucky to see a fireball and three clear night skies with K5-6 aurora activity. If you’re seeking an unforgettable journey that combines education, awe-inspiring sights, and the chance to capture the Northern Lights in all their glory, this tour is an absolute must. I can’t recommend it highly enough and look forward to the opportunity to join another one of Babak’s tours in the future.

The food and hotels were great, except the hotel at the Arctic Henge, which was very old with a very small shower and bathroom.

Photos © Binazir Karimzadeh

Janae Dacut, California (Highland Explorer September) The experience was incredible. The Iceland guide (Gisli) was extremely knowledgeable about the land and his enthusiasm when describing the sights we visited was contagious. Babak was quick to point out good spots to photograph in the daytime sights and I received very much needed guidance from Gisli and Babak during the nighttime shoots. The food was amazing and the majority of the places that we visited were not too heavily populated with tourists. Visiting the highlands area of Iceland is something I’d never visit on my own, so I was glad to have an expert driver. Overall, I’d highly recommend this workshop and it’s a very good value for what you pay.

In general, I enjoyed every meal I had, the dinner buffet at one hotel was excellent. I did not like one of the hotels: it was small and there was barely enough room to open a suitcase; at another hotel we were placed in a large family suite, which made me like this hotel the best.

I had never taken photos at night before, but knew how to operate my camera in manual mode. I’d say that I definitely improved and learned skills that I can take with me to other night photography shoots. I learned how to shoot the aurora and manually focus at night. I also learned how to use a filter when shooting water falls. I would’ve liked one more opportunity to shoot Timelapse but that was dependent on weather.

What can be improved imo? I personally thought the time spent at each location was adequate and every meal was planned well. Other people attending the workshop didn’t seem to adhere to the time spent that well, but I liked that the tour in itself is flexible to accommodate. I would recommend maybe more frequent bathroom breaks, when available. I would also add motion sickness medication for those that do whale watching or who get car sick.

My top 3 favorite things about the tour were: learning about Iceland through Gisli’s tour commentary, camaraderie and the one-on-one help.

Ines Lai, Hong Kong (Highland Explorer September) The tour is a good combination of photography workshop and sightseeing. It is also a good chance to explore own potential. Among the group we had experienced photographers and several beginners who just bought their cameras, but Babak is always patient to give one-to-one help to beginners. For those of us with some photography experience, he would give valuable advice on how to improve the image, what better angle may be used and how to create story telling with a picture. I am especially impressed that he can always convey his assistance in a friendly and calm reassuring manner that is very helpful when we are panicking about what to do during night imaging, since even experienced photographers may not be experienced in night photography. The fact that we had night imaging in cold windy condition makes it even more challenging. But Babak, Gisli and Kristján are always ready to assist which somehow give us more and more confidence as we went through the night imaging sessions. For myself, I come from a city where stargazing is next to impossible because of light pollution, so seeing a starry night with the Milky Way while we wait for aurora activity was additional highlight for me. We had been lucky enough to have a few clear nights with good aurora light activity, the difficulty is probably which angle to shoot from because it’s just too spectacular. We also saw a less seen part of Iceland so beautiful with autumn colors which somehow is very different from the normal perception of Iceland being green or white. The landscape with the geothermal areas in steam, the amazing colors and rock formation in the canyons and countless waterfalls, there is definitely no other place like Iceland.

Both food and accommodations arrangement were excellent and I think the itinerary is fine, since we have been reminded it’s always weather dependent and being flexible is essential.

I brought a DSLR and a mirrorless camera, along with a cell phone to the program. RE: NIGHT photography: I had a small bit of night photography experience and already knew how to operate my camera in manual mode. During the workshop I learned how to obtain a clear focus in the dark, how to make a time lapse video and how to create a star trail image (in theory, but did not have the chance to try making a sequence). RE: DAYTIME photography: I gained more knowledge about the function of my camera buttons and was given valuable advice on how to create a better image to achieve story telling.

Photos © Ines Lai

Alyssa Dacut, California (Highlands Explorer September) I joined this tour with a camera and a cell phone for photos. I had never taken photos at night before but I knew how to operate my camera in manual mode and was familiar with my camera buttons. I’m so proud of the pictures I took! Although they aren’t professional standard, they look amazing to me and I was able to photograph a lot of the Aurora! I didn’t learn too much about daytime photography except that it’s good to have a filter when photographing waterfalls.

For those who are thinking of joining: This trip is great for beginners and experienced photographers. We got to see a lot of Iceland, while also getting to photograph the Aurora 3 times! Traveling through the highlands was a treat. I loved going off the beaten path and seeing areas not a lot of tourists get to see. Babak’s instruction was thorough and he was very patient the entire trip. His knowledge on photographing the night sky is unmatched.

I most enjoyed learning about Iceland through Gisli’s tour commentary, the camaraderie and shooting locations. My favorite site visit was Landmannalaugar. The only part of the trip I didn’t like was the last hotel in the highlands, it was small and had staff problems. I feel this tour was a good value for money and I highly recommend it.

Margo Day, Washington (Northern Explorer September) The aurora borealis is dynamic and unpredictable. Babak taught us the correct camera settings to help us capture the essence of the display. He explained the dynamics between ISO and shutter speed and their effects on the dynamic range in a way that made it easier to make decisions real time as the aurora was strengthening or waning. He built on that knowledge and helped us grow as photographers by encouraging us to think about the story we wanted to tell with our photos and augmenting by teaching photo composition.

Before arriving I had a bit of experience taking photos at night. I brought along a DSLR and a cell phone. I learned a lot about night photography with an iPhone and appreciated hearing that Babak was involved with Apple to give them feedback in order to make the iPhone camera even better for night photography. I learned a new daytime photography skill: The iPhone Live Photo long exposure mode – fantastic for waterfalls!

I appreciated the personal critique of my early photos and coaching why certain ones stood out. I learned how to create time lapses which, for dynamic night photography is very helpful and cool.

For those who may want to take this workshop: This is an opportunity to experientially learn from a world-renowned night photographer in a welcoming and open environment, where each participant is respectfully taught and curiosity and asking questions is super encouraged. The tour is in spectacular Iceland where during the day, you’ll visit incredible natural wonders during the day and have opportunity to learn further about daytime photography and at night go out and photograph the aurora borealis is amazing settings …. all underscoring the concept of using photography for visual storytelling. Babak and team do a fantastic job of ensuring you’re comfortable with your knowledge so you can take the best photos possible to tell your narrative. It’s truly an immersive experience that builds on itself each day. The camaraderie that results makes this tour truly special. 3 things I enjoyed were the development of my technical photography skills, learning about Iceland through Saevar’ s tour commentary and one-on-one photography help.

Regarding the itinerary: I loved being on the ‘go’ during the day and then photographing at night. Given the weather and trying to find the most favorable location to shoot the aurora, I don’t know how you could have done anything differently.

What could have been done better?

1. Remind people they have to bring hand and feet warmers.

2. I wanted to learn a bit more about photo editing and get Babak’s POV on the different editing tools and why he chooses certain combinations (e.g. Highlights and Shadows vis-a-vis increasing the white or black range) …

3. Maybe a few more shortcuts to edit photos in post processing at scale.

4. I would have preferred to have the last day workshop be focused on the aurora – photo editing, time lapse creation, critique of your ‘best’ photo during the week for each person in the class.

