I’ve been revisiting Iceland recently. Not physically, sadly, but through the photographs I took in the years before the island became quite so swamped with tourists. I was a tourist myself of course but I enjoyed being in the minority, not the majority. Now tourists outnumber the Icelandic people themselves.
I was lucky to visit Iceland when I did. I made some good friends who have seen their home transformed since the financial crash and banking crisis of 2008. I can understand why the Icelandic government took the route they did but of course politicians rarely experience the outcome of their actions. They are far removed from the lives of the ordinary citizen.
Some in Iceland are of course making a lot of money out of tourism, taxes are boosting the economy, but for a lot of people, finding a home is becoming difficult because it’s more lucrative to rent to tourists than to the indigenous population and with thousands of people trekking and driving off road, not respecting the incredibly delicate ecosystem that exists on such a young island, well this makes me very sad. I look back at these photographs with pleasure that I was there in the wilderness alone, and sadness that I’m not likely to ever be able to experience the same again..
Hello, It’s now 4 years since I started writing this blog. When I picked up the camera again after many years of absence I was encouraged by a friend, Marina Chetna, to start getting my photography out there and that is what I did. I created a WordPress account.
The response to the work I have posted over the last four years has been humbling, the encouragement from fellow bloggers incredible. I’ve come a long way. I don’t want to turn this into a boast post, that’s not what I’m about but I’ve just been invited to write for Outdoor Photography, a leading landscape photography magazine in the UK, I have a piece that will be published in the March edition. That has been rather special, along with the invitation to submit a book proposal, the Icelandic landscape in Winter. Like I say, I’ve come a long way from taking a few landscape photographs when I could get out, in and around Cornwall to traveling overseas to places I wouldn’t have dreamed of visiting. None of this would have been possible without the support of all of you.
I’m not a confident person. I never have been. The continued support and encouragement, the comments, the very real friendship and appreciation from those enjoying my photography has allowed me to peek my head above a parapet I might never have dared to even approach and the results have been incredible. Thank you so much for that.
I thought very hard about the picture I might post. There have quite a few over the last four years but for me, the photograph below came out on top. My love of Iceland is known to many of you. This country in winter is incredible. It’s hard, it’s difficult but if you persevere as a photographer, the rewards are amazing.
This photograph was taken after traveling several miles from Vik in the most horrendous driving conditions possible. The snow ploughs were working at full stretch. Turning off the main Route One, we followed a road that had snow drifts so deep we were not at all sure we’d get through. We did.
Setting up on the beach I thought this is absolutely crazy, the snow was falling so heavily, visibility was nil but then, just for an instant, the snow cleared and I could see exactly why I was there. Capturing this scene with that single bird putting in an appearance was an absolute gift. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. This was an occasion when it most certainly did.
On my recent visit to Fuerteventura, out of the 23 days we were there, we had two really quite stormy days and rather than spend my time, as so many visitors appeared to be doing, wandering around shopping malls looking thoroughly miserable, of course for me as a photographer, this was an opportunity. I grabbed my camera and headed off into the mountains but not before catching one last photo of the sunshine on the beach before the clouds finally took over completely.
If you look closely, down in the bottom left, you can just see a tiny red flag on the beach indicating it was no longer safe to swim on what is normally a very safe beach indeed. Stormy weather indeed!
Such a wonderful backdrop to this tiny village in the heartland of Fuerteventura. This extinct volcano, its caldera so clearly defined
What was wonderful to see after the rain, just a couple of days remember, was the scrub and even the sand come alive with green plants and fresh green shoots. It was as if spring had arrived in the island though of course it was autumn.
Fuerteventura is a wonderful place to visit and I can recommend it to anyone. For me, in the off season, this is the very best time to visit even though you can’t be guaranteed that every day will be clear blue skies, that’s perfect for me and my camera.
Whilst I’m busy sorting my photographs from Fuerteventura and the photographs I took this morning when I made a trip with my good friend and fellow blogger Poppy to capture the sunrise, I thought I’d write this quick article that I hope some of you will find useful.
