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Sledding in Thingvellir

Alex Michael Green Svansson


Behind the Shot

The Icelandic sheepdog is a breed of spitz that arrived in Iceland with the first Vikings, approximately 870 A.D. A mix of Norwegian buhund, Shetland sheepdog and Welsh corgi, the Icelandic sheepdog is on the small side, with an average weight of about 25 to 30 pounds, and stands about 18 inches tall at the withers. They are loyal, hardworking, smart, tough dogs, as skilled at rounding up livestock as they are finding lost sheep. They are lovers, not fighters, and are great with kids and other animals.

Icelandic sheepdogs aren’t particularly suited for dogsledding, though. For that, imported teams of Alaskan huskies, Siberian huskies, Samoyeds and Alaskan malamutes pull tourists through various well-known areas near Iceland’s famed Golden Circle. Operating year-round, teams of four to 10 dogs pull sleds of passengers on snowy trails. When there’s no snow, they pull wheeled carts over grassy flatlands.

Alex joined a tour group near Thingvellir National Park on a very cold late-winter day for this photograph. “The tour was about an hour and a half. The dogs have so much energy and it’s super fun. It was a great way to get out and spend the day, which was very short because at that time of year we only get a few hours of sunlight.”

Alex visited the area specifically to photograph puffins. “The puffin had been on my list for years, and when I finally captured the perfect shot, I was so happy!” Three different subspecies of Atlantic puffin are found in Iceland, and are mostly visible in the summer or shoulder seasons in May and September. The birds, which were the inspiration for the Porgs in the Star Wars sequel movies, weigh about a pound and have wingspans of less than 7 inches. They are significantly smaller than their cousins farther south, who are well over double the size.

Next up on Alex’s list is the Icelandic owl. “I have no idea how to find one. If you know please hit me up!”