Tag : Iceland

18 Aug 2018

Seals and horses welcome us to Iceland

We we blessed to start off my latest Iceland Photography Workshop with great weather. Nice cool summer temperatures and a summer day greeted folks to Iceland. We headed right out from the airport and were shooting old sod roofed houses in Keflavik within 20 minutes. The old houses are really cool and small. The door is less than five feet tall. When I was here in March I shot selfie on my phone in front of one and posted it on Facebook saying my hotel was smaller than I thought it would be. Way too many people thought I was serious.

When then hit the road for a drive up to the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula where we are spending the next two nights. One of many unique things in this country are Icelandic horses. They are a separate breed from any other and the only breed allowed in the country. They are amazingly hardy, they spend the winters outside while cattle are brought indoors for safe keeping. They have beautiful long manes and a heavy coat. Plus they are pretty friendly, whenever I have stopped to photograph them they always walk over to the fence to say hello. The light was great on them today and the background scenery couldn’t be better.

We stopped at Seal Beach, where seals lay around on the rocks and pretty much don’t care how close you get to them. I did have one keep an eye on me but I didn’t get close enough to disturb it. We off to a great start.

17 Aug 2018

Getting to Iceland early

My latest Iceland Photography Workshop starts tomorrow and I came a day early to scout some new locations and let my body acclimate to the time change. Iceland is such a beautiful place, I really can’t spend enough time here, even though this is my third trip this year. I feel so fortunate to be able to see things and meet people I never dreamed of as a kid growing up in rural Indiana. For some reason today I keep having thoughts of a few years ago sitting with my sister Lynda along the shore below her house in British Columbia, Canada, tossing rocks into the water and watching as bioluminescent plankton flash brightly when disturbed by our stones. We talked about how far we were from Indiana and how lucky we have been in our lives.

As I watched the sun slowly go down tonight, I once again realized how blessed I am to witness such natural beauty. I went to Reykjanes Lighthouse and shot from one side as the sun cast lovely light on it. I then drove to the other side and waited to see if any colorful magic would happen and it did. What a beautiful way to be greeted by Iceland!

25 Jul 2018

Iceland is a special place

This is the last day of my Iceland photography workshop, it is always sad for it to come to an end. We had a great bunch of people and it was fun working with them. But before heading back to the airport we had time to explore and photograph Reykjavik, the largest city in Iceland. Most of Iceland has rather utilitarian architecture but they have some pretty cool buildings in Reykjavik.

Harpa is a new building that is a concert hall. It is covered with glass pieces that reflect differently depending on which direction you look at them. It is a fun building and filled with geometric shapes and I got a fun shot of Paul, one of our photographers, reflected in one of the panels.

Nearby is Sun Voyager, a sculpture shaped like a boat with a node to Iceland’s norse heritage. It sits right beside the ocean and it very striking.

The tallest building in Iceland is Hallgrimskirkja, a modern Lutheran church with a unique design. The light wasn’t right this morning for a good shot of it but a few of us went up in the tower to get a view over the city. We walked the streets nearby and came across a row of colorful houses, I like the way they look together.

Then it was time to make our way back to the airport and head home. It is always nice to be home but Iceland is a special place. At least I feel good knowing I’ll be back in August for another workshop.

24 Jul 2018

Photographing pretty puffins in Iceland

The cutest thing in Iceland and some people think anyplace, are puffins. They are colorful birds about eight inches tall that have a rather sad face. They spend most of their lives at sea and only come ashore in the summer to mate and raise babies. Then they are back to the ocean, floating on the waves for nine months. I took my Iceland workshop group to a location where they nest in the cliff near a very public area.

I hadn’t seen puffins before and didn’t know what to expect, I saw a woman with binoculars so I asked her if she was seeing puffins. She gave me that “you’re a stupid American” look, said “yes” and went back to her bird watching. So much for conversation. I noticed a nearby rock in the grass with some bird poop on it. That’s always a sign of bird activity, many birds poop before taking flight to literally lighten the load. As I stood there I saw a puffin sticking its head out of the grass, but it was too far away to make a good photo. At least I felt good that they were around. Soon I realized the birds that were landing all over the cliff were puffins, but they were still too far away.