5. It would have been nice to photograph the aurora with natural backgrounds a time or 2 (e.g. waterfalls, rock formations). All the places we went to photograph featured man made objects, which presented editing issues in post processing (Lights on buildings, car headlights on roadways).

Overall I thought the food and hotels were both terrific and that this tour is a good value for money. I highly recommend it.

Photos © Margo Day

Kim Zajac, Michigan (Highland Explorer September) I came with a camera and a cell phone and had a little bit of night photography experience. My skills were broadened regarding use of both cell phone and camera. Every aspect of taking night photography was addressed formally from: focus, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, to composition. Tips for daytime photography were addressed during transit between locations with ideal 1:1 session w/ Babak and instruction on site. Additionally, simple useful techniques on the cell phone were addressed on an informal basis.

Babak and Gisli were available throughout locations. As a novice to photography, it is necessary for my to return home, “digest” the information presented, apply in practice and return again to advance my skills. All instruction was helpful and appreciated.

How would I describe the experience? I feel comfortable with using the word “epic”… as an accurate description! The reason I continue to follow Babak and return for repeat excursions is the following… Babak is a man of character who is genius in his skill set and never makes one feel embarrassed to ask a question, no matter how basic. The experience/tours are designed to embrace and explore the geographic area and culture of the country with an emphasis on capturing it through photography. Days are a combination of formal and informal instruction, travel, physical activity, and ventures into the dark of night in search of the aurora. Babak is skilled, not only at photography and interpersonal relations but effortlessly interjects humor throughout the trip…his enthusiasm is infectious, his fund of knowledge is endless.

Bus travel can be uncomfortable but I believe there were ample breaks to stretch legs and use the WC. Overall, the schedule was reasonable. I appreciate the amount of geographic area covered and recognized the need to maintain a time schedule. I absolutely would recommend this tour.

Jennifer Franklin, California (Northern Explorer September) I had a little bit of experience taking photos at night before this program. I came with a camera and a Samsung Galaxy 22 Ultra. I would say that I improved my night photography somewhat. I did upgrade to a faster lens specifically for this trip, so that will likely lead me to want to do night photography more often. I felt that I am comfortable enough with daytime photography that I didn’t really need to build my skills noticeably in that area.

The experience was incredible. I appreciated that it was a small group and consisted of people who were educated, well-traveled, and had serious interest in science, geology, astronomy, conservation, and photography. Saevar and Babak make an incredible team. They have so much knowledge, share it generously, and were incredibly helpful and patient. They are delightful human beings with a great sense of humor. Kristján is a fantastic bus driver and I liked that he has also taken on photography and is willing to ferry us to locations late at night. I love the sweater I bought from him.

I wish we had more hours in the day to stop at each place longer. But I understood that we had many miles to cover, and it’s a tricky balance between sight-seeing stops, lunch breaks, and covering those miles, making it for dinner at pre-arranged times, etc. I just need to come back to Iceland again and see more of it! I am a slow walker, and I accepted that I will just see what I am able to see, and enjoy the photos from those who covered more steps than me.

Was I given enough information to prepare for this tour? I think it had everything covered. I ended up bringing things I did not need, but it is better to be prepared than not. You never know what will happen with weather or an individual’s abilities and comfort. I ended up not using my walking stick, the rain cover for my camera, or the stone bag for my tripod.

The food was good and accommodations comfortable. Personally I would have liked more egg options at breakfast (scrambled, not boiled), but I understand that’s more of a me/what they do in Europe/what’s easiest for the hotel sort of thing. I did like having vegetable and fruit options at breakfast. I am not a big fish eater usually, but the cod dishes were all delicious. I was very thankful that we had three nights in the same place during the mid-point of the trip. It felt like a special treat to get to pick our own dinners for the last night at that hotel.

Photo © Jennifer Franklin

Marta Evry, California (Highland Explorer, September) You may come to one of Babak’s Iceland photo workshops for the Aurora Borealis, but you’ll keep coming back for the community and deep friendships. I was already a night photographer before I joined this workshop and knew how to operate my camera in manual mode. I improved my technical and creative photography skills during the tour and I learned a few post processing skills (like photo stacking to create water movement) that I didn’t know before.

I loved how many hot springs we got to go to this trip! I’d do Landmannalaugar again in a heartbeat. The Fall colors in a lot of these locations (Asbyrgi) was an unexpected treat. I enjoyed learning about Iceland through Gisli’s tour commentary, the camaraderie and the shooting locations.

As far as suggestions to improve the tour: We spent too much time on the bus with not enough breaks. If there were a way to build a few non-photo 10 minute leg stretching breaks – especially on the first long highlands crossing day, that would be so helpful. It just takes a toll on your body and stamina…More rest stops please (there were times I thought my bladder would explode😂). I also would have appreciated more time to shoot during day at some of the more spectacular sites. I felt Landmannalaugar was one of the few daytime locations we spent sufficient time in to really appreciate and absorb.

Photos © Marta Evry

Esi Seraj, Michigan (Northern Explorer September) I came with an iPhone 13 Pro Max and had never taken night photos before. I definitely learned a lot more about night sky photography, specially using an iPhone! Babak’s knowledge and experience on the subject is impressive and he’s such a good instructor that he made understanding everything so easy!

I loved our itinerary! Everything was perfectly managed and organized. We saw and visited more than we even thought we would do, but without making us tired with too much driving. Perfect planning!

What was my favorite site? Iceland is such a beautiful country that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I have to choose, I loved the Northern light photography at the Arctic Henge, as well as the most powerful waterfall in Iceland and the hot springs.

This, without a doubt, was one of the best travels I’ve ever been to. This is a must-try experience! Aside from visiting Iceland and sightseeing, the night-sky photography skills that you will learn are hard to find elsewhere. Aside from the life-time experience of seeing northern lights and glaciers, and ice caves, etc., this team, including Babak, Saever, and Linda are incredibly professional, knowledgeable, friendly, flexible, and fun and they will improve your experience 1000%. All I want to say is that, we had so much fun that we already are planning for the next time we join this tour!!

Photos taken on iPhone 13 Pro Max – Photos © Esi Seraj

Kate, Texas (Northern Explorer, September) This tour is for folks looking for an insider’s tour of picturesque Iceland, by day and night. During the day, Babak and Saevar take the group to a number of striking sights and explain the country’s history and geology on the way. Babak and the team have a deep knowledge of Iceland, which allows them to pivot in reaction to weather or other unpredictables. By night, Babak guides the team out to off-the-map locations where we can spread out and each set up for stellar aurora shots. You’re in expert hands, regardless of your photography experience. And whatever your skill level before the trip, you will come away from it a better photographer.

Before arriving I had some experience with taking photos at night. I brought a DSLR and a mirrorless camera to the workshop. I learned how to be more precise with my focus on the stars, and that I should be much more restrained in my exposure length to better capture the color of stars. I also became more skilled with timelapse. Regarding daytime photography, I appreciated Babak’s breakdown of what makes a good photo, in particular determining what is the story that your photo aims to tell.

My only feedback is on the final full day, which was quite long on the bus. I would have preferred that we stayed our final evening at the hotel where we had dinner, rather than have to relocate late to an airport hotel. This way, those who were eager to see more auroras could have stayed out as late as they liked, and those who wished to retire to a nicer room could have done so. I was worried about food before the trip but found the food to be just fine. The hotels were clean and the staff was always friendly and accommodating.

