Imagine standing on the rugged coastlines of Iceland, the wind whispering ancient secrets, the ocean's roar echoing the battle for conservation. This was the backdrop for one of the most inspiring projects I've ever been part of: the Whale Run Iceland, an initiative by Hard To Port (HTP) to end commercial whaling in Iceland through a unique fusion of fitness, health, and awareness.

A New Approach to Conservation

In 2019, HTP shifted their approach from traditional protests to a more positive and engaging strategy. The idea was simple yet powerful: organize an event that not only celebrates these majestic creatures but also encourages a societal shift in perception. Thus, the concept of Whale Run Iceland was born. Scheduled to kick off in 2020, this event aimed to blend the themes of fitness, health, and outdoor activities, all while highlighting the awe-inspiring beauty of whales and the importance of their conservation.

The Call to Action

HTP reached out to me, knowing my history with their outreach campaigns in Iceland. This time, however, it wasn't just about capturing the protests but creating a narrative that would resonate with locals and the global community. The mission was clear: we needed visuals to capture the spirit of the run and the essence of Iceland's natural beauty, ultimately promoting a positive message for whale conservation.

To bring this vision to life, we partnered with Willpower, a brand synonymous with determination and athletic excellence. Chris, the founder of Willpower, and his wife Lisa, fresh off the Boston Marathon, joined us as models and ambassadors for the campaign. Their participation not only added a new dimension to the project but also brought their extensive network of running enthusiasts into the fold, amplifying our message and reach. It was their first time in Iceland, and their excitement was palpable, further fueling our collective enthusiasm for the cause.

Capturing the Magic

We arrived in Iceland in April 2019, ready to shoot despite the unpredictable weather. Anyone who's been to Iceland knows its beauty is matched only by its volatility. From radiant sunshine to sudden downpours, we faced it all. But every challenge only added to the authenticity of our experience. Iceland's ever-majestic and inspiring landscape played a crucial role in our narrative.

One memorable moment of our shoot involved capturing Lisa and Chris in front of the two whaling ships that activists had sunk, likely from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, years ago. These ships were later dragged into a fjord, serving as a powerful symbol of the fight against whaling. Additionally, we shot scenes of them looking down at one of the whale processing factories—a stark reminder of the grim reality we aimed to change.

Arne Feuerhahn, the driving force behind Hard To Port, and Marc Pierschel of Blackrabbit Images, known for his impactful documentaries like "Butenland" and "The End of Meat," were integral parts of our team. Together, we ventured across Iceland's dramatic terrains, capturing moments that would later speak volumes.

The Highlights

One of the most memorable shoots was on a particularly windy day. The contrast of Lisa and Chris, dressed in running gear against the stark, dark backdrop, symbolized the resilience and hope of the Whale Run Iceland initiative. Despite the harsh conditions, their enthusiasm never wavered, embodying the event's spirit.

Reflecting on the Journey

Having visited Iceland several times, I felt that this project had a lasting impact on me. It wasn't just about the photos but about contributing to a cause that transcends borders and cultures. Each shot blended raw emotion and stunning natural beauty, aimed at sparking a global conversation and inspiring change.

A Setback but Not the End

As I post this in 2024, it's essential to acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which sadly took its toll on the Whale Run Iceland event. The planned launch in 2020 had to be postponed, and despite our efforts, it hasn't been brought to life yet. However, I still hope this event will happen at some point in the future.

The State of Whaling in Iceland

When we first began this project in 2019, commercial whaling in Iceland was a contentious issue. Despite international pressure and a declining market for whale meat, a few companies continued to hunt whales, arguing for tradition and economic benefit. As of now, in 2024, the situation has seen some recent developments. Iceland has issued a new whaling license for the 2024 hunting season, allowing the hunting of 128 fin whales despite significant international opposition and declining demand for whale meat. This decision underscores the ongoing struggle and the need for continued advocacy and action to protect these magnificent creatures.

Kristján Loftsson, owner of the whaling company Hvalur hf, has been a central figure in Iceland's whaling industry and has applied for a new license. Despite facing significant criticism, he maintains that whaling is a sustainable practice and a part of Icelandic tradition, although this claim is widely disputed.

The Icelandic government, led by Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir, has been under pressure to end commercial whaling. In June 2023, a temporary suspension was put in place following a report from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority, which found that the methods used in whale hunting did not comply with animal welfare laws. This suspension was lifted in September 2023 under strict conditions, allowing Hvalur to resume whaling during daylight hours only.

The future of whaling in Iceland remains uncertain, as there is little economic benefit and diminishing international markets for whale meat. Environmental and animal rights groups continue to call for a permanent ban, highlighting the ecological importance of whales in marine ecosystems.


The Whale Run Iceland project was a rollercoaster of emotions, challenges, and triumphs. It reaffirmed my belief in the power of photography to drive change and inspire others. As we continue to push for the realization of this event, I hope our efforts will lead to greater awareness and a collective shift in how we view and treat these magnificent creatures.

Join us in this journey, celebrate with us, and let's make a difference together. Your support can help turn the tide for whale conservation. Together, let's run for the whales and for a future where they thrive, not just survive.