Monthly Archives: October 2018

Iceland – Day 7

 

“Hraunfossar - Wide View” - Western Iceland“Hraunfossar – Wide View” – Western Iceland

“In Iceland, water is everywhere. It surrounds the land itself. Water courses from high mountaintops, bursts from the ground, itself, and flows in endless ribbons over the ancient stone, cleansing the blackened and tortured landscape. The water rarely stands still, as if it’s the lifeblood of the land itself.”
– Ed Lehming

Today, as we headed toward the town of Borgarnes, on Iceland’s western coast, we pulled out a map and plotted a route that took us from the coast, inland to the high mountains, lava fields, and glaciers of south-eastern Iceland.

Along this route we picked a few points of interest, including Hraunfossar, a low and wide waterfall along the Hvítá river. The fall is unusual in that they burst forth from underground along the Hallmundarhraun, which is a massive lava plain that dominates this region. It’s strange to see this amount of water coming from the side of a hill, just below the vegetation. In fact, you hardly notice it at first.

I spent quite some time here, enjoying the scene before me and making many long exposure images of different parts of the waterfall.

Just above Hraunfossar is Barnafoss, a violent cascade created by the massive volumes of  water from the glacial Hvítá river. Barnafoss, which translates into “the children’s waterfall” is named after a local tale that on a Christmas Eve many years ago two children in the Hraunsás household who were supposed to stay home while the parents went to church for Christmas Mass. When the parents returned from mass, they discovered that the children had disappeared (possibly because the children got bored and decided to go out). They then followed the children’s tracks to this waterfall at the stone natural bridge where the tracks disappeared. The mother concluded that the children must have fallen into the river and drowned. Thus, the name.

From here we traveled yet further inland, having mapped a course back to Borgarnes along a highway that looked like many of the unpaved roads we have travelled on this trip, only out find it had been re-designated as an “F” road, one of Iceland’s inland mountain roads, thus our rental car was forbidden to travel it.

Rather than simply turn back, we re-navigated to another gravel road that followed a less mountainous path along the opposite shore of the Hvítá river. In doing this loop, we did cross the Hvítá on a high plain and looked upstream to the glaciers that birthed it, making the detour interesting.

And so, we headed towards tonight’s destination: Borgarnes, a coastal town along the western cost to plan out our final few adventures in this astoundingly beautiful country.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 70mm
1/.0 sec, f/32.0, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)
http://www.edlehming.com

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Iceland – Day 6

“October Afternoon at Kirkjufellfoss” - Iceland

“October Afternoon at Kirkjufellfoss” – Iceland

“People are very busy; they are so busy that when they walk in the crowds they see no one, no one but themselves; they hear no voice, no voice but their own voice!” 
― Mehmet Murat Ildan

Today was a day of long travels, over broken dirt roads, navigating a quicker route to our destination, the only real ‘destination’ we have had on this trip, apart from lodgings.

So far, we have ‘winged it’, simply driven between one overnight stop to the next, taking in the wonders along the way, enjoying the surprising gifts of beauty this country has to offer, and always expecting the unexpected.

Yes, we have a maps and guidebooks to help us find landmarks along the way, but till today, we did not set out with the intention of visiting a particular site. This has removed any pressure or expectation and has put us in places we had not expected to end up. It’s put us in places we see photos of, but really had no idea where they were, all the while avoiding the summer crowds during this off-season. Mind you, white outs and near impassible roads have helped with that too. Despite unforeseen weather and driving challenges, it has been and continues to be a completely amazing and soul-restoring trip.

Back today. We set out from our lodgings in Svinvaten, in North-East Iceland towards the town of Grundarfjörður, the home of Kirkjufellfoss and the crazy pyramid looking mountain that seems to be on everybody’s Instagram feed. To get there in reasonable time meant taking a few ‘shortcuts’.