I gathered our group and told them to aim their telephoto lenses at the rock, there was going to be activity there. Several birds flew up to the rock and then quickly circled and flew away. They were landing everywhere else but not close to us. I had all of us move back about 10 feet to see if we were crowding them too much and before long a puffin landed near the rock and in range for us. As I was shooting like a maniac I could hear the other cameras firing away but the bird didn’t care. Another one landed and suddenly we were able to shoot two together.

Puffins dive in the ocean and come out with a beak full of small fish that dangle out. One landed with a longer fish than most and seemed to do a happy dance on the rock. It made me pretty happy too.

23 Jul 2018

A green day in Iceland

From our hotel in Vic we ventured even farther along the coast today. We started at the black sand beach in Vic and made some fun photos out toward the sea stacks. Legend has it that three elves were ship wrecked trying to land there and when the sun came up they were frozen for eternity as rocks in the ocean. I didn’t know elves didn’t like sunlight, so I learned something.

We went to a wonderful canyon that has been carved by water from glaciers for the last two million years. The climb to the end of Fjaðrárgljúfur is only a little easier than trying to pronounce it, but it is worth the effort. There are a few waterfalls that aren’t accessible, but the beauty is the deep canyon and lush green walls.

Another of my favorite places is off the beaten track. It is a tongue of the Vatnajokull Glacier, Europe’s largest glacier. Over 11 percent of Iceland is covered by glaciers and they are beautiful. At our little remote spot you can see the glacier coming down from the top of the mountain and it has created a small lagoon at the bottom. The glacier is a lovely green and it is hard to get a feel for the actual size.

After I drove the van back out of the rocky dirt path, we got back on Highway 1 and headed to one the coolest places in Iceland: Diamond Beach. A nearby glacial lagoon fills with sea water and chunks of glacier float into the ocean and up on the black sand beach. When the sunlight hits the ice they can look like diamonds. We weren’t lucky enough today to have sunlight but it is fun to shoot the ice strewn beach.

Between out hotel in Vic and Diamond Beach is a large rock outcropping, I don’t know if it has a name but it makes for some tremendous pictures. I love getting low with an extreme wide angle lens, putting some rocks and water in the foreground and shooting up at the mountain. It made for a nice reflection.

22 Jul 2018

A day of waterfalls in Iceland

Today we left the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula to go to the southern end of Iceland along the coast. The south coast looks much different and there are some major waterfalls that we stopped to photograph. 

One of the tallest ones is Seljalandsfoss, but it also has a ton of tourists, who tend to be in the way of great landscape photos. But I was able to use one to show the scale of the falls, which is an impressive sight.

We then went to Skogafoss, which is also filled with tourists. It is a large waterfalls, both in height and width. It is a challenge to shoot without a ton of people but getting in the middle of the river helps. I bring boots that go up to almost my knee and since this is fed by a glacier, not many people wade into the cold water.

One of my favorite locations in Iceland is Kvernufoss waterfalls. It is a beautiful falls but you have to climb over over fence and walk about 1/2 mile to get to it. The hike can get a little rugged in a couple of places and it isn’t well known so there aren’t many people there. Of course, today there was a fashion shoot happening, with video and a real drone, so it we waited until they were done before we got the shots we wanted. I love the way the water flows away from the falls and how green it is in summer. I was here in winter and it had a totally different look, although still beautiful. I really enjoy being in places where I see nothing made by humans and just being out in nature. There isn’t a more wonderful place.

21 Jul 2018

Not too abandoned in Iceland

The good thing about an overcast sky is that you don’t have to get up early to catch sunrise! We are all pretty tired from a long day of traveling to get to Iceland, especially since the flight is overnight and not long enough to get a full night’s sleep.

