16 Apr 2014

The Blue Hour, Iceland

For landscape photographers, the winner of the best lighting condition award always seems to go to the golden hours, those periods after sunrise and before sunset. As a result, most landscape photographs I tend to see in magazines or competitions have a similar look - bathed in a pinkish-orangey glow. You may be in the right place at the right time to try to capture this light, but it's not always possible - the one thing you can't plan for as a photographer is what the weather will do. This may not be a problem if you live close to your chosen subject - you can just visit another day when the light is right, but if you're travelling to take landscape photographs during a short period of time, this can have a big impact.

So, even though the glow of the magic/golden hours can be spectacular, I think it's possible to take/make great photographs in sub-optimal light conditions, which is just as well. Often I prefer non-golden hour shots anyway. Even if the light isn't "perfect" I think it's best to make the most of what you've got; the results can be just as pleasing and possibly more original. One place I keep returning to is a great example of where you are at the mercy of the weather; this place is Iceland. I've travelled there each March for the past few years as I love the time of year; there's still some snow around, there's a chance to see the northern lights, and sunrise and sunset (if there are such things) are at sociable times of day. The light can be magnificent (or dreadful!) at any time of day or night, and there are not too many people about (although the numbers of photographers and tourists are increasing noticeably year-on-year). The roads - once away from Reykjavik - are beautifully empty too.

My favourite place (which if you've seen any of my previous blogs you'll know!) is Jökulsárlón beach - two strips of black sand straddling a river at the foot of a glacial lake, which brings a constant stream of icebergs into the sea, which then bashes them up and deposits them back on the beach, carved into beautiful shapes. I've spent a number of days and nights in the area, and during three trips I've only managed to see one reasonable sunrise. I was lucky enough to see the northern lights there this year, but otherwise the weather has generally been grey, often rainy and misty, with the occasional spot of sun, snow and hail thrown in for good measure. I've persevered though, and always come away with some shots I'm happy with, in spite of the often disappointing and frustrating weather. My favourite conditions, I think, are at dusk or dawn on a gloomy day, when the light becomes blue and moody - the "blue hour" I think it could be called (just checked wikipedia - it appears it is called that anyway!). If my toes didn't freeze I'd probably spend far longer there as nighttime approaches.

This is my "Blue Hour, Iceland" collection, captured once the sun has gone below the horizon. There has been a little post-processing with each image - it's certainly challenging processing rather dark shots.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Mike! One of true favourite times of day in Iceland. Just off to the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway, so won't be getting any blue hours, as the sun doesn't even set at this time of year! I'm sure the effect is quite similar if it's cloudy and late though... We shall see. More photos soon, no doubt.