Photos © Kate

Yvaine Jiang, Washington (Northern Explorer September) I came with a camera and had little experience with night photography beforehand. I learned settings for night time photography, and knowledge about the night sky. Night time photo shoot experiences were great, day time tours are pretty standard travel tours. Given the distances we travelled the program is pretty well planned. The food and hotels were great. I only wish the tour was a little shorter, and that there was more critique/teaching sessions and less day time touring.

Stephen Powers, Massachusetts (Northern Explorer September) I joined to view the northern lights and tour Iceland. It was great viewing of the Aurora and a lot of Iceland’s attractions. We did get natural history and history of Iceland commentary which I appreciated very much. I learned a lot just by listening.

Felipe Percastegui, Malaysia (March) This trip is fully recommended!  It was a very well-organized trip, excellent explanations from Babak about how to take Aurora pictures. Additionally, he gave me valuable and constructive feedback about my photos. We were very lucky having many days with clear skies. This tour had unforgettable memories; it is difficult to describe the amazing nature. It was a good balance of site visits, not really long journeys, but also visiting interesting spots. For sure I have learned new things about night photography. The recommendation I would make is to extend the editing classes, for me was slightly short.

Photos © Felipe Percastegui

Alexis Bechtel, California (March). I whole heartedly recommend Babak’s Icelandic aurora photo tour. Not only is Babak extremely knowledgeable and talented, but he is sincere, patient, and has an unwavering dedication to teach others about photographing the beauty of the night sky. Once in Iceland, all details of your journey will be carefully planned by Babak and his Icelandic team – Gisli, Kristján, and Sævar – along with Bruce. If there’s any chance of finding the aurora in Iceland, Babak and his team will find it! Regardless of your skill level, Babak will work with you to help you reach your full potential as a photographer. You will undoubtedly leave the tour with new friends, exceptional memories, and images of your experience that you will treasure forever.

The bus was kind of a germ tube. I recognize that with so many people, it is difficult to control the environment.

The accommodations and food in general were very nice. Food-wise, I know it is nearly impossible to accommodate all food preferences & requests.

Babak and his team did an excellent job of taking the group to as many of the island’s highlights as possible. There is always something to learn from Babak.

Photos © Alexis Bechtel

John O’Toole, Massachusetts (March) The tour experience is like joining a large family for 9 days, with unbelievable photography expertise and assistance provided in settings so beautiful that they defy description. The food is great everywhere in Iceland, even at gas stations! I don’t think anything could have been done better, things only go maybe 90% smoothly and that makes the whole experience even better. The program itinerary is fantastic and needs to be flexible. Again, it makes the experience better.

Photos © John O’Toole

Amy Vella, Malta (March) This experience is made for those people who seek adventure, particularly those who are in love with nature and untouched land. The experience is incredible because local guides from Iceland, who are all involved in science one way or another, go through this journey with us, providing information on the beauty of Iceland, its science, and its skies. Last but not least, the tour is led by Babak Tafreshi, a renowned photographer who is responsible for the “World at Night” project. He offers tremendous help on both daytime and nighttime photography, especially in photographing auroras, which is the ultimate scope of this tour. Babak and his team in Iceland know exactly where to go to chase auroras, how to spot them and document this detail in a photograph/video. I recommend this tour to anyone, from a beginner in photography to amateur/professional, as Babak and his team will adapt to all levels. They are very helpful and make sure to provide the best experience to everyone. I think the itinerary was very well planned out. In fact, this was my second time returning to Babak’s tour as I had enjoyed it so much the first time. We managed to go lots of places, did a lot of activities and it was well-balanced out.

Personally what I did not like is that I was not informed of the bumpy jeep ride towards the ice cave. I suffer from motion sickness and no one told me that we are going to spend some time in a bumpy road in a jeep, otherwise, I would have prepared myself by taking medications. What I personally found uncomfortable is that some people who were not feeling well (showing signs of cold symptoms) did not wear a mask when close to other people. I have noted some people who were feeling like they have a cough who wore a mask in respect of other people, but others who chose not to. Maybe it would have been better if the leaders suggested for anyone who feels sick to keep a distance from other people or else wear masks.

I feel that I did improve my skills and I am happy about it. What could have been done better was having a formal lecture inside the hotel regarding camera settings etc. rather than explaining these things on a bus when there is noise or people sleeping. I think the food and hotel accommodations were really nice. I love the Icelandic cuisine and the hotels were comfortable. The last night’s hotel was very noisy and I could not sleep.

Photo © Amy Vella

Bud Gundersen, California (March) Babak is a wonderful tour guide as well as a very knowledgeable photographer, I think you have a well thought program that has been refined and overall is excellent. The wind was uncomfortable – but that is part of outdoor adventure. No complaints. I learned a lot about time lapse video and night-time photography. Babak and Bruce were always there to help and make sure we were on track. Nicer hotels would be appreciated – however I realize that they may not be available in remote locations. We did have great locations and being in the right location is more important than a nice hotel, so I’ll quit whining, The program itinerary was excellent – Days were filled with exploring great scenic spots and the nights with photography.

Video © Bud Gunderson

Danielle Muir, Massachusetts (March) This tour is great value for money. It will show you Iceland by day, and Aurora by night. You’ll get to know so many things about why Iceland is such an incredible country. You’ll also be challenged to develop your photography skills and think on the fly. For me, I was more attracted to the night shoots rather than the sightseeing during the day, especially since I’ve been to those sites before. However, this is a “tour,” so there is an expectation that you will see things other than what you’re just shooting at night. I know it’s difficult to squeeze in all the travel, shoots, meals, and tours, but a little more down time to rest would have been good. Those were some long days! Also, a little too much sightseeing and stopping packed into the days, especially with travel.

Photos © Danielle Muir

Katrina Hopkins, Australia, (March)This tour is full on. I was impressed by the incredible amount of planning that went into the day excursions. We went to waterfalls, icebergs, seals, ice caving (optional), and, for those who wanted to be super-active, some challenging hikes over frozen streams. This on its own would make the trip worthwhile, however, coupled with the expertise of Babak and his team and the awe-inspiring display of Aurora borealis it was a once in a lifetime experience. The accommodation ranged from comfortable to luxurious!  I thought the food, the accommodations and the itinerary were excellent and a good value for money.

I underestimated the need for hand-warmers! I would suggest make these an essential item for the March trips. There was also so much information imparted on the trip that I could not take in, that I would have liked an Information Pack with room for notes on the trip.

I would have appreciated it if some of the guests with colds had been asked to wear masks (although this is difficult if you’re blowing your nose all the time). Maybe in the information and preparation guide a request could be made for people feeling unwell and coughing and sneezing to have to wear a mask on the bus?? Yes, I improved my technical and creative photography skills, but because it was one-on-one instruction on the bus, I quickly forgot sequences of instructions.

Photo © Katrina Hopkins

Susan Swigor, Massachusetts (March) The tour was truly extraordinary. From the various locations to the photography assistance and support, every aspect was expertly addressed. The planning was excellent, everything was fantastic.  I improved my photography skills, and I loved every day and evening. Thank you to Babak, Bruce, Gisli, Kristján, Sævar. This was a trip of a lifetime, and I am grateful to have participated.