We headed out right away to one of Iceland’s most picturesque waterfalls. Kirkjufellfoss is best known for the towering nearby mountain but today the mountain was shrouded in fog. It didn’t allow us to the get classic shot I had hoped for but it is still pretty amazing with two sets of falls. They aren’t the biggest but they are extremely pretty.

After making plenty of pictures at the waterfalls we went to the nearby harbor town of Grundarfjörður. We went down to the industrial part of the harbor, which only had three of four boats and a few buildings including an abandoned fish processing plant. It being early and a Saturday I expected to see a few people but it was like a ghost town. We walked about for an hour without a car going past or seeing hardly any other people. It was a lot of fun and we found a nearby cafe for lunch that had plenty of people.

I had seen a sign for an artist who had fun stone sculptures around town. We drove over to his studio and he was outside carving away. Ludvik Karlsson likes to go by Liston and has some great work. He carves outside when he can and when it is too cold he goes inside and paints. We bought some small things he carved, I would love to be able to get some bigger work in my suitcase. Liston was a lot of fun to talk with and he enjoyed showing his power tools that are made in America.

We then headed to a lava field covered in moss and ventured to another black church in the extremely small village of Bjarnarhöfn. A sign says this little church is the oldest wood frame church in Iceland. From the size of the door, the people who built it weren’t very tall. It is an amazingly scenic location with rolling hills, sheep and horses and the a fjord behind it.

Our final shoot for the day was at an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere. I drove down a long path and there it was, a stone foundation and walls were intact but the roof was gone. We still had cloudy skies, it would be great to photograph the stars out there with the old house. Hopefully on another trip.

20 Jul 2018

Not the best start for an Iceland workshop

It is great to be back in Iceland although I’m not off to a great start. As I was sitting on the tarmac in Newark I realized I left my coat inside the airport lounge. They had already closed the plane’s door, so I wasn’t able to run back in and grab it. When I was packing I originally tossed in an extra rain coat but pulled it out to save space. I have this thing about cool looking jackets, I think most of them are and I could buy nearly every one I see. Since my first trip to Iceland I’ve had a hankering for ones made by 66 North, so I resigned myself to needing to buy one now. Like everything in Iceland, they ain’t cheap!

I knew there was a store in the airport that has a large selection of 66 North and I thought it wouldn’t be too big of a problem getting a nice, new jacket there. When I arrived I ran right to the store before going through customs and all that junk. They had the one I was dreaming of and as I was checking out they asked for my boarding pass. It turns out since I was arriving and not leaving I couldn’t buy it! It was the duty free area they wouldn’t let me have it. I hate stupid regulations like that, but I didn’t get my jacket.

Well not only did I not have a coat, after going though passport control I went to get my luggage only to find it wasn’t there. I went to the missing luggage window to learn they don’t scan arrivals so they didn’t know if it was still in Newark or where it was. They said it would probably arrive on the next day’s flight from Newark. Not what I wanted to hear, I was taking the group a couple of hours north of the airport and we wouldn’t be back this way for three days. This is really not the way I like to start a workshop but I didn’t have much choice.

Since everyone was meeting at the airport and a couple of other flights were late, I had some time to find a store that was near our morning’s route through Reykjavik. I knew if I didn’t get a coat there I probably wouldn’t find another place to get one, so we went to a mall and I paid an outrageous amount for a pretty new blue jacket. I am the proud owner of a 66 North jacket (the latitude of Iceland).

As I was coming out of the mall I checked my email and learned my luggage did arrive at the airport and had been misplaced. We were now 90 minutes from the airport and I didn’t want to waste three hours round trip to drive back and get it so they assured me it would be delivered to our hotel tonight, so I could breath some relief, I had a coat and I didn’t need to buy underwear.

It turns out I needed my new raincoat, the weather was pretty wet today. It was the typical misty rain, enough to make being outside not as much fun but not heavy enough to keep hardy photographers indoors. We drove up to our hotel on the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula and stopped at some cool locations on the way. One of my favorites is a church painted black in Budir. It is out on an old lava field and today there were some sheep wandering around. Even with the damp sky it made for some fun photos. We were then on to the little fishing village of Arnarstapi.

