Landscape Photography Iceland
Snaps courtesy of iPhone, as always.
I had planned to get up very early this morning (0315hrs), but after going to bed at nearly midnight last night it was never going to happen and so didn’t. I needed a lie in and to regroup, after the horrors of three days of blue and sunny. The weather is unchanged, sadly. I may head out to the Hvitserkur rock this evening, but a little earlier than last time to see how the light changes. The forecast is for full cloud tomorrow starting early, so perhaps something will change later today. Looking out the window, I am not so sure L. This would be a great summer in the UK (but with an arctic wind), which is not what I expected!
I also need to rest an injury from the last few days. Unfortunately my bottom has come off badly from the 1000 kms I have driven thus far and needs soft squidgy sofas rather than the very supportive, but firm seat in the Micra. Maybe I need to eat more cheese and build up a properly padded winter butt? I brought my trail shoes so will go off for a bracing run a bit later on to get the blood flowing again and connect with terra firma. The landscape here is not especially interesting, but I’m staying at a horse farm, so there should be some easy to follow paths to take up the hills.
Breakfast was brilliant at Guaksmyri Lodge and so like a school boarder at home for the weekend, I devoured all before me, under the watchful eye of the many dead ravens watching me from up above. This has to be a first: dead animals mixed with dining.
There are plenty of stuffed birds around the building, but to have ravens in the dining room, above the tables, is an interesting choice. I was left with a sense that they were either eyeing up my food for leftovers or waiting for me to drop dead to have my eyeballs. I have seen quite a few soaring over the hills in the last few days and thousands of waterfowl. The north seems to contain endless ducks, geese, various pipers and other birds I know little about. While I am no twitcher, it has proven one of the little touches that has made this experience very soulful. Swans float serenely along waterways and wander farmers’ fields. Ducks bob up and down in the ditches, feeding. Pipers scurry out of your way as your car turns into a gravel road and terns burst from the cliffs as you descend a path. The desolate landscape is incredibly alive and it’s not hard to see where the arctic fox I saw the other day finds food: ground nesting birds and their nests must provide amply.
Never mind the ravens, look at the salt and pepper sellers – both horses seem to have been euthanized, with the black horse clearly putting up more of a fight.
Now there is a dead tree suspended from the ceiling.
The run was fantastic. I spent 25 mins running along a bridleway and it felt like I was flying, until I turned around to come back at which point the fact that I had been running downhill and with the wind became painfully obvious. I felt like an unfit heap running back; nonetheless, it did its job and I felt like great for when I headed back to Hvitserkur. While I was aware the weather was once again no good (clear blue), I figured I might as well go and learn more about the site in better light, so I did. This info will be invaluable should I return when conditions are more favourable. The other factor weighing against me is that the tide is out at sunrise and sunset, but now I know how the rock looks at low and mid tide.
I just got chatting to a Chinese couple, who have circled the country counter-clockwise and they say it has been cloudy and snowy all the way from Vik to where we are now. What. The. Hell? It just goes to show that this country is a complete mystery when it comes to weather. They have not seen blue skies and sunshine since arriving and have been complaining about that! Hopefully I will run into some of their pearly grey skies when I head eastwards!
I decided to visit Hvitserkur nice and early and by early, I mean waking at 0315hrs (ouch) and hope that the photography gods would be kind. The tide was low and I did not think there would be a great likelihood of strong photos, but figured it would be invaluable in building up a picture of exactly where the sun rises and how it illuminates the landscape. This sort of information is priceless if one ever plans to return.
As you can see, the sun rises almost exactly behind the rock, as viewed from the cliffs above. The area to the right is beautifully illuminated by the morning sun too. This is a site that IMO is best visited either at high tide or somewhere in the middle, allowing you to isolate the rock from the black sand below. If you do arrive at a lower tide, you can work with the ripples in the sand at ground level, but when the tide is all the way out, the site has least potential I feel. I felt a real connection to this place and enjoyed just standing there in front of the rock. A raven head clearly made it home (nesting?) and I saw it in the same spot each time I visited. Hvitserkur is about 40mins down a gravel road (good condition) off route 1 – the main ring road.
While wandering around I found an amazing owl pellet, which I will show to my boys at home and I also noticed this on the beach. All the shells were grouped together just as photographed and I wonder what the culprit was. Any ideas? Something had a tasty shellfish breakfast….
After returning to the hotel and grabbing another couple of hours sleep before breakfast, I drove eastwards. Being on the main ring road, progress is swift.
As I head past the capital of the north, Akureyri, the weather began to change and very quickly. It became very clear the Chinese couple were not winding me up!
…so, I have gone from sunny and blue to Icelandic winter in few hundred kilometres. Blue skies are now flat white and the visibility ranges from 500m or so down to about 5om. This is just like January, only with less snow on the ground.
I dropped in a Godafoss, which is well worth visiting. There are many superb waterfalls in Iceland, but not all are close to the road, but this one is. It is literally 100m off the main road and about 50m from the parking area, so its makes the perfect meal/drink stop along route one in this area. It’s a impressive waterfall, which was covered with icicles that I was not expecting to see at this time of year (but hardly surprising given the unusually cold weather). Photographing waterfalls is always difficult, because of two factors:
- They have been shot a great deal before.
- There are lots of people standing where you would rather they didn’t!
I took a few frames then scarpered, but I’m quite happy with what I have already. Seeing as it is so close to where I am staying (25km or so) I may head back very early or very late and see if I can put something a little different together, but it all depends on the weather.
The otherworldly Lake Myvatn was partially hidden to me, but I did visit the Namafjall/Heveron mud pools, smelling them long before I arrived! There are a few geothermal power stations in the area, using the heat to drive turbines.
I spied a few possible shots that would have had more potential with the sun a bit lower, but the weather closed in and put an end to that. At this point I remembered that all was not lost: I had beer in the boot, so scoffed down a pizza at Daddy’s Pizza and then headed back to my accommodation for some Pilsner. I also figured that it was an appropriate time to watch another Vikings episode.
If there is one thing you can count on when shooting landscape photography in Iceland it is that you have no idea what tomorrow will bring…