Tag : icelandwinter

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.


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.