Last week I posted some sunny pictures from Iceland. These are not the pictures I like to take of the dramatic weather that happens there but when the sun shines, it’s a delight and so I decided to share some of my sunny day pictures for a change. These pictures were taken of the Vatnajökull Glacier as it spills down from the massive volcano summit at two of many locations, the much photographed Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the not so often visited Hoffellsjökull. I say not so often visited, I mean by tourists. There are hot spring pools here that are very popular with local people.
The day we visited there were a plethora of huge oversize wheeled pick-up trucks, the bigger the wheels the better apparently, as is the way with some Icelandic men and I have to say, probably unfairly, a certain piece of banjo music came into my mind. I’m sure in reality, they’d have been very welcoming (no not welcoming in the “Deliverance” sense) if I’d stripped off to my shorts in the sub-zero temperatures and joined them in the wooden tubs fed by the hot springs but I had photographs that needed taking. Maybe next time.
For those of you not of a certain age, I apologise for the movie reference made in this post but can recommend the film Deliverance, made in 1972 with Burt Reynolds, John Voight and Ned Beatty. A very scary movie with a brilliant bit of banjo playing at the beginning. Look up Duelling Banjos on YouTube if you’re not familiar. The film follows three guys who decide to take a canoe trip into back woods USA with terrifying results.
..And now I feel old. I’ve just realised that when I was a youngster they’d only just mastered sound on films 4o odd years old and certainly hadn’t cracked the colour equation yet.
But I digress, here are some pictures of these two beautiful locations. Glaciers can look downright grey and dirty and not at all attractive in the summer months but in winter, they are stunning.. :-)
This picture was taken as a blizzard blew in from the sea on the south coast of Iceland backed by gale force winds. Within minutes of taking this picture we experienced white out conditions and were very grateful for the yellow markers every few meters along the road that let you know you’re still on it.
The wild, raw nature of the winter in Iceland always makes me want to go back. When you’re alone in this wilderness you cannot help but feel alive and connected in a way I’ve certainly never experienced anywhere else. It sounds crazy to some perhaps but when I’m battling the wind, trying to keep my tripod from toppling over let alone steady, trying to keep my lens clear of snow and some kind of circulation in my fingers as the sub-zero temperatures and wicked wind chill get to work on them, I’m really never happier.
52mm f/11 1/80 sec. ISO-100
Here are a couple more pictures from my recent visit to Iceland. These vast empty spaces I find so energising, restorative, beautiful, of course, and the need to photograph them quite profound.
I imagine this is what Europa, Jupiter’s smallest moon, must be like – a keen contender in the search for extra-terrestial life. This picture however was taken in Iceland in February. The stark, raw, wild beauty of it touches me deeply..
I’ve posted before about Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón is a glacial lake fed by the same glacier, Vatnajökull, that I spoke about in my last post. Huge icebergs that calve from the glacier edge, float in this lake, some for many years until finally, currents send them on their way to the sea. You can see my first post from the lake here. It was also at Jökulsárlón that I saw the seals lazing on the ice and I posted those photographs here.
Visiting for the second time, I found my way onto the beach where some of these icebergs, having made it to the sea, are then washed up onto the black volcanic sand. Huge diamond like chunks of ice litter the beach for hundreds of yards. I happily spent a couple of hours, watching the action of the waves on these huge blocks of ice. These are the photographs I took whilst contemplating this beautiful spectacle.
Leaving the lake behind we soon hit the blizzard that was looming on the horizon in the photographs above. Looking for petrol, we came upon a frozen waterfall, Systrafoss, (sister falls) cascading down smooth rock at Kirkjubæjarklaustur. With the snow falling so heavily, we clearly weren’t seeing it at its best and is definitely on the list of places to visit next time..
The road between Hvammstangi, where we stayed in a small cabin, to Blönduós took us over a mountain pass (the first of many) that presented interesting driving challenges and beautiful views. Snow was an ever-present threat but I just loved the bleak winter landscape, the cool blues, greys and golden tones of the grasses, visible through the snow.
Making way for one of the many snow ploughs that work constantly to keep the roads clear, we stopped for a break; soup, sandwhiches and photographs.
We were heading for Akureyri and given the forecast, we didn’t want to waste any time in getting over the mountains but, I take photographs therefore stopping every few miles is obligatory.
Here’s a selection of photographs from this leg of our journey around Iceland. It still amazes me that I can stand in the middle of the Hringvegur (Route 1 Ring Road), the main road around Iceland, and take pictures without fear of being run down. :-)
On Tuesday I flew to Iceland and yesterday, began a road trip that will take me around the entire island. Iceland is very cold this time of year of course, the clue is in the name of the country I guess. It’s cold and it’s snowy in February/March. I know it’s going to be challenging but ultimately very rewarding.
Travelling from Reykjavik on Wednesday morning, I was stopped by a road authority official who warned of extreme weather ahead, super high winds and blowing snow. He looked at the tyres (winter tyres on a Jeep Grand Cherokee) and decided that I should be OK, but to take it very steady.
A few miles down the road and up ahead all that could be seen was a wall of white. Snow was being blown down the side of a mountain toward the sea. Emboldened by seeing a car emerge from from this cloud, I drove on, and all became white, all that is except the yellow road markers telling me I was still on track. Without those I wouldn’t have had a clue, occasionally even those disappeared but reappeared (thankfully) very quickly.
When in Iceland there is an app you can download for android and iPhone called 122 Iceland. Basically you call up the app and you are then able to send your current location to the road authority. They store your last 5 locations using GPS on your phone to locate you. There is also a red button to press should you encounter an emergency. I was pleased to have the app, lots of warm clothes, flasks of soup, tea and plenty of food.
It was quite intense experience but thankfully one that I emerged from. The rest of the trip north to Hvammstangi was much easier. The roads tend to be built up above the landscape. No fences or hedges to create barriers behind and in front of which, impassable drifts can form. The snow blows straight across the road leaving them surprisingly clear. However, when there’s a lot of snow falling, accumulation is inevitable.
Today, I hit a real blizzard though. I thought Wednesday morning was bad. Visibility was down to a few yards and once again, it was down to the yellow markers keeping me on the road. But every mile I drive, I gain more confidence in driving in heavy snow. I was surprised to see the Icelanders barreling along as if there was no snow there at all. A bit alarming when a vehicle suddenly appears out of the snow going at surprisingly high speed. The roads are fairly narrow with very steep drops on either side at times. It’s just a case of keeping one’s nerve.. :-/
For many of you reading this blog, this is normal winter weather of course. In Cornwall, down in the south-west of the UK, the closest we got to winter this year was a single light frost. I have no experience of these conditions. I’m certainly getting plenty of experience now. Snow is rare in Cornwall and if it does come, it’s gone by lunchtime but the chaos it causes in the meantime is incredible. That said, I guess if it happened more often, people would be prepared, as they are here in Iceland and, no doubt in other snowy parts of the world.
Below are a few pictures I’ve taken since I arrived. Lots more to follow. I’ll be checking in but forgive me if I don’t get to all of your blogs over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be quite busy enjoying this amazing island. Fellow blogger and good friend Poppy (Poppytump@number4) and her husband will be catching us up in Akureyri next Monday and will be joining the road trip. We’ve a lot of photography to pack in over the coming days..