In the third part of my series showing photographs taken on sunny days as opposed to my preferred, rather more dramatic weather days, I’ve included pictures of some of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks, in the sunshine. Some of these images you will have seen before but I think they can stand a dusting off and a second showing. The reality for a lot of people visiting Iceland is a lot of very grey weather. I’m lucky to have visited enough times now to capture some of these places at their very best.
The Seljalandsfoss pictures were bizarrely taken at midnight after a very long day of commercial photography in the central highlands for a Reykjavik car hire company. Getting back to the apartment late after a long and difficult drive on deeply rutted dirt roads, I saw the barely setting sun and I knew my day wasn’t over. I had to make the hour long drive to the falls. I’m so glad that I did.
Click on the images for a larger, sharper view.. :-)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Iceland on the sunny side over the last few posts. I’ve been very lucky to visit Iceland many times now experiencing all seasons and all weathers. An incredible and very beautiful place and very warm and welcoming people. I have made a lot of friends in Iceland. Their hospitality second to none.
Aldeyafoss is a waterfall that has eluded me on three separate trips to Iceland. This trip I finally made it and it was certainly worth the wait. On previous visits, we witnessed a car being rescued from the snow on the road ahead. The driver had been trying to get to Aldeyafoss too. We took the tow truck as a sign it probably wasn’t a good idea to try ourselves. On another occasion, the mountain F road was open, just, but when the road forked and with no sign posts to suggest which fork one should take, I took the wrong one. On a third occasion, we very nearly got there but the weather was so awful, I decided it was best to leave for another time.
This trip however, as I’ve said, I made it to the waterfall. It is a sight to behold. The water cascades into an amphitheatre of rock, beautifully decorated with basalt columns and swirls and twists in the rock that one would swear must have been created by a sculptor. It was dull and overcast but that didn’t seem to matter. We sat for hours just watching the water pour into this giant bowl where it was churned and mixed before being sent on its way, down the river to be churned and mixed once more at Godafoss, several miles back along the road and downstream.
This waterfall is fed by melt water from the Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest, and explains the beautiful clear blue colour of the water. In fact this is the first thing that strikes you when you see the falls.
Just as we were preparing to leave, the sun finally broke through. Not quite the right time of year for the sun to completely illuminate the amphitheatre but I wasn’t complaining. It was a beautiful sight nonetheless. I hope you enjoy the pictures.. :-)
I closed down the aperture here and decreased the shutter speed just enough to show the movement of the water and to create this pattern effect.
As the sunshine was creating very dark shadows, to get this image I blended two exposures using masks in Photoshop. One exposing for the dark shadows and one exposing for the sunlit parts of the picture.
And why not? :-) Who could resist a visit to this wonderful waterfall if you happened to be passing again. Akureyri is a place I love to visit when I’m in Iceland and Godafoss is a very short drive out of town. You can see pictures from my visit to Godafoss a couple of months ago here and here.
On this visit, with most of the snow now gone, a short scramble down some rocks from a secondary car park got me onto a small beach below the falls, an area previously inaccessible and far removed from the usual viewing areas. Looking across at the many visitors on the other side of the river looking at me, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had company, it was such a prime spot for a picture or two.
On an otherwise very dull and overcast day, the sun had the good grace to just put in a brief, rather hazy, appearance, just enough to lift the pictures. I was much obliged. I’ve included a couple of pictures taken from above the falls as well as below. As always, gauging scale in pictures like these is difficult and despite a lot of visitors on the other side of the river, none of them wandered to the edge of the gorge and into my shot however, I had a good friend do that for me on a previous visit and you can see the resulting photograph here. I hope you enjoy the images.. :-)
Continuing on from my last post, we entered the tunnel under the mountain that would bring us to the next fjord along, in a real blizzard. As we emerged from the tunnel on the other side of the mountains, it was still snowing just as hard, if not harder and as we entered the town of Siglufjörður where we saw the northern lights on our previous visit , the snow was piled either side of the road, and outside the houses. It was difficult to see but we pulled in to the car park of a convenience store. People were scurrying in and out of the shop, bundled against the snow. It was clear what a difficult winter the people living in the north of Iceland were having. We picked up a few snacks and pressed on. It was late in the afternoon and we wanted to check in to our apartment before dark.