After some more shooting we had dinner and settled into our hotel and my luggage arrive at about 11 p.m. Now it is a better start.

16 Mar 2018

I’ll see you again soon Iceland

After 10 days in Iceland it was finally time to go home. I wasn’t quite ready, there were lots more photos I wanted to make and some I wanted to get another shot at since I wasn’t overly pleased with some of the photos I made. When hosting workshops my main goal is to make sure my participants are getting great photos and that usually comes at the expense of my own images. That is fine, that’s why I’m here. At each location I make sure everyone is seeing and capturing what they want and then I’m able to get a few pix of my own. I’d like more time in the ice cave without other tourists, but I’ll to do that on my own. The caves are only open in the winter and they’ll be closed in the next couple of weeks so that will take a special trip. I wanted to get a killer shot of the northern lights but conditions weren’t right. That also means a winter trip, so it sounds like I’ll be back next winter. I hope I can talk my wife Robin into joining me in the cold and dark.

I did get some shots that I was real happy with. I do some quick toning and editing while on trips via my laptop computer but do more exacting editing on my big color-corrected monitor in my office. I am usually able to pull some surprises out of my files and I’ll add them to the gallery on this page.

I started writing this blog post during my five hour flight home. I always get window seats on the plane because after all these years of traveling I’m still awed by seeing the earth from the air. I made sure I was on the left side of the plane when I was going to Iceland in case I could see the northern lights flaring. I didn’t. I got the right side going home so I could see Iceland as long as possible and maybe Greenland. Most people had closed the window shades within 10 minutes after takeoff but I was still peering out my window. It wasn’t long until Greenland appeared and out came my iPhone. The stranger sitting behind me saw me snapping away and opened her shade and it wasn’t long before she was taking pictures too. Greenland looked amazing, lots of glaciers, snow, ice and mountains.

For a while clouds obscured my view but it opened up again. I couldn’t help but wonder if any humans had ever walked where I was looking. How cool would it be to be the first, or even just explore the wide open space. It was a rugged but beautiful landscape and looked mighty cold, so I thought maybe summer would be a better time to explore. We covered a lot of territory before I saw anything that looked like civilization and then it was just a couple of roads winding through the mountains and along the coast. The clouds came in again and I couldn’t see anything until we were well into Canada.

Before long the plane was starting to descend and I was seeing all the snow in New England and enjoying the beauty of that but glad I didn’t have to do any shoveling. The trip was exciting but it is good to be back home.

Below is a gallery of photos from the trip. Click on an image to start a slideshow you can click through.

[envira-gallery id=”14613″]

15 Mar 2018

The saddest day – the last one of our Iceland photo workshop

Today we are making our way back to Reykjavik and I’m feeling a bit blue. It has been a great experience with a fun group of people. I always feel lucky to spend this much time with people who have the same interests and are able to let all the pettiness of the real world not affect them. These workshops are a great getaway!

We had hoped to shoot sunrise on the beach in Vik but the clouds scuttled that plan. On our way back we stopped at a couple of the most visited natural wonders in Iceland, Gullfoss water falls and a nearby geyser. The crowds can be huge at these places but it is wasn’t overrun with tourists today. As our driver Eidur likes to say, even though our bus had visitors from other countries we were photographers and not “bloody tourists.”

Gullfoss is a massive waterfalls, actually it is two falls but it looks like one. The sky was overcast, which didn’t help for overall photos. There was still ice in some of the best vantage points and they were closed, so we couldn’t go down there but it was still cool to see. There are plenty of angles to shoot it and we gave it our best. After a couple of hours there we went to “Geysir” as the Icelandics call it.

Geysir is a field of hot springs and some geysers. There is one that shoots out about every 10 minutes and looks pretty cool. The area around the geyser is roped off so boneheads don’t walk into it but there are still plenty of dopes running around. The wind blows the hot water and steam after each eruption and there is always a group of “bloody tourists” standing where the wind is blowing. They get wet with hot water and steam but some seem to think it is fun. I heard a family got burned pretty bad last year from the boiling water and have now tried to sue Iceland for damages. That doesn’t work in Iceland, they believe people need to take care of themselves in situations like that.

