Tag Archives: mountain

Iceland Journal – “Wild Abandon?” – North Iceland

“The greatest loss lies in our inability to accept loss.” 
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

I have a strange fascination with abandoned buildings, always wondering how they became abandoned and the stories they must have to tell when they were somebody’s home.

Along the Ring Road we travelled through Iceland, there are many of these empty shells, some quite ancient, many perched along a lonely mountainside, lost in the vast, empty landscape which is present in much of Iceland. It struck me as emptiness in emptiness.

Take this house, for example. It’s on the shores of the Heiðará river, just past Heiðarfall mountain that dominates yesterday’s image. It sits on a field of the ever present yellow grasses and mosses, along the river, next the main Icelandic highway, with a tall mountain for a backyard. If you look closely, you can see that there must have been patches of garden at one point, given the drainage ditch and rectangular area of grass to the right of the house. The house itself does not look too old and the roof is in good repair, at least from this vantage point. Yet, it’s clearly abandoned.

Who lived here? A solitary sheep farmer or a family? There is easy access to water as well as the road, not to mention that the city of Akureyri, is only a short drive away. I’d love to know the story, but I fear it is lost in time and the wide and wild spaces of Iceland.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 70mm
1/100 sec, f/5.0 ISO 200

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

Iceland Journal – “Austari – Skógarmannafjöll” – North Iceland

“Austari - Skógarmannafjöll” - North Iceland

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” 
― John Muir

The name Austari – Skógarmannafjöll literally means East Skogar Mountains. I’m still trying to understand the multiple iterations of Icelandic names. These ‘mountains’ are a part of the area referred to by geographers as part of the Table Mountains of Northern Iceland. The whole region is characterized by vast, flat lava fields and these mountains stand alone in this flatness. For perspective, I used the full zoom on my 200m lense, as the mountains are about 10 km from the road.

What originally got my attention, as we drove through this bleak, snowy landscape, was the sun shining through the snow clouds, making at appear as if these dormant volcanoes were steaming. That, and the brilliant sunlight breaking through and catching them on their south flank, while the north fight off the dark of yet another heavy snow squall.

From my roadside vantage point, this contrast of elements: bright and dark, flat and tall, made for a nice composition which captured the character of this region, known, generally, as Mývatnsöræfi, or the ‘wilderness’ of Mývatn, which is such an appropriate name for this harsh landscape.

I have to admit that I had to edit out a powerline which bisected my view of the mountains for kilometers. I tried to get closer and get a shot under the wires, but the terrain was quit rugged and the wind was incredible and relentless. I finally resigned myself that a ‘clean’ shot was not possible and that I would have to edit the out. This was not a common occurrence as Iceland is being very deliberate in not spoiling their natural beauty with things like power lines. Work is underway to bury power lines for just this purpose

I’m glad for my decision to make the photo regardless of the obstruction, because the opportunity to make this image soon disappeared behind yet another squall, a constant theme for us as we ventured through this region in late October, 2018.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 200 mm
1/640 sec, f/13.0, ISO 800

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 – “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 – “Skessuhorn” – West Iceland

“Skessuhorn” - West Iceland

“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.” 
― John Muir

It feels a bit odd using a John Muir quote here, because they know the mountains he is referring to, namely the Sierra Nevada of California and Yosemite National Park. Yet, his words ring true in these mountains as well. On this day, my son and I headed south, towards the coastal town of Borgarnes, in Western Iceland.

As we drove south from the Westfjords, a large group of mountains greeted us on the far horizon. These mountains are centered around Skarðsheiði, a 1,054 m peak. In the foreground, and just peeking through a large bank of low cloud was Skessuhorn, a steep mountain with its wonderful terraced slopes. I just kept looking at it, hoping the road would bring me nearer and that the cloud cover would not increase.

In fact, the cloud bank clung to the mountains all day and only Skessuhorn has clearly visible to us. So, when you look at this image, be aware that, in typical Iceland fashion, much of what is before is not currently visible, only being revealed for short periods and then gone again.

For me, it’s these fantastic horizontal terraces that give many Icelandic mountains such a unique appearance, as opposed to North America’s Rocky Mountains, which, while still layered, are angled. These mountains look like pyramids, with layers carefully planned out and neatly stacked. It all has to do with the unique geology of Iceland, which straddles two continental plates, creating volcanoes and areas of tectonic upheaval that sculpt the rock in such marvelous ways. By the way, this is a colour photo, but the colour is lost, in snow and rock and cloud.