Iceland’s road system includes a series of remote wilderness roads, knows as “F” roads, that take the traveller, with an appropriate vehicle into Iceland’s more remote locations. These roads are now closed for the season and our rental contract forbade using these roads. However, we found a few routes that parallel the F roads and cut directly cross-country to cut significant distances that result in sticking to the coast-hugging main highways. The roads we travelled were gravel, pot-holed tracks through open county, bounded by mountains and across vast plains of nothingness. It was beautiful, but slightly un-nerving.

In the end we reached our destination, only to find it filled with crowds (yes, even this time of year) of people with the accursed selfie sticks, posing in precarious locations around the falls.

My main reason for attending this location was to  see for myself what the falls looked like and how some of these beautiful images I see are made. Having been there myself now, any shots without people are the result of patience or post-processing. People were everywhere, each in their own world, oblivious to others. Some balancing and posing for extended periods, and making it next to impossible to get a good shot.

I really don’t like crowds, primarily because of this mentality, which seems so pervasive with the inception of Instagram; everybody trying to outdo the other for that ‘wow’ shot.

As for me, I set up in a few locations, waited between ‘waves’ of visitors and snapped a few shots, hoping for something worthwhile. I was pleased with the image above. I could not imaging going back to this place in the summer, despite its beauty and surreal appearance.

Nikon D300
TAMRON SP AF 17-50mm F2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF A16NII @ 32 mm
1/4 sec, F/29, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)
http://www.edlehming.com

Iceland – Day 5

“Grjótárhnjúkur” - North Iceland

“Heiðarfall” – North Iceland

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

On a day that started out dull, and blanketed in low cloud and with little promise of sights to photograph, we set out on the still icy road which would lead us to a stop at Goðafoss, a much photographed waterfall just off the main highway, a lovely lunch in the city of Akureyri, and finally, our overnight stay at a guesthouse in Svinvatn, a small interior lake.

As we approached Goðafoss, the sky began to brighten, but a layer of cloud still blocked the sun, but made for good conditions to photograph the waterfall, post to follow at a later date.

With the highlight of our day completed, we headed out of Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland, following a long valley through the mountain range that rises on the western edge of the Eyjafjörður fjord.

With the sky just slightly overcast, the drive through the valley was lovely, and yielded a few ‘decent’ photos. I the distance, we could see a mountain peak, a bit hazy in the distance, lit up by the sun. We kept watching, as the peak began to come into sharper view, snow whipping from its snow covered summit.

We pulled over along the road to make a few photos of this interesting vista before us. Then, suddenly, magic happened. As I stood ready to make a photo, the clouds overhead changed the light, ever so slightly and bathed the valley before me in a wonderful golden hue and the world before me was like a scene from a dream, then it was gone again. But, I was able to capture that one brief moment as a photo I will treasure for a long time. The long valley, with the snowy mountain. A miracle of light and timing.

So, a ho hum day, became a day of sheer joy. That seems to be the nature of Iceland, you always have to be prepared for something new and wonderful, despite icy roads and gray skies.

What an incredible change from yesterday’s icy drive.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 145 mm
1/320 sec, f/9.0 ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)
http://www.edlehming.com

Iceland – Day 4

“Möðrudalsfjallgarðar” - East Iceland

“Möðrudalsfjallgarðar” – East Iceland

“When hell freezes over the Earth shall be covered in snow.” 
― Anthony T. Hincks

The theme of this day is snow, never-ending snow, floating snow, drifting snow, skin biting snow. You see, today we headed into the north of Iceland. As we awoke in the town of Egilsstaðir, light snow had already fallen overnight and dusted the world in white. The forecast showed the snow would be ending by mid-morning.

That was my first mistake, there is no such thing as a long-term forecast in Iceland, and a large arctic storm west of Norway was pushing cold air and moisture towards Iceland. Roads that started snow-dusted soon turned to ice and, as we ventured ever higher into the mountains which divide East and North Iceland, we ran into a continuous series of storms which created white-out conditions.

I should note that our rental vehicle was a 4×4 with studded tires. I wondered, “Why the studs?”, when we picked it up that rainy morning a few days ago. Now I know. There are no salters here and we only saw two snow ploughs on our 170 km drive, despite the horrible conditions.

This was to be our shortest drive on the ring road trek, but ended up taking much longer due to the ‘white knuckle” road conditions.

