5 Apr 2013

Iceland Highlights 2013: Day 5 - Jökulsárlón, Jökulsárlón, and more Jökulsárlón

I just love this place. Well, I love the beach. Oddly the lagoon just doesn't really do it for me. But the beach is a different matter and has become something of an obsession...

So, I didn't bother with an early start for sunrise as the weather-forecast had been for total cloud cover (and probably rain or snow too). A couple I met in the guesthouse had got up at the crack of dawn and confirmed that I'd made the right decision. I had a nice chat with them for a while before setting off on the short journey to Jökulsárlón. I thought that I should give the lagoon a chance; it is, after all, the place that everyone raves about and has been used in various films, blah blah blah. Just like last year, the weather was "changeable" - with mostly grey clouds, but a spot of brightness over the glacier to the north. I headed along the beach, noticing how few icebergs there were in the first bit of the lagoon. A few seals swam around, their round nostrils giving them away as they eyed me up.

I started off shooting without any filters, but I just don't like the look of normal water any more (generally), so it was on with the filters pretty much straight away!

Water with lots of little icebergs in doesn't actually lend itself to long exposure either, though, as they can end up just looking blurred. I eventually found a rather nice iceberg in the shape of a heart, with a small pile of pebbles, but it was moving around in the slight swell of the lagoon, so it was off with the filters briefly for a 1/60th of a second shot.

I wasn't really finding the place very inspiring, and it started to snow quite heavily - a cold wet snow accompanied by a biting wind - so I gave up and headed into the café for a break, leaving my cold, wet camera in the car to prevent any condensation issues from the warmth of the café. Inside I treated myself to a lovely piece of apple tart and a coffee and sat chatting to a couple of fellow photographers, who were also taking a little break from the weather and had already been out there for a couple of hours too. Within minutes the snow had stopped and the sun came out, but I didn't have the energy to go back out just yet.

Next stop was the beach again, my favourite spot. I got down to the beach - the weather now much brighter, with some cloud definition - to find it littered with tiny pieces of ice as well as some bigger bergs, as well as about 10 other photographers. The sun even made a brief appearance. My plan was - again - to try to capture water trails from the icebergs, after a wave has washed over them. I've written another blog about this in more detail, but here are a few of my results from the afternoon.

After a couple of hours I thought I should probably have a break, given that my toes were frozen, my memory card was filling up fast, I'd already got through one battery and I was a bit iceberged-out. I headed back to the guesthouse for a rest and a sandwich, and then headed back to the beach for sunset. The weather wasn't great, but there was still some definition in the sky. The odd snow and hail shower were still drifting around, hitting the beach when I arrived.

I stayed until the light disappeared and the nearly-full moon appeared in its place, before heading home to check the aurora and weather-forecast, rustle up an easy pasta dish and download and review the day's shots.

The short-term aurora forecast was pretty active for the evening, but it was snowing outside on and off and generally pretty cloudy. I decided that I had to go and give it a try though, as the weather-forecast was better towards Skaftafell (63km away). I was running low on petrol, so decided that a combined aurora and petrol-filling trip would be a good idea, so headed out at about midnight. I got about 20km, just the other side of Jökulsárlón, when I decided it was a really bad idea after all. There was a heavy sleet accumulating on the road, and I suddenly thought "what if this settles all night and then the road's impassable on my return at 2am?" No-one knew I was even out there. I stopped the car, took some photos of the cloudy sky (to make sure that there were no lights lurking - there weren't) and then turned round and headed home. I'd still have enough petrol to make it back to the gas station the following morning with a little to spare. I got home and had a large glass of wine and felt relieved that I'd made a sensible decision. No aurora seen, but at least I was warm and safe!

More shots of the ice can be seen on my website!

Click here to see Day 6 - Svínafellsjökull & Skaftafell


  1. great to read the trials and tribulations of an ice obsessed photographer in Iceland in winter; it makes us appreciate the photos eeven more !

  2. Very inspiring pictures! I love nr. 4. I have to go back to that beach and stay long. I was there in september, but a heavy storm delayed me, so I only got some hours in 3 degrees and heavy rain, still a wonderful place to be.

  3. Nice photos. Thanks for sharing your story. Hope to go there someday.