With modern digital cameras, we tend to take focus as a given. We all have auto focus so why would we ever resort to manual focus? There are times however, particularly with landscape photography, when auto focus can let us down and to get optimum results, we do need to think about manual focus if this is an option with a particular lens.
When taking landscape photographs, we’re usually looking for maximum depth of field. We want our pictures to be sharp from front to back. Using auto focus, if we focus on our foreground interest, there’s a good chance that whatever our background might be is going to be soft. Similarly, if we auto focus on whatever is in the distance, our foreground interest is going to be soft.
To get over this, we might resort to focusing at the hyperfocal distance using an app on our phones to determine where that is but again, there’s a good chance this won’t actually give you the best result. Hyperfocal Distance Focusing is great for producing column inches in photography magazines but not much else in my experience. The hyperfocal distance will give you a theoretical optimal point but in all probability, your photograph will not be as sharp as it could be. The optical physics maybe spot on but I have never managed a good sharp result using this method and boy did I try.
As a rule of thumb, if we auto focus approximately one third into a scene, we’re going to get a sharp picture with good depth of field but where exactly is one third into a scene? This can be a little difficult to determine. This is where a bit of experimentation comes in as every lens has a sweet spot. A spot on the focus ring where you’re going to get optimum focus from the front of your picture to the very back. An hour or two spent in the garden determining the sweet spot on your particular lens can be time very well spent. Particularly when it comes to long exposures at night where there’s a good chance there’s not going to be an option to auto focus on anything anyway.
I’m lucky enough to own an AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens. It’s a beauty but when I first bought the lens and started using auto focus, I wasn’t particularly happy with the results I was getting. So, I got an app for my phone having read various articles on hyperfocal distance focusing but I was still not happy with the results I was getting. I knew this lens to be an exceptional one so I wasn’t really sure what was going on. I solved the issue by going out into the garden with tripod and laptop nearby and started to experiment. After a little, well actually a lot, of trial and error, I found the sweet spot on the lens where everything, front to back was sharp. I never auto focus with this lens now. I don’t focus at the hyperfocal distance. I manually set the focus ring to my sweet spot and it works everytime. Here it is, conveniently right on the right edge of the infinity symbol so I didn’t have to mark my lens in any way..
Now, even if I go out in the dead of night to photograph the Milky Way for example, I don’t need to worry about trying to auto focus my lens maybe using a torch to illuminate a distant object to get a focus point. I just set my lens to the sweet spot and I know I’m going to get a good result. An hour or two spent experimenting with your particular lens, really getting to know it, can save an awful lot of hassle whenever you go out to take pictures.
To prove my point, here’s one of the pictures I took this morning, up on the Malvern Hills just before the sun rose. As you’ll see from the very tight crop below particularly, the bench and the buildings way below the hills and the trees in the distance are all in perfect focus. You can even read the dedication on the bench, ‘In memory of John Alfred Knight who with his wife Maureen and family, loved these hills’. The combination of the Nikon D800e and this amazing lens really do create images with the most incredible detail.
And here’s a picture taken just as the sun rose above the horizon bathing everything in golden light. It was about minus 3°C up on the hills this morning. A little different to Fuerteventura to say the very least. I had to get up at 4 to make it to this point in my wheelchair by first light but I think it was worth it.. :-)
Whilst I was visiting Bude recently, I had to deliver some pictures that are being featured in an exhibition in Taunton, Somerset. This journey took me from north Cornwall to south Devon, on into somerset and rather than return the same way I’d come, I decided to drive north to the north Devon Coast.
In 1976, here in the UK, we had the most extraordinary summer. Weeks of Mediterranean type weather. I was lucky enough, as an 11 year old boy, to spend that summer staying with a great uncle in North Devon. Everyday we visited the beach. Saunton Sands was the destination of choice and this was somewhere I really wanted to revisit.
