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

Time to finally check out Stokksnes.  I’d done some image research and decided to go around sunrise at 3:30am to see how the light looked. I arrived at the Viking Cafe, closed of course, and set about figuring out the self pay station.  The land owner charges a small fee to roam his land for photos.

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The Stokksnes Self Serve Pay Station. Took a few tries but it worked and only charged me once.

I headed north out of the parking lot, which I later learned was an error.  If you want the typical shot that most people get at Stokksnes, you need to head east towards the Radar Station.  I kind of regretted my error but then no because I got some unique vistas and was able to catch a great sunrise as well.

So I wandered across beautiful black and past the “Viking Village Movie Set along the massive peaks of Vesturhorn.  The beach was mostly dry, with a tiny pool of water showing at this point.  It would grow considerably later on on my way back.  I reached the bog around which I could see Brunnhorn peeking past Vesturhorn.

At this point, sunrise skies were on fire and I was backtracking all over the black sand getting shots. I was in my Salomon shoes, and getting soaked but didn’t care.

Looking back the other way was good too, as is often the case with burning sunrises.

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Sunrise clouds above Vesturhorn on the beach in Stokksnes Iceland

I kept wandering back along the beach, while watching the sunrise.  I felt like I got some nice shots even though I didn’t make it out to the typical area.  I was thankful for the solitude, great light and calm smooth beach.

I got back to the pool of water on the black sand which was growing as I watched.  Looking back towards Brunnhorn, it looked like mercury reflecting the skies.

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Vesturhorn sunrise skies reflected on a mercurial pool of water.

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Vesturhorn and sunrise reflected

I made it back to the van and napped for several hours.  My Salomons were pretty much soaked to the core so I was happy I had several other pairs of shoes with me.  Eventually I ended up back in Hofn for coffee.  Daytime was either sleeping or scouting time.  I did a lot of both.  Checking the weather, I realized that the next morning was to be another day of gray rain so I had to make tonight’s sunset and sunrise count.  I planned on focusing on Jokulsarlon partially because I knew there was more to be found there and the ice had certainly been re-arranging itself. But also because I truly enjoyed being there.

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One more view of the beach at Stokksnes

 

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

Day three was rainy and gray as promised.  I drove back up to Fossardalur but the skies were still low overcast. I spent a lot of time in the van and offloaded files to my laptop as a backup.

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Rainy day means van time and file management 🙂

At this point I was starting to get the feel for how long it took to get to certain places.  I knew for example it was about 2 hours to get from Hofn to Fossardalur.  I also learned the the roads really emptied out after about 9pm, where there was still about 2 hours until sunset. At this point I was halfway through my trip and knew I still wanted more time at Jokulsarlon and to visit Stokksnes for the first time.

So far I was pretty happy with my gear choices and logistical moves.  I had brought the right lenses and ND filters to make the most of various waterfalls and the ice art around Jokulsarlon.  I still had to chuckle, however, at bringing a very strong headlamp.  It never got dark during the summer, even after sunset so this was amusing. One item I threw in my bag which was constantly useful was my Duracell 175w power inverter:

Amazon Duracell 175w Power Inverter

This handy device allowed me to plug into the car’s cigarette lighter and have a power strip with two US plugs and 2 usb ports for charging.  Made power management a lot easier for sure.

Later in the day I got some peeks at blue sky and pulled over in random locations for interesting views.   This spot below was a nice calm reflection of surrounding cliffs coming back from Fossardalur.  The local seabirds (Skuas) must have had babies nearby because the farther I got out on the tideflats, the more relentless they were with divebombing me.  I got a few shots and the message and headed out.

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Iceland Low Tide Reflection

I decided for the next sunrise to check out Stokksnes.  This area shows up quickly when you do photo searches on amazing shots from Iceland.  It’s owned by a farmer who runs a little cafe and charges a few dollars to walk his land for pictures.  I drove to the Viking Cafe and checked out the layout for coming back the next morning around 2am for sunrise.  He also charges for camping so I decided to park off the highway closeby and head in from there.

