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Things that are uniquely Iceland

If I could only spend one day in Iceland and want to see things that are fairly unique to the country, then we went there today during my Iceland Photography Workshop. Since it was raining we started the day shopping in Vic, which isn’t unique, but it is fun to see things made in Iceland. I warned the group to watch for thins that look Icelandic and are made in China. They did pretty good with that.

As we drove the southern coast the weather started getting better and by the time we got to a secluded tongue of the Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest, the rain had pretty much stopped. This is one of the coolest places I go in Iceland, there are no other people around and the view of the glacier, a lagoon and mountains is stunning. High clouds hid much of the mountain but the color of the glacier and sheer size is daunting.

Then we stopped at Diamond Beach, a truly unique Icelandic experience. Another tongue of the glacier comes down to a large lagoon that is connected to the ocean by a short river. Salty sea water goes back up the river into the lagoon helping break off chunks of ice that float back down the river and wash up on Diamond Beach’s black sand. The pounding waves wear down the ice and when sunlight hits them they look like diamonds sitting on black velvet. Quite the sight. It is fun to make pictures of the waves flowing past ice and see what happens when the shutter is open for a long time. I could spend days on that one beach.

I’m also fascinated by the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights. They are such a weird phenomenon, with the colorful display of light glowing at night. I first saw them during my trip in March and was awed and I keep a eye on several iPhone apps that let me know when they are active in hopes I can see them back in Vermont. The aurora is active all year but it doesn’t get dark enough in the summer months to see them. I checked my apps before this trip and saw the activity level was pretty high and we would have enough darkness to possibly see them. What a bonus! Tonight the activity was fairly high and the sky was giving us some major breaks in the clouds so we went to a hilltop away from town to see what would happen. We got a show! Green light danced along the horizon and an occasional red/orange light popped in. We could see clouds heading our way and knew we wouldn’t have long but what we saw was awesome. I can’t wait to come back in Feb. for another workshop when the main focus will be the aurora!

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