Roger Dillon, Texas (March) This aurora photography related tour is led by very talented and helpful individuals, and also includes stops at many scenic locations that expose attendees to the natural beauty of Iceland.

Hotel accommodations were generally very good. But a couple had very small rooms. Food was varied, always well prepared and enjoyable. Motel accommodations overall were good. The itinerary was excellent.

I immensely improved my technical photography skills.

Photos © Roger Dillon

Vaneh Petrossian, California (March) This tour was professionally organized and well managed, being led and guided by highly knowledgeable, humble and loyal people. Starting with preparation emails, itinerary, daily schedules, accommodation, ending to shooting locations and photo editing session, all in all was first rate. If you love nature and photography there is no doubt, take it! You ask what could have been done better?  You could ask the wind to stop. LOL Everything was all right. It couldn’t be done better than this. I was disappointed by the Ice cave tour, Not That I disliked it. It was really good, but I was expecting it to be bigger/deeper and see more of the ice and snow. I definitely improved my technical and creative photography skills and learned a lot and I was fully satisfied with the food and hotel accommodations. As far as the itinerary: I’d only like to have a half a day rest day in between.

Photos © Vaneh Petrossian

Shireesh Vasupalli, U.K. (March) This tour is a unique way of experiencing the spectacle of Northern Lights with an experienced Icelandic crew, Babak – who is one of the world’s most premier nightscape photographers along with a group of people having a passion for photography. What I most enjoyed were the night shoots, the knowledge of tour guides and tour leaders, food and accommodations, the group camaraderie, and one-on-one help. Everything was perfect! I would love to chat with Babak more on photography and his experiences. I did appreciate Babak walking around to provide help in the bus. The wind and cold was unbearable. But the aurora made up for it. I was positively surprised how good the vegetarian food was, especially compared to the last trip (Sept 21).

Photos © Shireesh Vasupalli

Maggie Elliott, California. (March) I would absolutely recommend this tour to others. The food and hotel accommodations were awesome.  I learned new skills, and that I need to upgrade my equipment if I am going to do anything of consequence!

Anita Maghdouri, Washington, D.C. (March)  This workshop tour was a one-of-a-kind experience because it provides travelers with a multitude of different experiences from day time sightseeing in different natural beauties of Iceland, providing so much data and information about Iceland, having professional photographers giving you photography tips day and night, high-end accommodation followed by very good meals, chasing auroras and night sky photography, astronomy and night sky exploration. I mean there is not a minute of your time that would pass unfulfilled. All of this is followed by one common shared interest amongst every participant, and that is the love for photography, nature and the magic of night sky which automatically creates a friendly and authentic environment amongst the travelers. So, I highly recommend this tour for people at all age level and photography background. The Iceland northern light photography workshop was one of the best experiences I could ever ask for.

Everything from the accommodation to hotel were high quality. We stayed at 5 different hotels during the trip, it would have been slightly easier to only split the stay in 3 hotels max. The packing and unpacking were slightly uncomfortable. I truly enjoyed that itinerary, it was very wholesome and felt that we covered so much. I originally thought it could be a day shorter but when I look back, I don’t know if there was a location or a day that could be cut out to make it a day shorter.

100% I broadened my technical and creative photography skills.

Photo © Anita Maghdouri

Shelley Carlisle, California. (March) This tour was a fantastic, in-depth photo tour of the auroras/night sky and several daytime locations in Southern Iceland. Babak and his team will guide you on how to photograph the breathtaking wow of the the auroras and night sky and offer ideas for shooting waterfalls and daytime settings. Be prepared for intensely cold weather but with awesome views and geological features such as frozen waterfalls, massive glaciers, active volcanoes, ice caves and cute & furry Iceland ponies, all guided by local, friendly tour guides. In addition, there will be some shopping, lots of walking/hiking and great socializing and post processing instruction. I felt the program cost was good value for money spent.

The vegetarian food was average (but filling). I was surprised there were not more noodles served for vegetarians – pasta is great – as long as it’s not cold for dinner like it was one night. And one-night vegetarians were served chick peas with peanut sauce as the entrée (and no it was not Thai flavored). Very weird. Breakfasts were sufficient and sometimes wonderful. Hotels were fine and I did not expect to have a room at one hotel with a bathtub and outdoor hot tubs, this definitely helped with the cold and exhaustion. The program itinerary kept us very busy! Although I do like the aspect of sitting out when needed. One thing I would suggest is that there should be stricter requirements for sick people and possible COVID pre-testing requirements or similar.

Photos © Shelley Carlisle

2022 Tour Reviews

Iair Arcavi, Israel (Northern Explorer September) Enjoy the beautiful auroras and landscapes with excellent guides, a wonderful group, and all logistics taken care for you. There’s no other way to chase auroras than with this crew! Taking care of the logistics and deciding when and where to go chase auroras and holes in the clouds. Could never have done it on my own!

I really enjoyed the night shoots and locations, the knowledge of the tour guides and leaders, and the camaraderie amongst the group. I can’t think of anything that could have been done better. I improved my photography skills even though it’s not my first tour, or nighttime photography session, I always learn something new.

The food and accommodations were a bit variable from place to place, but overall comfortable and convenient. The itinerary is intense, but that’s how it needs to be to see and experience as much as possible.

Photo of proposal by © Babak Tafreshi and processed by © Iair Arcavi

Vahid Jazayeri, Washington (Northern Explorer – September) I travel a lot, but none compares to this trip. This tour was by far one of my best experiences and worth every penny. The per-person intro on the first day was an ice breaker that facilitated the socialization and friendship in the group which made it more enjoyable. Spending a week with great professional and amateur photographers and learning from them, some were scientists, researchers, surgeons, engineers, inventors, etc. Is an experience that can’t repeat easily. With Sævar and Babak, the long road trips couldn’t be more fun and educational. On the bus we learned about geology of Iceland, culture, history and legends.

Babak is also an amazing person, very talented though one of the humblest I’ve seen, that can lead a big group well and adjust the tour itinerary based on the unpredictable weather changes, yet you don’t regret the change of plans much. He’s approachable and treats everyone respectfully regardless of their skill levels, patiently spending 1:1 time with people with an iPhone to take best shots of aurora. And our driver, Kristján, is a lovely person and a very responsible driver who showed up with his accordion one day in the heart of a canyon, surprising us with his beautiful music blended in the colorful fall nature of the canyon. Linda is also a kind lady who made the planning very easy and facilitated communicating with Babak on equipment before the tour started, as well as helped me during my aurora shots. Accommodation and food were great too. Great stays, clean and high-quality accommodations, and amazing food. I loved the hotels with amazing views of the ranches and Icelandic sheep, pseudo craters, lakes, etc. There’s nothing I can complain about this tour.

I appreciated the commitment to the main goal of the tour, chasing aurora in a cloudy week. The tour was an ultimate experience. The unfavorable rainy weather was the only uncomfortable part where we had to choose between exploring a sight or staying dry. Regarding thoughts on the itinerary: I wish the tour included south coast too. I can’t imagine how jaw breaking aurora shots could be over glacier lagoon and diamond beach.

