We have travelled to some truly special places photographing commercial lifestyle work. When planning to visit a new place, we try never to have the same experience twice. We vow only to repeat the things that worked before, if they can bring about new experiences.
Our hotel experiences have been a wide range of the incredibly luxurious and beautiful, to the awkwardly strange, and to be polite; quaint. Some places are never what you expect them to be, but that is what makes the experience so much more fun. Most people we know trade a chance to stay somewhere unique, for a predictable continental breakfast of stale bagels, a mediocre gym, and a pool. The hotel experience for them can be bland and lack any type of magic, that should go hand in hand with travel. In order to have those magical and unique travel experiences, you must be open enough to go with the flow, and roll with the punches as they are thrown at you.
We have stayed in castles in Prague and Scotland, and on the pull out sofa bed of a distant relative in a tiny village in Ukraine. Spent an entire week in a 1 room la bohemesque apartment in Paris, only in our version of Puccini’s opera; our wood stove didn’t work. We have slept in bunk beds in a college dorm in Newfoundland, and at almost every Fairmont in Canada. Our Greek Island accommodations, in a traditional cave home in Santorini, had all the power and water go out on our 2nd day. We were then upgraded to a new villa, a place 100 times more beautiful, and with a view that would take your breath away.
There was that flat in Florence Italy with the kitchen of 20 pot lids, but no pots or utensils for eating. We rented half of a building in Athens, which was one of the most beautiful apartments we have ever stayed in. It was, by some strange chance, owned by the communist party of Greece and used as their income property. It had a 100 step staircase to our room, and a roof top patio that perfectly framed Mount Lycabettus. We spent time on a farm in Iceland, where ponies roamed outside our bedroom windows and in Bermuda where roosters acted as morning alarm clocks. We have done the “all inclusive resort” vacations in Mexico and Dominican Republic, and private villas in Jamaica and on the Amalfi Coast. But there is only one place we repeat, and will continue to repeat on every trip back to Iceland is Hotel Ranga.
Hotel Ranga is at the top of a very short list of hotels that we are excited to come back to. Situated in the South Iceland, Hotel Ranga offers the highest quality service in everything they do. From something as grand as having a helicopter fleet on site to pick up guests and drop them off on top of glaciers, to the simplest, and my most favourite feature; a wake up call at any hour, if the Aurora Borealis is visible. They house some of Iceland’s biggest telescopes for night sky viewing, they also covet, what we consider to be one of Iceland’s best chef’s and kitchen staff. When you walk into their hotel you are treated like an old friend, it doesn’t matter if are visiting for the first time, or if you are a celebrities like Kim & Kanye. They treat everyone with the highest level of respect and equality.
We have stayed at Hotel Ranga twice and each time it has been a completely different and wonderful experience. The first time we visited we were woken up in the middle of the night to see an amazing show of the Aurora Borealis, and the 2nd time, we were invited to an exclusive party.
Since our first visit we have stayed in touch with the hotel staff. Through many emails back and fourth, and sharing photos from our last trip, we were invited back to stay. This time we photographed some new commercial lifestyle photos of Hotel Ranga. It was a dream photo shoot, we were trusted to wander the hotel photographing anything we wanted. We even had a local couple to photograph in and around the hotel enjoying the amenities and modelling as guests. I have said this many times on our blog that Iceland moves you. Being there is an emotional experience, but no volcanic landscape can compare to warmth and depth of the Icelandic people we have met. This trip was one for the books. We have a hundred stories we could share about our stay at Hotel Ranga, but the only one worth writing home about is this one.
We arrived at Hotel Ranga, and had driven through the pouring rain all the way from the airport. Exhausted from our early morning flight from Paris, we did not look our best, actually it was more likely that we looked like two vagrant backpackers, rather than professionals. When we walked through the front doors, the hotel was buzzing with film crews, security guards, and a few celebrities that anyone would recognize and know by their nicknames. They were checking out at the front desk, and we were checking in. The hotel staff welcomed us, like as if we were old friends. All smiles, pleasant conversation, and genuine service. Once they realized we were the photographers that would be photographing the hotel, they brought us to the bar, offered us drinks as we waited for the marketing manager.
They took our bags to our room, and even introduced us to the owner of Hotel Ranga. We were so pumped by the introductions that we started shooting that night. The next morning we woke up with the sun and photographed the couple we had as models around the hotel. By lunch time the owner had invited us to a private party he was hosting that evening. Then by that evening we were photographing the who’s who of Iceland’s political and business elite. We were treated with so much respect, we almost didn’t know what to do with it all. By the end of the night we were laughing and joking with the staff, having deep conversations, talking business, politics and religion, and sharing amazing stories. Hotel Ranga is a special place, and while they have an amazing rating, of over 4 stars on the scale of international best hotels, their service and the experience they provide, cannot be quantified by some star rating.
If you find yourself dreaming about Iceland (like we often do) and plan to visit this incredible place, don’t forget to not only seek out the beauty of its landscapes, but also of its people. In our opinion, you will find the best of them at Hotel Ranga.
Erika & Ryan