26 Mar 2014

Iceland 2014 - Day 4a: Magical Jökulsárlón Beach

After a disappointing drive and first day in Jökulsárlón I was hopeful to wake up knowing that the weather-forecast was good for today. It's always nice to return to a place that you love again and again, knowing that it will never disappoint you. Even in the rain it was still magical. So I returned to Jökulsárlón beach again yesterday, just as the clouds were beginning to lift. 

I parked at the east beach and was somewhat taken aback at the amount of photographers already spread out along the iceberg-strewn beach. I counted 19, and another couple were just unpacking their gear in a car next to mine. The light wasn't great, very bright straight out over the sea, and any shot along the beach would have a dozen or so other photographers in view. Oh well, I somehow managed, playing around with a few different directions, filters and shutter speeds. I was grateful to finally have some sun during my time at Jökulsárlón; it had been pretty limited on previous visits.
Having learned the hard way last year about the damage that water droplets and spray can do to the picture quality, I wiped the filter regularly. The salt left a smeary film on the glass, so cleaning was a laborious job. Better that, though, than smeary photos. Occasionally I'd find an iceberg - or a collection of bergs - that took my fancy and then would spend ages photographing it again and again, waiting for the right wave movement. As I discovered before, a question of a few seconds can make the difference between and average shot and a great shot. Other photographers would move straight in once I'd vacated a spot near a decent chunk of ice! I particularly liked this one below, a little black but still striking; it was about 2-3 feet on each dimension - it's difficult to get a sense of scale.

The minutes and hours floated past with the waves. The photos were mounting up, the batteries wearing down. I decided to try something a little different, and took my spare camera out with the zoom lens attached and began trying to capture the movement of the waves, with different shutter speeds. Again, the sun was too bright and I was shooting towards it, but it gave quite dramatic results.

Eventually I had both cameras out - snapping waves with my 60D and 200m lens and my 5D with the 24-70mm attached to the tripod, waiting for a decent wave trail to come along (so glad I'd brought the spare body!). Finally when my second battery died and my feet were blocks of ice I hobbled back to the car and drove home. I realised that I'd been on the beach from 8.45am to 2.15pm - a whole five and a half hours! There were only a couple of photographers there when I left, everybody else choosing to avoid the harsh middle-of-the-day light, which I still think can lend itself to striking shots, given the strong black of the sand, blue/green of the icebergs and white of the frothy sea. 

I raced home, bunged the batteries on the charger, had my usual lunch of volkenbrot, cheese and ham, and warmed up a bit. I'd had one accident on the beach where a wave came in over my boot, but my feet had dried off pretty well. I'd also tried standing on a flat iceberg to take a few shots, but that method came to an end when a big wave nearly toppled it (and me).

I headed out again at 4.30pm, my two main batteries charged, thinking that I might be out for the rest of the day and evening, if the northern lights that were forecast appeared straight after dark. I headed past the lagoon, which glowed in the afternoon sun, and went on to Fjallsarlon, another glacial lagoon which is off the main road and rarely seems to have any visitors. There were two cars there when I arrived, but they left and I had the place to myself, as usual. I wandered down onto the beach and took the opportunity of the solitude to do a couple of silly self-portraits. Some whooper swans flew over from time to time in v-shaped formations (I wished I had more than a 200mm zoom).

I stupidly forgot about the mountains when working out the sunset time - had hoped to spend a good hour and a half at the lagoon back at Jokulsarlon, but as I sat enjoying the view at Fjallsarlon the sun disappeared behind a cloud just above the mountain-top. I headed back to the lagoon in case there was still some good sunset light, but had left it a little late. I still managed a few shots of the nice colourful clouds. Obviously I wasn't the only person there...

And then, you guessed it, it was back to the beach for the last light! Only a handful of photographers were out, which was nice, so there wasn't too much queueing to shoot the best icebergs. There was still a glow in the sky, but the light faded fast; just long enough for my feet to freeze again.

Normally that would've been the end of a long and wonderful day in the life of a photographer, but no, there was more to come.... I headed home, recharged the batteries (again!), cooked some pasta, skyped home, and manically checked the aurora forecast. Things were looking good. The skies were clear, the forecast was for 2.67 Kp, so off I headed out, hoping for a spectacle, and finally I got one!

Click here for Day 3 blog
Click here for Day 4b blog

No comments:

Post a Comment