After shooting several eruptions were back on the bus heading to Reykjavik.


14 Mar 2018

More wind and rain in Iceland

My Iceland photography workshop is winding down and the weather isn’t being nice. Another day of rain and strong wind kept us from shooting much but it was also planned to be a bit of a travel day. We made our way to the little town of Vik and the beautiful black sand beach. The rain was coming down hard and the wind was blowing 50-60 mph, not a great combination for scenic photography. We went to the beach anyway and our driver Eidur positioned the bus so people could shoot from the door and get photos of the sea stacks near the beach. About half of the group decided to venture out onto the beach and see what photos we could get.

Before the workshop I had advised people to be ready for any weather conditions and they were. They had full rain gear for themselves and their cameras so we might as well get out there! With the wind blowing that hard you could only shoot with the wind at your back or your lens would be immediately drenched. I had brought micro fiber clothes for everyone and they were pretty happy to have them today.

I put a 70-200mm lens on my camera and stuck it all in a plastic bag and held it close as I walked to the beach through the wind and rain. The wind was blowing so hard I didn’t want to extend the legs on my tripod so I kept it low and knelt in the sand as I was making my composition. Big waves were crashing into the sea stacks and I was amazed to see bird soaring around the big rocks. I thought the wind was blowing so hard they would get caught in it and end up miles aways but they looked like they were just soaring on a calm day. I guess when the wind frequently blows like this they adapt pretty fast.

I hunkered down in the sand and wrapped myself around the tripod, pushing it down as I used a remote shutter release to fire the camera. Even though I carry a big, fairly heavy tripod I knew that with this wind it would get pushed around. I tried some different exposures, using a fast shutter speed to stop the movement of the waves and a slow shutter speed to give the crashing waves some blur and motion. Both ways looked pretty cool.

13 Mar 2018

Ice caves will protect you from the weather

It looks like our streak of great Iceland weather has come to an end. We had some morning shoots planned but the rain came in so we spent the morning doing a Lightroom class at the hotel. Some people went out and shot an old barn near the hotel after breakfast and I bet the got some good images. The big plan for the afternoon is to drive to an ice cave. This one just opened three days ago and our guide Raymond is pretty excited to see it.

We had a special guide for the trip to the ice cave. We rode in a specially outfitted Mercedes Sprinter that had been modified with massive wheels and four wheel drive. We then had to walk about 1/4 mile to the opening, which was a shock for some people. The opening was about three feet high and four feet wide, meaning we had to crawl. Once we got in the cave it opened to a large room that could easily handle 20 people. Raymond was surprised we were the only ones there since other tour companies go there too. We had about 30 minutes by ourselves and then the hordes arrived. Our ability to shoot was pretty compromised with all the people walking past but we still make some exciting photos.

Time flew by in the ice cave and soon we had to leave. I could spend all there and I hope to some day.

The weather was still looking bad so we had dinner but Raymond keep an eye on the radars and forecasts and noticed there was a spot with cloud openings that we may be able to get another shot at the aurora. The aurora’s activity wasn’t super high but it was worth a try. We drove for another 3o minutes, went around a mountain and sure enough the clouds were parting there. It looked about the same as the other night we tried it, cool to see but the great photos weren’t there.

12 Mar 2018

Black sand blowing everywhere in Iceland

We drove father east this morning for my Iceland photo workshop and the wind really made itself present. Iceland is the third windiest country in the world and we felt it today. We started at the southeastern most part of the island, Eystrahorn, on a cool black sand beach. The mountains in the background made for a great photo with the black sand in the foreground. The wind was blowing hard making it tough to keep the camera steady on the tripod. I loved the image I made and taking it to black and white made it even more dramatic.