Unfortunately, the weather was certainly not that of the summer of ’76 however, it was great to see people enjoying the beach regardless.
I was visiting with my good friends Hanne and Klausbernd in North Norfolk again last week. I met Hanne and Klausbernd through our respective blogs and it was such a pleasure to see them again. The weather was superb, the end of August. It was evident that Autumn was nipping at the heals of summer first thing in the morning but during the day, we enjoyed glorious warm sunshine and I did something I thought I would never do in the UK again, I went into the sea. The North Sea at that!.
I struggled down to the water’s edge on my two crutches, dipped my toe in and was surprised to find the water was really OK so I went in further. As a wave crashed in, surging water, that suddenly seemed a whole lot colder that it had initially, up over my belly, that was it so I thought I’d have a swim.
Of course swim is a fairly loose term when you’ve two crutches strapped to your arms but I floundered about a bit for a while. The waves were quite large so it was a bit of a struggle but I was managing OK when I saw two people pointing at me. I figured at first they were a bit concerned about the guy with the crutches getting washed about by the surf but then I became aware of something in my peripheral vision. A dark shape. I turned to face whatever this was in the water and came face to face with the most beautiful seal with the blackest, deepest eyes.
We bobbed there in the water for the longest time, just blinking at each other. He ducked under the water, swam around me a few times but always bobbed back up again to face me. I honestly believe this seal was concerned for my welfare and when he was sure I was OK. He swam away. It was one of those very rare encounters with a wild creature when you know you’ve connected. It was incredibly moving and I will never forget it. These sea mammals are super intelligent and seem to possess something that sadly far too many human beings lack, empathy.
These photographs were taken on my previous visit to Norfolk. Norfolk with its creeks and salt marshes, broads and of course the ocean, is all about boats and I love boats.. :-)
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.. :-)
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..
Cromer is a small seaside town on the North Norfolk coast. I visited Cromer whilst staying with fellow bloggers Hanne and Klausbernd in Cley next the Sea. Cromer is very popular with families looking for a stay at home, good old fashioned seaside holiday.
There are records of a pier at Cromer dating back to 1391 although then it was more of a jetty. In 1582 Queen Elizabeth I granted rights to the inhabitants of Cromer to export wheat, Barley and Malt with the proceeds to go toward the maintenance and well being of the Pier and the new town of Cromer. In 1822 a 210ft pier was built of cast iron but this structure only lasted 24 years before it was destroyed in a storm. The current pier at Cromer was completed in 1902 and opened to the public. Today the pier has a theatre, bars and restaurants and is a popular place for an old fashioned promenade.
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.
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.
A visit to the beach in Iceland in winter is a wonderful thing. The black sand, the snow and ice, the wonderful light, it really is something to be savoured. I’ve put together some pictures here of one particular visit to the beach where during the course of the day, the wind rose from about 3 m/s that’s about 6 miles per hour to about 30 m/s, that’s getting on for 70 miles per hour. This was one of those occasions, and I mentioned it in my last post, where getting out of the car can be extremely difficult unless you position the car carefully. Damage to doors on hire cars is extremely common in Iceland when unsuspecting tourists park up, open the door with the car facing downwind and the door is subsequently wrenched off its hinges. Extreme wind speeds are commonplace and even more so in winter. I just needed to get out to take a picture, standing was difficult, I had to hang on to the tripod and to the car and somehow get a composition and press the shutter but I think it was worth it. I’ll be posting some more pictures from a little further down the coast in due course.. :-D
Ponies are a very special feature of the Icelandic landscape that you’ll see everywhere you go if you visit Iceland. These very placid friendly little guys stay out in all weathers, experiencing the most extreme conditions Iceland can throw at them. I’ve seen them huddled in blizzards with winds so strong it’s been impossible to open the car doors or stand up if one manages to leave the car for a quick photograph, such is the way of photographers – quite mad really. Who else would try to open car door in 30 metres per second winds to take a photograph of the blowing snow.. hmm (see below).