Despite this, we still had a great time and made many beautiful photos along the way, including Dettifoss and Snelfoss, two massive waterfalls that flow through an enormous fissure running through a wasteland of volcanic rock. That 24 km drive down the Dettifoss road was more of the same: icy roads and constant snow drifts. If roads at home were like this, I would not venture out.

As we neared the end of the day, having survived the roads, thus far, we headed for the Krafla Geothermal Plant, at the base of Krafla, a 818m high volcanic dome, with plans to drive to the viewing area at the top and take in the beautiful emerald-green pool that fills the cone. When we arrived, we found the access road closed, due to poor conditions. We sat in the car till yet another squall passed over and decided to hike the 2.5 km road to the top. Half way there we had reached the lead edge of the peak and were greeted with +100 km/h winds and stinging snow. In the distance, another squall loomed close by. Since there was no shelter at this height, we decided it was safer to head back down, rather than proceed.

I can’t say I have ever experienced nature in such a raw form.

Our final destination for the day was the Grjótagjá Cave, a series of caves containing hot springs, too hot for human use, filling the caves with warm steam. It is also quite amazing to realize the caves were caused by the collapse of the land within the valley, creating visible cracks that define the edge of the volcanic formation below.

I ended my day with a fantastic lamb and mushroom pizza and a lovely Icelandic Porter at a local restaurant. I seem to be ending each day with food?

iPhone 7 back camera @ 4.0mm
1/4167 sec; f/1.8; ISO 20

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)
http://www.edlehming.com

Iceland – Day 3

“Berufjörður” - Djúpavogshreppur, East Iceland

“Berufjörður” – Djúpavogshreppur, East Iceland

“Welcome to driving Iceland, where every turn in the road opens up a brand new and astounding vista. Just when you think you have found the most beautiful sight in the world, another competes with it in an endless play of wonders.”
– Ed Lehming

Today’s theme is mountains, fjords, and glacial streams. First, the mountains are really a continuation of yesterdays mountains, though in line with my quote, the mountains today, as we departed Höfn, had a slightly different character than the glacial mountains we travelled through yesterday. Today’s mountains were ancient and terraced, made deep in under the oceans and heaved up by tectonic forces. They remind me of the Rocky Mountains of North America, with their angular peaks and banded appearance.

Between these rows of mountains, deep fjords cut into the coast of East Iceland, stretching for many kilometers inland and forcing roads to cling tenaciously to the edges of the mountains.

The fjords certainly added to our travel, but what a sight to see; enormous mountains to one side and fingers of the Atlantic Ocean reaching far into the valleys between. It was astounding to look back across and see the fine thread that represented the road we had just traveled, along the edge of the water.

Within the valleys of the snow-covered mountains, nearly every crack and crevasse flowed with clear, ice-cold, melt water. I can imagine this place in late spring. The hills must be completely awash with water.

I could not resist filling my water bottle at the base of a 1,085 meter high mountain. It was an amazing experience to drink this ice-cold elixir while looking high up to the peak that created it, the cool mountain breezes blowing on my face and refreshing my very soul. This, is glacier water, not the stuff marketed with pictures of mountains! This is the real deal.

We neared our day with a 6 km. drive though a tunnel carved below Kollufell Mountain, shortening our drive by some 35 km. Before settling in our room in Egilsstaðir, we decided to take drive around the long lake that if formed within the Lagarfljót River, Lagarfljót Lake.

At the south end of the lake is a trailhead that leads to Hengifoss, a VERY steep, 2.5 km hike up the side of one of the river valley’s bounding mountains. We made it to just past the 1 km mark, beaten by high winds, cold, and exhaustion, being the end of the day. At this point in the ascent, we were greeted by Litlanesfoss, a smaller falls below Hengifoss. I took the time to make a few photos and began our decent.