Photos © Vahid Jazayeri

Marjan Haghnia, California (Northern Explorer – September) It was hands down the best tour I have ever been on. My husband and I are seasoned travelers and have been all over the world. We usually select expensive tours to ensure good service. This tour while not too expensive offered an experience of a lifetime. Babak and team are professional educated kind down to earth knowledgeable, I can keep going… 

I was there more for sightseeing than to learn photography. Learned a lot from all seasoned photographers around me though. The great thing about this tour was that everyone had a great time and learned something whether you were there with your iPhone (like me) or had a super expensive camera with a massive lens. We all enjoyed and learned together. Hotels were good (average) all we needed. Food was of great quality, really enjoyed the opportunity to taste the local cuisine.

The program itinerary was packed! but that’s how I like it. Obviously, people could opt out if they felt tired, but I was so impressed that Babak and team spent so much time with us whether to show the beautiful nature Iceland had to offer or to teach photography, or to find the best spot to see auroras, or simply to play foosball at the end of the day. It was surely a trip to remember!

Maryam Vatandoust, Florida (Northern Explorer – September) I would like to make my review very short and simple, if you like to have a unique life experience that you can talk about it for the rest of your life , this tour is must, we always have different ways to explore the world but I bet you won’t ever be able to have all the best in one shot as you can have in this tour 

Babak: best photographer, amazing teacher, unique tour lead…

Sævar: the Man of all trades, Iceland celebrity, live & enthusiastic Iceland Wikipedia, scientist…

Kristján: Amazing driver, sweet and responsible, kind and giving…

Linda: best coordinator, always there when you need her advice & support…

Fellow travelers: best group of people from all over the world on their best behavior…

I don’t think any words exist that can explain the uniqueness and specialty of this tour and the team effort that they put together to be sure we had the best life experience EVER! Can’t wait to repeat it again & again. I am forever in love with Iceland!

Photos © Maryam Vantandoust

Julie Rainak, Oregon (Northern Explorer – September) This tour was my first trip to Iceland, and the second workshop with Babak. Babak and his team (ours were Linda, Kristján and Sævar) are wonderful, and all very talented in their own right. Iceland is full of wonderful sites, history, and geology- plus the auroras! The Northern Explorer Tour offers a nice balance of all those things.

Babak and Sævar were continually tracking and predicting the aurora activity throughout the tour so we wouldn’t miss one opportunity to photograph it! We visited the Perlan Museum in Reykjavik, toured lava tunnels/caves, saw amazing waterfalls and Icelandic ponies. There were opportunities to try traditional Icelandic food, I’m not that adventurous so I passed, except for the Skyr yogurt, which I couldn’t get enough of!

The only part I disliked was the wind, but that was out of all of our hands.  It would have been nice if the bus had USB charging ports.

Our program itinerary was well rounded, and I enjoyed all of our stops.  Accommodations were very nice with comfortable beds. Our meals were very good everywhere we went, I especially enjoyed the Skyr yogurt and the hamburgers.

I always learn something new and valuable in Babak’s workshops.

Photos © Julie Rainak

Behdad Aryavand, Virginia (Northern Explorer – September) Great communication, great guides, great locations, food was fine, comfortable accommodations, outstanding instructor. I broadened my technical and creative photography skills. The one thing that could have been done better: part the skies, make aurora appear every night.

The itinerary was fine, but since it was the northern part of Iceland and some of the more iconic scenery is to south west (ie Diamond Beach), it will require a second trip!

Jeanette Koslowski, Florida (Quick Tour – September) This was a well-organized tour with excellent photo opportunities, outstanding instructional opportunities, well informed and friendly staff members and excellent accommodations. Everyone from the driver and other staff members made the trip enjoyable, sharing their own experiences at various locations. I got beautiful shots that I will always treasure. One was selected to be in a juried gallery show. The food was Excellent… the catered food was 5 star, and the remote location we stayed at was comfortable and a great place to shoot from. I also wish there was a little more information about daytime locations we visited.

I absolutely improved my photography skills, all my shots were spot on. I should have walked a little further at one location and got the reflection on the lake, and I wish I’d taken the longer tour and gone into the ice caves.

Photo © Jeanette Koslowski

Azita Bassiji, Canada (Highland – September) This is an active tour. I recommend arriving in Iceland a day or two early to somewhat eliminate the jet lag exhaustion (should it apply) in advance of the start of the tour. The tour includes a half-day excursion in Reykjavik which introduces you to the highlights of the city; however, Reykjavik is a walkable, charming and relaxed town with good food, nice parks, good shopping and spas. Arriving early will allow you to take advantage of what Reykjavik has to offer. Iceland does not measure temperature with wind chill factor as we do in North America (at least this is what I thought). So, do not underestimate the wind chill factor on the cold nights. You will find hands and feet warmers helpful during long night shoots. Read the material sent in advance carefully. You will be moving every two or three days. Do not over-pack gears or clothes. You will be in close quarters with your tour-mates, particularly on the smaller bus. Bring your friendly self and you will meet a lot of wonderful people with similar interests to you.

A lot of ground is covered by the tour and you will see a good portion of Iceland. You have lots of opportunities to get off the bus to shoot or simply stretch your legs, get some food/drink, enjoy a hike or soak in the thermal baths. Although I recommend taking advantage of these opportunities, you may also use these stops for some “me time”. Both during the day and the night shoots, this tour is very much weather dependent. Therefore, the itinerary is somewhat fluid. Nonetheless all promised highlights are eventually covered. The Itinerary was helpful and necessary. The WhatsApp group was also helpful. You may wish to issue the final itinerary on WhatsApp so those who did not bring a copy in any other format have access to it on-the-go.

This tour is intended for all levels of photography skills but knowing your camera and effective operation of your tripod, particularly in the dark, will be very helpful to you. You do not need to be an advanced photographer to attend this tour. I found it helpful to take a minute or two away whenever I needed it. The suggested camera settings for various photography subjects are explained in the bus in advance and hands-on help is available while on location. Regardless of your level of photography skills or knowledge of the night sky before the tour, rest assured that you will improve your skills and knowledge.

Although I do not have access to dark sky in my day-to-day life, I have used what I learned on this tour in low light city photography or every time I see a body of water flowing from a height – otherwise known as a Foss in Icelandic. All my expectations for the tour were met and there was nothing that I disliked or found uncomfortable.

The hotel accommodations were basic but clean and functional – apropos of the tour. The food was fine, and I have no complaint. However, you may wish to start the tour (the first dinner) on a higher note than the place we walked to in September of 2022. They neither were ready for the size of our group nor had great menu choices.

Donna Chilson, Virginia (Highland Tour – September) It was great, we experienced parts of Iceland that were local, but saw a lot of the tourist spots, it was a great mixture of both. I saw what I came for…the Northern Lights and I would do it again…to see them again! I enjoyed the night shoots, knowledge of the tour guides and tour leaders, and the shooting locations.  

I wish we visited less waterfalls…more time to focus on the shots and I didn’t like sites that had heights!…don’t like heights.  I am not sure I broadened my photography skills…should have pushed myself further to try panoramas…but not knowing how to do them well, I didn’t want to take the chance because I wanted a good picture. I know Iceland has many places to shoot but I would have enjoyed staying in one place longer and shooting in that area, to maybe get the northern lights there, but many places it was only one location. Of all the nights shooting, I didn’t feel like the foreground was a focus, when I would prefer something in my foreground…but that is me.

I loved all the hotels and the food, always felt comfortable. And as stated above, there are a couple of places I would have loved to stay longer. Regarding the program itinerary: As stated, too many waterfalls. I guess I would try and figure out what everyone wanted to shoot, I was there for the northern lights. And would have been happy to only shoot and set up for those shots. I wouldn’t bring in the quick tour people at the end, I would have brought them in the beginning, before our tour started…it thru off the group dynamic that was going on to bring them in at the end.