Next to the beach was a sand dune, the first time I’ve seen black sand blowing. Blowing might be an understatement, the wind was howling and pushing the black sand everywhere. The black sand was drifting and flowing over the drifts. I stood there quite a while trying to figure out how to show the movement of the sand but everything I tried didn’t work. Another thing I had to just observe and admire.

I had to make sure my jacket pockets were zipped closed or they would have filled up with black sand. The wind was a steady 40-50 mph and gusts were even strong. Our guide, Raymond, wasn’t even phased by the wind, just a normal day he said. We spent a couple of hours out there and when we got back in the bus one of our workshop participants looked like a raccoon. The black sand had stuck to her makeup, especially around her eyes. At first I thought her mascara had run but looking closer it was obvious there was sand all over her eyes and mouth. Rather than try to wipe it off I made sure she rinsed it off so it wouldn’t get in her eyes.

As we were heading to our next location there were some Icelandic horses having lunch so we stopped. They were more enthralled with lunch than us but a couple came over to say hi. Eidur, our bus driver, told us the farmers don’t like them being called ponies since they are horses, just not real big ones. Since they have such heavy coats they stay outdoors all year unlike cattle which have to go indoors when it gets real cold. Now that Maryann had all the black sand off her face, she was able to make friends with the horses. They liked her too.

We made one more stop near a lighthouse, which, like most Icelandic lighthouses, wasn’t overly pretty. But there was a great view of another coastal mountain, so we worked that pretty hard. The wind was still blowing pretty strong, but not as bad as earlier.

11 Mar 2018

There’s a lot of ice in Iceland

We started the third day of my Iceland photo workshop at the largest glacier in the country: Svinafellsjökull. After a little hike we were right at the edge of the glacier, the blue ice offering a great contrast to the snow on the mountain peaks behind it. The grandeur and majesty of the glacier and mountains make for great photos. We started photographing from up on a hill to get overall shots and then moved up closer to the tower chunks of ice. The weather was perfect and it was fun for the group to shoot with no other people around. We spent a good deal of time there but it couldn’t have been long enough.

We then went to one of the places I was looking forward to the most: Diamond Beach. It is a black sand beach where chunks of the glacier break off, float down a river and then onto the ocean beach. A nearby glacial lagoon is where the chunks form when salty sea water melts the glacier and the pieces break off. Seeing the crystal clear ice on the black sand is exciting and I after showing some of the workshop participants how to shoot it, I made some images myself. Looking back at my shots I’m not too happy with what I got, I hope we get another chance later in the week.

10 Mar 2018

A day of color in Iceland

This is our first day of shooting in my Iceland photography workshop. Last night the group got together for dinner and we met our guide for the week, Raymond Hoffmann. We hit the road with our driver Eidur, a fun guy with great stories about his homeland. Our went to three large waterfalls, the first one was filled with tourists but the water was flowing. Near the falls was a stairway to a viewing platform that catches a lot of mist and it had frozen all winter.

Then we went to another falls that wasn’t so well known. It was nearly a half mile hike back to the falls and the scenery was great all the way back. All the snow was melted but there was still some ice around the waterfall. I made some nice photos of the falls and a little rainbow in the mist. After a couple of hours we got lunch and went to another nearby falls.

Skogafoss is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland and for good reason. There were a ton of people there but it was possible to get in front of them for some photos. I tried some from in the stream and our guide Raymond made a nice shot of me in the water. Raymond also had crampons for everyone to put on their boots when walking on the ice. They really made a difference, many of the tourists were sliding around in sneakers and we were just waiting for one to fall on his head.

The mist coming off the large falls caught the sunlight and make for a huge, beautiful rainbow. We made a ton of pictures and I corralled all the workshop participants and we got back on the bus for a long ride to our hotel in Vic where we had dinner. Since it was a clear day we went out to try capturing the Northern Lights. The sky conditions were great but the aurora activity level wasn’t very high. There was a good wind making the night feel pretty cold but we could see some color in the northern sky. One of the great things about digital cameras is they see more at night than the human eye. We didn’t get the “dancing” light we hoped for but it was still a great experience.