15 Nov 2015

Iceland Nov 2015 - Day 3: Just Jökulsárlón

A whole day in my favourite place: Jökulsárlón. What more could a girl ask for?

And the day started well, with a trip to the beach, under almost clear skies, with little wind. It was still a long way before sunrise when I got there, but it gets pretty light about 45 minutes before, and often any clouds are illuminated red, pink or orange.

I was pleased to see that the sea had taken most of the larger icebergs off the beach, and now there were far fewer, although it was still pretty packed with the things. The tide was relatively high, but not all the way in, and some waves would come in further from time to time, washing over the icebergs nearest to the sea, creating the wonderful water trails that I'm so obsessed with. Occasionally the waves bring the water in right past the last iceberg, and sometimes the speed and depth of the water make it a bit dangerous, so I always try to have an "exit strategy" - ie. make sure I'm not blocked in by icebergs behind me, blocking my route should I need to suddenly scarper up the beach to safety.

I wandered up the beach, photographing icebergs alone, clusters of the things, trying to find some well-placed for water trails. Photographing icebergs can be quite challenging, and even on my fifth visit to this beach I still come up against these challenges: the icebergs move when the waves are strong enough creating blurred bergs; you never know where the wave is going to come; each wave that comes over the icebergs moves them, rearranging their positions - messing up your composition; I hate cutting off icebergs, or having stray icebergs jutting into the shot, so trying to get the whole of a group of icebergs, but nothing else, can be tricky.

One of the things I love about the icebergs it that I see so many animals in them - fish, whales, birds, faces - and I never know what I'm going to spot next. I've taken so many photographs of so many different icebergs on so many different occasions, but each one is unique.

It was a truly stunning morning. I watched the sky lighten but for the first few minutes after sunrise the sun was hidden behind a low layer of cloud on the horizon. As forecast, a few clouds began to come in, though, and the edges of these began to glow pinky-orange from the sun behind them.

For a while the sun appeared, squeezed below the low cloud and a fast-moving one above. That cloud moved on leaving the sun to shine on the ice in full glory.

Another cloud quickly moved in - in typical Icelandic style, and soon the sun was gone again. I found some collections of icebergs that gave extremely pleasing water trails, when the waves came in high enough. In spite of the brief lack of sun, the sky was on fire! The cloud was huge, and took some time to pass over.

Eventually the sun returned; another challenging condition on the beach, as if you take photographs into the sun any tiny drops of water on your lens will be magnified and strange light flares may streak across the shot. Shooting to the side, however, still worked, and I was able to capture some more beautiful trails down the beach. Although I love it when it's moody there, it was just magical with the sun illuminating the ice, sparkling like massive diamonds. In fact, it was one of my most spectacular shoots there.

Another anvil-shaped cloud swept across the horizon and the clouds became denser and denser. Eventually after a good few hours on the beach I tore myself away (which I always found very hard, but needed to do), and made a very quick visit to the lagoon, where some sun was shining on the ice and streaky clouds stretched across the sky.

I drove back to Hali. I cleaned my lenses and filters, charged my battery, and downloaded my photos to check to see that I wasn't making any dramatic errors (streaky filters, etc). The sky had become dull now the cloud was denser and seemed here to stay a while.

I hung out at Hali for a while until I noticed a burst of sun streaming through the window. It kicked me into action to get back out there. There was a huge rainbow as I left, which I just managed to capture against the moss-covered hills behind. I stopped along the road when I saw a small pond with a swan family - I was very pleased to see the whooper swans were around; in February there were only a few to be seen.

The sun was short-lived and the sky was covered in dense cloud by the time I reached the beach. The light was strange, and most of the icebergs had gone from the beach, with a few visible on a sandbank offshore and only a couple on the beach. The light diminished quickly, and more storm clouds came in, so I didn't linger too long.

I headed back home and cooked some supper. I checker the northern lights forecast and local weather forecasts manically and was excited that they both might be okay. The Kp index wasn't great (although was forecast to be the following night), but I've seen some of my most impressive lights at a Kp of less than 3 before. If it's clear, I'll go outside and at least take some star shots. I drove back to the lagoon at around 10pm and headed down to the lagoon beach near the western car-park. The waning moon was rising fast and soon was above the hill behind me, and was illuminating the icebergs in the lagoon. There were lots of stars visible and then I saw what looked like a tiny bit of streaky cloud moving, and realised that it was in fact the northern lights. I took a few long exposures and managed to capture a little green and pink in the sky, as well as the Milky Way. Soon the lights had increased a little and were visible to the naked eye - just. I took a few photos, but the lights weren't getting any better and clouds were streaking across in front of me. I drove home, cracked open a beer, reviewed my photos, and then called it a night, ready to get up early again, hoping for another nice sunrise.

Please click here for my blog from Day 2 - Vík to Jökulsárlón
Please click here for my blog from Day 4 - Jökulsárlón Again

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