Our trip leader’s number one photography gear recommendation was a fast ultra wide angle lens, since we would be doing a ton of landscape work, and also shooting at night. I didn’t have an ultra wide, and since I only had crop sensor cameras at the time (a Canon 70D as my primary and a T3i as a back up), I needed to take the 1.6 crop factor into consideration. I ultimately landed on the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, which I LOVE. I can’t say enough good things about this lens. It’s wide. It’s fast. It’s sharp. It’s easy to focus. It’s practically the only lens I used while I was there. It’s also built like a tank and I never worried about breaking it. Plus, at about $500 retail, it didn’t melt my credit card. I also brought my 50mm, which I didn’t use and a mid-range tele, which I did. My tele wasn’t L glass, which I’d highly recommend for Iceland. Next time I go, I’ll bring my 24-105 plus my 70-200, and an extender.
In general, heavy gear is better for Iceland. My beloved ultralight Benro travel tripod and ball head wasn’t heavy enough. They weigh next to nothing, which is perfect for light hiking at Starved Rock or walking around Chicago but next time I’m in Iceland, if I haven’t added a big, solid Gitzo to my kit, I’ll rent one.
Iceland requires quite a few other goodies, including a wired shutter release (not wireless, because of the cold), a headlamp, at least 2 extra batteries and extra memory cards. Filters are another must, both grads and polarizers. I have an 85mm set of slot in graduated filters and wished I had 100mm. The larger size is heavier and thicker. My 85mm set, which feels substantial here at home, felt like it was from the dollar store in Iceland. I’ll be reinvesting in the 100mm size I stored everything in my sizable Kata (Kata is now Manfrotto) backpack which in addition to my camera gear also holds my Mac, portable hard drive, chargers, phone, snacks, extra clothes, wallet, etc.
Fully packed, my backpack weighed a ton, but we were able to drive relatively close to each of our photo ops, hiking a mile or two at most, on any given day, so it was never an issue. I also lightened up my backpack by transferring my laptop, hard drive, spare camera body and chargers to my suitcase. I would never put any of those things in my suitcase for air travel but since it was tucked into the back of our van everyday, my gear was completely safe and also accessible.
Again, while I'm a fan of ultralight everything, which the exception of my ultralight backpack, which wore like iron, I highly recommend heavier gear for Iceland. If you're like me, and typically invest in ultralight gear, consider renting. My ultralight gear is all "higher end" and I really wished I'd made some different choices.