Photography

JEP_3085

Iceland 2013

Hello all,

First post from me, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

I’ve also been meaning to write this so I can never truly forget. I’ll include many images in the opening post and add some as I go through them, but to summarize a few points for you all:

We went from March 8th – 16th
Total party of 3
We had one objective: To see the Northern Lights.

The end result was: Primary objective achieved, 5000 shots taken in the process. Yes…five THOUSAND 😀 and driving we totalled 3500km

Here is a map with geotagged photos taken by Mark on his iPhone as we went…you can see we literally lapped the place.

Any location with a square photo against it, we visited.

So, why Iceland?

We originally all sat down and discussed that we all had the same idea…we wanted to see the northern lights and we wanted to do our best to capture it and end up with a print on our walls at home to be proud of, to answer when asked “Wow who took that?” with “Me”

We discussed and researched locations including:

1) Iceland
2) Finland
3) Norway

We looked at all of these and what they had to offer along with prices, Iceland seemed to be the best fit because along with seeing the lights we also wanted:

Incredible scenery and landscapes to see and capture – Check!
A break from civilisation – Check!
Not too far away so jet lag suffering was minimal – Check!

Iceland seemed to fit the bill, and one member of #teamiceland in particular became borderline obsessed with it all…:p – End result being a Skype conference a few weeks later stating that he had found a good ‘deal’ and began to explain it to us.

The deal was flights, hotel – half board (read ‘posh B&B’), and car hire – total price was £708 each as we were booking it 10 months in advance – we went for it, it was booked.

A couple of weeks later the dawning realisation suddenly hit us…we were going to see the Northern Lights! Research began!

SO much had to be looked into, not just into photography equipment or how to look after it in potentially -30C situations but things like clothing, what to do is someone is deeply affected by the cold, all sorts! But the day soon approached…we formulated a basic itinerary to vaguely follow to ensure we stuck to it as a guideline to maximize our time spent there.

March approached…we had everything we needed, and thus begun the silly Facebook wall posts in full Iceland gear whilst sitting in a warm house…(naturally)

And sisters doing ‘gang’ signs in the background 😀

We had everything, we double, we triple, we quadruple checked absolutely everything (three guesses which idiot managed to leave his phone charger at home though? Yeah I’ll let you lot figure that one out hehe) – we were ready, we were buzzing…sod all work getting done in the office, we were obsessed, I was about to embark on a journey which not only would it turn into one of ‘those’ trips that I would truly never ever forget, It would also fulfil a life long dream of wanting to see the lights (hopefully, anyway!) Off to the airport I go!

Met the rest of #TeamIceland (we managed to dub this to ourselves) at the airport and from the moment we met…the laughter began, and I’ll add that it didn’t stop till we were back at the airport being collected after our epic trip.

Anyway, we boarded onto our Iceland-Air flight (who were fantastic by the way) and soon we were touching down in the land of Armoured Bears.

We also learned on the flight some rather random facts such as, over 50% of Icelands population still genuinely believe in the existence of Elves and that they live in the mountains…also that the whole country only has a population of 300,000! – We were about to get a big culture shock.

We jumped off the plane and idiot me had left his Northern Face coat in the suitcase thinking it wouldn’t be needed…oh god how wrong was I…we arrived shortly after midnight and the two minute walk from the airport to the car and loading it I soon felt what true cold was…it gets cold in England, but this was on another level and really put things into perspective…according to locals that was a ‘warm’ night during that time of year at a mere minus 11!

We got to the hotel just outside of Reykjavik and got a quick 4 hours sleep and we were up at the crack of dawn.

Day 1

Initially we were massively taken a back by the view, the small town was in the middle of mountains towering around us…like I said, huge culture shock considering 3 Essex born and bred men and 2 of which frequent the city were suddenly staring at mountains of this vastness) we spent a good 10 minutes walking around outside just taking it all in, we were in love already.

What then followed was 8 days of pure photographical heaven, everywhere you looked presented itself with photographical opportunities you could only dream of back in the UK. So we jumped in the car and our plan for day 1 was to head North towards the peninsula, this was our first stop.

