28 Feb 2015

Iceland Feb 2015 - Day 3: A Day in Jökulsárlón

In spite of a forecast of total cloud cover the sky was a beautiful purply-pink when I got up. I hadn't expected it, so wasn't down at the beach to take advantage of the morning colours, so had to be content to snap a few shots of the bay at Hali. A lesson learnt: get up for sunrise regardless of the weather forecast, just in case.

Feeling annoyed with myself over the missed opportunity I headed back to Jökulsárlón, arriving at a tardy 9.25am (twenty-five minutes after sunrise). There were only a couple people on the beach already - it's rarely empty these days. The west beach was empty of icebergs, as the tide was coming from the south-west, depositing huge chunks of ice on the east beach. The light wasn't great, with overcast skies (all the pink had gone by the time I arrived), and I struggled to find compositions that I was happy with, which sometimes happens there; the icebergs just didn't speak to me. I was using my old trusted 24-70mm, and there was no rain, so at least I didn't have to faff around with a rain cover or worry about the focusing problems of the previous day.

Half an hour later and the skies began brightening up a little, with some colour and contrast on the clouds above. Quickly the sun was peaking through and the clouds were dissipating. The light was definitely improving and I found an iceberg with a dirty stripe to capture in the changing light.

The sun came out just above the horizon, before clouds crept across the sky, giving some magnificent crepuscular rays for a while. A big storm cloud came across, dumping a quick sprinkling of hail, producing more spectacular rays, before moving away. In its place were a few solitary clouds on the horizon, with the sun passing in and out, creating more rays and shadows. I was in crepuscular ray heaven!

The clouds quickly returned, and in spite of the intermittent sun it was still extremely cold, with a typical harsh Icelandic wind. In the distance I noticed a couple being photographed - the woman in her bridal outfit, the bright white dress blowing madly in the wind. I'm amazed at the lengths people go to in search of the perfect wedding photos, but at least it was dramatic. A shower would come and they'd rush back to the car, before dashing out again for another session between the icebergs.

I tore myself away, my feet ice-blocks, and had a coffee in the café on the other side of the road. I nursed my frozen toes, which were acheing worryingly, and chatted to a couple of Dutch guys, as we enjoyed the view of the lagoon through the steamy window. The sun came and went and occasionally poured out onto a blue iceberg in the distance. A party of English school-children came in - it seems to be a popular place for geography field trips these days. I rested for an hour, until my toes had thawed, then headed out for a little wander around the edge of the lagoon. I didn't normally love the lagoon, but the blueness of the icebergs this year endeared me to it more than usual! More picturesque large storm clouds passed by, dumping the odd shower, but I didn't bother with the rain cover again.

I had another quick break in the café before heading back to the beach - I can never stay away for long. It was around 1pm by this time and teeming with visitors. More storms hit, including another sudden sharp dump of hail - okay if you were facing away from it, but painful if not. I gave the 100-400mm lens another try, being more careful to ensure I was focusing properly. The wind still meant it was challenging to get a truly sharp shot, especially when extended or when doing long exposures.

After a particularly nasty bout of hail I decided that I needed a proper break, so I headed back to the guesthouse for a rest. I wandered along the track near the guesthouse to see the resident horses, who only seemed to be interested in eating hay, until another couple came along. I then took a little nap and headed back to the beach at 4.30pm, hoping that there might be a spectacular sunset, given the interesting skies. After half an hour with the long lens I nipped back to the car to get a wider lens, as there were some impressive huge storm clouds above the beach.

The light and colour soon faded as the sun set (no sign of it behind the clouds) making way for the blue hour, my favourite time on Jökulsárlón Beach.

I headed back to the guesthouse, cooked some pasta, and then did the usual obsessive checking of weather and aurora forecasts every few minutes. The aurora were due to be low, but there was a chance of some clear skies - at least I could try some shots of the stars, if nothing else. I drove back to the lagoon at around 9.30pm, parking on the far side of the bridge and tried out a few long exposures across the lake. From that side I could just make out the glow from the Holuhraun volcano in the distance. I got a couple of okay shots, with the Milky Way slightly visible, the volcanic glow, and a green glow from the distant northern lights, but unfortunately a dense bank of cloud covered the area just above the horizon, otherwise it might have been a wonderful night. There was a constant bustle of activity by the café, with endless car lights shone across the ice, which I found a bit irrirating, but at least it added a little light from time to time, which was otherwise severely lacking. The aurora forecast was far better for the following night, so after an hour I called it a night, went home, skyped hubby and enjoyed a nice cold beer from the car.

Click here for Day 2 - A Drizzly Drive to Jökulsárlón
Click here for Day 4 - A Blue & Green Day in Jökulsárlón

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