Avee Purohit, Ottawa (Highland Tour – September). I absolutely would recommend this tour. It’s a great experience – both in terms of travel and photography. Met some wonderful people, and the tour was well organized. Babak and Gisli are both really helpful and go a long way to make sure everyone has a good experience.

The food and accommodations were well suited and I thought the program itinerary was great! I would suggest maybe creating a workshop or webinar right at the very beginning, or before the tour, so it’s easier to grasp the basics while on tour.

As a complete beginner, this was a very unique and enriching intro to photography and I improved my technical and creative photography skills.

Nancy Stimson, Colorado (Highland Tour – September) Great tour, super knowledgeable guides, and tour leader. Babak has a vast reservoir of knowledge about photography and equipment as it relates to both daytime and night sky photography. As with all tours, some parts were terrific and some parts less so. Overall, it was a great way to see Iceland!!

I thought food and accommodations were just fine. The motel in the middle of nowhere (where we weathered the storm) was terrific. As always, a day off in the middle of the tour would have been helpful. I certainly could have taken one, but the FOMO was probably too strong. It was nice to get off the bus as often as we did.  But for taking a day of downtime somewhere, I thought it was great. There was one hike that was both longer and more arduous than anyone expected. This could have been of potential harm to one on tour who had cardiac issues. I would say that all the hikes should be explored considering who can/will afford a tour like this.

I broadened my very limited photography skills.

Kassem Safa, Massachusetts: (March) The workshop included didactic photography and astrophotography sessions by world renown Nat Geo photographer, hands on technique practice, and Lightroom photo editing sessions. This course brought my knowledge of photography to the next level, especially night time photography. Babak has partnered with Icelandic nationally acclaimed scientists who accompanied us on the trip. They brought expertise on geology and most importantly they had input on aurora/weather forecasts based on real time satellite data setting the trip for success. The group included a diverse group of photographers from all levels of expertise, so not only one would learn from Babak but also from fellow photographers. This gave us the chance to make new friends and actually talk about tips and tricks in photography. The food, breakfast and dinners were overall great (it’s after all a photography tour not a culinary tasting tour). All hotels were clean. The Itinerary was great. I would have loved daily golden hour photo trips but a large group and weather are prohibitive I suppose. One day was very hectic when things were happening back to back. We were able to see the northern lights 2 nights in the span of 8 nights, which included a lot of inclement weather. The expertise of Babak and his partners and their knowledge about the terrain, as well as their down to earth attitude and flexibility was very much appreciated. I will never forget this trip. Thank you Babak and team for the memories.

Photos © Kassem Safa

Benedikt Erdmann, Germany: (March) tour was a great experience, traveling with a nice group and with experienced guides. We learned a lot about the country and about photography. For those who don’t like to travel alone it is a great way to explore Iceland. You get to see a lot of the country and do a lot of photography (daytime and nighttime). And you don’t have to worry about anything, as Babak and his Team are doing a very good job on guiding these tours. The night imaging sessions were the best part, even though there weren’t so many due to the weather. The itinerary was packed, but also handled very flexibly by the guides, depending on the mood of the group or the weather. So, some parts were skipped, and others were added. All in all, I think we really got the most out of one week in southern Iceland, visiting all the most famous spots in this part of the country. I’m really glad and thankful to have been on this trip. It was truly a great experience and it really helped me to improve my photography skills.  

Photos © Benedikt Erdmann

Douglas Alexander Cordeiro, Brazil: (March) I had some of the most amazing moments of my life! Visiting Iceland was already a dream, but doing it while chasing the aurora with one of the best photographers in the world was something else! I think the hotels and food were good, but could be improved. I most enjoyed seeing the aurora!  The itinerary was good, but can be improved. I’d replace visits to the powerplant, museum and one of the waterfalls to 1 or 2 days in the Snæfelssnes peninsula, particularly to visit Kirkjufell. I think there was some miscommunication as regards the itinerary and timing of some activities. The hotel in Keflavík was also not great.

Cheryl Hale, Nevada: (March) The expertise of Babak and the guide team were the key to unlocking the value of a trip to Iceland. Without them, I don’t believe we would have been as successful in locating the best photo spots and appreciating the uniqueness of the places we visited. Babak has done an especially noteworthy job of assembling an especially skilled and likable team of guides and a driver. The food and hotels were extremely good considering the cost of the photo tour. One could hope for 4* hotels and caviar, but that wasn’t what this trip was about. The local arrangements exceeded my expectations considering that Iceland is one of the #1 or #2 most expensive countries in the world!

We visited the most popular areas for Iceland tourism, and it did not disappoint. The number of hotels did result in a lot of time spent packing and moving. I wonder if it would be possible to reduce the number of hotels. Since we had long drives in the evenings looking for Aurora activity without clouds, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to stay in fewer locations. I was very impressed that Babak continued to monitor the group and check in with us during our night shoots to make certain our questions were answered, and that we received any help we needed. He took his responsibility as the tour leader very seriously and it was obvious, he wanted to give us the tools we needed to be successful. The other guides also made themselves available generously throughout the shoots.

I recommend that before substantial hikes there should be a briefing to cover what distance we are hiking, what conditions we might encounter (steep climb, uneven footing, mud, ice), how long it will take, and a description of what we will see and how to photograph it. We were disappointed to learn that the second hike at Skogafoss (“another waterfall”) turned out to have been the best opportunity to capture a waterfall from behind but that wasn’t mentioned by the guides.

Photos © Cheryl Hale

Theresa Park, Massachusetts (March) Seeing the northern lights has been a lifelong aspiration. That I was able to do it while honing my photography skill, in the company of an amazing group of individuals, and guided by a knowledgeable and patient team of people made this trip a once in a lifetime experience. Actually, twice in a lifetime since I plan to return next year. The food and hotels were better than I expected. I love the mix of sightseeing during the day (it was a good mix of traditional and non-traditional stops) and photography at night. I’m still treasuring my experience, trying to prolong it as much as possible.

Priyanka and Rhisi, Connecticut (March) This is a great workshop for all age groups, and novice to expert photographers. The toughest part to be in dark places is because you are alone but when you have a group, it really helps. And when you have a teacher like Babak it becomes a lifelong memorable trip.

We always had a deep love for dark sky. Back in India when we were kids, we used to have power cuts. The best thing to do was to go the terrace and look at the beautiful starry sky. After moving to States, we started exploring dark sky places. We visited Death Valley, Dalton Highway, Denali, and Mauna Kea. The night skies were beautiful in all these places, and we tried capturing in our camera but failed due to our lack of knowledge using camera settings and right lens.

Our deep love of watching auroras motivated us to travel to Iceland and we stumbled on Babak’s Instagram channel. We were just wowed by his night sky photos and were excited to know that he offers workshop in Iceland. We immediately enquired about it and soon had a reply from Linda. We booked September 2021 tour but unfortunately were not able to make it due to pandemic restrictions and decided to move it to March 2022. Babak and team were very accommodative to move the dates which we are very thankful for. Meantime, we watched Babak’s tutorial on astrophotography (you can buy complete series on his website) and finally got to meet him in Iceland. He is an amazing teacher, world class highly renowned Astro photographer and so down to earth. He teaches from basic to build the foundation. He has a very knowledgeable team who are all very enthusiastic and answer all your questions.

