Monthly Archives: November 2018

Iceland Journal – “The End” – Svínafelsjökull – South Iceland

“The End” - Svínafelsjökull - South Iceland

“It’s not the endings that will haunt you
But the space where they should lie,
The things that simply faded
Without one final wave goodbye.” 
― Erin Hanson

The long journey comes to an end, silently and slowly, in water.

Nothing is quick for a glacier, including its ending. The ice slowly flows down the mountains, slowly melting, cracking, and disintegrating. The last vestiges float about in a muddy pond, eventually fading not the water, at the feet of their majestic source..

In the image, you can clearly see the progression down the mountain, including the widening fissures at the face of the glacier. I made the photo from the edge of the pool, looking back up the glacier and waiting for the clouds to clear so that I could see the high peak of Hrútsfallstindar towering  behind the glacier at 1,570 meters.

My son and I walked the edge of the pond, amazed at this natural spectacle and watching all shapes and sizes if ice floating around in front of us, or stuck to the muddy bottom and gradually melting away. What really surprised me was the variation, not just of shape and size but the colours and textures of the icebergs. Some were simply dull gray masses, others were made up of layers in every vibrant shade of blue imaginable, and some were absolutely crystal clear.

Behind us was a high mound of rock and gravel, the terminal moraine, made during the last advance of the glacier, as it pushed and piled the rock into a hill in front of it, creating a dam that is responsible for the glacial pool.

It was such a lovely place that we spent over an hour exploring the shoreline and photographing the icebergs and surroundings. It was an experience that I had not expected to ever have and one I will not soon forget.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 75 mm
1/320 sec, f/10.0, ISO 400

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

Iceland Journal – “Face to Face with the Glacier” – Svínafelsjökull, South Iceland

“Face to Face with the Glacier” - Svínafelsjökull, South I

“Ice, deep, blue and tortured ice;
The vault of time, and memory, long past.”
– Ed Lehming

Words can barely describe the feeling of standing side by side with a glacier. Ice, formed tens of thousand of years ago. Ice, that has travelled for kilometers from high mountain peaks to slowly melt into oblivion, in a muddy glacial pool.

The photo hardly does it justice; layers of ice and dust, reminders of Iceland’s recent and distant volcanic past, laid out before me to ponder, close enough to touch. There are too many shades of blue to name, and light plays from and through the ancient mass before me.

Glaciers cover almost ten percent of Iceland’s surface, all melting at an accelerated pace in recent years. And now, I stand and witness their slow decay in the sound of dripping water and splashes far below the lead face.

I’m so glad I made this journey, at this time. I fear much of this wonder will soon be gone; though it’s hard to imagine that this much ice will someday by be nothing more than a muddy brown pond and a memory of what once was.

This, is Svínafelsjökull, close up and personal, this is Iceland’s past and future, a visual history of the land of Fire and Ice.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 200mm
1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

Iceland Journal – “Svínafelsjökull” – South Iceland

“Svínafelsjökull” - South Iceland

Ice, massive ancient glacial ice, sagging and flowing under its own weight;
A great white beast, carving and devouring the mountains which contain it,
creeping forward, unstoppable;

It’s only foe, sunlight and warmth.
I stand humbled by its patient and persistent force.
– Ed Lehming

Svínafelsjökull glacier, or rather, the “glacier of Svínafels”, since jökull is Icelandic for glacier is actually one of the smaller glacial outflows associated with Hvannadalshnúkur, mentioned in a prior post.

I saw this glacier ahead of us as we continued to travel east along Iceland’s Ring Road. The sheer size of this incredible mass of snow and ice, piled high between the rugged peaks is humbling. The photo hardly does justice to the scale. At the far right foreground, a few vehicles sit parked along the road in front of a terminal moraine of this glacier. Basically, a pile of rock created by the front of the glacier plowing up the ground in front of it. The moraine itself is over 50 meters high and hides the lead edge of the glacier and the glacial pond formed by the meltwater trapped behind the moraine. More on that in a future post.

As we drove, ever closer, I hoped the road would bring me closer to this magnificent sight. I was not disappointed, the road came to within two kilometers of the glacier itself and we had opportunity to get even closer via a horribly potholed dirt road that led us to paths along side of the glacier and around the pond below.

