Hraunfossar means lava falls and that’s exactly what you’ll find when you visit. Turquoise water cascades from many different points below a lava field giving rise to a beautiful water feature on a spectacular scale..
Barnafoss is the name given the small waterfall that flows through the gorge just above Hraunfossar. It’s the colour of the water as it cascades through this narrow gorge and through a natural stone arch rather than the scale that makes this waterfall so special.
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
Of all the places I’ve visited in Iceland, none has had more of a profound effect on me than Haifoss. Haifoss (pronounced How-a-foss) reduces me to tears whenever I’m there. The raw, unadulterated beauty of this remote location moves me beyond words. These falls thunder some 122 metres or just over 400 feet into a gorge that stands at the head of a very beautiful valley.
It’s a remote location, off the beaten track and this means that whenever I’ve visited, I’ve been completely alone other than the companion or companions that I’ve had with me. There are no signs, no ropes, no walkways. It’s up to you to deduce that walking over the edge is likely to hurt quite a bit. It’s nature as it should be without all the nannying that is taking the magic away from so many places.
On this last visit, it was a real pleasure to introduce my good friends Poppy and her BB to Haifoss for the first time. As a group, we did attempt a visit back in February but snow meant the track was impassable. They were debating whether to join us this time but with a little persuasion along the lines of ‘it really is worth a visit’ they decided to come with us. Approaching the gorge they were silent, standing and staring I knew they were as moved by what they were seeing as I have always been.
Having my UAV (otherwise known as a drone) with me this time, I was able to enter the gorge and film the falls from above and below. You can hike up the valley and enter the gorge on foot but it’s a long hike and certainly not one that I could manage. The drone is allowing me to go places I’m now longer able to as well as giving, quite literally, a bird’s eye view of the world which is really quite magical.
I’ve posted the film below with original music by composer and very good friend Christopher Hartley. I was a little cautious filming here as there really is a lot of spray and my drone isn’t waterproof. That coupled with this only being my fifth flight. My apologies to those with slower Internet connections but this is HD video and I wanted to maintain a certain level of quality. I think it’s worth the wait. About half-way through, I’ve added an arrow to show where I am, up on the edge of the gorge. Just a reminder of the sheer scale.. Enjoy!
70mm f/11 1/80 sec. ISO-100
14mm f/11 1/25 sec. ISO-100
This is one of a number of short films I made whilst in Iceland. It’s a shame it wasn’t a better morning when visiting this amazing waterfall. Thankfully on other days filming, the weather was better. Why not sit back for a minute or two, listen to this wonderful piece of music and enjoy this wonderful scenery.. :-)
Music is the Lonesome Boatman by the Fureys
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..
Here’s a picture of Skogafoss in Iceland treated a little differently to my usual. This picture was taken on a very dull, miserable morning to be honest and the day really didn’t hold any promise for a photograph of any sort, or so I thought. I took some pictures anyway, despite the conditions, of course. Processing the pictures in black and white however with a low key approach, there was a picture there after all. There really is no such thing as bad weather..
A large part of landscape photography is getting to know your subject, thinking about where you want to go and perhaps taking a closer look on Google Earth before you visit is a good idea. Once there, you can take a good look round in person, thinking about angles and composition. Once you know your subject, you can put yourself where you want to be at the right time and hopefully under perfect conditions and light. All the things we can’t control have to come together to make a great landscape photograph but if you know exactly where you want to be to take that photograph, when all the variables come together, you’re in with a good chance.
I have visited Gullfoss quite a few times now. It’s one of the top attractions in Iceland and with good reason. The falls are immense. I’ve explored the falls from all directions now. On my last visit I went the other side of the river (this is where Google Earth came in for me, finding the track less travelled), the opposite side to the visitors centre and the usual spots for taking pictures. I thought I might get my shot from this side of the river but it wasn’t to be.
The light wasn’t right, the weather not great and as it turned out, I didn’t get the shot I wanted because I wasn’t in the right place but now I know exactly where I want to be next time. Hopefully it’ll all come together but I’ll have to be there either at dawn or dusk, the blue and golden hours. All that aside, from the opposite side of the river, I did have the sun behind me allowing for a nice rainbow to form in the spray from the falls and I did get a shot from a different angle to most..
