Monthly Archives: December 2018

Iceland Journal – “Silk Curtains” – Hraunerfosser, Southwest Iceland

“The waters flowed over the rocks like dancers clad in ribbons of silk, some fluttering like gossamer curtains in a summer breeze.”
– Ed Lehming

I know that I have shared previous images and thoughts of this magnificent series of waterfalls. As I continue to review my images, new perspectives reveal themselves. Here’s an image of a small section of the broad and complex waterfalls, just to the right of my prior image. I chose it because it represents the beginning of the falls and water flow is scant and complex here. The details of the water losing over the rocks is almost magical when seen as a long exposure.

The long exposure also enhances the colours, adding a slight, natural saturation which causes the abundant mosses and lichens to stand out, as well as the short and scrubby Icelandic birches, which also share this scene, the every detail shining through. It also lets the subtle blue tones of the glacial water to reveal themselves. It’s a very pleasing image to me personally, another fond memory of this trip, which still occupies my dreams so vividly.

I could have spent the day examining and photographing this waterfalls, but alas, we had to move on to our next stop and more of the beauty Iceland had to offer us before heading to the coastal town of Borgarnes for the evening.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 86mm
1.0 sec, f/32.0, ISO 200

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


Iceland Journal – “Across the Fertile Valley” – Southwest Iceland

“I am reminded that the most fertile lands are often built by the fires of volcanoes.” 
― Ed Lehming

On the seventh day of our Iceland journey, my son and I travelled through the high mountain passes at the base of the West Fjords, southward along Highway 60 to rejoin the Ring Road, just north of the town of Bifrost.

We were greeted by this spectacular view of a broad valley, filled with meandering rivers and lush farmlands, stretching to the horizon, some 30 kilometers distant, which is bounded by the Skarðheiði mountain cluster and dominated by steep sloped Skessuhorn, poking from a persistent cloud bank, which did not break up all day and kept the rest of the mountains obscured. I could not keep my eyes off Skessuhorn as we drove along, and eventually into, the valley, which is bounded in this view by the Norðurá river. The Norðurá joins several other rivers to form a small delta, just north of the town of Borgarnes, our final destination on this day of travels. I have included a link to the high-resolution version of this image, should you care to have a closer look.

This is a truly remarkable area for Iceland, in that it a very large expanse of farmland, though it is still a very active geothermal area, interspersed with hot springs throughout the valley. An aerial view of this region shows it to have been formed by glaciers, carving and eroding the volcanic bedrock and creating ideal conditions for rivers to flow and deposit their rich, mineral laden silt within the valleys carved by the glaciers.

It was this area that we intended to explore that day and it led us through the farmland, past steaming vents, cold glacial streams of turquoise, and up into the highlands and lava fields of the Hallmundarhraun and the peaks of Ok and Eiriksjökull. It was, in the typical fashion of Iceland, an incredible change in environments, within a fairly short distance of some 30 kilometers. The trip also included a stop at the magnificent Hraunfosser waterfalls, which I have already discussed in a previous post.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 116mm
1/320 sec, f/9.0 ISO 200

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

Iceland Journal – “Gullborgarhraun” – Snæfellsnes Peninsula, West Iceland

The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.” 
― Cheryl Strayed

Most of Iceland remains wild, and untamed, and that is a good thing. As humans, in this era of convenience, it’s refreshing to be in a place like this; a place where we can still feel vulnerable and humbled by nature in its most elemental form.

This is something that has stayed with me, now that I sit comfortably at my desk, recounting this journey through Iceland. Even though we spent much of our time on the road, we did take the opportunity to wander off the beaten path a few times and feel Iceland in its natural form. You don’t have to venture more than a few meters off the road to experience this, as the road is but a thin, temporary, ribbon of civilization.

For example, here in the Gullborgarhraun, or Gullborg lava fields of the Snæfellsness Peninsula you are faced with kilometers of ancient lava, twisted and jagged, slightly softened by the ever-present mosses and lichens, which offer a splash of colour in the otherwise bleak landscape of black and grey rock.

At the centre of the scene sits Gullborg, a short volcanic cone, at one time, the source of all this lava, now rising from the deep lava field and littered with  and accumulation of sharp black ejecta, attesting to the active volcanic nature of this region. It’s a rawness that I’ve never experienced before and something I really appreciate given my formal education in geology, so many years ago.

The first word I used to express the nature of Iceland was ‘raw’, and that stands ever more true, several days into the journey. I suppose that is the real appeal for many of us who have travelled here. It’s one of the few places left in the world where we can experience this kind of wilderness, to enjoy such primal diversity within a relatively small geography. It’s like stepping back in time, to a place where nature ruled and mankind was merely a participant at its mercy.

iPhone 7 back camera @ 4.0mm
1/35 sec; f/1.8; ISO 32

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

Iceland Journal – “Kirkjufellsfosser, Front View” – Snæfellsnes Peninsula, West Island

“It’s not about inviting great things into our lives. Rather, it’s about accepting the invitation of great things to step out of our lives.” 
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

For those following my Iceland journey from late October, you will know that it was made up of a series of ‘general’ destinations. We simply set up a schedule to take us from one overnight stop to the next, leaving time between those destinations to enjoy the journey along the way. This meant roughly two to three hours of daily driving and we never had a particular ‘sight’ as a destination. We allowed each day to simply ‘happen’.

The only exception to this ‘plan’ was Kirkjufellsfosser, which I addressed on a prior post, which includes a photo of this iconic waterfall which appears on almost every Iceland travel brochure. Choosing Kirkjufellsfosser as a deliberate destination also made for the longest travel day, most of which was spent simply driving to get there and then back, the entire length of the Snæfellsness Peninsula, to get to our accommodations for the night. Yet again, despite the extended ‘windshield’ time, and off and on rain, we were still able to enjoy the ever-changing and wondrous scenery.

