Day 2 of the Iceland trip took us 370km east of Reykjavik towards Jökulsárlón – A glacier lagoon on the south coast of Iceland. We made several stops along the way and thankfully, unlike Day 1 there were far fewer tourists along this trail.
We left our hotel early to ensure we had enough daylight by the time we reached Jökulsárlón. The glacier lagoon was one of the places I was desperate to take photos of so was keen to have enough light when we got there to take some decent photos.
By sunrise we reached Seljalandsfoss, the famed and much photographed waterfall that you can walk behind. Unfortunately, due to freezing conditions the waterfall didn’t appear as colourful as much of it had iced over and furthermore, to walk behind the cascade would have been extremely dangerous due to ice.
Briefly after arriving at the waterfall – most likely due to its general proximity to Iceland’s capital, the falls began to crowd with coaches of visitors. We hit the road again.
We travelled along Iceland’s route 1 – a ring road that circumnavigates the entire country. On our way towards the black sand beaches of Vik we passed the famous, yet difficult to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull volcano which caused havoc in 2010. (It nearly resulted in me and a couple of friends being stranded in New York in April 2010.) Unfortunately there was no sight of any imminent eruptions but relatively fresh ash and rock deposits could be seen at the base of the volcano range and a visitor museum had been set up to document the problems the volcano caused both locally and globally.
We ploughed on stopping briefly at another famous waterfall along the ring road. Skógafoss is a waterfall that plummets into the ground from 60metres therefore it creates a huge amount of spray. This spray, thanks to the sunny conditions helped to form some clearly visible rainbows.
Our next stop was the Black Sand Beach at Vik. There are several of these volcanic sand beaches along this area of the southern coastline of Iceland and I had hoped to see some of the basalt rock formations at one of the most popular beaches – but i missed the turning! Instead we carried on driving and stopped just beyond the headland. Here we found a deserted beach with jet black, soft yet crumbly sand. Its grains slid smoothly over one another but made a crunching sound. Quite peculiar. Due to the bright light from the sun the pictures don’t really capture just how black the sand was without completely blowing out the blacks in the image.
The black sand beach was about half way in our epic journey across Iceland. in the tiny town of Vik we fuelled up and headed toward the glacier lagoon. This stretch of the trip really highlighted the diversity of Iceland’s landscape. We travelled through wide open plains edged by enormous mountains and volcanoes, through lavafields in which alien shaped rock formations covered in moss rose above the roof level of the car and we rarely came across other vehicles along the route – meaning we could take our Hyundai beast ‘to the max!’ in order to get to Jökulsárlón.
We made it to Jökulsárlón at about 3pm, light was begining to dwindle and had mostly dropped below the crater of the lagoon. The sun’s rays only hitting some of the taller icebergs. The glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón is fed by the Vatnajökull ice cap – the second largest in Europe. When we arrived, the lagoon was deserted. It was wonderful to stop, listen and hear nothing… in the distance you could hear the ice creaking as it broke free from the glacier. I could have stayed here all day taking pictures. The ice changed colour and shape from every angle and it was very fun – albeit a bit dodgy to walk around on the large blocks of ice on the shore, making sure to keep an eye on where the ice blocks became the lagoon! Here are some of my favourite shots – These are just the tip of the iceberg!
We were astonished by the sights and started the long journey back to Reykjavic. As we drove I could see a faint line in the sky. I think there’s two things people ask when talking about Iceland… “Did you go to the Blue Lagoon?” and “Did you see the Northern Lights?” We didn’t go to the Blue Lagoon. We did get lucky with the Northern Lights.
Having seen the Aurora Borealis in Norway a couple of years ago I had never set out on the Iceland trip to seek them out again. Yes they are fascinating and beautiful but they are also unpredictable and at the comparatively low lattitude in comparison to Tromsø in the Arctic circle it was not worth spending freezing cold nights searching for them as it is far less likely to see them. I decided to pull off the main ring road to an untrodden side road to check out the faint light streak in the sky.
To capture the solar flares it is important to be away from light polution. We were about 30km outside of Reykjavik and were therefore affected by it’s light polution. The aurora were weak but, upping my ISO and setting my camera to the manual bulb setting (you can leave the shutter open as long as you like) I was able to capture the lights. Anyone who’s done this before will know just how tricky it is especially trying to capture a foreground subject…The photos are noisy and trying to stay still for 15 or so seconds in -10*C conditions is challenging in itself.
We arrived back in Reykjavik and were sure we’d seen the last of the aurora. Leaving my camera at the hotel we headed into town for dinner. The Aurora gave one last appearance with a very strong flare and small corona right above the main highstreet. Northern Lights tours rushed around to ensure their guests could see it. By the time I had contemplated going back for my camera, the show was over. What a bonus to an epic day!
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