Tag Archives: Iceland

Iceland Journal -“A Final Flurry” – Grindavik, Iceland

“And what began as a dream, becomes reality, becomes memory…”
– Ed Lehming

So, concludes my Iceland Journal (this one at least),as it began, an image of vast stretches of wondrous, raw, and ever changing landscape.

It has been a real joy going back through my photos, triggering memories of moments, which I have been able to document and share.

And so, I end this chapter of the story, as we end the year 2018 and head into 2019.

I would not have believed, at the start of 2018 that it would include a trip to Iceland, who knows what this year will bring?

Wishing you all a Happy New Year 2019!

Iceland Journal – “The Magical Light of Iceland” – Kleifarvatn, Iceland

“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.” 
― Leonora Carrington

The light in Iceland is incomparable, it possesses a magical quality and softness that simply pervades everything. I think, in part, is was partially due to the time of year, late October, when we visited. The sun never gets up very high and wonderful shadows are created. This ‘low’ sun also makes the light softer and warmer.

Here, along the shores of Kleifarvatn, the sun catches the yellow grasses on the low hillsides and makes them glow with light. Despite the snowy conditions, the whole scene is warm looking. Trust me, it was not warm when I made the photo!

There are colours here that are unrivalled in my experience, an inner glow, that I fell in love with. I can fully understand how Iceland holds other photographers in its thrall. The light shifts, dims, brightens, and brings out details like a spotlight, then moves on to the next subject.

It’s really quite remarkable, upon arriving here, we entered a world that looked blasted, tortured, and lifeless, yet the land slowly reveals its wonder, moment by moment until you are fully emerged in a sublime beauty that is so unexpected and so ceaseless that it’s almost overwhelming. And it’s all driven by the light, the magical sub-arctic light, and those beautiful mosses and grasses, which stand in such incredible contrast to the black sand and jagged rock.

As this year winds down, I’ve been able to send a lot of time recalling this memorable trip, through photos and memory.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 70 mm
1/320 sec, f/9.0 ISO 400

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

Iceland Journal – “Clouds Roll in at Kleifarvatn” – Iceland

“The clouds roll in, but don’t persist, they bring a welcome contrast and make us more aware of how lovely the sunshine is.”
– Ed Lehming

I really can’t imagine Iceland without its marvelous clouds. During our ten-day trip, every day had some cloud. Often, there are multiple layers, each slightly different and moving in different directions, creating a magical yet fleeting, play of light.

As a photographer, the quality of light is very important and I did not have to wait long for lighting conditions to shift. The clouds would tease and taunt me as they danced among the mountains, often hinting at what lay within their shroud and revealing glimpses of high mountain tops. Sometimes shafts of sunlight would pierce them, creating brilliant patches of illumination.

I’ve seen the photos made by other photographers, of places I visited, in bright sunshine, but some of the character is missing. It seems to me, that Icelandic landscapes require some quantity of cloud to show their true essence. This is, after all, a wild and rugged country and the ever-changing weather is part of that.

In the photo above, one of the last ones I made as we departed Reykjavik and headed toward the airport, by yet another ‘indirect’ route. The lake is Kleifarvatn and is a moderately sized lake about 15 kilometers south of Reykjavik. Our destination on our final day was the geothermal hot springs at Krysuvik, just south of the lake. The road followed the shore of the lake for some time and gave the opportunity for several final images of this enchanted land.

The water was just smooth enough to give a soft reflection of the flattened Vatnshliðarhorn mountain to the north, the sun brightly illuminating the yellow grasses along its base.

It’s this wonderful mix of sun and cloud that has provided the beautiful mood for many of my photos; ever-changing and creating new vistas by the moment. I look back on these photos fondly as I near the end of this series and close out the year feeling blessed to have experienced this majesty with my son.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 70 mm
1/320 sec, f/9.0 ISO 400

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

Iceland Journal – “From Deep Within”

“I take pleasure in solitude, many see me as distant but only few know it’s when I’m most alive.” 
― Nikki Rowe

On day eight of our Icelandic tour, we headed inland from Borgarnes towards Geyser. The trip took us around a fjord still used as a whale processing area, with a large plant at the farthest end of the fjord. The plant was notable for the many talks along the surrounding will sides, used to store whale oil. It was off-season, so the plant sat mostly dormant with only one ship docked at it’s pier.

As I said, the trip took us inland and into more high plateaus, which were fairly unremarkable except at this highland lake near Laugarvatn, the far shore filled with geothermal plants and vents, belching out steam into the cold sky , which stood in contrast to the snowy hillsides.

I would have liked to have gotten closer, but we wanted to get to Geyser in good time and then to Reykjavik by the end of the day, so we had to choose our stops carefully.

Though our primary destination for the day was Geyser, these areas of activity made the  drive more interesting.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 210 mm
1/400 sec, f/10.0 ISO 400

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

Iceland Journal – “Borgarnes Sunset”

“It was dusk and the light had an ultra-violet quality to it, a final burst of pigmentation as night and day rushed at each other in a clash of colour prisms before darkness finally, inevitably won out.” 
― Karen Swan

Though much of our trip was filled with the overcast, misty, and often gloomy light of autumn, we were, on this occasion greeted with the magnificent colours of an Icelandic sunset.

On our arrival in Borgarnes, a large town on Iceland’s west coast, we decided to end our day of travelling with a walk to the harbour and were treated to a lovely, though brief, show of light over the water. I do recall making this photo and looking at my phone, a bit disappointed that the full spectrum of colour was not truly captured; close, but not quite the real thing.

iPhone 7

Iceland Journal – “From the Depths” – Hraunfosser, Southwest Iceland”

“From the deep places of the earth, pours forth a cool purity few can fathom”
– Ed Lehming

The mere sight of these falls brought freshness to my day. There is something in flowing water; a virtual baptism and washing away of the days heaviness happens, and the joy of simply living in such a marvelous world is reaffirmed.

This is yet another image of a section of Hraunfossar, in Southwestern Iceland. I left this one a bit darker to allow the brightness of the water and rich colours and textures of the mosses to dominate over the dark rock.

I keep having to remind myself that the water here comes not from surface streams, but a complex network of underground rivers that flow beneath the surface, through ancient lava fields. Here, it escapes to the surface through the side of a steep embankment. Many visitors to Iceland don’t realize that all the tap water comes from such underground streams. That’s right, the tap water is actually spring water. I started my trip with the purchase of a single bottle of water which I kept refilling with tap water or from mountain streams, after ensuring there was not a large, sheep filled pasture upstream.

Though warned to the contrary, I found nearly all the water at our various overnight stays was lovely and fresh. The exception being Reykjavik, where the water at our hotel reeked of sulphur. Though safe, I had a hard time convincing myself that it was OK to drink.

Once more, I am including a link to the high resolution version of this image should you wish to take a closer look at the details.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 170mm
1.0 sec, f/36.0, ISO 200

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

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)