I mentioned a little while ago that I’d been shortlisted in the Weather Photographer of the year competition.
The organisers, the Royal Meteorological Society and the Royal Photographic Society received over 2000 entries from 60 countries for this year’s competition.
Quite bizarrely, whilst not taking the overall title, I came in first place. This is a link to the results – https://www.rmets.org/weather-photographer-year-2017-winners-announced
I wish I’d been able to attend the awards ceremony in London last night, that would have been my first. I’d have been worrying about just how happy I could look for the winners, certainly not expecting I’d have been one of them. However, I’m honestly very happy to be here in Fuerteventura, exploring a whole new angle to my photography. I’ve another post to follow about ruined and decaying buildings very soon.
I got a Google alert on the beach today (great to have 4G while lying in the sun) to say that I’d appeared on the BBC News website. Certainly not something I thought would ever happen.
Here’s the picture, once again, that got me first place..
It has been the most unbelievably busy year. I have been working on a project that is about to come to fruition but will keep under my hat for now. I’ve also had two new book covers since I last posted and been shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition as well as Weather Photographer of the Year, a competition organised by the Royal Meteorological Society in associating with the RPS. Both competitions feature photography from around the world.
I’ve been very lucky, anyone who follows this blog will know that I have been able to travel to Iceland a few times, a place where a lot of weather happens so you can guess where my shortlisted photograph was taken. This has all involved a lot of work organsing prints, profiles and narrative to accompany the photographs as well as work on my project.
Though a bit of a ghost in the blogosphere over the last year, I am still here, still dipping into blogs and though not as actively engaged, I have been enjoying all the posts that I’ve been following through my reader. At the end of the project, end of August, I will be away, recuperating for a few weeks and then will be back, I hope, to being a more active member of this amazing community. Thank you for your patience. I wouldn’t be so busy if it wasn’t for all those on WordPress who have been so supportive over the last four years.
For all those suffering the heat of the summer, I hope these pictures can cool you down a little. For my friends in the southern hemisphere, it could be colder.. ;-)
Below is my shortlisted picture for Weather Photographer of the Year, I’ve added a couple of others. Some of you may have seen this image before. Just one of those shots taken when you find yourself in the right place at the right time and you happen to have your camera with you.
You can see all the images shortlisted in this years competition by following this link. Amazing photography. Well worth clicking the link. Not sure what I’m doing there but I am looking forward to the awards ceremony where I’ll get to meet some of these amazing photographers. The winner will be announced at the ceremony.
As followers of this blog will know, I like bad weather. At least, I like to photograph dynamic weather. As a result I feel sometimes that I do Iceland a disservice as many of my photographs tend to be taken when the weather is doing its thing.
However, of course the sun also shines in Iceland and when the sun shines in the winter months, it’s magical. Daylight is very limited, just a few hours a day and with the sun hanging so low in the sky, the light has a wonderful quality.
Last week I shared some pictures of Vik in the Sunshine. This week I’m sharing a few more blue sky landscapes. As I started to go though my archives, I realised there were far more sunny days over the last couple of winters I’ve been in Iceland than I’d remembered so I’m going to be posting these picture postcard winter landscapes over several posts. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them..
Vik (pronounced Vig) has the dubious honour of being the wettest place in Iceland. Having visited many times I can certainly vouch for this however, on one particular winter’s day this year, driving from Höfn in the east of the island, as we headed toward Vik, a sort of half-way point between Höfn and Reykjavik, we emerged from heavy snow and leaving the blizzard behind, we drove into a wonderfully bright sunny day.
Here’s a few rare, at least in my collection, picture postcard photographs of Vik in the sunshine. The town is hidden behind the dunes but the church can clearly be seen up on the hill. The rocks are known as Reynisdrangar and are basalt sea stacks. I’ve also included a look back at the blizzard we left behind which incidentally pursued us relentlessly as we continued our journey to Reykjavik. Finally catching us up a few hours after we arrived in the capital, it made the drive to the airport the following morning for our flight home a little more hazardous than we’d have liked as it was still snowing.. :-)
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
While I sort through the many pictures from the Azores and try and organise them into some kind of coherant and meaningful order, I thought with the temperatures unusually for this time of year reaching 80°f outside, I’d dip back into some winter pictures from Iceland. This one was taken in February 2015..
Here are a few more snowscapes from my recent visit to Iceland. From complete white out to the scene as the blizzard recedes, these pictures depict the harsh beauty of winter in Iceland.
This is a photograph taken at Jokulsarlon, Iceland’s famous glacial lagoon. There are others but this is the one that most people visit. Here huge chunks of ice break free from the Vatnajökull glacier and float in the lagoon somtimes for many years before they are finally washed out to sea..
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..
Having just returned from enjoying some lovely warm sunshine in Fuerteventura, here are some pictures I took when I was in Iceland in February. Quite a contrast.
When traveling through Vik (pronounced Vig) in Iceland, you can’t fail to notice the rock stacks that extend from the cliff into the sea. These rocks are known as Reynisdrangar.
