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.

iceland roadtrip van laptop

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.

toyota landcruiser iceland

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

iceland langoustine pakkhus

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 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.