Here’s another shot of the Westfjords under the midnight sun in June 2012. One day, I’ll make it back there. It’s a truly incredible country.
In previous posts I’ve mentioned that on our first full night in Iceland we set out to drive the full length of the southern coast of the Westfjords. I also mentioned that we didn’t make it. In theory it should have been possible. It was a four hour drive there. We’d spend two hours photographing puffins on the most westerly point in Europe, and drive back. We expected to stop occasionally on the way down and I actually had a couple of stops planned near the end of our journey.
On this ill-fated journey I realized that I had to rethink ambitious plans like these. The problem is that, in Iceland, unexpected photo opportunities appear frequently in whatever direction you head in. Today’s photo is an example of this. There are a lot of waterfalls in Iceland. There are a load of named, famous waterfalls, but there are even more beautiful small waterfalls like this one.
The next time I go, my plan is to take the ferry out to the puffins and drive back from there. This should guarantee we see what we missed last time. I’m determined to photograph some puffins.
Why is it that wherever you go in the world, if are out in a remote area, with a great expansive view, people will create rock piles of various shapes and sizes? It’s an interesting phenomena. I’ve seen them in South America, Africa, and, most recently, Europe. I captured one of the rock piles I found in Iceland in today’s photo.
Every time I work on a photo of Iceland I look forward to going back. Today’s shot was taken well after midnight, as the sun dipped just below the horizon. I’d hopped out of the car to take the picture featured here Fjords and Flowers. When I packed up and started making my way back to the car, I noticed the golden light hitting portions of the mountain above me.
With no music to cut the silence, and my travel buddy passed out next to me, I navigated our little white jeep up and down meandering switchback after meandering switchback. Having only made it half way from our hostel to Latrabjarg, we tucked tail and made our way home for fear of running out of gas. Our first night in Iceland taught us a lesson. If the GPS says it will take 4 hours, it will take ten. The roads are rough, but the real reason is that the beautiful scenery begs you to stop after every bend.
I’d struggled to find a groove on this drive, as I so often do when I dust off the photography skills in a new destination. Then, the sun began to reverse its brief dip just below the horizon and something magical happened. A soft light bathed the landscape, bursting through gaps in the cloud to the north. The birds began to awaken and fill the air with song. Approaching a bend, ascending out of another fjord I suddenly found inspiration. The serenity of the moment seemed to be summed up in the single view captured below. Huge cliffs sat peacefully in the distance as a road twisted and turned its way along the edge of the fjords. There wasn’t another car or person in sight. I’d just driven that stretch, and there was a long way to go until I’d reach a bed, but I had to stop, step out in the cold, and mount my camera atop my tripod and try to do the view before me justice.
I’m not sure why, but I decided to treat the Twitter-verse to a play by play as I processed this one. I have no idea if it will be interesting to anyone but think I’ll keep doing it from time to time. Purely because I feel a bit like I have this underutilized Twitter account. You can follow me there if you like: @TraverseEarth. If you’ve got some time to kill feel free to read over tonight’s ramblings. If anyone finds them at all interesting, I can try to make a habit of it.
This photo was taken at the end of my first full night in Iceland. The sun was just peaking over the mountains behind us and turning everything we could see a beautiful golden hue. I liked the way the road peaked in and out of view as it wound through the fjord. I do wonder if I’d have gotten a slightly better vantage point if I’d climbed on top of the jeep, though.
Sheep in Iceland
On our first night in Iceland we stayed in a little guesthouse near the airport. The next morning, the owner gave us a lift back to the airport to pick up our Jeep. He had one piece of advice for us. In summer, the sheep are allowed to roam free in Iceland and would be all over the roads. Further, if we saw a mommy sheep and a lamb on opposite sides of the road we should be very careful because when the lambs get scared they’ll run straight to their mother no matter what. This piece of advice came in handy on a fair few occasions. It was really remarkable just how many sheep there were about, just roaming free. We spent a lot of time wondering how they round them back up. We asked a few people, and got all different answers, none of which really seemed particularly convincing.
Today’s Photo: Sheep on the Mountain
These guys didn’t cause us a problem, they were a safe distance from the road. This photo was taken on our first full night in Iceland, in the Westfjords. I only shot 3 exposures on this one as the dynamic range in the scene did not require the 7 exposures I used to default to. I’ve gotten much better at reading a scene and being able to tell if I can get away with 3 exposures or if I need more. I still recommend that if you’re new to HDR or a little unsure about the scene you should shoot as many bracketed images as you can. If you get home and realize you’ve got more than you need you don’t have to use all of them. If you don’t have enough range in your images chances are you won’t be able to produce the results you want.
Today’s photo is a rare self-portrait. I had everything all set up for this photo but felt like it needed a scaling factor to help the viewer gauge the immensity of the scene. I shouted for my travel buddy. Unfortunately, she was focused on photographing some little flowers on the other side of a hillock. I reached the conclusion that I’d have to figure out how to do it myself. So, I used my intervalometer to set the timer at 1 min. I sprinted along the edge of the cliff to the outcrop. I stood there for what felt like ages and decided it must’ve gone off. I started making my way back and heard the shutter burst. So, I dropped the timing down to 30 seconds. After running down there again, I heard the shutter while I stood there. Upon inspecting the result I discovered that only half of me had made it into the frame. Next time I walked further out onto the outcrop. You’ll notice in the photo that I’m wearing a t-shirt. Up until this point, I’d been wearing a fleece and rain jacket and was still cold. But, I was wearing all black and didn’t really come out in the photo. So I decided it was time to strip down to my bright red t-shirt. Chilly, I started the timer and ran down. This photo is the result.
Then, I pulled my fleece back on and made my way to the car, quickly.
Sitting here, after taking this photo, I came to the conclusion that we were not going to make it to the bird cliffs at Latrabjarg. They are the furthest point of land in the direction this photo is looking in. As you can see, we still had a long way to go. It was still a great night with some pretty dramatic scenery. All of the photos I’ve released from Iceland thus far are from this night. It offered up the best sunset we had the entire time we were in Iceland.
Having so many photos from Iceland makes it pretty difficult to decide what to process first. I wanted something that typified Iceland for me, and was taken early on in the trip. This was taken towards the end of my first full night of shooting as the sun made its way back up over the horizon to track across the sky. The farm, the ocean and the mountain really do give you a good taste of the extremes experienced as you travel around the country. This was taken in the Westfjords, shortly after the decision was made to stop taking photos and get to bed. But, how could we not stop here?