So here I am “alone again naturally ” in Iceland .Gilbert O’Sullivan probably didn’t have this view in front of me when he penned these words back in the early 70’s.
But , this time I arrived in Iceland on my Todd !
In a way there was a niggle of loneliness,Viva was 1000 miles away but just a phone call softened the blow ,so although I miss my previous companions ,and have made many close friends from previous trips that I treasure still .Being on your own has it’s spinoffs.The uncluttered concentration on image making !
So the first shock on arrival was,,,,,,no Snow! What!
Just rain,and deep wet ! So picking up the car as well as my thoughts ,filled the boot of my Toyota RAV4 with grub and went to my first assignment at SADCARS own Hostel ,the very quaint and laid back “Bus Hostel ” so laid back and chilled I had to ask permission to turn the lights on for a photo shoot !
Which together with a few images of guests the nescasary thumbs up was granted .
So if your looking for a first stop in Reyjavik to begin the winding down process this is it .
The next day was dry and ice on the road ,I was thrilled ,this meant no rain ! So off to the north to The Snæfelsness peninsula visiting Geyser and Gulfoss on the way .
Gradually the clouds cleared but I have never seen such a lack of snow, so still concerned ,even at Gulfoss there was a 80% reduction of the white stuff from 2 years ago.
Images were there though you just have to think differently,which is good ,straining the brain makes more little grey cells .
So although I don’t really like talking about camera gear ,I’m all in favour of “small as you can carry ,large as you need to be” the two cameras I carry are my iPhone 7+ just upgraded ( and will likely stick with this until it dies .The LX7 has gone ,as the iPhone now knocks it for 6 in every way .This has now been replaced with the sublime Panasonic GX8 a micro 2/3rds camera with no irritating pointless mirror to flip up coupled with better lenses than my Nikon D5300 that really is just for Nothern lights work ,with now a 2nd hand Tokina pro11-22mm2:8 wide angle lens .Im hanging on to this for 2 reasons 1.as I said Northern lights stuff , and 2.timing devices for the former reason only work on Nikons .
So here are some images of Europes widest waterfall,Gulfoss.
I chose to arrive here first instead of Geyser which is little more than 10 minutes away.Mainly because of the increased light ,in which there is very little that penetrates the 100ft gorge ,so even a little on the upper reaches back lit the rising spray .
Geyser was as usual reliable ,a ton or so of super heated water exploding heavenwards every seven minutes or so. This time I took a back seat , a couple of hundred meters away shooting into what was now a setting sun .500th of a second exposure to freeze the action with some looming clouds in the rear .perfect !
So after a bowl of the famous stew and a Snickers ,back on the road to Pingvellir and then to Riff on the north Snæfelsness peninsula.
After a coffee break at Borganes the rain started to close in and in my mind thoughts of ” what if this weather pattern continues,what will I do !”
The Next day, I needn’t have worried, the slushy wet snow that fell the previous night was now welded to the bonnet ,roof and headlamps of the car .Brilliant ! -6°c ,perfect !
The next call was the westerly tip of the peninsular then driving down to the south to an area ,Londránga ,2 huge Basalt volcano cores now devoid of their cone shaped shell having been eroded away be the elements over a 1000 years or more .
Stopping just west of Londranga the cliffs dropped to sea level and a slim lighthouse dominated the skyline.Scrambling over the rocks and lava flow to the sea revealed a primitively landscape , of ” Mystery Island “proportions , if it hadn’t been so cold I would expected Herbert Lom playing captain Nemo to walk out of the waves with large walk breathing gear !
The first shot was an obvious one using my iPhone7+ in Panoramic mode ,an obvious monochrome image to capture the texture of the worn basalt columns and antideluvian atmosphere of the scene ,Londranga hiding behind a cloud shadow ,perfect !
Further exploration ,and sculptures begin to appear in the rock ,this shot below demonstrates this .I have to say I didn’t spot his until I returned to the Hostel that evening. But can you see the face of a dragon looking at you .It may take awhile ,but it’s there !
The Lighthouse just a few hundred yards away to the west is situated in the hamlet of Malarrif , this was a feature that would be used in the next day or so , in the meantime an approaching snow squall made the back drop to this watchful guardian .
Having exhausted the area for now and the light beginning to fade ,I drove back to Riff for tea , I had in my haste forgotten to have any dinner except a banana.
Just relaxing having a chat with other guests ,I thought while I had just put the kettle on it might be worth just sticking my head outside to check for signs of Northern lights , and there they were ! Early, yes but streaking across from east to west , just beginning to form their curtain like luminescence.
So it left me to announced to my companions inside that the “lights have been turned on ” ,grabbed my keys and my pre packed and charged camera gear, made safe haste east to Kirkjufell ,the scene to seen in, with a camera when the northern lights are on .
I was surprised by the amount of tourists that had accumulated in such a short span of time ,and of different nationalities, one poor soul from South Korea ( sorry no pun intended !) had arrived but the airline company had misplaced his tripod , my sort of reoccurring nightmare !
I lent him my spare tripod for a while ,and seeing him grin with delight was a reward indeed!
The Lights lasted for a couple of hours ,it’s about as surreal as it gets .If I were be picky and could plan again ,I would plan with a full moon ,as this would illuminate the foreground namely ,the waterfall and Kirkjufell in the distance with a clear high temperature light .