Entering the town of Akureyri we were faced with a new challenge. The roads were covered with a large amount of compacted snow and into that compacted snow, deep ruts had developed. As the red light changed to green at a set of traffic lights, I accelerated away gently, then hit ruts like solid concrete. The Jeep bucked causing me to step on the gas a little too hard. The effect of this was quite startling, the car went into a dramatic spin and before we knew it we were sat facing the oncoming traffic, which, thankfully anticipating what was happening, had waited patiently for me to stop playing around. They’d clearly seen it all before. I waived rather sheepishly to the cars in the two lanes of rush hour traffic I was facing like a mexican standoff and looked for a quick exit.
I could see that my quickest route away from this busy road and to allow the traffic to start flowing again was to turn immediately right which I did. I was tired and this was a dramatic reminder that, in these conditions, keeping the car on the road and in one piece meant not letting one’s concentration drop for a second. A small error could have fairly major and potentially life threatening consequences. I wonder if the angle of the lamp-post in the picture above is the result of a similar incident.
I was rapidly learning all the new skills required to drive on snow and ice, in town and out on the highway. As it turned out, the right turn conveniently brough us almost immediately to the doorstep of the Vínbúðin, one of a chain of government-run stores that sell alcohol for consumption off premises. The only stores licensed to do so. This was a store I know we’d have been looking for a little later and probably struggling to find and here we were, we’d been spun around and pointed in the right direction. Although I didn’t feel the need for a drink to calm my nerves after this salutary incident, my passenger did..
From the Vínbúðin, we listened to James (our ever-present GPS guide) and turned left and right until we pulled up outside the large house I recognised from the pictures when we booked and from Google Earth. This would be a base for the next five days, an apartment in the basement of a rather grand house in a leafy, well it would be leafy in summer, section of Akureyri. Bags unloaded, familiarisation with heating, wi-fi, kitchen, bedrooms complete, it was a case of grab a quick meal and sleep.
Waking up the next morning, relishing the underfloor heating, I took a peek out of the window, it was first light and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful sunrise. The winter wonderland was still there and we had waterfalls to visit. The first on the list was Godafoss. You’ve already seen some of my pictures taken at Godafoss. I’ve added a few more..
We had intended to visit Aldeyjarfoss, another very beautiful waterfall. The coordinates were loaded in the GPS and after visiting Godafoss we set off. The road to Aldeyjarfoss was little more than a dirt/ash track but it seemed to be pretty clear and we were enjoying the drive along the river. As we turned through a farm gate, the road dipped quite steeply toward the river and it was here we came across a low loader rescuing a 4×4 from a very deep snow drift. The chap being rescued was Icelandic, he said he visited the waterfall the previous winter without any problems but the snow this year had beaten him. I was quietly glad that he’d gone first. We reversed and set off back towards Akureyri. This can be an issue with visiting Iceland in the winter. You can’t necessarily get to see all you want to as roads, especially mountain roads are frequently impassable and if there are no dwellings along these roads, they won’t be cleared..
A few nights ago, our last night in Akureyri, I had a bright idea.. Following reliable information from the Icelandic Met. Office that the Aurora was in an active phase and we were in for a clear night. How nice it would be I thought to photograph Godafoss under moonlight with the northern lights thrown in. A plan was duly hatched to leave Akureyri at 2am which we did, in sub-zero temperatures and snowy roads.
Completely dark and clear skies are best for viewing the Aurora but even with a full-ish moon, if activity is good, the Aurora can be seen. We got the clear skies, the Aurora however, failed to show.. in super sub-zero temperatures, there is only so long one can hang around waiting. That said, we were at the falls for about three hours. As we left, mainly due to the cold having got through to our bones, the first rays of the dawn could be seen.
As we drove on, we were treated to a quite extra-ordinary sunrise. The colours were so vivid, rather than upping the saturation a little, which is usual with a RAW file, I was seriously thinking I would have to desaturate. As it is, I’ve left the colours just as nature presented them to my camera, nothing added, nothing taken away..