As I said, the experience of walking along precipitous trails next to this massive and ancient ice is humbling, as we gazed across the deep crevasses of the slowly melting glacier and witnessing, close up, the unbelievable colours and patterns of the ice within meters of us. Then, looking upwards and seeing ice on ice, wedged between unyielding rock, piled ever higher and disappearing into the clouds above us.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 172mm
1/320 sec, f/9.0, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

Iceland Journal – “Monolith” – Lómagnúpsnef, South Iceland

“Monolith” - Lómagnúpsnef, South Iceland

“It’s when rock breaks its silence that it crumbles to dust.” 
― Anthony T. Hincks

Today’s image is a closer look at the massive, dark cliff visible in yesterday’s post. This cliff, Lómagnúpsnef (nef is Icelandic for nose), dominated the horizon for a long time, ever brightening with more details emerging from the shadows as we got closer to it. There are many more details that I’m aware of, now that I’m not behind the wheel or standing along the road with my camera.

This large outcropping, which also acts as an unmovable boundary to the Skeiðarárjokull glacier, which is hidden behind the cliff’s talus slope in this image, reveals its wonderful colours and textures. The colour comes from the varied layers of basalt, which is the dark volcanic rock, and rhyolite, a pink-orange coloured volcanic rock. The difference in colour being the result of different mineral chemistry. Each layer would have been formed at a different period in time, deep underground.

The colour does not stop at the cliff itself; it continues down the slopes in tones or pink, orange and faint streaks of green.

The varied colours of this land really surprised me, since it is technically classified as tundra. I was not expecting all these bright colours, especially in the subdued late October sun, often blocked by layers of cloud.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 130mm
1/250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

Iceland Journal – “Glaciers Ahead”

“Glaciers Ahead” - South Iceland

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

This single photo can sum up my Icelandic journey. By the way, I was not driving when I made this photo, I stopped and stepped onto the sparsely travelled road. The landscape, in its varied layers, over the visible distance, changes from rugged lava fields, the Eldhraun, covered in ancient moss, to rugged plateaus and the ever present yellow grasses flanked by steep talus slopes, filled with waterfalls and the dark high cliffs of Lómagnúpsnef, the bounding landmark to the western edge of the massive Skeiðarársandur, yet another glacial washout plain, this one, some 56 km wide and filled with a tangled network of creeks and rivers winding their way through black sand and golden grass to the sea. Their source: the vast glacier field known as Vatnatjökull, visible in the far distance.

As the road makes another turn, a huge boulder dominates the scene and yet another waterfall, Gulufoss, I believe, falls from the rim of the plateau. I can picture this plateau in late spring, spewing water through every crack and crevice.

Actually, only one of the glaciers that make up Vatnatjökull is visible in this image, Skeiðarárjokull, the source of the washout, can be seen stretching out in a bright white plain before the distant mountains and glaciers of Hvannadalshnúkur, Iceland’s highest peak, a 2,119 meter high volcano, also covered in ice, the summit obscured by clouds.

As the day progressed and we drew nearer to Hvannadalshnúkur, I found myself hiking through mossy lava fields to get a closer look at a small waterfall, driving a small potholed dirt road that rattled my teeth to get a closer view of Svínafelsjökull, one of several outflow glaciers coming from Hvannadalshnúkur. Here, I could almost touch the fractured glacier as it flowed between the mountains, melting into a muddy pool, filled with glacial icebergs of varying size and colour. We then spend time along the pond, enjoying the icebergs in their variety. I even had the chance to pick up a small, crystal clear fragment and taste it. A magnificent and unexpected experience. It was oh, so pure and pleasant. The taste of a glacier!

My journey, as I reflect on these images and memories did not end when I flew home, rather, it continues, as I begin to understand the incredible forces and dynamics that shape this country.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 200mm
1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

Iceland Journal – “Mýrdalssandur” – South Iceland

“Mýrdalssandur” - South Iceland

“There was an ocean above us, held in by a thin sac that might rupture and let down a flood at any second.” 
― Stephen King

Mýrdalssandur is a massive outwash plain just east of the town of Vik, on Iceland’s south coast. The Ring Road enters this area after a short run along the mountains near Vik. I have never seen anything like this and at first had no idea what I was witnessing. As far as the eye can see, the landscape has been washed flat, yellow grasses and moss cling tenuously to the black sand, gravel, and lava boulders that make up this vast area for some 25 kilometers. There are warning signs along the road that dust storms of fine black sand, resembling smoke, can be created, if the conditions are right. I was concerned, as we entered the region, as the winds whipped up to over 80 km/h, but the recent rains and coastal fog held the dust down.