The travel brochures hardly do Iceland justice and it’s impossible to portray the incredible diversity we witnessed effectively. Those brochures often show scenes from the same vantage point, so when you arrive, the scene before you is quite different from what you expected to see. This image is a prime example. The ‘iconic’ image is made from near the top of the cascade, with Kirkjufell mountain in the background. That vantage point is near the top of the photo above. However, there are many other ways to view this waterfall, including from near the base, which is where this photo was made. It’s important to note, that these falls are named, fosser, which is the plural to foss, or waterfall. In fact, many of the waterfalls in Iceland are made up of multiple sub-falls.

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

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

Iceland Journal – “Clear the Way!” – West Iceland

“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.”
― Erol Ozan

This, our sixth day of travel, did not leave us lost, as the quote may imply, but it did send us down some ‘interesting’ paths.

As I noted in previous posts, there are roads which enter Iceland’s mountainous and rugged interior known as “F” roads, which we were prohibited from driving on with our rental vehicle, despite studded tires and four-wheel drive. As Iceland approaches late autumn, these roads can quickly turn treacherous and they are very remote, so emergency assistance would be very expensive, if even available.

As we mapped out our path from Svínavatn to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we noticed that travelling the Ring Road would have taken us further south than we wanted, meaning extra distance and time lost driving. We were directed by locals to take a ‘shortcut’ cross-country from Staðarskáli to the town of Buðardalur, at the base of the West Fjords. It turned out that the ‘shortcut’ was an “F” road, so we sought other passages. It turns out that just north of the “F” road is an ‘official’ road, in the form of Highway 59, which parallels the “F” road. I’m really not sure how much better than the “F” road this highway was, since it was roughly thirty kilometers of black, icy, and potholed track through some of the most desolate landscape we had seen yet. I think we drove nearly twenty kilometers without seeing a single building. Barren grassland and low hills reaching to the horizon.

What we did see lots of was sheep. Despite the barren, windswept landscape, sheep were everywhere. That was true, not just here, but throughout Iceland. There are just over three hundred thousand people in Iceland, and at last count, there were over eight hundred thousand sheep. They are everywhere, in open fields, on high mountain sides, in the tortured and twisted lava fields, and often, on the road. Yes, there are fences aplenty, but the sheep seem to find their way over, around, and under the fences, often grazing right next to the road, or like here, on the road. So you have to be ever vigilant while driving.

This troupe was very cooperative, except for a few stragglers, who hurried to catch up with the rest of the flock, who were waiting patiently on the far side of the bridge. I just had to stop to take a picture, since this captured yet another aspect of our drive.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 200mm
1/125 sec, f/35.6 ISO 200

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

“Hnúksgirðingar” – Snæfellsnes Peninsula, West Iceland

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.” 
― William Butler Yeats

I can’t say enough about how stunningly raw the landscape in Iceland is. Even on dull, slightly overcast days, there are these short breaks in the cloud where the world is alight with colours, and these colours stand in sharp contrast to the black, volcanic mountains and plains.

Above is a prime example. This mountain stands along the shores of Kolgrafjörður, one of the many fjords found along the rugged and beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula of western Iceland.

On the sixth day of our Iceland excursion, my son and I were on our way to Kirkufellfoss. That’s the waterfall with the odd-shaped mountain in the background that is on virtually every Iceland brochure. It’s located about three-quarters of the way out to the tip of the peninsula itself, along some pretty rough roads. Though Kirkufell was our destination, the journey there was simply breathtaking and varied. The landscapes included vast fjords, filled with hundreds of small islands, winding mountain roads, dormant volcanoes and high glaciated mountains.

As with other regions in Iceland, the scenery changes quickly and unexpectedly, each turn in the road presenting some new wonder. I recall this particular mountain well because of the way the yellow grasses glowed in the brief and diffused sunlight and how the bright green mosses stood out against the dark talus slopes of the mountain. I found, as I reviewed the photo, that there are so  many details that my eyes did not pick up on, even as I composed the image. For that reason, I’m posting a link to the high-resolution image here and encourage you to spend some time, zooming in and looking for the sheep, the waterfowl, and exploring the mountainside details that are lost in the image above.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 70mm
1/40 sec, f/3.2 ISO 200

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

“Back to the Woods”

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” 
 William Blake

Today, a brief reprieve from my my Iceland series, which is not nearly complete. Yesterday, as the early snowfalls melted away, it took the the local forest for a moderate hike.

I’m blessed to live in an area with lots of forest and lots of easily accessible trails. There are favourites which I return to regularly, one being North Walkers Woods, which has a good network of interconnecting trails. The one I chose is what I refer to as the ‘ outer loop’ which follows the forest perimeter and is six kilometres long.

The day stared out dull and overcast, but sitting inside was not an appealing option for me. After a particularly horrible workweek, many of my co-workers were let go, in the ever present world of downsizing, I ended my week family ‘numb’ and simply needed to get out and recharge.

When I’m out hiking and making photos, the outside world fades away and I am simply present in the forest. I hear lots of people talking about this state of being present. I suppose I have always had the ability to do that, without having a formal name for it.

So, here I was, enjoying a good late autumn walk and seeing the dull day turn ever brighter. The sun never fully emerged from the clouds but the light was soft and warm enough to make a few simple forest images, including the one above.

I played with my Prisma app to get the slightly graphic effect, which is quite subtle, and you have to look closely to see the effects.

iPhone 7