The ponies are a unique breed with a unique gait. They are extremely well adapted to the Icelandic climate and when there was a general call amongst the Iceland community to treat the ponies better, many of them became ill simply because they were unused to the richness of additional food in the way of hay and silage that they were provided with. It’s true that in times past, a good pony was the equivalent of a Porsche for young guys hoping to attract the girls.
One of the ponies I was photographing, and as an ex-teacher I know there is one in every class, took great joy in sticking his tongue out, every time I pressed the shutter..
I had to ask the question why farmers would keep so many ponies on their land. Farmers, not renowned for their sentimentality when it comes to their animals (not that they don’t care for them of course), keep animals only if they can make use of them and in Iceland, the answer is meat.
The boom in the tourist industry however has given many of these ponies a reprieve as they are proving more valuable to farmers if they rent them out for trekking. Some farms, with spare accommodation, are offering all-inclusive riding holidays. This is bringing in huge amounts of revenue to struggling farms.
I mentioned the unique gait of these ponies earlier, they have a way of walking, and trotting, that keeps their backs almost completely level giving the rider a very comfortable and bump free ride. Just perfect for children and those with no riding skills.
In the worst of weather I have seen these ponies galloping, rolling and playing. This tells me these animals, despite their harsh existence, enjoy life tremendously.
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
The picture below is of Corfe Castle in Dorset, all lit up for the Christmas season. The castle is in ruins not so much because of its age but rather it was on the wrong side during the English Civil War. While much of Dorset was under Parlimentarian control, the castle, owned by Sir John Bankes, attorney general to Charles I and of course a Royalist, was held by Bankes’ men whilst he was away in London with Charles. Bankes’ wife, Lady Mary Bankes remained at the castle with her children.
Parliamentarian forces planned to infiltrate the castle’s garrison by joining a hunting party from the garrison on a May Day hunt, however they were unsuccessful. The Parliamentarians gave orders that anyone joining the garrison would have their house burned and that no supplies were to reach the castle. Initially defended by just five people, Lady Bankes was able to get food through and swell the garrison to 80. The Parliamentarian forces numbered between 500 and 600 and began a more thorough siege; it went on for six weeks until Lady Bankes was relieved by Royalist forces. During the siege the defenders suffered two casualties while there were at least 100 deaths among the besieging forces.
The Parliamentarians were in the ascendency so that by 1645 Corfe Castle was one of a few remaining strongholds in southern England that remained under royal control. Consequently it was besieged by a force under the command of a Colonel Bingham. One of the garrison’s officers, Colonel Pitman, colluded with Bingham. Pitman proposed that he should go to Somerset and bring back a hundred men as reinforcements, however the troops he returned with were Parliamentarians in disguise. Once inside, they waited until the besieging force attacked before making a move, so that the defenders were attacked from without and within at the same time. Corfe Castle was captured and Lady Bankes and the garrison were allowed to leave. In March that year, Parliament voted to slight (demolish) the castle, which involved bombarding the castle with a great deal of ordnance giving no chance that it might be a stronghold in any future conflict.
This is a much photographed landmark in the Dorset countryside as I’m sure you can imagine. The National Trust now floodlight the castle during the week before Christmas so this seemed a fitting image for this post. I had to provide my own floodlighting for the mile marker (which looks rather unfortunately like a gravestone) and surrounding foreground. I used a torch to ‘paint’ the area during the long exposure. A very useful technique.
The marker has advised travellers for hundreds of years that it is just a half mile to the village of Corfe. This information would seem a little superfluous as the village and castle can be clearly seen and it really is a big chunk of stone to have to haul up a hill. I can only assume this area was at one time, densely forested.
The slightly hazy appearance of the floodlighting around the castle’s main tower is due to smoke from traditional braziers used to give light and atmosphere for visitors at this time of year.