Threading their way through this barren landscape are glacial streams of varying size, faint reminders of the torrents of water, or jökulhlaup (glacial outwashes), that created this area.

This region was most recently sculpted by an enormous jökulhlaup, the result of a subglacial eruption of the nearby volcano, Katla.

In 1918, Katla erupted underneath the enormous glacier, Mýrdalsjökull (seen in the background, just beneath the clouds), melting the glacier below the surface and forming a massive sub-glacial lake. The volcano continued to erupt under the ice and increasing pressure caused it to burst out the side of the glacier, creating a violent flood, of water, ice and volcanic debris. The water volume at the peak of the jökulhlaup was estimated to be around 200,000 – 300,000 m³/s, making it, for a brief time, the largest river in the world, based on the volume of water. The jökulhlaup absolutely devastated the area, wiping out homes and farms and leaving this mainly barren plain as evidence of its power.

The region is largely unsettled, primarily due to the risks of future eruptions of Katla, which remains active below the ice, and the frequent jökulhlaups. Because of this and the alien look of the landscape, it was used for the opening scene of the Star Wars, Rogue One movie.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 70mm
1/250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

Iceland Journal – “Skógafoss” – South Iceland

“Skógafoss” - South Iceland

“The places where water comes together with other water. Those places stand out in my mind like holy places.” 
― Raymond Carver

Water upon water, water flowing everywhere, from the high and cold places, that is Iceland.

And this, is one of the most known waterfalls for a few reasons. Skógafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, at 60 meters in height and 25 meters wide. It’s also just a short drive from Reykjavik and one of the first significant waterfalls you see for the Ring Road, Highway 1. It’s also very easily accessible. In fact, you can walk right up to it. You’ll get soaked by the mist in seconds, but you can walk right up to it, as many people did on this rainy October day.

The waterfall itself is on the River Skóga, this the name Skóga / foss (Skóga / waterfall). It’s actually one of many waterfalls on the Skóga river, but the others are much smaller and further up the river from Skógafoss.

As I mentioned, many people walk right up to it; people with cellphones, point and shoot cameras, and the hardcore photographers with their tripods and water resistant coverings, all wanting to take some memory of the beautiful place home with them.

You’d think this would be dangerous, but despite the height of the waterfall, the actual volume flowing over it is not as great as you’d think. I would not recommend showering under it, but you can get very close, and very wet!

As I said, we visited on a rainy day, so were already in our rain gear as we approached. It did make for stunning photos either, as I was trying to get an angle that did not have people in it and the fine mist and rain  provided me with a soft white background rather than a few clouds and blue sky. I also did not want to commit to bringing a tripod and setting up like many others, so shot this handheld at 1/8 of a second, which is the best I can do at shooting hand held. Thank goodness for the Vibration reduction in modern lenses.

I thoroughly enjoyed being there and taking in this wonderful sight, despite the spray of water and the cool temperatures. It looks much more pleasant in the summer, though I expect it would be packed with people.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 78mm
1/8 sec, f/13.0, ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

Iceland Journal – “Ok Mountain” – West Iceland

“Ok Mountain” - West Iceland

We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded. We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.” 
― Milan Kundera

I chose the attached quote for several reasons. First, and foremost, I’m referring to the ever changeable nature of Iceland’s landscapes. Many times, only small glimpses revealed themselves, hinting at something grander, yet unseen. Other times, a scene would reveal itself for just a brief period and then be obscured by clouds once more. Secondly, much of what I experienced is just starting to sink in now. I’m discovering names of places, mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls that, even though we had a good travel book with us, did not ‘fit’ together into a continuous story.

We experienced mini vistas, in isolation from each other. Recalling these ‘moments’ and the photos associated with them, fills in the experience some time after the experience itself. Understanding how these places and natural systems work together has given me a whole new appreciation for the wonder that is natural Iceland.