The black beach at Vik can get very busy as can the beach at Reynisfjara just to the west of Vik with people wanting to view the rocks but a short drive east, just out of town and by negotiating a very rutted and decidedly icy and snowy track, I found myself on the beach with not another soul in sight. Just how I like it.
This blizzard had been following us along the coast all day, it was finally making landfall and as ever, the road conditions got interesting thereafter..
70mm f/11 1/200 sec. ISO-100
..And as always seems to happen whenever I get near a beach, even a beach at -10ºC or 14ºf with a fearsome windchill, I got wet. Whilst focusing on the rocks, literally, a wave curled around and snuck up behind me…
Following on from my last post, here’s another frozen waterfall. This one is Gulfoss, one of the main attractions on the ‘Golden Circle’. The golden circle takes in a number of Iceland’s iconic landmarks, the ones that are within a reasonable distance from Reykjavik that is, making them ideal destinations for tour bus day trips.
For this reason, if I’m going to visit one of these destinations, I usually do so very early. Usually before breakfast has finished being served in the many hotels that are springing up in Reykjavik to serve the dramatic rise in Iceland’s tourist industry.
These pictures were taken at dawn on a bitterly cold -10°C day. The wind was blowing hard giving rise to a significant wind chill but properly togged up, this wasn’t a problem. As the sun began to rise, I began to shoot.
24mm f/11 1/40 sec. ISO-100
I have arrived in Iceland once more! So good to be back. It was a positively balmy -8°C today but it doesn’t feel nearly as cold as Cornwall does at +8°C but that is down to the very dry cold. It makes all the difference to how the air feels when it’s free of moisture. That said, it was a bit breezy today so my trusty fingerless gloves to allow me to control my camera and mittens for in between shots were an absolute must.
We were back at the Snaefellsnes Penisular today and a place some of you might recognise from my last trip when I photographed this location at night, under the northern lights.
Kirjusfellsfoss is a much photographed location but it’s easy to see why. I was unable this time to photograph the waterfalls from below because of the depth of the snow between the rock edge and the water so no path down but I was just as happy with these shots of the frozen waterfalls from above. I hope you enjoy them.. :-)
Kirkjufellsfoss – Upper falls
Whilst we were in Höfn, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with Vatnajökull at Skafafell. Vatnajökull is the glacier that sits atop the volcano that erupted recently at Bárðarbunga. It was fascinating to see the shapes in the ice, freshly dusted with an icing sugar like powdering of snow. Glaciers can appear very grey and dirty looking in the summer but in winter, they look their best.
Heading out to the glacier there was a track of sorts but this quickly diminished and we were left with the task of finding our way across a gravelly delta of meltwater, streams and ditches. I’m grateful to Poppy of poppytump.wordpress.com for the pictures of Chillbrook tackling the first of many of what turned out to be a very deep ditches.
As we made our way across the delta, out of the blue, we came upon a group of jacked up pick-up trucks with outsize tyres parked around what appeared to be a large hot tub, clearly fed from hot springs below. It seemed so incongruous, in the middle of nowhere with temperatures way below zero and a gale blowing, to come upon half-naked people running around, apparently oblivious to the biting cold, getting in and out of a large wooden tub. We didn’t feel compelled to gate crash this Sunday afternoon hot tub party although it was clear that everyone was having a great time.
With one last push up a very steep incline we made it to a car park of sorts with a fabulous view of the glacier. The lake, which in summer would no doubt offer superb reflections of the mountains surrounding the glacier, was frozen of course in the depths of winter. These are the photographs I took that afternoon..
About a year ago, I donated a framed photograph to a charity raffle. After the raffle had been drawn, a lady approached me saying how much she liked the photograph and how disappointed she was that she hadn’t won it. She was so nice, I endeavoured to find out who she was which I did. I then framed another copy of the photo and sent it to her. You can see the photo that the lady liked so much here.
We exchanged emails and I was made to promise that if I were ever to visit Iceland, I must get in touch. Visiting Iceland at the time was not something I had considered but I guess the seed was sown and when I finally decided to make the journey, I did get in touch. What followed were lots of suggestions of where to visit and several introductions to people, one of whom was a university friend who lived in Höfn.
I was delighted when I, along with Poppy, Poppy’s BB and my friend Chris were invited to dinner with Hulda and her partner Róbert. We had a traditional Sunday roast, a meal that Hulda explained she’d enjoyed every Sunday since she was a child; roast lamb with rosemary, roast potatoes and vegetables. There was one additional condiment from the UK that Hulda explained she bought from a specialist shop in Reykjavik and who can argue with how well mint jelly goes with lamb. I was surprised how similar the meal was to the Sunday roast that I’d grown up with. We had a wonderful evening and it was such a pleasure to make new friends.
