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Tag : Iceland

08 Mar 2018

Frozen waterfalls and a church painted black in Iceland

In my Iceland research I came across a waterfall that lines up nicely with a mountain, so I decided I should head there on my second day in the country. And being there at sunrise was the time for the best photos. The bad part is that it is 2 1/2 hours from my hotel in Reykjavik, so that meant getting up at 3 a.m. to assure I was there in time. Since my body was already messed up from the five hour time change I figured it couldn’t get much worse. So essentially I left the hotel at 11 a.m. according to my body time and hit the road to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Once I left Reykjavik it was a two lane road all the way in the pitch black darkness. I kept looking to the north to see if the Northern Lights were showing their colors but I didn’t see anything. What was bright were the trucks coming at me. The big tractor-trailers have a set of lights on top of the cab. The first one freaked me out, I didn’t know what this super bright light was coming at me. It turns out they mount four big lights, brighter than the biggest headlights, on the truck and turn them all on. Fortunately the drivers turned them off when they saw me coming or I would have been blinded.

I rolled into the parking lot for Kirkjufellsfoss while it was still dark, there was just a glint of morning light in the east. I got out of the car and shined my fairly large flashlight toward the falls only to see that they were completely frozen. That was something I didn’t plan on, it didn’t even occur that all I might see was ice. It was about 15 degrees but there wasn’t any wind, so I put some more clothes on and made the short hike up to the falls. It was even more frozen that I could tell from the car. I set up my tripod and waited for the morning light to get a little brighter and some color to come into the sky. After making some not-too-exciting photos, I got out my flashlight to do some light painting on the falls. The trick is to make whatever I am lighting become nearly as bright as the sky. I make several exposures as the pre-sunrise sky became more colorful. There is a point where I know there won’t be any more color in the sky so I decided to cut my losses and head to my next planned location.

When I was back in the hotel I noticed the large, bright moon shining outside my window. I thought it would be cool to make a photo of it but I thought it would set before I got in a place to shoot it. I forgot how far north I was. As I was driving over a mountain pass, there was the moon in basically the same position as four hours earlier. The sun was just now rising and the color was amazing so I pulled off the road and was greeted by a strong, cold wind. The light was amazing, the landscape barren, just ice and rocks, but it was beautiful. There I was, alone, literally in the middle of nowhere, the sun was rising, the moon was shining, the light was incredible and I didn’t know what to shoot. I made some shots of the moon then the color above a mountain peak, the light pouring over another peak. I finally decided to just experience the scene and take it all in. I didn’t need to make a photo at this point.

As the sky got brighter I got back in the car and headed toward another church painted black in Budir. It is pretty isolated, about five miles from the nearest town. The sun had just come up as I pulled so I used a wide angle lens to emphasize the church against the pretty sky. A church painted black is pretty unique and the story is they put pitch tar used on ships on the church buildings to protect them from the harsh weather.

I found a place to get some breakfast and went to a few other locations. I was pretty tired so I took a nap in the car and woke up a couple of hours later. When I woke up the clouds had rolled in and I was still feeling pretty groggy. Since I had to drive over two hours I decided to head back to the hotel and get ready for the official start of my workshop tomorrow.

07 Mar 2018

My first day in Iceland

Life is wonderful. I landed in Iceland this morning, made my way through the Reykjavik airport, got my rental car and enjoyed the colorful horizon before the sun rose as I scraped ice off the car windshield in the parking lot. This is my first trip to Iceland and I came a couple of days before the start of my workshop so I could make photos. When I am hosting a workshop, I take some pictures along the way but my real purpose is to help the people in the workshop, so I’m not able to concentrate solely on my photos.

The airport is about 30 miles from Reykjavik, so I decided to explore the peninsula near the airport today and tomorrow head to another peninsula to the north west. I do a ton of research before I go to a new place so I know some good places to shoot. Near the airport is the little town of Keflavik and I saw some fun pictures of sod roof houses, so that is where I started. The sun was about ready to show itself as I pulled up to the huts. I don’t do a lot of selfies, in fact, I hate going to beautiful places and s

eeing people taking pictures of themselves and nothing of what they came to see. Anyway, I was waiting for the sun to get high enough to eliminate some bad shadows so I decided to snap a selfie. I really needed a person in the photo to show the scale of how small these houses were and since I was the only person around I broke into my super-model mode.

I spent several hours driving around the peninsula, it is basically a lava field with crazy, not-too-pretty landscapes, hot springs, craggy coastline and a few towns. After leaving Keflavik I drove past the very small town of Hafnir and noticed a church painted black. I planned on visiting one tomorrow and didn’t know about this one, so I went into to town. The church was about the only thing there, I was hoping to get some breakfast but I would have had to knock on some house doors to find any food. The church was cool but the light wasn’t right, I needed to be there in the afternoon.

I have several things marked in my Google map to see, so I stopped at them all. That doesn’t mean they were good photos, but at least cool things to see. I stood in both Europe and North American at the same time. There is a place with a bridge that crosses a gully created by the two continents slowly moving apart. It was cool but I didn’t make any great photos. I then went to a light house and a hot spring that has a nearby huge geothermal plant supplying hot water and electricity to Reykjavik. My next stop was at a tidal pool on the coast where the waves were splashing on the rocks. It was cold enough that the spray froze after hitting the rocks, which looked pretty cool.

I finally found a town with a restaurant and it was now about lunch time so I had a great meal of fresh cod and french fries. I was told that food in Iceland was expensive but I was still a little shocked to pay over $25 for a fish and chips lunch. I saw several more fun sites and then decided it was time to head to Reykjavik and find my hotel.

After settling in to the hotel I went to shoot a lighthouse nearby on a little island. Grotta Island isn’t very big, maybe 1/2 long and 1/4 mile wide. There is a little causeway to walk across to get to the island. I got there as the sun was going down but the sky was perfectly clear, which doesn’t make for great sunset photos, it is better to have a few little clouds to catch the light and color. I made plenty of photos anyway and hung out until well after the sun was gone to see how the color would look. I love that time of day, after the sun is gone and before it is completely dark. There is a little house near the lighthouse that looks like someone lives there but I didn’t see any people. The path to the building and lighthouse were intriguing and I liked the way it made the whole scene come together.

Darkness was settling in and I was done shooting. I went back to the causeway to see the tide had come in and didn’t leave me much room to walk in the sand. At one point I needed to scramble up on some rocks to get back to my car. I’m glad I didn’t stay on the island longer or I might have been there for a long time. I made a run to Reykjavik’s most famous landmark, the Lutheran Church Hallgrímskirkja. It is the tallest building in the country and an impressive sight. I wanted a photo of it at dusk and I got there a little later than ideal but it still make a nice shot.

What a great first day in Iceland.