This post has been sitting around unfinished for a little while which as the last few days have been very intense, photography and travel wise, and there just hasn’t been time which, on reflection, is just how it should be. Click on the images for a clearer, sharper view.. :-)
When I posted my photographs from Godafoss yesterday, I mentioned that it was difficult to gauge scale from the pictures and that I would work on that. This morning I was up at 6am, the weather forecast was good and I thought I might get some nice pictures of the falls as the sun rose on our way to Mývatn, a large lake not far from Akureyri. Pictures from there later..
As it turned out, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise. According to the old rhyme, red sky in the morning, shepherds warning, we were in for some rough weather later on (it did snow very heavily as we drove home this afternoon) but for me that was fair exchange, as the sun peeked over the horizon, the whole area was bathed in a wonderful pink light.
As I set up to take my pictures, I managed to persuade my friend Chris, without whom this whole trip would be next to impossible, to walk back along the track from where we were parked to the road, cross the river and then hike along the opposite bank of the river. We’d pre-agreed where I wanted him to stand and with a series of arm waving gestures, he knew when I was about to set off a long exposure and he promised to stand very still. He stood very still for much longer than was necessary but I had no way of letting him know when the exposure was done.. :-)
I think the tiny figure of Chris, standing on the rocks above the falls does exactly what I’d hoped.. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them despite the frozen fingers in the -12°C morning air.. Click on the images for a clearer sharper view.. :-)
While we were at the falls, I took the opportunity to do a series of long exposures using a 10 stop ND filter. Here’ another of my pictures from today. Loads more to follow at some point..
Extremes of temperature are not good for people with MS. Extreme hot or cold tends to exacerbate symptoms. One of the ways MS used to be diagnosed was patients would be put in a hot bath to see if symptoms got worse or new ones appeared. I knew I was rubbish at dealing with heat. I was a little worried about how I’d deal with the cold.
The thing about being hot though is, unless you have air conditioning, not something common in homes in the UK at least, you can take so many layers off but it’s very difficult to cool down. The good thing about the cold, in my mind at least, is that you can usually warm up.
I took precautions before I came to Iceland. I have two layers of merino wool thermal underwear, thermal socks, T-shit, hoody, fleece, windproof parka, trousers and windproof over trousers. I have a merino wool balaclava, woolly hat, and two hoods. I have snow boots on my feet and on my hands, I have fingerless gloves so I can operate my camera and windproof waterproof mittens to slip on in between shots. With all this gear, I’m managing to keep nice and warm and with my usual medication and the help of friends, I’m coping.
It’s a real hassle getting the top layers on and off every time I stop the car because I’ve seen something I want to take a picture of. This is a frequent occurrence but it’s so worth the hassle. I used to be a real sun worshiper. I’d have chosen Florida or the Mediterranean any day but the heat would be so hard for me to deal with now. This suits me brilliantly and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Get out there and get on with it if you can, ask for help and take it when it’s offered..
Tomorrow my friend and fellow blogger Poppy and her husband will be meeting us here in Akureyri. How cool is that? I can’t wait.. :-)
I visited Godafoss back in November on a crazy day trip from Reykjavik. It was a 600 mile round trip involving mountain passes and steep and windy back roads. To do it in a day was ambitious but it paid off, I got to see Godafoss and the northern lights.
Visiting Godafoss again today was so different. At -5°C (24 farenheit) there was a nip in the air and the drive from Akureyri on compacted snow and ice was fun. I’m getting the hang of that. It still seems crazy to be travelling at 60 mph on such a surface but that’s how the Icelanders do it and it seems to work out OK. You don’t see wrecked cars everywhere at any rate. The snow tyres are just amazing.
I’ve got a lot of pictures from today to process but here’s a little taster. It was for sights like this one that I decided to tackle Iceland in the middle of winter. It is incredible being here right now.
It’s difficult to gauge scale here but I’m working on that one, these falls are immense.. Catch up again in a few days..