Nothing to do but dinner at this point so I headed to Hofn and decided to visit another highly recommended restaurant in town.  Driving into town, I ventured down a few side streets to see how the locals lived and got around.  I got one photo of this cool Land Cruiser, clearly set up for adventuring.

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This Land Cruiser is ready for action

I thought about going to the same place for dinner as before but decided to go down to the waterfront for a local favorite: Pakkhus.  Their promise was nothing fresher Lobster or Langoustine as it’s known locally.  I was going to order Fish and Chips but decided to take the plunge and order the house specialty.  I find lobster in the States to be tough and chewy, but this was clearly carefully prepared with two of my favorite shellfish accompaniments: Garlic and Butter

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Succulent Langoustine grilled with garlic and butter, and a spectacular local ale to go with

After such a beautiful meal, I took a short walk along the pier to see the local vessels.

Then off to rest a bit before sunrise at Stokksnes.

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

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

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.

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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!

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And one time someone actually took a photo of me!

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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.

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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.

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The various tiers of Fossardalur Falls

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Seljalandsfoss’s long drop into wildflowers

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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.

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Lush lava fields off into the distance

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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.

Aerial Volcano Photography

Aerial Approaching Mount St Helens at Dusk

Aerial Approaching Mount St Helens at Dusk

Ok well Mount St Helens isn’t an active volcano per se.  It last erupted and basically blew its top off in May of 1980.  Like most people in Seattle of a certain age, I remember what I was doing on that date.  I was rollerskating around Gasworks Park to Donna Summer.  Ok then.

Anyway, the result of the happenings on that date back in 1980 are a very photogenic crater in SW Washington.  I have a friend who likes to fly and we went up last night and headed down to Mount St Helens. I brought two Zeiss prime MF lenses and my Sony a7r2. My friend who was also shooting had his 5DSr and 24-70.

I was in the front seat, wearing all black to reduce glare. Kurt basically flies wherever we need to get the shots we want. I had the camera set to internal stabilization and the MF lens set to infinity. When I shot out the side window, glare creeped in but shooting through the curved front glass cut it down considerably. I watched my shutter speeds to keep them above 1/300 as much as possible.

I got about 1000 RAW files and so far about 85% are keepers…I love this perspective of the mountain and I think we both did a nice job of capturing the sunset light.

Approaching Boeing Field at Night Seattle Aerial night Photography

Approaching Boeing Field at Night

Sunstar Lights Up Mount St Helens at Sunset

Sunstar Lights Up Mount St Helens at Sunset

Golden Light on Mount St Helens from the Air

Golden Light on Mount St Helens from the Air

Sunset Skies Above Mount St Helens from the Air

Sunset Skies Above Mount St Helens from the Air

Sunrays Bathe the Volcanic Wasteland Below St Helens from the Air

Sunrays Bathe the Volcanic Wasteland Below St Helens from the Air

Mount St Helens Aerial Crater Closeup

Mount St Helens Aerial Crater Closeup

Mount St Helens Aerial Photography Sunset

Mount St Helens Aerial Photography Sunset

Snow and Mud Details along the Crater of St Helens Aerial

Snow and Mud Details along the Crater of St Helens Aerial

Crater of St Helens onto Spirit Lake and Rainier in the Distance

Crater of St Helens onto Spirit Lake and Rainier in the Distance

Sunset Light Warms up the St Helens Crater Aerial Photography

Sunset Light Warms up the St Helens Crater Aerial Photography

Sunset Light Warms up the St Helens Crater Aerial Photography

Sunset Light Warms up the St Helens Crater Aerial Photography

Edge of St Helens Crater and Rainier in the Distance Aerial Photography

Edge of St Helens Crater and Rainier in the Distance Aerial Photography

Approaching Mount St Helens By Helicopter Panorama

Approaching Mount St Helens By Helicopter Panorama

 

 

First Visit to the Banff Area for Photography

I finally made a trip the Banff area for photos.  I think its hard to be a landscape photographer and not be aware of the beauty in this area.  June seemed to be a good time to go.  Lakes were melted out and the summer crowds had yet to hit hard.  We went for a week, flying into Calgary, renting a car and heading west.

