Iceland owes its rugged landscape to volcanic origin, dark and bitter cold winters on the Arctic Circle and deforestation by the Vikings. There are a few equally rugged farmers and fishermen who live in rustic isolation. It’s hard to imagine this life in the summer, not to mention the winter.
Iceland is a hot destination now, and for good reason. Airline bargains abound, and the scenery is amazing. If you haven’t discovered this beautiful country for yourself yet, I highly recommend making the trip. Whether you have just been or hope to go, you will be interested in the ASMP Photography exhibit in Pittsburgh this Friday July 9 at 803 Liberty Avenue. I will be exhibiting some large works from my recent trip to Iceland.
Volcanic eruptions are in the news now with action in both Hawaii and Guatemala. Iceland has been formed by volcanoes, and it has experienced recent eruptions. The Icelandic fishing center Heimaey Island, just southwest of the mainland, has recovered from a two-year eruption beginning in the 1973. You can learn all about it at the Museum of Remembrance and walk its quiet streets now lined with new homes.
If you like hiking, landscape photography and exploring quiet places on your own, you will enjoy a visit to Iceland.
I’m busy today making prints for a July 6 exhibition: the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Gallery Crawl. It’s a fun evening, and you can find some cool photography by ASMP* photographers at 803 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA.
I have decided to feature some of the amazing landscapes and birds I saw in Iceland last summer. Whoever said that Iceland is the land of “Fire and Ice” is right! Volcanoes have created some rugged landforms and interesting vistas. On Heimeay Island, one can just imagine how frightened the residents felt when a massive eruption woke them in the middle of the night in January 1973. (All residents fled via fishing boats in the harbor, and the eruption continued for two years.)
Then you can experience “Ice” even in mid-July, as you bundle up in a parka, hat and gloves and strap spikes to your boots for a hike on an icy, albeit melting, glacier. This glacier was atop an extinct volcano on the Snaefellsness Peninsula.
Please come to the Pittsburgh Gallery Crawl on Friday evening July 6. It’s free.
*American Society of Media Photographers: ASMP.org.
When someone says “hike,” I immediately think “photoshoot,” and wonder which camera and lens to bring along. So, when a guide says, “strenuous hike,” I immediately become nervous about how heavy my equipment is, and whether I will need two hands for climbing. I also wonder about the huffing and puffing index!
On this 1.5 km hike to Hengifoss in eastern Iceland (not far from Seydisfjordur), I limited my load to the Nikon D800 and my 14-24mm lens to capture wide vistas. As I hiked and panted, I resisted the temptation to ask the downhill hikers how much longer it was.
Do you see the pink lines in the cliff near the falls? They represent different volcanic eruptions over the years. This hike is a geologist’s dream.
Here an iPhone photo illustrates some detailed information on site:
While midday is not the optimal time for photography, I was grateful for clear skies. Last week when another group hiked Hengifoss, they endured rain and fog. We enjoyed sights of long and wide vistas and cool temperatures. No complaints!
Like Sydney, Reykjavik Iceland has an architectural gem along its harbor, and it is a music hall. While I photographed Harpa from our ship as we departed the city harbor in the evening, I did not have a chance to visit the inside.
I have started to make my list of things to do in Iceland for my next trip. Iceland is a photographer’s dream.
Great bird photography comes from a successful collaboration of the right location, the right equipment, good technique, plenty of patience and an ounce of luck. If you approach a target-rich environment with the right lens and practice your technique enough — you will get lucky. (I paraphrase my husband’s motto: luck comes to the well prepared.)
The nesting arctic terns on Vigur Island in Iceland (a target rich environment) are very strong, fast and quick. They are busy catching small fish and delivering the fish to their chicks on the island. They also have an instinct to attack your head, so it helps to have an assistant guard your head with a stick.
Set your camera this way: fast shutter speed to freeze action, and all other settings to support that choice: higher ISO, wide open lens, spot meter, and maybe continuous shooting. Then, my technique was very quick action: pan/focus/shoot.
The day before we visited Gullfoss (on July 20), a massive and powerful waterfall within a few hours’ drive of Reykjavik, Iceland, a man fell in. I can easily envision this happening, as I was carefully watching my step on wet slippery rocks alongside a steep grassy hillside leading to the falls. That day, I thought to myself, “you don’t survive a fall into Gullfoss.” The 22-year-old man’s body was found miles down the Hvita River nearly a month later. This sad incident is a safety warning to all future visitors.
“Thar She Blows” was the cry of a sailor spotting a whale, but the expression came to mind as we stood waiting for the Icelandic geyser to explode with a massive force of steaming water.
About every 10 minutes, Iceland’s Strokkur geyser puts on a show — shooting hot water about 30 meters into the air. It’s a dramatic natural phenomenon that you can watch only a few places in the world. Yellowstone National Park and the north island of New Zealand are two other sites that come to mind. Geysers are an indication that you are standing in a volcanic landscape.
You would be well advised to keep your children and yourself out of the line of fire, but not everyone follows the rules or exercises good judgement.
An active geothermal field of steaming, bubbling, and erupting hot water can be found a few hours from Reykjavik, Iceland. The “Litli Geysir” (little gusher, pronounced “gay-zeer”), is the name and place that originated the English word “geyser.”
The geothermal field reveals its wide color palette, from yellow to green to blue and purple. Steam escapes from many vents in the Earth.
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?
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.