7 Apr 2018

Iceland #14 - Day 8: Jökulsárlón yet again...

Day 8 of my trip was my final full day at Jökulsárlón, and I planned to spend as much of the daylight hours as possible down on the beach among the icebergs.

I got to the beach just before 8.30am, after the short drive there from Reynivellir (it's so close!). Already there were other photographers dotted along the beach so it wasn't quite as serene as I'd hoped. Within ten minutes a couple of groups had arrived and it felt rather busy. I wandered along the east beach looking for some good icebergs for sunrise (the skies were fairly clear, with the exception of the usual snowstorm cloud on the horizon (every day they were there!)). I tried out a few compositions of a couple of icebergs as the sky became a little pink - it was rather lovely.

I met my new German friend from the guesthouse, Annette, who set up her tripod nearby. As the sun began to break over the clouds, photographers were still rushing past, trying to find a good spot. Annette and I had spoken about how some photographers can be completely unaware of their surroundings or fellow togs and just walk straight in front of your shot, etc. This clueless behaviour was definitely on display this morning, and I called out to a woman who was about to walk right in front of me, not only getting in my shot, but also creating ugly footprints in the currently-pristine sand. Crisis averted, she eventually walked behind me she made some comment about it being easier to walk on the wet sand. Annette and I both shook our heads and rolled our eyes! I know the beach is for everyone, but have some common sense and courtesy!

The sun disappeared again briefly so I moved back to the other two icebergs and stayed there for a while. It was a glorious morning. The sun flares were an issue, as usual when shooting straight into the sun, and it wasn't easy to block it out to take shots to merge, so I just went with it.

The sun rose up above the cloud and soon it was broad daylight again. Most of the photographers left pretty soon after, which was nice for me, as I find that too many others mars the tranquility (er, see below!).

At least as the people were in groups when they left a large number of people went at the same time. I wandered around among the icebergs away from the surf and took a few detail shots, finding one particular berg that I was fascinated by - parts of it reminded me of a biological picture of an eye socket.

If only time would just stand still when I'm there. But instead it seems to pass at double-time! I put the macro lens on and started capturing some weird close-ups - it's amazing what the lens can see, and how a shift in focus can create some wonderful colours and patterns. It's a different world!

Or course in this light I had to take some wave shots - the turquoise and greens so beautiful as they caught the morning sunlight as they raised before the break. I adore playing with the waves, with different filters and speed, handheld to get some intentional movement, on the tripod to get distinct islands on the horizon with long exposure waves. By this point all of the other photographers had moved on, swayed by the don't-take-photos-in-the-midday-sun rule, but personally I think the light was incredible and they were seriously missing out. I could literally spend all day, just capturing those, if there weren't icebergs around to distract me [note to self: if, on future trips, there are no icebergs, then be happy with the waves (as long as the light is decent though)!]. Here's a small selection (I think some of these will end up as canvass prints on my bathroom wall).

A massive iceberg drifted past which would later be broken up and dumped on the beach. I took a few more shots of the ones I'd captured for sunrise, which seemed like hours ago (it was!). I walked along the beach to the west as I noticed that the huge iceberg that I'd seen in the waves had already been dumped onto the beach and was being battered by the waves, broken into three pieces.

With the sun fully out there were some great shadows and reflections of little icebergs (and stones!) on the beach.

At about 12.30pm I decided to head back to the guesthouse, as I was cold, thirsty and hungry - as usual - and the second battery was about to die. It always takes me longer to reach the car than it should as I end up stopping on the way back. Oooh, just a couple more shots of this iceberg. Oooh, look at that lovely shadow. Oooh, a few more wave shots. Oooh, look at those icicles dripping from that iceberg! Etcetera!

As I got back to the car I was extremely disappointed to notice some graffiti on the bridge. Why would someone come to such an incredible place as this and think it was okay to write their f***ing names on the bridge?! I despair of some people :(

I got back to the guesthouse at 1pm - having been on the beach for four and a half hours. Not my maximum, but still a pretty good session! Batteries were plugged in, photos downloaded, and food, water and tea were consumed. I didn't head back to the beach until 4pm, by which stage the blue skies were gone and it was grey and dull. It wasn't very busy, as there was clearly going to be no sunset, but I still headed away from the car-park to get more solitude.

There were a few icebergs scattered about in the surf line, so I stopped to capture a few water trails and iceberg still lives.

I could see the large dark iceberg pieces in the distance, so trudged through the sand to reach it. On the way I passed a rabbit :) The colours were getting tricky to capture, as the light was so flat and grey.

I reached the dark bergs and found that there was really just a skeleton left, with the majority of the ice washed away by repetitive bashing by waves. It was difficult to photograph as the waves kept moving them around as they flowed over and around them - and I hate moving icebergs in my shots! I desaturated the shots too as the colour was a horrible greeny-blue (see rabbit shot above!).

Eventually I turned round, passing one other photographer, and headed back to the car. Which obviously took longer than expected as I continued to stop and take just one more photo...

When the light was almost gone, it began to get rather chilly and started to snow, so I called it a day and drove the short distance home. The snow had got heavier as I drove back, but it wasn't completely dark so it was still easy enough driving. Had I not know where the turn-off to Reynivellir was, though, it would've been another matter, as visibility was getting more and more limited. At least the snow gave me some grip in the icy driveway as I walked from the car to the house (I was still taking it very slowly). I cooked some pasta (a bit more interesting with tuna and cheese this time) and chatted to three friendly young American women from Michigan. I was aware we were making quite a lot of noise, and my German friends were in the room above, so cut off the conversation short and headed back to my room to go through the hundreds of photos. It had been another lovely day in Jökulsárlón, although the light in the afternoon had been disappointing, and the icebergs weren't as incredible as I've seen them before. The weather forecast was for more snow and heavy cloud, so I decided to give sunrise the following morning a miss and set the alarm for 9am.

Click here for my blog from Day 7 - Stafafell to Jökulsárlón