I haven’t really wanted to get to this point, as finishing this series on Iceland would feel like the experience was finally lived and digested, truly over. But all things must pass, no? These are the remaining pictures I wanted to share, in no particular order. Mouse over each shot for additional commentary.
The remaining shots of Iceland’s capital are a grab bag of whatever I thought was interesting. First, and most striking in my opinion, is the sculpture of a stylized Viking ship on the oceanfront.
Many buildings are made from corrugated steel, though that is not as sad and crappy as it sounds. They are uniformly well-tended and clean, and often painted in bright colors.
An homage to mariners further up the coast.
Finally, a panorama of the city from The Pearl, a striking building atop a hill that has a terrace which offers 360° views of Reykjavik.
Reykjavik, far and away Iceland’s largest city, is home to a third of the island’s population. Pretty as it can be, it seems from a distance to be an aberration, a very colorful infection that has sprouted from a stretch of volcanic plain. The capital is not the reason for a trip to Iceland, but there is definitely a unique charm to a town that strives for cosmopolitanism in a country where the same families have lived on the same farms going back a thousand years. I wasn’t attempting to be as photographically thorough here as I was in the countryside; some of these shots are iPhone pics. Nonetheless, I think I got enough to present a little overview of the capital at the end of the world. This post, the first of two, will be pictures of, from, and in Hallgrimskirkja, a towering church that dominates Reykjavik’s skyline.
One thing I knew before going on this trip was that I might get killed by a volcano or fall into a crevasse, but at least I didn’t have to worry about any predators. There aren’t any. This isn’t Australia, after all. (Apologies to Aussie readers, but y’all’s animal life is scary. It’s like God is trying to get the Pharaoh to let you people go.) All mammals in Iceland, as far as I know, came over with the Vikings and are primarily livestock. The sheep, especially, seem innumerable and roam wherever they please; it’s hard to see how the farmers keep track of them. Add in some goats and the singular Icelandic horse, and I figured I should devote one post to the animals found roaming the roads.
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that the Idiot Photographer and I are quite fond of ruined and abandoned buildings. That said, I wasn’t expecting to find many abandoned factories in Iceland. So it was a bit of a surprise to come across many abandoned farms across the country. What they lack in size and scale they sure make up for in background, and I found myself in the familiar position of documenting ruins on a trip where that had been the furthest thing from my mind.
In one picture, this is why I chose Iceland as a destination: stark, foreboding and awe inspiring landscapes shrouded in mist.
A campground in a remote valley was where I spent my third night in Iceland. Getting there was an adventure; high winds and rain made driving treacherous, and dense fog kept my destination obscured. When I woke the next morning, the winds had calmed and the fog had lifted somewhat, and I could see my surroundings. The flat valley where I had camped was surrounded on three sides by steep mountains, cut through by gorges that trailed up into the hills until fading into the mist. I’m not prone to using adjectives like ‘magical’ or ‘enchanted’, those words having been worn out from repeated use on Disney movies, but here I humbly suggest their meaning might be restored.
I’m not sure if this is a great shot, but, by god, I was going to post it after what I went through to get it.
I’ve mentioned Heimaey before, the island of 1973 volcanic eruption fame. It was there I encountered the worst weather I would face in Iceland, with stiff 40mph winds and sideways rain that chilled to the bone. I had made up my mind to climb the volcano on the heart of the island. I had also lost my wool hat, and my hands were freezing. Nothing to do but run down to the town and purchase some gear. The Icelandic outerwear store 66° North (similar to the NorthFace in the States) had a shop in the small downtown. I knew they were expensive, but what choice did I have? 10000ISK (about $100USD) later, I had a hat and gloves. I can’t grouse; beggars can’t be choosers, the gear was excellent, and allowed me to brave the extreme winds on the ascent. The climb was tough but steady, and I reached the summit safely. Once there, I had to keep my camera inside my sweatshirt to shield it from rain until the moment I was ready for an exposure. The results were, well, spotty. But I’d be damned if I didn’t post at least one shot to make me feel that the whole hullabaloo was worthwhile. So, with storytime over, here it is.
Clearly visible for miles when approaching from the west, the glaciers of Skaftafell are easily reached by a short hike. A long tongue of ice slaloms between mountains down to a lake, where the glacier calves, setting afloat scores of miniature icebergs. The weather on the approach noticeably changes; the temperature drops as a cold wind blows down from the hills over the top of the glacier. Here is the lake with the Skaftafell visible in the background.
Perhaps nothing instills a sense of otherness in the visitor to Iceland than glaciers. To drive along on a fine summer day and come across a swath of ice a mile across is incredible. Jokulsarlon, a bay connecting the Atlantic ocean to the tongue of a glacier inland, is teeming with icebergs. The scene is uncannily quiet, save for the eerie rumbles, squeaks and splashes of the ice as it calves from the main glacier Vatnajokull. The color of the ice varies, but the day I visited, most was a vibrant blue. Most of the icebergs are bobbing and drifting very gently, in a way that is hard to comprehend for objects that big. The motion, however subtle, made HDR sets hard to shoot. In the couple of shots that worked, however, the super-reality and detail that the process adds really made the ice pop.