The tour covers all the tourist places in Iceland while giving you best opportunity to explore dark sky, milky way, stars, and aurora borealis. Babak and his team keep monitoring the weather, solar winds and go extra miles to make sure we are at right place at right time. Overall, we had a wonderful time with incredible group of people on our tour which was mix of all ages and experience with photography (novice to expert).

We most enjoyed the nights out waiting for the aurora to appear and enjoying the darkness. This program improved our photography skills: we learned a lot about basics of night photography, different configuration in camera and the type of lens for astrophotography.

All the places for food were delicious, and freshly prepared. Given the time the itinerary was well planned, but I suggest better communications about timings. The stays were nice except the one hotel where we had to carry our luggage multiple floors as there was no lift (but I think they are not going to use that hotel in future tours).

Adding some of the photos we shot during the tour under Babak’s guidance, and this was the first time we snapped these kind of photos. Thank you for the wonderful experience and learning, looking forward to joining another one of your workshops!

Photos © Rhishi and Priyanka

Janice, British Columbia (March) Right from the first moment when I started to meet other participants and tour leaders in the lobby of our hotel, I knew it was going to be a great experience. The mix of people from various parts of the world and varying photography skills made for a very cohesive group that bonded early in the tour. We were all there to learn but we were also there to share our own skills and experiences. The professionalism of the tour leaders was evident right from the beginning; they were very attentive to everyone’s needs and were always there to make the experience the best they could. There was so much I enjoyed I can’t say there was one thing. The interaction with other photographers, the knowledgeable tour leaders, the local knowledge of tour leaders and of course the scenery and photography opportunities were first class. I was very pleased with the quality of both food and hotels on the tour. Honestly I can’t think of anything I would change. The group message we had on What’s App helped keep us organized when plans changed a few times. I think it was a nice balance between quality and cleanliness. The itinerary was both flexible and varied. When we shot late at night there was flexibility the next morning. We saw so much in the nine days and only once or twice did I feel a little rushed. I wouldn’t have given up any of the places we visited. This was a trip of a lifetime for me and an experience that I will not soon forget.  

2021 Tour Reviews

J.Daroga, (Highland Tour, September) Babak is one of the nicest and most humble people you can tour with. He is very eager to share his knowledge on how to take the best shots possible, and gives every participant on the tour his equal and undivided attention. He treats everyone with due respect. The tour was very well organized and Babak’s associates do a great job in making the experience as pleasant and enjoyable as possible.   I joined the Sept 2021 program because it was the next one available after the March 2020 tour was cancelled due to Covid. Plus, the Sept tour has a slightly different itinerary than the March tour. I was very satisfied with the Sept. 2021 tour; met all my expectations. I learned a lot about time lapse photography and also about the use of camera features that I had not known of before. Babak does a great job in going through the basics before the tour starts, and is always willing to answer questions and help everyone during the photo sessions, as needed. As a suggestion I think it would be best to keep the tour to the original 12 or so participants, i.e. the long tour. The addition of the short tout changes the personal feel of the excursion, and feels more rushed to accommodate the larger group. I will most likely be returning on a future tour.

Photo © J.Daroga

Ed Bechtel, California (Highland Tour – September) One will be traveling with an international mix of positive and like minded photographers. Bus travel by day to likely regions for Aurora sightings, then hunt lights by night from 9 pm to 2 am hopefully coincidental with scenes of lava, lakes, or other landmarks.  The curriculum has been dialed in so that workshop contestants are not worn out from lack of sleep, and are not subjected to humus and banana sandwiches. I was able to capture a variety of gorgeous lively Aurora and produce fantastic images that none of my 27 social media followers could ever hope of attaining.  The workshop fee is of extreme value for the experience. Having done the tour before I was not seeking to improve my skills, but Babak quickly helps those in need.  You must have a basic understanding of your camera in manual mode before the tour.  We did this tour once before so it was an easy decision to do it again.  Despite Auroras being a bit of a gamble to find, even a marginal week in Iceland is better than a good day at work.  Iceland has the most accommodating and polite people. The food is great.  Beautiful scenery.  No speeding maniacs on the highway. My goals to capture Aurora were fully met. Aurora workshop dates tend to be centered around the new moon. 

Photo © Ed Bechtel

Bruce Berger, Massachusetts (Highland Tour – September) This is not my first workshop with Babak, and I’ve never been disappointed. Experiencing a bright aurora has been on my bucket list for some time. My expectations were exceeded 10-fold!

The tour was well arranged. Babak and his experienced Icelandic team of Gisli, Sævar and Kristján provided for everything. Accommodations were acceptable 3-4 star to keep the tour affordable. Iceland itself is like no other place I’ve been to. As an American who has never been to Europe, the cities are as I imagine I’d find there. Prepare to be blown away outside the cities, where you’ll find boiling hot water geysers exploding from the ground, beautiful iconic waterfalls, fields of steaming volcanic rock that makes it seems more like a moonscape. We were rewarded with a Northern Lights display that was second to none – naked eye KP8 auroral crowns dancing overhead, so bright that you could see the color with your own eyes. So bright that modern mobile phone cameras were recording it live.

The value in this workshop was the knowledge shared freely by Babak Tafreshi. I learn so much anytime I’m in the field with him. But I guess the real thing that blew me away was finally seeing and photographing an aurora.

One thing I learned is to not get discouraged when conditions aren’t perfect. We had a cloudy night but instead of being disappointed, I captured sky images with clouds glowing orange from an active volcano and green from aurora, at the same time the familiar Big Dipper stars prominently shining bright. It’s one of my favorites.

2019 Tour Reviews

Shamsi Mahjour, Canada (Highland Tour – September) It was a great experience taking in the natural beauty of Iceland and the beautiful Northern light with knowledgeable and friendly Tour Guides. Amazing views, impeccable accommodations and local cuisine were outstanding. A pleasure to meet Babak on this Tour. I learned a great deal about photography and observing the sky at night.

Shahab Yassemi, New York (Highland Tour – September) It was great overall. Loved the planning and the people.

Adriana Leon de la Barra, Mexico (Highland Tour – September) Excellent!!!! It was a great learning and fun experience. Very well organized, the best locations with the best guidance team (Babak and local guides). Babak is extremely professional and friendly and has a great ability to teach.

Photos ©Adriana Leon

Diane McInerney, Massachusetts (Highland Tour – September) It was truly an amazing experience. I have wanted to learn night photography since 1996 and never got the opportunity. When I saw this tour advertised I knew I was stepping far outside my comfort zone but really wanted to learn. The Northern Lights were such a bonus. I had dreamed of seeing these amazing displays of light for as long as I could remember. Once I had the opportunity to see some activity in Framingham, MA. Despite the fact there was no color but white…I was still mesmerized. To actually see the Aurora in Iceland was better than I ever could have imagined. To learn to take photos of this hypnotizing event was a dream come true. This tour changed my life and made me excited about photography in a whole new way. The tour company, the fascinating people, and the camaraderie among the group was very special and unique. To get to work with and learn from Babak was awe-inspiring. I would recommend this tour and any of the others to everyone I meet. I am most definitely going to attend this tour again as well as others.