Less stars can be seen when there is a full moon ,save the usually bright ones ,but the Milky Way isn’t that visible ,if at all as the exposure typically reduces from 30seconds to about 6 to 10 seconds .( more on this on another page ) .
So in the ethereal glow of the northern lights !Kirkjufell displayed its magic .
Awakening the next day from a heavy Northern lights session is quite a slow affair ,as in Iceland sunrise doesn’t happen until 10:30am so if the bedsheets are heavy , so be it !
Yet another cold day and this was to be a long and in hindsite a good one .
Dropping in at the local Orkan petrol station in Olafsvik , fuelled up the RAV and myself with caffeine and planned the day .Quite a pleasurable experience as gas stations in Icelandic villages are really the village store and cafe for locals and travellers alike , stuff for the snow and soul can be bought with almost every eventually catered for .From you battery to your Bonce ! It’s generally covered . Plus your usual widescreen TV displaying the local weather ( they’re more obsessed than we are !) and the latest exploits of Man united , (word to the wise , best not bring up the National team ! If you mention it once you’ll regret it ).On a similar note the oil company OLIS have a branch of stations ,when you arrive in Iceland seek one out ( very easy ,their bright yellow and green ,like BP ) and ask the assistant for one of their discount cards . This will give you a free coffee regardless of fuel purchase ,but I reccomend you do buy something ,and 3 ISK of a litre of fuel !
So back to ” today’s plan” . A drive to Kirjufell in the increasing daylight unveiled a distipating low lowed covering the above peak.
Moving on past the famous peak , and the clouds began to unravel and the sun high lit snow covered peaks in dramatic fashion .The contrast between the cloud and high lit snow could have hardly been greater, almost night and day .So the brain slips into monochrome mode ,and it’s not much of a push really . So For the next 2 hours I revelled in Monochrome heaven ,as the next images will speak .
finally I needed food , so afternoon tea back at the” freezer Hostel Riff” .Kari ,the Hostel manager was amidst organising the nights production of his musical ” Journey to the centre of the earth ” ,and seemed a little put out that I wasn’t going to watch .and I can understand this poor man , but given what I would have missed had I stayed to watch the above ,as rave as it’s reviews have been . I clearly would have kicked myself to the centre of the earth if I’d have missed the class 5 Aurora that was heading our way .
Now the organising of this show had to be right .A clear night ,no moon so 16 second exposures at 1600 ISO were the order of the night taken in RAW to be processed later on my Mac 💻.Also copious amounts of chocolate to keep the internal fires going !
While the NL are a spectical in themselves ,most photographers miss out an interesting foreground,it’s like chocolate pudding without the chocolate sauce ,it really is essential to hook the viewers eye ,it’s a comparison in every way of heaven and earth .
initially I drove to the car park near Londranga as mentioned earlier .There is a wooden viewing platform for bird watchers and tourists to look down the coast ,which initially seemed a good spot ,but this proved a bit draughty .
A couple of shots of Venus with a faint whisper of the Aurora were captured but the basalt columns of Londranga seemed too distant ,so I moved on .
Reparking next to the light house at Malarrif seemed a better prospect and the mix of artificial and solar lighting would make an interesting combination,especially with a slight sea mist capturing the beams of light emanating from the lighthouse .
An hour later and the Aurora began to appear from the east .An edge of a green glow began to shroud the edges of Snaefelsjokull ,eventually taking shape like a rainbow shaded lace curtain edging its way past the rear of the Lighthouse .I must have taken around 500 shots over 2 1/2 hours ! In the end the Aurora disappeared . Just as well really,the front of one of my lenses had frozen solid with the mist as it was now about -4°c ,and for that matter so was I !
On returning I was please to see that every body else had seen the spectical , but from a different viewpoint .Sorry Kári ,Natural specticals win again , maybe next year ?
Arriving during a strong northerly wind first off was a time-lapse sequence of fast moving clouds over Snaefellsjokull. A bone chilling 1 hour later I moved still further west through a winding rollercoaster of a tarmac track passing 4 wheeled vehicles that had come to grief along the way, reaching a picnic spot next to a black pebbled beach.
The view across the partially snow covered lava field was unforgettable , the texture of the windblown ice and snow on the crusty lava was amazing .This was quite the opposite end of the temperature scale 1200 years ago, rather now than then.
The track continued and split into two opposite directions both ending with a light house ,one to the north ,quite a stubby affair seemingly having sunk into the lava field that it had been built on .
The second a little taller, and surrounded by Basalt arch formations around the cliffs ,Probably I had left it a little late for Photographs ,but just managed to capture a couple before sundown.
The late hours were being to catch up with me a little
The next day brought yet another crisp one ,just a tad colder at -6℃. So under advice from Nanna who worked for”Guide to To Iceland”,on the return trip to the south of Iceland namely Skogarfoss near Vik a 6 hour trip.Nanna suggested that I drop off and check the beach of Djúpalónssandur .This a crazy place of strange extrusions of lava . Sadly I really had to go, too early for my liking ,long trip ahead to Skogarfoss.
Several breathtaking stops of Icelands pyramidal mountains ,and a quick visit to the strange Eldborg crater ,quite visible from the main road and not too far to walk to from a local farm.