Our first stop was a night in the Fairmont Lake Louise.  I was pleasantly surprised to be upgraded from our basic room to one of the 5 best rooms in the hotel .  Amazing views and it really set the bar high for our trip.

The weather, however, wasn’t as spectacular.  Clouds, rain, and wind were on the menu for the first few days.  This allowed a lot of scouting however and we drove all over figuring out compositions and how to get to certain places.

The remainder of our stay was in Canmore.  I learned not only is Banff mostly a sunrise location (to me) but also being in Canmore was a bit far from the spots I wanted to be at around sunrise.

A few highlights from the trip:

Moraine Lake Banff Sunrise Alpenglow Reflection

Moraine Lake Banff Sunrise Alpenglow Reflection

Peyto Lake 10mm Cloudscape

Peyto Lake 10mm Cloudscape

Banff Avenue and Snow Peak

Banff Avenue and Snow Peak

Mount Rundle and Vermillion Lakes

Mount Rundle and Vermillion Lakes

Fairmont Lake Louise

Fairmont Lake Louise

Peaks Above Moraine Lake at Sunrise

Peaks Above Moraine Lake at Sunrise

Everest Base Camp Trekking in Nepal – Part Three

These posts are reflections and images from my trek to Kalla Patthar in Nepal February 2017.

Like I said earlier, it was after leaving Namche that we started to lose touch with others we had met along the way.  Some groups fragmented, others took off in different directions.  Out next goal was Dingboche, about 6 hours away.  We would arrive in the afternoon easily.

Yak Train Along the Trail Past Ama Dablam Nepal Trekking to Everest Base Camp

Yak Train Along the Trail Past Ama Dablam Nepal

The tiny peek we were getting of Ama Dablam was to grow all day as we reached Dingboche.  The trail so far was a lot of gentle up and down but done during the midday sun so again with the sunscreen.  I was also drinking a lot of Endurox R4 workout drink which does a great job of rehydrating and replenishing for these long hikes.  Some of the wildlife we saw included these brown mountain goats keeping an eye on everyone.

Brown Mountain Goats Watching Over the Trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal

Brown Mountain Goats Watching Over the Trek to Everest Base Camp

We reached Dingboche in the late afternoon and set about finding a teahouse.  I vetoed the first place we checked into.  It was empty and seemed unkept.  We pressed on a bit farther and found something a bit nicer.  My porter also washed my trekking pants and two crewneck shirts.  So far my Arcteryx Rampart pants and a Motus top had been my daily wear, with some kind of down layer on top.  At this point they definitely needed some soap.  They would spend the evening air drying by the stove.  I also tried out my solar panel to charge camera batteries.  Towards dusk, I set up for a timelapse of Ama Dablam alpenglow and also captured a few shots around the village.

Yak Train Heading Through Dingboche at Dusk. Tabuche Peak Beyond

Yak Train Heading Through Dingboche at Dusk. Tabuche Peak Beyond

Badri had mentioned that the meals would be getting worse as we got farther from Namche.  Since everything came up on a  yak, the fresheness of ingredients was suspect.  Well I had to try the Chicken Curry.  The photo on the menu just called to me.  What arrived though was inedible.  I had to send it back and order oatmeal.  This became my new standard for the rest of the trip, with a side helping of jerky for protein.  There was also significant protein in the Endurox and my stash of protein bars.  Lots of tea of course to wash it all down with of course.  Evenings in the teahouse involved huddling around the stove and talking to other trekkers.  There were two, two singles that had paired up for companionship.  This was the norm of off season trekking.

One last note.  I had promised myself to wear my Invisilign retainer as much as possible on this trip.  Each day I soaked it in cleaner for as long as I could before bed.  Well this time it froze in the water.  I asked the guys in the kitchen for some warm water to thaw it out.  They came back with another cup with tea.  Uh…retainer?  Where did it end up?  I went in the kitchen and fished it out of the sink.  Whew!

Ok off to Lobuche the next morning!

More Photos and Videos at Mike Reid Photography