Bara Ayche, UK: (Quick Tour – September) A truly great experience. I went to improve my photography and can honestly say it has helped me. Not just in Aurora, the learning experience was invaluable. Babak always has time for any questions whatever level you may be at.

Photos © Bara Ayche

Vicky Bell, Canada: (March) I was lucky enough to be part of the photo tour to Iceland, and it was an amazing experience start to finish. Babak was an incredibly patient and enthusiastic teacher who was always willing to help me out (given I was pretty new to photography, and probably had no business being there! :-)). I also really appreciated the flexibility he and Gisli showed when things didn’t go according to plan: we had a lot of bad weather and didn’t get to see the northern lights until our VERY last night, but Babak and Gisli rolled with the punches and arranged alternative activities where needed, such as photo editing sessions when we couldn’t go out shooting at night. The group he assembled was also excellent, with a wide range of ages and experience levels, but who somehow all gelled — I made lifelong friends on that trip. I’m signing up for another tour as soon as I can. I learned SO MUCH, saw places I would never have travelled to otherwise, and have come away with memories for a lifetime.

Photos © Vicky Bell

2018 Tour Reviews

Michael Fung, Hong Kong (September) It was a very good experience. Babak is very knowledgeable to explain stuff, and Kristján and Gisli were very helpful. It is good that the tour combines both photograph course and sightseeing stuff. I like the places they brought us to, which are not only general tourist points, but some of them are places which only locals / people will some extent of understanding of Iceland will know. I particularly like the underground pond. It will make the tour even better if there are more formal knowledge / experience sharing sessions, about astronomical / aurora / photography, which are rare for amateurs to know.

Iair Arcavi, Israel (September) Unforgettable, enjoyed every moment. Can’t wait to go again. Thanks to not having to worry at all about logistics or any other issues, I was even able to submit an astrophysics paper to Nature while on the trip (Babak & Gisli are acknowledged in the paper!).

Photos ©Iair Arcavi

Jayesh Hargovan, South Africa (September) The Aurora Photo Tour in Iceland with Babak and company, has been one of the best experiences of my life. My night sky photography skills improved tremendously over the tour period of 10 days. The days and nights were excellently planned, with a variety of interesting activities during the daytime, and Aurora hunting at night, with some Milky Way practice thrown in. Having a common interest with other tour members, meant that friendships were easily formed, making the tour even better. Babak’s passion and curiosity shines through effortlessly, and is likely to inspire you on your own photography journey. I definitely plan to do it again!

Photos © Jayesh Hargovan

Natasha K, California: (March) I booked this trip on a whim, and it turned out to be one of the coolest adventures I’ve been on to date. So happy I got to learn aurora photography from one of the best and super stoked we lucked out with an amazing KP7 display on one of the nights. I would definitely recommend Babak’s aurora tours to anyone!

Photo ©Natasha K.

Alessandro Lavatelli, Italy (March) Babak programs are always well organized, all activities planned at the right time. Even if the weather conditions in Iceland can be tough, we made always the best choice to take advantage of every condition.

Frederick Melikian, California: (March) Very informative and organized. It was an awesome trip with great group of people and adventures. Made amazing images from Iceland and Aurora. Babak is quite helpful. Learned a lot from his astronomy knowledge. He knows the night sky quite well, which adds to the whole experience of photographing under the stars.

Emanuele Balboni, Italy (March)  I loved the workshop!

Photos © Emanuele Balboni

Sarah Saksouk, New York (March) Attended several programs. Babak is always great at teaching/helping.

Penny Ashford, New York (March) This workshop/tour was Outstanding! Before I get on my plane and I just wanted to send you a huge thank you for such an AMAZING trip capped off by the KP 7 aurora storm! Your patience is amazing! The group was so fun. All the adventures added unexpected surprises along the way AND I actually leaned how to manually focus! It was a treat to be with you!

Photos © Penny Ashford

AVA, California (March) The tour was beyond my expectations. Babak is such a great photographer. It was an honor to be able to join him as a novice in photography. I have nothing but good things to say about Babak; he was so very kind and patient throughout the tour. I very much enjoyed the various places he took us for the photo shoots and sights seeing. We had Icelandic Tour guides and Bus driver who were all so helpful to us and also very knowledgeable about the history of their homeland. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime- experience, I will always treasure this trip.

2017 Tour Reviews

Reema Razzaq, Kuwait (September) Most enjoyable workshops. Well-organized and fun atmosphere. I attended Babak programs several times and my first astrophotography workshop with him was in Oman on Jabal Shams.

Photo © Reema Razzaq

Todd Gunther, California (September) An experience of a life time! Where to begin? Yes we went on this trip to learn Aurora photography from a master Nat Geo photographer, but we came away with so much more! Babak is a wonderful teacher and as you’d expect is extremely knowledgeable in all things astral photography (and photography in general). He was able to share is knowledge and love of astro photography, and even as our group grew on the second week I never felt neglected and was able to learn new skills right up to the final night. His “1st Mate” Gisli (a great photographer himself) was our guide around Iceland and because of his local knowledge we were able to find the northern lights most every evening! It took some driving at times, but it was well worth it! He was also a wealth of local knowledge as we drove around Iceland, which made our days that much richer. And then there’s the landscape! Iceland does NOT disappoint! And, as I learned is one of the best places on earth to catch the Aurora (and just the night sky! The stars were mind blowing). Throw in an endless number of waterfalls (Foss’s), the highlands, geothermal hot springs, Icelandic horses, whales, and views that go on forever, and you have a bucket list trip like no other! Oh yeah! And great food and lodging too! If you have the opportunity to go on this trip…DO IT! You won’t be sorry! And if you have the ability to do the full trip, starting with the smaller group do that too!

Photos © Todd Gunther

Chirag Upreti, New York (September) Babak has been an inspiration to me not just for his brilliant photographs but as a leading advocate for preserving the beauty of the night skies. I have had the opportunity to shoot with him in 4 different countries and I have personally witnessed his non stop dedication to his craft and communicating the urgency for all of us to preserve the night sky. He is a wonderful human being, very down to Earth, with contagious energy and enthusiasm. Part of the reason I have taken multiple workshops with Babak is not only to learn the technical and artistic details of night sky photography, but also and equally importantly, to better understand his underlying philosophy of the critical importance of night-sky in our human heritage and the growing concerns of light pollution with it’s detrimental effect on life on Earth.  These workshops can serve as lessons for life an aspect which is much more enriching in experience than the pretty pictures you are sure to come back home with. The Aurora tour is by far my favorite international trip with Babak. There was many, many highlights in this trip, but none of them would have been possible without his passion for aurora chasing and sharing his knowledge. His and Gisli’s energy, patience to teach, constantly seek new horizons and work to nurture everyone’s skills in our group was truly inspiring. I would highly recommend this tour to my friends for sure. From Auroras to whale watching and hiking in national parks with on the go sandwiches, this trip was packed with good memories. Iceland is gorgeous and demands multiple visits with Babak and Gisli for sure!


Fitri Arijati, Indonesia (September) That’s a wonderful experience. Me and my colleges really enjoy the journey of aurora hunting, visiting many beautiful places, good restaurants. Babak & his team are very helpful to guide how to take an aurora. The last day class is located in the hotel’s restaurant, which is too small, and we can hear & see Babak’s presentation clearly. Better next time use a proper place with better tools. A small additional fee will be ok if someone interested in to join the workshop.