Most Photographed Mountain in Iceland

Stock photos of Kirkjufell at sunset with three waterfalls in the foreground had captured my imagination before our Iceland trip. How I wanted to see that scene in person, and even take my own photo on location!  But alas, I realized that the sun doesn’t set in summer until close to midnight, and the logistics just would not work.

Would my only photo of Kirkjufell be this one through the bus window?

#kirkjufell, #snaefellsnes, #bus, #mostphotographedsight, #mountain, #blueandgreen
Polarizer in the bus window gave the sky an eerie effect, as I captured Kirkjufell while driving past. One can see the way the top of the mountain resembles a church (“kirk”) shape.

As our ship left the harbor that evening, I got one more chance to photograph Kirkjufell and the surrounding mountains. Note to Self: while capturing the iconic photo you admire can become a treasure hunt that grows into an obsession, there is much to be said for creating your own unique set of images, rather than duplicating the classic shot. In fact, I will remind myself that creating my own unique images is the best path to take.

#iceland, #kirkjufell, #grundarfjordur, #landscape, #sony, #landscape, #mostphotographed #mountain
Departing Grundarfjordur, Kirkjufell was sidelit in the evening light.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

After our glacier hike, we stopped at a little restaurant for some lamb soup, and were surprised to discover this beautiful coast line just a short walk from the restaurant.

This Western region of Iceland, just north of Reykjavik is one of my favorite regions in Iceland. When I return to Iceland someday for a few days of exploration by car, I will probably head up this way. In addition to the dormant volcano Snaefellsjokull and its glacier, one can also enjoy these sea cliffs, miles of sheep farms, lava fields and scenic mountains (more photos of the mountains to come).

#cliff, #basalt, #basaltcolumns, #coast, #iceland, #snaellsfessnes, #blueandgreen, #landscape, #nature, #sony
Coast of Snaefellsnes Peninsula with basalt columns — an interesting rock formation created as lava cools.

Our ship was docked in Grundarfjordur, and next we would return to the ship, passing the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell. One of my goals of the Iceland trip was to capture my own photo of Kirkjufell, but the only opportunity I had was through the bus window. That would be one of many reasons to go back someday.

Melting Glacier in Iceland

As global warming continues, this beautiful Iceland glacier won’t be here in 80 years. We could hear massive melting while hiking, the sound of water rushing in rivers below the surface.

#glacier, #iceland, #snaefelljokull, #globalwarming, #hike, #nature, #landscape
Exposed lava and melting snow on the Snaefellsjokull north face.

This memorable day hike was a teachable moment. It made me wonder what sort of world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren.

#glacier, #lake, #snaefellsjokull, #iceland, #hike, #lava, #snow, #globalwarming, #nature,
This glacial lake on Snaefellsjokull collects the drainage from melting snow and ice: a rugged landscape with its own kind of simple beauty.

Advantages of cruising around Iceland

While driving the Ring Road around Iceland is a flexible and economical way to explore Iceland,  cruising offers lots of benefits, too. Our seven-day cruise on Windstar, offered only in July, allowed us to wake up in the morning to scenes like this:

#baypilot, #windstar, #akureyri, #cruise, #morning, #iceland
Bay pilot helps the Windstar Legend navigate the fjord into Akureyri.

and say goodnight to the midnight sun  with views like this:

#windstar, #midnightsun, #arctic, #july, #nature, #landscape, #daylight, #iceland
View from our cabin aboard the Windstar Legend as we closed the curtains close to midnight .

While the ship travels from one port to the next, you don’t have to drive. You can relax and enjoy a good book.

#cruise, #windstar, #reading, #iceland
Charlie reading on deck, enjoying a sunny day near the Arctic Circle.

The shore excursions arranged by Windstar offered us plenty of adventures: hiking a glacier (photos coming in future blog), whale watching, bird watching, hiking to a waterfall and sight seeing flights in small planes.

We also made some good friends on this small ship, which accommodates around 210 passengers. It was fun, and we have great memories. Highly recommend for 2018!

Whales in Iceland

It was a day multiple blessings and just one First World Problem. First, here are the blessings:

  1. We were on vacation in Iceland.
  2. The weather was sunny and warm (not typical).
  3. In Akureyri, we were going on a RIB (rubber inflatable boat) to observe whales in the fjord.
  4. Humpback whales feed in the Icelandic fjords in July.
  5. We had an experienced pilot and guide who have identified 150 humpback whales by name and understand a great deal about them.
  6. I kept my Sony a7IIr camera dry, and did not lose my sunglasses as we sped around the fjord.

