2 Apr 2014

Iceland 2014 - Day 6: More Jökulsárlón (with a little bit of Singaporean colour)

After another day of rain I was intending to wake up late, as the forecast wasn't predicting decent weather until mid-morning. I was woken up early, though, by an Italian guy on the phone talking loudly outside my room, at 6.30am. Instead of grappling for the ear-plugs I decided to check the weather outside. It was still murky, but when I looked out of the front window on my way to the loo I noticed a touch of brightness in the sky; the forecast had been too pessimistic.

So I headed out, without showering, brushing teeth or eating breakfast, grabbing a Nature Valley in my rush to get back to Jökulsárlón beach. The sky had a little bit of contrast and a tiny amount of blue was peaking from behind the clouds. Some picturesque clouds stretched across the sky; the sun wasn't appearing any time soon. The usual array of interestingly-shaped and coloured icebergs littered the beach; one looked like a big blue beached whale.

I snapped away for some time, with only a couple of other photographers to be seen on the beach for a change (also trusted the weather-forecast, I suppose). Eventually the groups started to arrive and the photographers huddled their tripods around the most impressive bergs. The weather deteriorated as the skies lightened.

I found a nice-shaped iceberg and settled myself down to try out a few settings with the polariser, changing the way the light reflected within in. It had begun to drizzle slightly and the with the spray from the sea I was struggling to keep the lens/filters clean. I was soon joined by what I can only describe as a crazy Singaporean woman. Inkris had short spiky pink hair, and brightly-coloured clothes to match. She liked my composition and copied the shots with her Samsung phone; I had no problem with that! She then jumped on the iceberg and posed for me (I snapped her with her Samsung and with my iPhone) (more on her later). I then did the same; climbing on the iceberg and taking a silly "selfie" with the camera on timer.

A few icebergs later and it was off to the lagoon. I stopped in the little café and treated myself to a slice of stodgy apple cake and disappointing machine coffee, before heading off along the beach of the lagoon. The weather was almost identical to the conditions I'd experienced the previous two years: drizzly, grey, with a patch of brightness over the glacier in the distance, with the mountains vaguely visible above. As soon as I arrived I ran into the Singaporean woman again, with her decidedly normal-looking friend and Icelandic guide, who were both armed with big Canon lenses. The two women played around on and off the icebergs, snapping away at each other.

I wandered on and took very similar photos to the previous couple of years of a dull Jökulsárlón Lagoon (I'd missed my window-of-opportunity two days earlier to see it in the sun by going to Fjallsarlon instead and failing to factor in mountains when calculating sunset times).

Later on I climbed the small hill to get a view of the lagoon from above, and switched over to the 21mm Zeiss lens, which I'd used very little apart from to capture the northern lights. I could attach one filter to the front via the step-down ring which didn't leave too much vignetting - just a tiny amount of cropping needed. The view from the top showed just how extensive the lagoon was. A group of photographers suddenly flocked to the shore as a seal squirmed up onto an ice floe.

I wandered down to the beach to watch the seals, as they played around together in the water. There were nine or ten swimming around at one point, one minute curiously checking out the tourists and photographers on the beach, the next splashing around like playful children.

My batteries started to wear out and I began to feel a bit peckish. I sat on the beach and looked out at the seals and the blue ice, and then took a few self-portraits of me doing so, using my remote trigger, before heading back to Hali for a break. This time I realised I'd been out for six hours; definitely time for a little time out!

I had some lunch, recharged the batteries, cleaned all the lenses and filters, downloaded the morning's photos, had a little nap, before setting out yet again for the main beach. The sun had failed to appear all day, and there was only a little hint of contrast on the horizon as I set up the tripod again. I took a few shots on the east beach before heading over to the west side; my favourite, for some reason. Dozens of seabirds soared over the breaking waves a few metres out, swooping down to fish, but it was too dark to capture them. I tried a couple of close-up shots on the waves crashing over the icebergs. There were only a couple of other photographers nearby; the groups and workshops must've moved on by now.

As the skies darkened, a line of white cloud became visible on the horizon, with the birds silhouetted as they flew past.

As the last of the light faded I found a wonderful iceberg, with a hole in the top. I manically photographed it until it was too dark to continue, but it replaced the previous evening's mammoth blue berg as my favourite of the trip! I could have photographed it all night. No lights forecast for that evening, though, so the day's photography was at an end and I headed back home for the night.

For the first time in a week I had a glass of wine, courtesy of some fellow guests - an Iranian woman (who sat drinking shiraz and picking at a stick of salami) and her Lebanese boyfriend, who were there with their Greek guide, all talking away together in mixed-success degrees of English. I told them about my car problems - the on-going stiff petrol cap and the remote ignition key not working for a few minutes each time I got in the car. She then trumped that: they had got a manual shift car and were only used to driving automatic cars; as a result they couldn't figure out how to get the car in to reverse, so spent the first two days of the trip ensuring that every time they parked they manoeuvred the car in such a way so that they could drive off forward! Eventually they figured out that they had to lift up the gear-stick to find reverse, but it took them some time.

I headed to bed, not as early as I should have given that fatigue was beginning to mount up. I always wanted to review the day's photos before bed, though, which kept me up later than it should. I set the alarm for 5.30am the following morning, hoping that the clear skies forecast from the early hours onwards would give me a last, wonderful sunrise over Jökulsárlón beach before I began the journey back towards Reykjavik.

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