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and all the best for the Christmas season. Whether you celebrate or not, enjoy the holiday! :-)
Please click on the image for a clearer sharper view..
I mentioned the Jurassic Coast and the fact that Dorset is famous for fossils in my last post. The picture below shows some fossils that were found on the beach at Lyme Regis last week. I’m grateful to a very good friend with a much sharper eye than me for finding them and, being a bit of an expert on fossils and geology in general for explaining what these are.
These are complete ammonites (not just impressions in rock) that would have been happily swimming in the ocean 150 million years ago or more. I find that quite difficult to get my head around but there it is, fossilised shellfish as well as some vertebrae from a squid-like creature the name of which I’ve forgotten. One of the ammonites you can see is encrusted with iron pyrite, otherwise known as fools gold. How nice it would have been if it were the real McCoy.. :-)
One of the must see places on most people’s Iceland agendas is Jökulsárlón. At Jökulsárlón, the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier (an offspring of the parent glacier Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest) spills down from the mountain top to a glacial lagoon where chunks of glacier float sedately in the water before eventually, and this process can take up to five years apparently, they’re washed out to sea where, depending on the tide, they are washed back up onto the black volcanic beach creating, as you can imagine, wonderful photo opportunities. The lagoon has seen a four-fold increase in its size since the ’70’s which I guess has to be a fairly clear indicator that things are warming up.
These pieces of ice now floating, and melting, in the lagoon and ocean were most probably deposited here during the last glacial period, that means these chunks of ice are probably between 11,500 and 21,00 years old. Makes you think doesn’t it?
Here are a few of my pictures along with a video I filmed with my drone at the Jökulsárlón lagoon along with a closer look at the glacier taken over another glacial lagoon, Fjallsárlón. Some of these pictures you’ve seen before, some are new.. :-)
24mm f/10 1/400 sec. ISO-100
35mm f/4 1/160 sec. ISO-100
24mm f/13 1/15 sec. ISO-100
70mm f/22 90 sec. ISO-100
Music Le Onde – Ludovico Einaudi
A trip to Iceland, wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a place that has really captured my heart, Höfn. As we were driving down the east coast from Akureyri to Höfn, I found myself asking ‘what time will we be home’. I have made such good friends here and for a photographer, Höfn and the surrounding area, really takes some beating.
As we approached ‘home’ after a day photographing back along the east coast, the sun was low and preparing to set. The light was magical. I knew immediately that just after the tunnel, I would have to turn left and take the gravel road to Stokksnes. The last time I visited I was with my good friend Ronnie and being with a local, I was spared the 600 kr per person entry fee that Omar, the land owner has imposed on tourists. I must point out that this is extremely un-Icelandic behaviour and something that local people are horrified by but Omar is known for his love of the Krona so there it is, you pay to continue along the gravel road to this amazing beauty spot.
I paid my 600 kr and continued on my way but quickly became aware of someone in a pick-up truck persuing us. I pulled over and the truck pulled up. A man leaned out of the window claimed I hadn’t paid. This must be Omar I thought. He’d certainly checked that honesty box smartish. I did pay I explained, I put the money in your honesty box’. There’s a box outside the small cafe for you to pay should the cafe be closed. However what I hadn’t realised was Omar was now charging 600 kr per person and there were two of us in the car.
I handed over the money and asked ‘last time I was here with Ronnie from the village’, someone Omar knows well, ‘he took us to an old fishing boat’. ‘You want to take more pictures’ Omar asked. ‘I do’ I replied. ‘Follow me he said..’ He drove round the gate to the left that had a handmade sign strung across it. A read circle with a white band across it, ‘No Entry’ had been added at the bottom just in case someone might not have got the message.
We followed Omar around the gate and through a puddle that came half-way up Omars wheels so I was guessing a little higher on my rented Kia Sorento. Both myself and my passenger looked down to see if we were about to get wet feet. Not this time thankfully. On down the track Omar pulled up at the edge of the very shiny black sand. It was high tide. Something I only realised when we got to the edge. I could see the surf crashing not too far out.