I’ve reviewing images that I believed that I made in one place only to find it was in a slightly different location altogether and that the surroundings are more significant than I had realized while there.

The images and associated stories, now expanded, provide a deeper meaning to the experience and I find myself getting a bit emotional about them. Putting myself back in that particular time and space and discovering them over again, with a fuller understanding and appreciation.

The volcanic mountain, or stratovolcano, pictured her is Ok. Yes, that’s its name. Even though we had driven in very close proximity to it and saw it on our map, we never actually saw the volcano till we were driving away and it briefly revealed itself though the clouds, behind us. Really? How do you not see a mountain? In Iceland, it’s quite easy and I wonder how many other wonders the clouds hid from our view?

In a way, my journey through this beautiful country continues, as my understanding and appreciation expands.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 300 mm
1/250 sec, f/8.0 ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

Iceland Journal – “Djúpavogshreppur” – East Iceland

“Djúpavogshreppur” - East Iceland

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” 
― Rachel Carson

I couldn’t help but match my favourite Rachel Carson quote with this image. The scene above left me breathless as I beheld it for the first time. I was captivated be the shape of the high mountains which bound this relatively short Eastern Icelandic fjord, Hamarsjörður, and the stunning play of light on both the peaks and the flanking foothills. When I return to Iceland, next time, I plan to spend more time travelling these spectacular fjords.

In the foreground is Nontindur, a stunning 935 meter high pyramid-like peak. I was enthralled by these mountains the first time I saw them, the recent high level snowfalls accenting the horizontal tiers that make the peaks in this region so unique.

The light that morning, as we followed the Ring Road along the southern coast eastward from the town of Höfn, was absolutely gorgeous and makes the ever-present yellow grasses glow with a soft golden warmth that we experienced so many times on our journey. I was concerned that travelling to Iceland at this time of year might make for some fairly dull images, but was so pleased when I revisited these locations in Google Street View to find that the light and colours that I experienced were by far better than that of summer, at least in the Google images.

As I composed the shot, from the side of the road, all the elements came together once more to produce this post card-like image that so wonderfully conveys the feelings I experienced while standing there, taking in the beauty.

In this case, as in several other shots I have been sharing, I deliberately put an object in the foreground to help establish scale. In this case, the freshly installed and sharpened fence post nicely echoes the shape of the mountains behind it and seems to be pointing to the peak itself.

Once more, I’m including the Street View link so you can also take in the surroundings that make up this shot. This is the exact spot I pulled off. You can even see the gate and fence post in the foreground 🙂,-14.4986801,3a,75y,263.14h,75.52t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s4Vekihp9U0MLxbbRcHPAsg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Iceland Journal – “Eyjafjörður” – North Iceland

“Eyjafjörður” - North Iceland

“Mountains, according to the angle of view, the season, the time of day, the beholder’s frame of mind, or any one thing, can effectively change their appearance. Thus, it is essential to recognize that we can never know more than one side, one small aspect of a mountain.” 
― Haruki Murakami

More mountains, their scale lost against the massive northern Icelandic fjord, Eyjafjörður. The highest peak, at the center, Kerahnjúkur, rising to 1,097 meters.

This was our view as we continued our round trip of Iceland, descending from high passes to enter the region around Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city, which sits at the innermost end of this 60 km long fjord, the longest in Iceland.

I was mesmerized at the stark whiteness of the mountains against the slate blue water of the fjord, coupled with the wonderful pinks in the distant clouds; layers upon layers of colour and texture. The entire region beyond these mountains, the Tröllaskagi peninsula, is defined by high, rugged, and glacier topped peaks and long, deep valleys.

The image was made at the end of October and yet, the entire landscape is like a scene from the arctic circle, which, while close, is till some 60 kilometers distant from this point. In fact, while Iceland is close to the Arctic Circle, none of the mainland is actually in the arctic, only a few northern islands can make that claim.

Once more, I’m adding the Street View link, so you can get a sense of scale. The image above is the mountains to the distant right on the Street View image:,-18.0352658,3a,75y,295.26h,92.2t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sx-j0zIt4HFdsOGNAyIe89g!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 200mm
1/200 sec, f/7.1 ISO 200

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)