A few posts ago I published a picture taken from behind Seljalandsfoss in Iceland. The image below was taken from the slightly drier side of the waterfall. If you look closely, you can just see the path that you can take to get behind the falls. That’s if you don’t mind getting extremely wet that is. The photograph was taken at 12 minutes before midnight incidentally! Midnight sunshine is a feature of the Icelandic summer that takes some getting used to for those of us living in more southerly lattitudes. :-)
35mm f/4 1/60 sec. ISO-125
I took this photograph hand-held with my Sony A7R. I certainly wouldn’t be able to hand-hold my D800e and get a sharp picture at 1/60 sec. which adds to this cameras versatility. There’s a lot to be said for a light compact mirrorless camera.
I’ve just returned from another trip to Iceland. I was asked by an Icelandic hire car company to take some photographs for them, more of that to follow, but having been given the keys for one of the company’s flagship super Jeeps, a Toyota Land Cruiser Adventure model, I set off last Sunday for few days that would allow me to visit some of my favourite places as well as some new ones.
Being the time of year it is, the category ‘F’ mountain roads have just been opened in Iceland allowing access to the highlands and the interior of the island. These areas are cut off and inaccessible for much of the year but with a vehicle specially adapted with 33″ wheels and jacked up for greater clearance to allow for fording of rivers and streams, I was looking forward to some adventure and some great photography. The cars are adapted by the same company that has provided similar vehicles for BBC’s Top Gear Icelandic Adventure programmes so I knew that being in charge of one of these vehicles was going to get me to where I wanted to be, having a lot of fun in the process.
As the end of the first day of shooting came around and the sun began to sink lower in the sky, I looked around me, standing outside my apartment in Selfoss, and I knew that the day wasn’t going to be over quite so soon. I would have to be off out again after something to eat. No rest in the land of the midnight sun, the conditions were good for a particular shot I have been wanting to take ever since I started visiting Iceland.
Seljalandsfoss is a very beautiful waterfall with the added bonus that you can get behind the falls, if you’re prepared to get very wet and I knew, by consulting the Photographer’s Ephemeris, (an application that allows you to gauge the position of the sun at any given time and season, anywhere in the world) that the sun would be in perfect alignment with the waterfall as it started to set at around midnight. This I knew had the potential to make a very nice photograph.
Behind the falls with a tripod, my D800e and my 14-24mm super wide-angle lens, I had to the equipment to hopefully make the best of what was shaping up to be a very nice sunset. I say sunset, the sun barely dips below the horizon meaning sunset rolls into sunrise. The D800e is weather sealed so it can take a certain amount of soaking, a very important feature I realised as the amount of spray the water was generating became apparent to me. I was quickly soaked, as was the camera and lens but with a chamois leather at the ready, I was able to remove the lens cap, quickly wipe the lens and fire of a couple of shots before the lens was covered in water droplets. I repeated this process until I was sure I had my shot. At least I hoped I had my shot because as the temperature started to dip along with the sun, I was getting very cold as well as very wet. I beat my retreat.
Here’s the shot I came away with. I think it was worth the discomfort and it was good to know how well the camera and lens coped with the wet. I hope that you enjoy the photograph. I enjoyed taking it despite, or maybe because of, the difficult nature of the shot and ending up drenched in the process of taking it.. :-)
14mm f/11 1/10 sec. ISO-50
This is a picture I took of Skogafoss, a waterfall in the south of Iceland which is some 200 feet (60m) in height and 82 feet (25m) across. You can just see the tiny figure of a friend of mine who braved the spray to take a closer look. On such a cold day, I was quite happy to keep a certain distance.
An iconic waterfall and a guaranteed stop on any Golden Circle Tour, Skogafoss is worthy of the attention it receives. The water cascades over what was once a clifftop but as the sea receded, the coastline is now just over three miles away, the cliffs remained. Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church. The old church door ring is now in a museum, though whether it gives any credence to the folklore is debatable.
Dettifoss is situated on the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum which originates as melt water from the Vatnajökull glacier as well as collecting water from a large area in north-east of Iceland. Dettifoss in Europe’s most powerful waterfall in terms of the sheer volume of water that flows over the 100 metre or 330ft drop to the gorge below.
I tried to reach Dettifoss on my previous visit Iceland. You can read about that attempt here, suffice to say, Iceland’s winter weather beat us. Given that the pictures below were taken in May and we tried to visit in February, it’s not really surprising we didn’t make it. I was glad to have been able to visit this time and hope you enjoy the pictures I brought back.
In the first picture below, I transferred a figure from the cliff in the top right of the picture to the edge of the falls on the other side of the river to give an idea of scale. You can just make them out, right on the edge. The opposite side of the river is only accessible in the summer sadly. This is where you can get really close to the river bank and the falls. I’ll have to save that for another visit.