During the course of the evening I asked Hulda where she would recommend we visit while we were in Höfn. Horn was the answer and these are the photographs that followed. It was a very wild day, the wind was roaring in our ears and bringing tears to our eyes but we had some sunshine as you can see along with some very heavy snow. Thank you Hulda and Róbert once again for a fabulous evening. This post is dedicated you.
From Akureyri, our onward journey would take us to Höfn, pronounced hup. So far as I can tell, to get close to the right pronunciation of this little town, you need to say hup as in up while inhaling sharply. Höfn is in the south-east of Iceland and would mark the three-quarters of the way around the island point in our circumnavigation of the island of Iceland.
Thankfully weather conditions had calmed down but the roads were still quite treacherous. We split the journey in two, opting to stay one night in some apartments right on the coast at Seydisfjordur. Unfortunately, at the last minute, our bookings were cancelled due to some filming going on at the harbour. We were relocated to a hotel at Egilsstaðir.
Writing an email of complaint in response to the cancellation, I pointed out that one of the reasons for booking an apartment was so that we could cater for ourselves rather than face expensive restaurant bills. I was on a budget. I was rewarded with an email back saying that the hotel room would now include dinner and breakfast. This was a good result and actually quite a nice interlude in our journey around the island. We had a delicious 3 course meal at the hotel and the breakfast the following morning wasn’t bad either.
Committing to the journey south meant accepting that I wasn’t going to see Dettifoss. We’d tried to get there a few days before setting off for Höfn. The waterfall is immense. There is more water tumbles over this waterfall than any other in Europe and it’s a pretty magnificent sight. The road to the falls was marked as impassable on the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration website. We wondered if perhaps the road was impassable along its entire length but perhaps passable as far as the falls. Programming the location into our GPS we’d set of.
After about half a mile, we’d come across a couple with suitcases and bags walking towards us. Looking beyond the couple, 2 or 300 hundred yards further back, we could see a VW Golf firmly buried in a snow drift. They’d clearly given up trying to get the car out and were heading back to the main road with all their belongings, abandoning the car.
Before setting off on that particular day, I’d seen a shovel outside our apartment for clearing the step and I’d thought that if we were going to tackle an impassable road, a shovel might come in handy. It did, we were able to dig this couple’s Golf out of the hole they’d dug themselves into. They were naturally very grateful, thanking us many times as they packed their belongings back into their car.
Free of the snow, they turned around and drove off toward the main road before stopping and turning around again, driving towards us once more. The young lady got out of the car and came running towards us ‘Are you going to Dettifoss?’ she asked. That was still our plan despite this snow drift. We were in a 4×4 Jeep Grand Cherokee, they were in a front wheel drive Golf. No match for the conditions.
She clearly thought that perhaps if we made tracks for them to follow, they might make it through. We weren’t sure if we’d make it through ourselves yet and feeling a little guilty, I’d replied that we weren’t sure. They were lining themselves up to get stuck again but having a Jeep in the lead with a shovel, perhaps this wouldn’t matter. We though that perhaps it would. She returned to the car. We could see them having an earnest discussion. The man shaking his head, the woman appearing to plead. He clearly made a convincing and sensible argument and after a few minutes they set off again, back toward to main road.
The drift the Golf had been buried in was deep but we made it though and pressed on. We drove through drift after drift but each time we hit a drift, we could see clear road the other side of the deep snow. After a while though, we came a section of the road where the snow was considerably deeper, getting on for two and three feet, as far as we could see. No patches of road surface visible anywhere.
Once you hit snow that is deeper than the clearance of your chassis, you start to ask rather a lot of your vehicle. We were able to plough through short sections of deeper snow by keeping up momentum but we figured we were going to be asking a lot of the Jeep to tackle what lay ahead. With snow showers clearly visible all around us. We admitted defeat and turned around. We’d done well. It was just a km or so to the falls.
If not for my MS we would have hiked to the falls for sure. It was very disappointing but to a certain extent, this was the price we paid for travelling to Iceland in winter. We’d turned back several times prior to this. We’d had doubts, turned around, driven a while only to overcome those doubts and to turn around only to drive on for a while before fresh doubts set it. Anyone observing might have found our antics rather comical. We might have been braver but back at the main road, there was a sign saying that there was no 122 service on this road. No mobile phone signal, no tracking service. If we’d got stuck, I wouldn’t have been able to walk out and we wouldn’t have been able to phone for help. We made the right decision to visit Dettifoss another time.
Here’s a short clip of our drive back to the main road. A couple of the more minor drifts of snow we encountered along the way..
Below are some pictures I took on our drive to Höfn. When I saw the blue barn below followed shortly after by a blue church, I wondered if the farmer, and those in charge of the maintenance of the little church had taken advantage of the same deal on paint at Iceland’s equivalent of B&Q or Home Depot. A good colour choice all round I’d say.
When I took this final picture, it was one of only a very few occasions when standing in the middle of the main road the runs around Iceland taking photos, that a car actually came along. I was quite glad when this one did. I definitely think the car, with headlights blazing, adds to the image. I hope you enjoy the images.
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..