At the end of the day, a nice bowl of Icelandic lamb stew in Egilsstaðir made up for the cold and the memory of the experience with stay with me for a long time.

iPhone 7 back camera @ 4.0mm
1/2179 sec; f/1.8; ISO 20

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)
http://www.edlehming.com

 

Iceland – Day 2

“Sveitarfélagið Hornafjörður - Glacial Pool” - East Icel

“Sveitarfélagið Hornafjörður – Glacial Pool” – East Iceland

“ If one looks at the glacier for long enough, words cease to have any meaning on God’s earth.” 
― Halldór Laxness

Today was a day of volcanoes, mountains, and ice (and rough roads), as I continue my journey around Iceland’s Ring Road.

We entered the south-east of Iceland, having departed from Vik this morning, travelling along Highway 1. Shortly after Vik, the landscape changed dramatically into a jagged landscape of tortured rock and cinder. Just north of us, loomed the massive ice fields which cover the now dormant Katla volcano. There is a real problem when a volcano erupts under a glacier; it has nowhere to go but out, through the base of the glacier, creating catastrophic flooding  and ash falls. The most recent eruption of Katla, was in 1918, but the area to the south-east of the volcano looks like it erupted a few days ago, with twisted shards of black stone and ash as far as the eye can see.

As we continued east, the landscape changed again, into a surreal world of mounds of rounded stone covered in thick green moss. This continued for quite some time until we entered yet another vast field of black sand and gravel, the runoff of the Vatnajökull glacier fields.  The black sand is crisscrossed by an endless network of glacial rivers.

Beyond this black plain rise the sheer cliffs, mountains, and glaciers which dominated my day. The best of all is pictured above. At the base of one of the many Svínafellsjökull glacial ‘tongues’ below Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest glaciated mountain in Iceland. We hiked along the edge of the glacier but were most fascinated by the small glacial pool at the base, filled with icebergs of many sizes, some a spectacular blue. Some smaller pieces lay by the shore, crystal clear and beckoning me to have a taste, which I did. Oh, so cool and fresh! I’ve now eaten a piece of glacier.

We spend quite a bit of time on the shores of this pond, away from the crowds who did not seem to be able to find the trail that led us here, making photos and enjoying the vast glacier which stood before us.

iPhone 7 back camera @ 4.0mm
1/556 sec; f/1.8; ISO 20

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)
http://www.edlehming.com

Iceland – Day 1

“Rangárþing Eystra” - South Icelend

It is said, “There is no bad weather in Iceland, only bad clothing”
– unknown

“Rangárþing Eystra” – South Iceland

The saying above rang true on day one of my trip to Iceland with my son. I agonized about taking the right cloths for this land of ever-changing conditions, trying not to pack too much, but being aware that too little could also pose a problem.

We landed at 6:05am to surprisingly mild temperatures and no rain, though the forecast had called for it. By 7:30 am we had picked up our rental 4×4 an were on the road towards Vik, our first stop on our ten day Ring Road excursion.

By 9:30 the sky was just brightening as we drove through a tortured and raw landscape of jagged volcanic debris, a slight tang of sulphur in the air, noting the columns of steam rising from the earth’s depths, reminders that volcanism is still a very real part of what makes Iceland what it is, a land of fire and ice.

For me, “raw” best describes what I am seeing. It’s layers upon layers of glaciers, lava fields, geysers, and pale yellow mosses that tenaciously cling to the exposed rock.

As we continued our journey towards Vik, the landscape calmed a bit, changing from lava fields to high, snow-covered mountains, water falls, and twisting, sinuous rivers, winding their way through black sands to the sea. Between these mountains, farms fill valleys, defying nature yet dwarfed by the enormity of the landscape the are part of. One such valley is pictured above, as icy waters escape their mountain homes, on black paths to mingle with sea water in the north Atlantic Ocean.

The other factor at play is, of course, the weather. This image was made around 12:30 and a system pushed straight up the mid-Atlantic by the Gulf Stream continues to darken the skies, eventually ending with sheets of rain and temperatures just above freezing. By the time we got to Vik around 3:00pm it was cold and miserable and we called it quits for the day. More tomorrow.

iPhone 7 back camera @ 4.0mm
1/556 sec; f/1.8; ISO 20

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)
http://www.edlehming.com