That good sirs is a section of Frozen ocean…the view was impossible to describe, just standing there staring at it and listening to the deep thundering noises of the ice cracking throughout the distance sent shivers down your spine…amazing, simply amazing.

I’ll try to post more photos instead of blabbering so much now, any ones that particularly stand out I’ll add more info along with location info if I can remember them correctly, they will also be posted in the order we visited and I’ll break the thread posts into ‘days’ to make it easier to follow.

The views as we traveled further North were increasingly stunning, and Hyundai, you’re welcome.

Heading further North we found this incredible beautiful lake.

I can tell you now from personal experience, hanging out of a car at those temperatures is definitely a sure way of waking yourself up! 🙂

We came across wild horses…well more to the point they came across us, amazingly tame!

Also a funny random fact about Iceland horses…THEY ARE ALL IDENTICAL. Seriously, same height and build and all similar colours. Their ears all curve round (you can see in the above photo) we saw a good thousand or so of these when we were there…all of them identical.

We drove further North…

The climate soon changed, more snow than not now, the temperature slowly dropping…

We visited a random town and then began looking for a final resting place for our first glimpse at the Northern lights. We found another lake in the process.

We then looked on the maps and found what we thought would be a suitable location for some good light action. Wanting as little life around as possible to make it as dark as possible, and far in the North to get a better chance at seeing them…we found what we thought was suitable and prepped for the evening, darkness was upon us, so was the cold.

Eventually it was pitch black, and we waited…we spoke about it, what we thought the lights would look like, how they would react…truth be told, no matter how much you read on the internet, you never really know until you see it (little did we know at the time anyway)

I thought it was going to be a haze, Mark thought it was going to be streaks lasting for a few minutes at a time, Kevin was eating all the crisps…nothing was out of the ordinary.

It got to roughly half 10, pitch black…the view of the stars was amazing, and we fired the occasional test shot…then around 5-10mins later Mark said “what’s that?”

He pointed, we couldn’t make anything out, it looked just like dark sky, then Mark took a long 30 second exposure and got something similar to this (my camera was right next to his) This shot is also in a completely unedited state to give it as similar resemblance to use at the time.

AURORA AHOY!!!

This was it, this was our first experience of Northern Light exposure. Taking photos constantly, wetting our pants with excitement, getting as many as different angles as possible and then it slowly went…damn.

Minutes later, this happened

Bang, and there it was a Northern Light in all its glory! It’s such a surreal thing to witness, this time we really went crazy, constantly shooting for a good half an hour or so, at one point a second one formed alongside it. We also stopped with the cameras are one point and just stood to watch the lights…they literally dance across the sky, in matching yet random patterns, its impossible to describe the sheer vastness of it all…it really does stun you into silence – we looked at the time, half 11…we had a LONG way to head back, happy with what we had and with the lights fading, we decide to head back.

On the way back, about half way I randomly look out of the window and see the lights again! We quickly pulled over and proceeded to get photos, this time it was very prominent.

We headed back to the hotel wide awake despite the tiredness absolutely buzzing with our first day, we had visited some of the most stunning landscapes we had ever seen, achieved Northern Lights, our primary objective on Day 1 – we were happy, we were content.

This concluded our first day, and what a first day it was!

Day 2

Today we had planned: Waterfalls, and lots of them! Geyser’s and naturally more lights. We headed East.

We stumbled upon this one by complete accident; it was impressive to say the least, the noise was crazy.

Kevin doing his thing…

Next waterfall! Seljalandsfoss!

It was pretty big, but I got a photo of me in front of it!

We carried on and I got a Panoramic shot.

Next up was Skogafoss!

 

 

Next to the waterfall were steps to climb to the top, so it had to be done. Also there was a ledge at the end of a slippery slope…

Trembling legs aside, I would have kicked myself if I didn’t do it! 😀 Here was the result.

 

Worth it in my opinion.

The day was now drawing to a close and we had one last site to visit, Geyser!