Here’s the summer time Street View link. I think it looks much nicer in November:


Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 180mm
1/200 sec, f/7.1 ISO 200

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

Iceland Journal – “Overwhelmed”


“The stars looked down at me from infinite space. We are tiny, they said, but you are insignificant.” 
― Shane Maloney

On the first day of my Iceland trip, something that came to my attention, almost immediately, was the incredible contrast in scale between the land itself and man-made things, particularly houses, which seem so insignificant against the mass of rock and ice that surrounds them.

Here, a farm which has guest cottages, presumably for hikers venturing into the highlands, seems overwhelmed by its grand surroundings. In the background the rock rises ever higher, disappearing into the clouds.

The icecap , far above, covers Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano, which erupted back in 2010, stalling air traffic through most of Europe. Remember that one? The name that nobody could pronounce? It simply became, “That volcano in Iceland.” By the way, I’ve been getting ever better at pronouncing Icelandic places, including this, simply through researching the places I visited and repeating the names, over and over.

Well, that volcano is in this farm’s backyard, and I often found myself wondering what that would be like, having one of nature’s most powerful and dangerous creations so close.

The coastal plain that this farm faces is a vast, flat lava field, created by previous eruptions, and endless streams of meltwater flows through streams lined with black volcanic rock. The farm, occupies a very small place in time and geography. It was only one of many along the way.

Once more, I’m adding the Google Street View link for perspective:


Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 92mm
1/125 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200

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

Iceland Journal – “Crater Among the Clouds”

“Crater Among the Clouds” - Strútur Volcano, West Iceland

“Sunlight will always follow in a clouds wake.” 
― Anthony T. Hincks

One of the aspects of Iceland that I enjoyed most was that nothing lasts very long. It does not rain all day, nor snow all day, sunshine comes and goes, and the clouds above shift and morph by the minute.

Oh, the clouds and light of Iceland, they are simply unbelievable. Clouds come in layers, each layer with a mind of its own, passing and sliding between one another. One moment you are looking at a dark bank of low clouds on the horizon and minutes later, they slide back like a magical curtain revealing a mountain hidden among them.

The volcanic cone pictured here is Strútur, and ancient volcano in the highlands of western Iceland. As we ventured further inland, seeking the many wonderful waterfalls, one of the roads we had planned to drive turned out to be a “F” Road, one of Iceland’s many interior mountains roads, generally only accessible with rugged four-wheel drive vehicles and largely closed in winter months. This road was marked as a side road on our map, but as we ventured onto it the signage indicated that is was, in fact” an “F” Road, meaning our rental insurance was null and void if we travelled that road.

This slight setback caused us to turn back and take another road to our destination. That decision put us on a road that briefly headed deeper into Iceland’s backcountry and facing a think bank of clouds reaching across the distant horizon of low, rolling hills and lava fields.

As we progressed along this road, the clouds pulled back and revealed this wonderful sight. Strútur, is a large volcanic cone and is 937 meters high. You can see where the cone collapsed and the lava flowed outwards to where I made the photo.

Soon after I made the photo, the clouds rolled back in and obscured the mountain once more.

Once again, Iceland provided me with a brief and wonderful vista and then took it back again, all within mere minutes.

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 – “Mountain Retreat”

“Mountain Retreat” - Northwest Iceland

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more” 
― Lord Byron

This was a common scene along many stretches of Iceland’s Ring Road; beautiful cabins on the mountainsides. I’m a bit envious. I’d love to stop at one of these retreats for a few days, surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. I know I’d spend my time reading and writing, inspired by the wonders of nature. Some, like this one, have small groves of trees planted around or near them, probably as a wind screen or source of firewood. The ever-present yellow grasses and mosses bring a splash of welcome colour to the wind-whipped landscape. Though the scene is primarily rock and snow, there is a peaceful and humbling majesty to it.

There were a few times, as we hiked some of the lower mountain trails when I would simply stand still, listening to the sounds of water flowing down the hillsides, the wind howling far above, and sometimes, just silence, peaceful, blessed silence.

My trip to Iceland last month was a balm to my soul; a much-needed pause in a busy and increasingly stressful world. For me to spend ten solid days with my son, with no real schedule, no firm plans, and to simply ‘be’ in this wonderful place has restored me.

To have the ability to capture some of what I experienced in photos is a blessing I am so thankful for. I can sit and review these moments and memories, each one stirring my soul and reminding me that there are still places of peace and wonder in this busy world.

In a way, the photos have become my cabin on the hill, a place that I can visit when I need to pause for a bit and restore myself. Though it’s not quite the same as the actual cabin, it brings be closer to that place.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 116mm
1/250 sec, f/8.0 ISO 200

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

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)