Iceland: Part 3

Iceland is a land shaped by fire, ice, and water.   It sits astride two major tectonic plates which are being gradually forced apart by the pressure of molten rock deep within the earth.  At the surface glaciers inexorably move through the mountains, slowly carving new landscape formations.  The melting ice from the warming climate and heavy rainfall in the mountains generates innumerable waterfalls, some tumbling over cliffs 200 feet and higher.

As a result, there are spectacular opportunities for the landscape photographer when weather conditions cooperate.  During our time in Iceland, we were treated to a few special moments but more often found ourselves in fairly challenging conditions.  But the challenges are part of what motivates us to take our cameras outdoors whenever we can.  Because sooner or later persistence will be rewarded with a magical ephemeral moment.  A moment you never forget.

One of the favorite spots for photographers in Iceland is the small blue glacial waterfall called Brúarfoss. Although well known to visitors, it can be extremely hard to find.  Fortunately, we were on a photo workshop led by Ian Plant, ably assisted by Alex Mody, and Ian unerringly directed our driver through a maze of unsigned dirt roads to a trail head.  After a short hike we were there and it was immediately obvious why everyone wants to see it, even in poor weather conditions.

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Brúarfoss from the Pedestrian Bridge (wide angle photomerge)

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Brúarfoss, from the Shallows (wide angle photomerge)

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Brúarfoss, from the Pedestrian Bridge (telephoto photomerge)

The next day we arrived at Gullfoss (Golden Falls, located in the canyon of the Hvítá River) for a sunrise shoot, but my efforts to capture the grandeur of the monster cataract were mostly unsatisfactory.  However, a few attempts were OK and are shown below.

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Early Morning at Gullfoss, View to the West

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Workshop Participants, Gullfoss

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Brief (5 seconds) Rainbow, Gullfoss

At midday, we got a break in the weather just as we arrived at Seljalandsfoss, located close to the Ring Road (Route 1).

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Seljalandsfoss at Midday

Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall approximately 200 feet high.  It has a cavern to the sides and rear that allow people to walk behind the falls.  This image is a side view from within the cavern.

To be continued…….

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Iceland: Part 2

As we continued up Route 47 to the waterfall at Kirkjufell, a series of intermittent showers began to tantalize us with a series rainbows shimmering in the fjord (Hvalfjörður, which is about 30 km long and 5 km wide). We finally found a place with enough room to park off the road, but as we scrambled out of the vehicle we were immediately buffeted by extremely strong wind gusts.  Nevertheless, a complete rainbow hung over the water and we would not be deterred.

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Rainbow over Hvalfjörður fjord, Iceland

This was the last we saw of any sunshine on this day.  By the time we reached the waterfall, the wind was approaching gale force (my opinion, based on the fact the rain was going more or less sideways).  But extreme weather can be an exhilarating experience and while I captured no memorable photos at this waterfall, I’m not likely to forget the power of the wind and rain during my brief excursion around the falls.

Based in Hellnar for the night, we headed out to Arnarstapi for a twilight photograph of the Gatklettur Rock, a natural arch formed on the beach.  The rain had slackened, and the dark clouds provided a foreboding scene. Two members of our group can be seen in the lower left corner of the first image, prviding a sense of scale.

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Gatklettur Natural Arch from Overlook

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Gatklettur Natural Arch, Close View from Overlook

Since the images of the horses were well received, here is one more which I suspect is an equine interpretation of the verb “photobomb.”

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I failed to mention in the previous post that the horses were located in a large pasture along Route 47, about 7 km northeast of the intersection of Route 1 and Route 47.

To be continued….

Iceland: Part 1

I’ve finally returned from Iceland and while the weather was not highly cooperative, the country’s famous scenery made it possible to capture images at most of the spots we visited.  Probably the most agreeable conditions occurred at an unplanned stop on the morning we departed Reykjavik. About two hours northwest of the capital, we spotted a sunlit pasture with about a dozen of Iceland’s famous horses.

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According to the Lonely Planet Guide and other sources, all horses in Iceland can be traced back to the animals imported by the Vikings.  The small breed is hardy and long-lived, well-conditioned for the country’s harsh conditions and still plays an important role in Icelandic life. Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.  They have five gaits, including the unusual töit, a running walk so smooth that riders can drink a glass of beer without spilling a drop. In addition to performance competitions, horse racing is a popular sport and the animal is also used for traditional sheepherding.  Some are raised for slaughter and much of the meat is exported to Japan.

Based on our brief experience interacting with the herd we encountered, the Icelandic horse is social, curious, and seems to enjoy having its nose petted.

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Shortly after we resumed our drive, the weather took a turn for the worse.

To be continued…..