 

Iceland delivers again

It was time to pick our resting place for hopefully some more Aurora action, but little did we know what we were really going to get.

We found a spot at a national park.

 

We did see NL activity here, however it was far too crowded. Lots were stopping, headlights ruining shots etc, we decided to move.

2 minutes down the road we found a closed road which we decided to sneak down…this was much better, very secluded, nobody would disturb us here…and then it began…

 

 

 

We had a full blown Aurora Storm right above us! We could see each other quite clearly due to the sheer power of the lights in the gloom, it was amazing.

 

On this night a layer of ice also formed over the front of our lenses!

Day 3

We were heading east again and decided to go via a national park and visit Lake Pingvallavatn, which was err…impressive

 

 

 

We decided to leave the road and hike down to as close to the surface as possible, this view was too amazing to not at least try. I also hasten to add we all lost weight this week through pure amount of hiking/walking/exercising we were doing.

Still had another 40 foot down to go or so at this point.

We got as close as possible :p – Kevin even rested his camera on the ice at one point!

The effort was worth it…

 

 

Although I’m kicking myself now I didn’t do some sort of pano…annoying, but hey ho, my tripod was at the car and I wasn’t going to go back up to get it.

Said Mkii on the ice! Mental!

 

To give a better idea of how far down we were, it was a fair way, if memory serves I was roughly a 3rd of the way back up at this point.

 

Moving on we began heading further east. With Iceland being the way it is…stopping in the middle of the road for photo ops and not worrying about other cars wasn’t an issue.

 

We kept going, and soon ended up at the Black beaches.

 

 

We then moved up onto the rocks.

 

Which included risking equipment for shots like this…

 

 

Look for the shot where I decided to run for it…

 

 

 

And…run…

 

Last one!

 

After this we back-tracked slightly to a higher location to get a good view of the sunset combined with the black beaches, resulting in this.

 

 

 

Our next objective was to continue east to the Glacier – this meant a long drive ahead, and roughing it in the car for the night as well…fun times, probably the only part of the trip I was not looking forward to but we wanted sunrise photos as the Glacier Lake so therefore it had to be done.

When we got there it was pitch black and we did not really what exactly we were going to find (as with a lot of this trip) initially we were going to do some star trails, here is a 931 second exposure which showed us exactly what was in front of us…

Fortunately you can see the glacier, small icebergs…and what’s that to the right?

AURORA 😀 – We couldn’t believe it! Third night in a row! Most are lucky to see it once in a week!

A mix of excitement and trying not to fall in the lake ensued we managed to capture it.

 

 

 

I did also do a timelapse of it, I’ll post this later.

So Day 3 was a massive hit for us! Excellent. This trip was turning into something incredible.

Tomorrow is Glacier Lake day!

Day 4

We awoke to the Glacier lake to, well…I’ll let the photos do the talking.

 

It was…somewhat incredible. Once again, absolutely blown away by the view…it blew my breathe away, also one thing that surprised me was the amount of photographers that were there…quite a lot of American photography tour guides.

 

 

 

Icebergs!

It was amazing watching these, the way they moved, smashed against each other, slowly yet with incredible power – I did video this, it will be posted later.

It was time to go, we continued further east then north, the plan was to complete an entire lap of the country.

Stopping at various photographical places such as below

 

 

Now, as we proceeded with our lap, one thing we noticed was the constant changing of seasons…we would literally witness all 4 of them every hour. Scroll through the images below you’ll see what I mean.

They were taken in that order all within a few hours of each other.

This was quite funny, when we jumped out of the car to get fuel we heard a load of cracking and found this!

So we continued and then we came to this…I present to you, Hverfjall (pronounced Haverfall)

Some faced about this Volcano…

Hverfjall a tephra cone or tuff ring volcano in northern Iceland, to the east of Mývatn.
It erupted in 2500 BP in the southern part of the Krafla fissure swarm. The crater is approximately 1 km in diameter.
Tephra has been carried from Hverfjall all over the Lake Myvatn area. A landslide apparently occurred in the south part of the crater during the eruption, which accounts for the disruption to the round shape of the mountain.During the Age of Settlement, lava flowed from Svortuborgir, at the southern end of Namafjall, around Hverfjall, which was nearly engulfed by the lava. At the same time an eruption occurred in the slopes above the valley of Hlidardalur.