So, what was the First World Problem?  We got so close to Jackson the humpback whale that I couldn’t get the whole whale in my frame! I caught myself exclaiming, “Oh my, we’re too close!” and heard a voice reply, “too close?”

Well, you see, I wasn’t really complaining. I was amazed. Thrilled. Grateful.

My husband was not behind a camera, and just watched the whale, seeing his eye.

#whale, #humpback, #iceland, #akureyri, #rib, #nature, #wildlife, #upclose
Jackson, the humpback whale, next to our boat. See his blow hole and part of his white dorsal fin under water.
#whale, #humpback, #fjord, #akureyri, #rib, #whalewatch, #wildlife, #nature, #windstar
I quickly zoomed my lens from 70 to 24mm to capture more of the whale and the fjord. The white dorsal fin represents one third the length of the body, to give you an idea of the whale’s length.
#whale, #humpback, #jackson, #fjord, #iceland, #rib, #akureyri, #wildlife, #windstar
When Jackson the humpback whale made a deep dive, our pilot headed back to shore.

Volcanic Heimaey Island

The story of Heimaey Island in the south of Iceland makes geology class feel like a modern day adventure movie. As our ship sailed toward the narrow opening to its fishing boat harbor, a first look at the land bore witness to the 1973 volcanic eruption that nearly closed the harbor entrance. I’ve never before seen hardened lava looking like wet mud that just dripped and dried quite recently. Later, we learned that men battled the lava flow threatening the harbor with fire hoses in a successful and historically unique effort to cool the lava and shorten the length of its flow, preserving the harbor entrance and the way of life for the fishermen.

#windstar, #pilot, #boat, #heimaey, #volcanic, #eruption, #lava, #fog
The orange boat that brought the bay pilot out to our ship passed us as we slowly approached Heimaey’s tiny harbor. We were soon to learn more about the epic battle between the volcano and the harbor.

The fog that would settle in for the day and cancel our flight-seeing tour was descending on us as well. Nevertheless, this view from our cabin this morning was quite beautiful. As a backup plan, I walked on my own into the village.

The volcano that forced the 2am evacuation of all the island residents in January of 1973 erupted for six months. All residents were safely evacuated to the mainland on fishing boats that happened to be in the harbor due to a recent storm. The people had wait all that time before they could return and find out the status of their homes.

#heimaey, #volcanic, #eruption, #lava, #1973, #iceland
The remains of this home helps visitors imagine what the islanders faced when they returned after the eruption.

A paragon of resilience, the residents returned to Heimaey to rebuild and resume their quiet, communal  lives. I strolled up the street past new homes to see the volcano, and to visit the Museum of Remembrance, where recorded voices of residents describe  personal stories of what happened as they realized the volcano was erupting and gathered their families to flee toward the harbor.

#volcano, #heimaey, #houses, #rebuild, #resilience, #sony
Would you build a new home here, just below the volcano?
#volcano, #remember, #eruption, #museum, #iceland, #1973
Heimaey’s volcano belies its powers of destruction as it sits quietly above the village today.

 

 

Puffins on Vigur Island

Puffins are camera shy, as they flee when they see you coming — unlike many seabirds that I’m accustomed to in Florida. As soon as I spotted one, tried to creep a bit closer, framed the shot and focused — off it went. Most of my photos that afternoon on Vigur Island were shot a second too late. Charlie and I were a persistent team; he was holding high sticks to ward off the Arctic Terns who are apt to attack your head. He was watching the long grass in the hillside for puffin nests where the puffins briefly land to feed their chicks, and acting as my spotter.

“Over there,” Charlie whispered to me, pointing. I crept closer with camera poised, hoping to focus and shoot before the puffins took flight.

#puffins, #puffin, #vigur, #windstar, #birds, #wildlife, #seabirds, #arctic, #iceland
One, two, three, jump! Puffins take flight as humans approach.

I kept my shutter speed high and my lens wide open, trying to freeze action on a flying puffin at the very least. I was working hard to get a good puffin shot before leaving Iceland. Having seen puffin photos in all the shops, I knew how cute the little birds are!

#puffin, #inflight, #flying, #bird, #nature #wildlife, #iceland, #vigur
Puffin flies back to sea for more fish to feed the chicks hidden in the hillside.

At last our teamwork paid off, and I captured this image of a puffin with a beak full of fresh fish for the chicks. The Nikon D800 with 70-200 lens and a 1.4 teleconverter gave me a sharp image even though we were about 10 meters away.

#nikond800, #puffin, #iceland, #vigur, #bird, #wildlife, #nature, #vigurisland
Best Iceland souvenir: my own close-up of a Puffin in the act of fishing for the young.