Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sleepless in Iceland..........a photographic adventure

glacial fragment on the beach © caroline fraser 2012

I am finally on my long awaited photographic tour in Iceland led by Daniel Bergmann,  ( Daniel Bergmann ) a nature photographer. Four days in and I am not disappointed; far from it. The country is even more beautiful than I realised from my short stay 10 years ago, and the group of 10 participants are running out of superlatives to express our awe and wonder at what we are experiencing. Being a mixed bunch from Canada, the US, Australia and England, we are using phrases such as 'awesome' with new meaning, and in a variety of accents.

We are a mixed bunch with a wide age range. The amount of kit being lugged around is huge in some cases, and I am wishing I had not left my canon 100-400 zoom lens behind for reasons of weight. Trying to balance what one can practically carry, with what one would like to have in one's bag is a challenge. The men have bags that weigh at least 4 times the weight of mine, containing more cameras and accessories than I would know what to do with. Lugging up a steep hill yesterday to a waterfall I pondered the likelihood of collapsing under the strain. If I died, I would die happy! A fellow companion wisely took out several lenses from her bag before she set off up the hill. The only problem was that she forgot to put her camera back in the bag after re-organising the contents, and so had to make do with taking photos on her iPhone.

We have been regaled with tales of cameras disappearing beneath the waves on the beach, being dropped into the sea and down mountains..........  and of rolls of film being eaten by baboons in Africa. So much can go wrong when least expected.

glacial fragments on the beach at sunrise, with power lines just because I like them.......

The biggest challenge on the trip is a lack of sleep. We are hoping to see the northern lights. Daniel got up hourly through the night two nights ago to check for their presence. I went to bed, half hoping not to get a knock on the door to announce that I should be up and out in 5 minutes as instructed before going off to bed. So far we have not been lucky. We have been up at 04.30 or 05.30 every morning, and the group is catching up on sleep at odd times such as after breakfast and in the bus. The light on the beach above is golden at sunrise, quickly changing to blue after the initial glow or if the sun goes behind a cloud.

golden light at sunrise

blue light a few minutes later

I enjoy both effects, but was interested to see most of my fellow photographers pack up their gear the moment the 'sunrise' was over; it seems that they are more concerned to catch the bigger picture than I am. I could happily spend hours pondering over pieces of ice against the black sand, something I have not seen anywhere else on my travels. Daniel informs me that the 'cool' thing to do is to capture the blocks of ice with long exposures in the water. What he didn't say is that most of the ice fragments move around in the waves, so that by the time I had set up a shot with the 'big stopper' the block would have moved, and the stopper has to be removed to re-focus.

moving target; ice fragment in the waves © caroline fraser 2012
As you can see in the image above, the ice top left has moved during the exposure; even the largest blocks of ice roll and break as you try to capture their beauty.

They have been carried down river onto the beach from the place I was most excited to visit; Jokulsarlon, at the foot of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier on the South-east coast.

view of the glacier from Jokulsarlon
The lagoon in this image is 6km long, far larger than it appears to the  eye. The scale of the country is something I was not prepared for. It has to be seen to appreciated. I am already planning when to return, and I still have another 5 days to go.

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