5 Days in Iceland – A Photographer’s Eden – Part Two

I awoke in the parking lot at Jokularlon, the Ice Lagoon.  I had taken a few shots the night before, after all who could resist.  But now It was time to explore the area.  The beach where the ice washes up is on the east side of the highway.  The much larger parking lot and lagoon is to the west.  Serious crowds and tour operators start to show up early, including this entourage with a bride from China.chinese bride iceland

jokulsarlon iceland

People along the beach at Jokulsarlon, a very popular spot for sure.

Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon Lencticular Sunset

Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon Lencticular Sunset

DSC01981v2s

I wandered around a while and then hit the road.  During the day is scouting time for me and I wanted to see what lie further down the road.  About an hour later I reached Hofn, a small town that would become my base of sorts.  I got some supplies at the local grocery, had lunch at Kaffihornið, a local restaurant and explored a bit.  There’s a large campground here with coin operated showers, a luxury I would put off for another day or two. At this point, my morning routine was to find a spot for espresso, use their WC after I had made my purchase and use the opportunity to brush my teeth and splash my face a bit.  All with considerable thanks expressed and gratitude.

Heading north on Highway 1, vast expanses again.  At one point I parked and just watched the shadows of huge clouds move across a hillside.

iceland

Shadows of clouds moving across a huge slope during the day. Pretty mesmerizing!

I really didn’t know how much further I wanted to go at this point.  I was intrigued by a falls called Fossardalur, and hoped to find it.  One thing I was realizing about driving in Iceland was that the roads were narrow and pulloffs were, nonexistent, except for the occasional gravel driveway.  Usually what happened was I saw an incredible composition, then started looking for a pulloff with one eye in the mirror making sure I wasn’t holding up traffic.  Sometimes, however, I got lucky and there was an official parking area off the road.  After taking dozens of shots of other people, one time someone got a shot of me with my camera!

iceland arcteryx

And one time someone actually took a photo of me!

camera zeiss otus sony a7r2

My photo gear at the ready driving in Iceland

The rest of the day was driving north towards Djúpivogur, admiring the coast, dodging skuas and contemplating what was to be a gray rainy day the next day.

IMG_6593

My van, roadside again for the views

Eventually I found Fossardalur, and explored around the area there.  There is a lower parking lot (with the all-important porta-potties) which gives a hint of the falls and an upper one which puts you right in front of them  I got a few nice shots of the falls as the light began to soften in the afternoon.

fossardalur falls iceland

The various tiers of Fossardalur Falls

fossardalur falls iceland

The top of Fossardalur Falls Iceland

I explored around the falls area further and found a way down to the base from the lower parking lot.  There’s a somewhat tricky creek crossing but using my tripod as a stick helped get across it.

fossardalur falls iceland

The falls and various pools around the base.

More napping ensued into the late afternoon and I planned on heading back towards Jokulsarlon for the evening.  Rain was predicted by the next morning so I figured it was to be a day of scouting and rest.

 

5 Days in Iceland – A Photographer’s Eden – Part One

iceland sheep photography

Some of the many sheep I would encounter on my Iceland adventure.

I think I had been resisting  a photography trip to Iceland.  It certainly was the “hot” place to go.  Photographers in a steady stream went and came back with spectacular images. Instead, I went off and did the Everest Base Camp Trek in February and visited Banff in June.  I was certainly more than than happy with the shots I came back with.  A non-photographer friend of mine did the layover in Reykjavik recently and reminded me how impressed he thought I would be with the country.

So I got a call from a client needing my services in London and requesting that I set up my own air and travel arrangements with about a week’s notice.  At that point the Iceland stopover option came up again.  I did some research and looked into renting a camper to go exploring for 5 days.  I gave myself 5 days, considering this a preliminary visit of sorts.  People pointed out to me that I needed weeks or a month even.  I went with 5 days and it felt right.  And at the end of those 5 days I knew I would be back soon.

Day 1

Arrived in Keflavik and gocampers.is, the rental company I had chosen, picked me up at the airport and took me to their office in Reykjavik.  They had a range of vehicles available, and I went with one of the most basic.  A panel van, 2wd, manual trans and a mattress in the back.  My new home for a few days also included cooking utensils, pots/pans, etc for camping.  They also had a nice collection of camping chairs, larger stoves, sleeping bags etc for rent.  I had brought my own bag, a 10 degree down bag I use regularly.  I signed all the paperwork and off I went.  I had brought quite the pile of snacks from home but was pleased to find a market around the corner for some fresh fruit and juice. An hour later I discovered my van had heated seats!

iceland camping van

This was my home away from home in Iceland for 5 days.

Driving out of town was easy, just find Highway 1 and head east.  Drivers were polite and courteous, something I found throughout the trip.  I decided my goal was to get to Jokulsarlon, the Ice Lagoon and then sleep.

The scenery down Highway 1 was a revelation.  I was struck by the broad expanse of it all.  The peaks, the coastline, the highway off into infinity.  The sheep! Everywhere! Along the side of the road, far off on the hillside.  They were a constant companion on my horizon.

iceland camping photography

Heading east on Highway 1 with vast expanses of lush green cliffs.

I continued driving, and eventually stopped at two well-known falls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.  You can see both coming up from the highway so they are hard to miss.  I felt these were very well photographed by others so I didn’t stay long.  In between them on the highway is the parking lot for the crashed DC3 airplane site.  No signage, just a full parking lot and lots of people heading off to the beach.  I decided to catch that on the way back.

Seljalandsfoss falls iceland waterfall

Seljalandsfoss’s long drop into wildflowers

waterfall iceland skogafoss

Skogafoss doing its thing

Continuing towards my goal, there was this long stretch of road, lined with lupine and volcanic remnants.  The vastness of it struck me.  The wind struck me too as I opened to the van door to take a look having pulled off at one point.  I recalled the warning at the rental office about the wind being able to take your doors off.  They weren’t kidding.  On the road you see a lot of cyclists riding around the country.  Its on these windy days, and the car wash rainy ones that would come, that you really get a sense of their dedication.

iceland lava landscape

Lush lava fields off into the distance

iceland road travel photography lupine

Vast meadows of lupine along the road

I reached Jokularlon later that evening.  Sunset wouldn’t happen until 1130pm and even after that it never got dark.  Sunrise was at 330am.  There are two main parking lots at the lagoon.  The northern one has bathrooms but no camping is allowed.  Across the road and next to the beach is where you can sleep.  I parked my camper and pulled out my bag and crashed hard. The beauty created by chunks of glacier falling into the lagoon and washing out to sea and onto the beach would wait until morning.