‘I’ll leave you here’ Omar said. ‘Keep within 50 metres of the green and you’ll be OK’, the green being the marsh grasses to our left, ‘but don’t stop mind’ at this, Omar made gestures that left us in no doubt that we’d sink if we did. He reversed, smiling and waving. Did I detect a certain mischievousness to that smile? Surely not.
Behind us the sky was an amazing pink, ablaze as the sun was sinking lower. I took a deep breath, I’m a photographer, I need to get my picture, and drove onto the wet sand. The 4×4 was managing well, traction was good but the car felt the same way I’ve felt when walking across a very deep pile carpet, it was decidedly spongy. As I made my way from one raised bit of dry sand to another, I was beginning to think that maybe this time I’d gone too far.. I should have waited for Ronnie except Ronnie was in Paris. I was beginning to worry a little. We were driving through porridge. The spongy, squidginess of the going beneath us seemed to be increasing. I checked my distance from the ‘green’. I was about 25m away so apparently safe, nonetheless, I pressed the gass. Did Omar send us out here only to charge us an exorbitant fee for rescue? I banished the thought.
Thankfully, off in the distance I could see the track emerging from the sand and I knew we’d soon be on terra firma once more. I drove on to the small cove where I knew the boat lay. We made it! The light was beautiful but we were very aware of the crashing surf. It really looked as though the tide was still coming in.. Extra porridgey, spongy, squidginess to come.. Hmm. I didn’t relish the thought.
Below is one of the pictures I took that white knuckle late afternoon. I didn’t hang about. I was keen to get back across the sands. I began to worry that I’d never find that exit track in the gloom and we’d be left searching in the dark for a way off the sand. I was comforted, sort of, that Omar would still be watching. He wouldn’t wish us any harm I was sure. We set off back across the sand, hopping from one small island of higher drier sand to the next. Searching the horizon for the ‘exit’ I began to enjoy myself, weaving this way and that.
Passing the Viking Village on the right (A film set waiting for a film apparently) I knew it couldn’t be too much further when out of the gloom, I could see what looked like a track. Sure enough, in no time at all I was off the sand and on our way ‘home’. It was a big relief. At no time were we in physical danger I’m sure. Just in danger of getting stuck on the sand. Not a welcome thought as it was a lot further than I could manage to walk.
As we passed the cafe there was no sign of Omar’s truck. We hadn’t seen headlights departing as we approached dry land and we hadn’t passed it as we passed what I think was his house so at what point he’d left we just don’t know. I must add again, Omar is very much an exception. The Icelandic people are warm, friendly and extremely eager to help their ‘guests’ get the very most from their stays in Iceland.
14mm f/8 1/15 ISO-100.
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.
We’ve been treated to incredible displays of the Northern Lights on this trip to Iceland. We arrived at Stykkishólmur, where we’d planned to stay a few nights and as darkness started to fall, it wasn’t just the cathedral that became illuminated, the first signs that the Aurora was once again active could be seen in the sky and a plan was hatched to try to capture an image or two at Kirkjufellsfoss, about twenty-five minutes out of town.
As we arrived, the Northern Lights were still very active and once in position, I began taking pictures. It was very cold, muddy and rather uncomfortable down by the waterfall but I captured the images I’d hoped to and with some blending of exposures in Photoshop this was the result. All very alien looking and other-worldly..
On Wednesday night, the Icelandic Met Office Aurora forecast was ‘Severe’. This was as high as the scale goes and I’d never seen it at anything above ‘Very Active’. I’m not sure why they should use the word ‘severe’ when talking about the aurora but I guess it must have something to do with the potential for disruption to communications that comes with solar flares.
The weather here in Iceland had been awful all day. But ever hopeful, after dinner I set off for Grotta Lighthouse in the west of Reykjavik. As I pulled into the car park and looked up, the clouds parted momentarily to give me a taste of what might be before closing in again. The rain started and I thought that was it. My one chance at a really decent show of the Aurora Borealis and the weather was not playing ball.