The rim of the crater is only accessible by two paths, from the northwest and south. It is strictly forbidden to use other routes in ascent or descent.

After this we found a huge waterfall, our biggest to date (I also nearly died at this one, in all seriousness…turns out ice isn’t as steady as it looks…who knew?)

Enjoy, Goðafoss

By this point it was getting pretty dark, too dark to shoot anything. We proceeded with our lap and got home a few hours later.

Day 5

Civilisation!

After our lap around Iceland we had booked a whale watching, something only a 15 minute drive away in Reykjavik which was a nice relief :p

So have some Reykjavik street photography!

 

That one actually got me in trouble, it was the wall to a drinks store and I got yelled out for taking it. Ok, so my street work isn’t great, I must admit I mainly enjoyed aimlessly wondering around the small city and not being on the road, went in the cheesy gift shops, you know how it is.

We didn’t have much time before heading out for the whale watching anyway so we headed to the docks.

 

We got to see Minky Whales.

 

 

We also got to see Humpback whales, not only that, they were breaching!

 

 

That concludes day 5, we took the night as a night off to recovery a bit, we had been hitting it hard for 4 days/nights without stopping, we needed to rest.

Day 6

So this day we were heading down to Blue Lagoon, it was something everyone said is a ‘must do’ while there, so we did it.

 

The lagoon itself, was stunning, these were some of the smaller naturally heated big puddles outside of the resort itself.

 

 

Had to be done :p

One thing I have to say though is…it’s the oddest, most surreal thing I have ever experienced…for those who aren’t aware, the Blue Lagoon is a natural spring heated by the islands strong geothermal properties, someone had the genius idea of building a spa next to it and charging for the privilege of using it…fair play, but the surreal bit comes from being in water the same temperature as hot bath water yet it being -20C outside…very peculiar. The water is a milky colour due to the sulphur in the water that naturally occurs.

After we dried off we grabbed the cameras and wondered around the resort and to the viewing deck, here is what its like from above.

 

Sulphur pools

 

Moving on, when driving we spotted this nice little stream next to the road, and we went for a trek.

From here we headed west, looking for a good spot where we hoped we would see more Northern Light activity

We drove around an awful lot that night, unable to really find lights, so we started to head back, and about half we home we got a small glimpse of them!

It was a bit cloudy to do anything else with that. That concludes our 6th out of 7th day!

Day 7

One thing we discovered in Iceland was that to take a photo of something pretty, you could pretty much point and click anywhere, and you ended up with one.

For example, when driving we stumbled across a geo thermal plant with some stacks and decided to photograph it, why? – Well because, why not?

Our main goal for the day was to head to one of, if not the biggest waterfall in the country, Gullfoss! – Then afterwards to find a good spot for our final night of Northern Light shooting.

And we found it…

It’s hard to possibly comprehend just how loud and big this thing is, along with trying to comprehend just how much water must be flowing over it all the time, I’ll let the photos do the talking!

First off we walked down the slippery path to try and get as close the ‘fall as possible, promptly ignoring the ‘Do Not Cross’ signs.

 

 

Also, not far from Gullfoss, was the Geysir that we visited beforehand, so we decided to stop back there and try out a few different ideas!

 

 

Moving on we found an extinct volcano…

 

The day was getting on by this point so we wanted to find our final location of the trip for a light show, reports were expecting it to be a good one, so we were geared up for it.

We looked on the map and found a nearby location which seemed to suit…

 

Needless to say we were blown away when we turned the corner and we sure had high hopes.

I was bloody tired by this point!

Darkness was falling…

And so did the lights!

And thats it!

Thanks very much for reading and sticking with it, I hope you enjoyed it 🙂

Best,
Jake

#TeamIceland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography

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