The final photograph is of Selfoss. This waterfall is just a little upstream of Dettifoss. At just 11 metres in height, Selfoss is dwarfed by Dettifoss but a nice waterfall nonetheless. You’ve probably gathered by now, from this post and others about waterfalls in Iceland, that the Icelandic word for waterfall is foss. There are hundreds of waterfalls in Iceland so when travelling around, if you see something ‘foss’ on the map, it’s probably worth investigating. If you like waterfalls that is.. :-)
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.. :-)
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..
Most mornings we set off around 7am from our apartment building in Reykjavik, first light was around 9am with sunrise happening around 10. This took some getting used to but had some very distinct advantages. There certainly wasn’t a need to get up at 3am, as has been the case this last summer here in Cornwall, to capture the dawn light.
One particular morning we set off for the very southernmost tip of Iceland. I wanted to capture the dawn from the lighthouse there. This involved taking Þjóðvegur 1 or the Hringvegur, (ring road) otherwise known as route 1 from Reykjavik. This road circumnavigates Iceland and is 828 miles long. Two lanes for the most part, it has a speed restriction of 55 mph and speed cameras to enforce it. The road surface appears to be made up of compressed volcanic ash giving a lovely smooth surface but after a few miles, the shiny hire car delivered to you at the airport is covered in a fine grey film of dirt that builds with each mile. At many service stations you’ll see Icelanders hosing down their cars with pressure washers. This would account for rarely seeing a dirty car in Iceland. Our hire car was a disgrace by the final day. Shamed we tackled an automated car wash before returning the car. It took some working out.
Anyway, I digress. Travelling along the Hringvegur in the dark, we could see little apart from the road ahead until, in the distance, we could see lights but were struggling to make sense of what we were seeing. As we got closer it became obvious, a beautifully floodlit waterfall took shape.
The waterfall in question is called Seljalandsfoss and posting this picture gives me the opportunity to thank Chris who accompanied me on this trip, struggled with the luggage, carried my camera bag, helped me set up my shots, tolerated the constant stops and generally provided support without which, I couldn’t have made this trip. That’s Chris silhouetted to the left of the waterfall..
45mm f/5.6 60 sec. ISO-100
I was very lucky, I received a new GPS for my birthday and completely by coincidence, I was given a Garmin which unlike the competition, had maps of Iceland pre-installed. Naturally I took my Garmin along with me on this trip and these maps proved to be invaluable. I was able to pinpoint locations on Google Earth and navigate to the coordinates with ease. Without this tool, I may never have seen Haifoss. As it was, the GPS wanted me to take a track which was in reality, a service road to a hydroelectric installation of some kind and clearly marked ‘staff only’. Back-tracking, I found another road with a tiny sign marked ‘Haifoss’. So easily missed. I hadn’t seen another soul for hours when I turned onto this road. Miles from anywhere, I really started to get a sense of the wilderness that Iceland is. Of all the places I visited in Iceland, Haifoss probably had the most impact.
Coming upon the waterfall out of the mist and rain, I was seeing it just as the first person ever to see it had seen it. There were no fences, no signs warning me that if I were to walk over the edge I might hurt myself and guess what, despite the lack of signs and fences, I did manage to stop myself from wandering over the edge. I got very close to it in order to get my pictures but I’m not stupid..
I stood on the edge of this 122m/ 400ft gorge and I felt very alone and that felt so good. I felt freedom, I felt alive, I felt a tremendous surge of emotion it’s now so difficult to describe. This was nature in the raw, unadulterated by other human beings. I was being given the privilege of seeing this tremendous sight as it’s supposed to be seen. For how much longer I wondered but pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind. For now it is as it is. One of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen.
It’s very difficult to get a sense of scale here. To help, I’ve had a bit of fun with next photo and placed a few famous landmarks in the scene. The statue of Liberty is 93m tall. Big Ben is 96m tall and St Paul’s Cathedral is 111m tall. This waterfall is 122m high, easily out ranking these other landmarks.
I wasn’t given long before this beautiful valley was once more shrouded in mist and rain. I was given the gift of an hour of solitude in this wonderful location to just wonder at the splendour of it all…
Click on the images for a clearer sharper view.. :-)
The guidebook describes Skogafoss as, excepting Gullfoss which I’ll come to, one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. It really doesn’t disappoint in sheer power and immensity. Tons of water cascades over the 62m/ 204 ft drop every second with a tremendous roar. It’s a truly beautiful sight.