On a hunch, I left Grotta Lighthouse (to be honest I wasn’t too happy with the level of orange sodium light pollution from the city) and I set of for the most westerly point I could think of that wasn’t too far out from Reykjavik. The point I had in mind was the small town of Gardur, not far from Keflavik Airport. I knew there was a lighthouse there as well as a daymark complete with the traditional red stripes. I figured if I could get beyond the terrible weather, this would make a good foreground subject while I waited to see what a ‘severe’ show of the Northern Lights might reveal.
It rained all the way to Keflavik, it was only as I pulled into Gardur that the rain appeared to be stopping. I drove through a town all tucked up for the night to the lighthouse and daymark where, not surprisingly, I found several photographers with tripods set and looking skyward hopefully.
I couldn’t get near the daymark for the other photographers so I set up on the beach and waited. It wasn’t long before the clouds thinned and I could see stars. Shortly thereafter, I was witness to one of nature’s most mesmerizing light shows. It started quite gently, just along the beach..
And went on from there..It wasn’t long before it started to rain again. It was about 1am and I was considering heading home as indeed the other photographers appeared to be doing. I hung back though, once again on a hunch and waited. The skies cleared shortly thereafter and with the ‘competition’ gone, I could finally set up the shot I’d had in my mind’s eye before arriving in Gardur.
What I hadn’t bargained for was quite how intense the light show turned out to be and I certainly hadn’t imagined being able to capture the aurora and the Milky Way in the same shot but there it was. I was so glad I hadn’t given up..
I’ve only just started going through the many photographs I took that night. These are just a few examples, I’m sure I’ll be posting more along the way. The skies were not completely clear as you can see but I was quite pleased, the clouds really added something rather than detracted I think.. :-)
I was on the beach at Reynisfjara at the very southern-most tip of Iceland in a blizzard back in February. I was taking pictures despite the snow when a figure seemed to materialise out of nowhere, way up the beach, walking towards me. As he came close I saw that he was a fellow photographer. As he passed we exchanged greetings, surreptitiously checking out each other’s equipment (like you do) while we talked. Satisfied and content in that camera brand camaraderie one finds amongst Nikon and Canon shooters alike, we said goodbye and he moved off.
A piece of music came unbidden to mind, a lovely piece of music by the great Joe Harnell, The lonely Man. The piece of music, one I used to play myself, accompanied the closing credits to the Incredible Hulk TV series as David Bannerman, still afflicted by the hulk curse after another adventure, set off once more in his lonely search for a cure.
This is a link to the music if you’re unfamiliar with it. It was used in the recent Hulk movie too – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4_5c1OJXc4 It just seemed to just fit the image somehow.. Enjoy!
I was going through some pictures taken in Iceland over the weekend. I’m still catching up on processing the many pictures I’ve taken there now. Looking at some pictures taken near Hvaines in East Iceland, I was very much struck by how the character of the scene changed over the course of about an hour.
The kind of conditions encountered that day were absolutely my favourite for landscape photography, sunshine and showers. These very dynamic conditions create the opportunities for variety of light, demonstrated in the photographs below. They really highlight why, as landscape photographers, we should wait for the light, waiting is good especially on days like this one. I’d be hard pushed to choose a favourite amongst these pictures which is why I guess, I’ve posted them all as a sort of demonstration. Talking of which, the photographs also demonstrate quite nicely the difference between using an ultra wide angle, wide angle and standard 35mm lens when taking shots of the same scene. My Nikkor 14-24mm really is an exceptional lens.
Incidentally, I’m really quite pleased to report that the photograph I took on the beach at Reynisfjara that I posted a little while back here, has been published on the 1x gallery website. 1x is a curated gallery of quite exceptional photography and that’s a first for me so I’m feeling really quite pleased. If you’re not familiar with the site, it’s well worth a visit. :-)