Tag Archives: mountains

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 – “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 – “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 🙂


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:


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)

Iceland – Day 9

“Videy Island” - Reykjavik, Iceland

“Videy Island”  – Reykjavik, Iceland

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” 
― John Lennon

This was our final full day in the glorious land known as Iceland and we spent the day touring the city on foot, starting at the harbour front. I could not help but be entranced by the raw beauty of this place, even when surrounded by a bustling and busy European City.

Looking across the bay, my eyes were drawn to the vast mountain plateau and distant volcanic peaks that dominate the horizon. In front of this snowy majesty sits a small, uninhabited island known as Videy Island . You’ll notice a single large building. This is Videy House, now a restaurant and historical centre.

Something that I did not notice, when I was composing the photo, is the small white structure, just left of centre. It turns out that this is the Imagine Peace Tower and is an outdoor artwork conceived by Yoko Ono, in memory of her late husband, John Lennon.

It’s a tower of light designed to communicate to the world that peace and love is what connects us. It is lit every night from October 9th (John’s birthday) until December 8th (the anniversary of his death). It’s also lit on the Winter Solstice and New Years Day.

Sadly, while we were there, I was still under the weather and did not have the opportunity to see it lit up.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G I AF-S VR Zoom @ 170mm
1/400 sec, f/11.0, ISO 400

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

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)

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)