Iceland - The Grand Tour - Part 4

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon - DJI Mavic Air 2s

This is the last instalment of the Grand Tour and will cover the remainder of our journey from Höfn back to the airport at Keflavik via Vik. Actually the last photo I took on the journey was at Seljalandsfoss. Following our visit here the weather deteriorated and the first storm of the approaching winter moved in. Despite a brief break in the weather on the final evening, the was no significant Aurora activity which resulted in an early night of everyone. I have visited the Reykjanes area in the past so will include some destinations towards the end of this blog.

Following Route 1 from Höfn towards Vik then most people will head straight for Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach at Jökulsárlón. However if you take your time, you will notice that there are some amazing reflection pools, right at the side of the road. Parking is really easy here, as you literally just pull over ( well you can when there is no snow and ice - in the winter be careful not to get stuck!) On a bright day there is no need for a tripod either, hand holding will be just fine so long as you can get a shutter speed over 125th second at f8 or above. Just work on your compositions and get the horizon straight. There are lots of opportunities here and it is worth while stopping briefly, if you can resist the temptation to go straight to Jökulsárlón!

Route 1 Reflection - 24mm, f11, iso 100, 500th second

There is no doubt about it, Diamond Beach and Glacier Lagoon are great places to visit. There are seals swimming and fishing close to the shore and in the lagoon itself, you can take a boat trip through the icebergs to get that up close look. The black beach perfectly contrasts the pieces of ice that get washed back to shore and at night you always have the chance of getting a great Aurora shot over the lagoon. It would therefore be logical to think that you can just turn up, point your camera and make great compositions. In reality nothing could be further from the truth! Sure if you just want to take holiday snaps then you can do this, but to find a composition that you will be able to add to your portfolio then you are going to need to work harder - a lot harder!

Diamond Beach, 19mm, f16, iso 100, 0.5 second

So lets start off with Diamond Beach first. This is on the seaward side of Route 1. What happens here is that large chunks of ice break of the glacier, make their way through the lagoon and are swept out to sea. They are then washed back up onto the beach where they break up and melt. It can be a very chaotic scene and you really need to think about the image that you are trying to create. I have couple of bits of advice for you. Number 1 is head away from the crowds. Just follow the beach in either direction where you will usually find less ice and more importantly less people. Try to find a smaller piece of ice to photograph rather than the huge chunks. You can either photograph on the beach itself or try to get some water flowing around ice. A lot will depend on how powerful a sea is running as to what you will be able to accomplish. Number 2 is wear either waterproof boots or socks. Once you have found your composition, you don't want to be moving your camera or yourself every time a wave roles up the beach. Do however be very mindful on how big the waves are and always keep your eyes on the sea, never ever turn your back on it. Number 3, if you are going to put your camera bag on the beach then make sure it is well above where the waves are getting too. Add another 10 yards to what you think is a safe location. I haven't made this mistake here but I did last year on Harris, which resulted in an Astro modified camera getting drenched and ruined. Camera equipment doesn't react well to salt water! A wide angle lens will give you great results but you can also isolate an image with a longer lens ( see the picture below ). A 3, 6 or 10 stop ND filter plus a circular polariser will also help.

Diamond Beach, 85mm, f14, iso 100, 2 minutes, 10 stop ND filter and CPL.

Across the road from Diamond Beach you will find Glacier Lagoon. Once again finding a composition here is much harder than it looks. Taking images is either from the side of the lagoon at the waters edge, on the path that leads down to it, from the small hill or in the aforementioned boats. Like the beach, it is easy to take photos but finding something for the portfolio is no easy task. On this visit, I took 3 compositions that I thought worked, but they just were not balanced. It is not impossible to find a good image and my advise would be to stick the long lens on and search for shots within the ice itself. If you can find a chuck on ice on the foreshore then you can use this as foreground interest with a wide angle lens. The other option is to take to the air with a drone. If you choose to do this, then you must go to the southern side car park as drones are not permitted to be flown from the main car park.