Category Archives: Iceland

Jewels too huge to lift…, must be Iceland!

I may have mentioned in an earlier post that Iceland is a pretty wild place. As a result I may have suggested that Mrs P, who is a city girl and likes her creature comforts, would not be hugely amused by cold rain-soaked beaches at dawn. I may even have sighed that “there is nothing for my wife here…” But I would have been wrong. I mean – look at the size of these crystals… diamonds the size of bricks!!!

beach bergs

beach bergs

ice diamond

ice diamond

Now what girl isn’t going to get excited by a such a glittering rock! Isn’t this what girls’ dreams are made of…?

Swarovski jewel

abandoned jewel

just lying there, waiting to bee found...

just lying there, waiting to be found…

Ok, ok, ok. I know that by the time Mrs P had got a jewel like this on her finger it would have melted away into watery nothingness. Let’s say these icy crystals are simply inspiration. They make me think of Swarovski. The size, the colour, the drama – yes, Swarovski!

definitely Swarovski inspiration

definitely Swarovski inspiration

If I were a jeweller, I would get myself out here straight away to have a look at these wild and wacky crystals. Form, texture, colour. All on a black beach, stunning….

icy blue glow

icy blue glow

crystallised water

crystallised water

Come on Mrs Swarovski! get out to Iceland and check out the jewels. Even better, why don’t you send me to take a whole series of photos for you of wonderful multicoloured ice, smashed by the waves, smoothed by the sun, gleaming and glittering on a beach. I promise you inspiration, and your resulting jewellery would make Mrs P a very happy woman indeed!

beached ice fish

beached ice fish

If you liked this post check out these:

Icelife in Iceland

Hunting the Aurora


Hunting the Aurora in the cold…

So there I am, in Iceland, in January, in the freezing cold, darkest winter gloom, wearing 18 layers and still feeling the blast of the wind. It’s -10. Add wind chill factor it’s somewhere near -20. There’s only one reason why you do this… to see the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. It’s up there on my top 10 to do before I die. And you know what, Iceland mocks us by being cloudy. It delights in cloud…, and rain…. none of which is conducive to watching the Valkyrie ride the sky!

Bitingly cold!

Bitingly cold!

Only crazies do this, but then I do have my moments… And I’ve teamed up with a group of like-minded photo nuts. We are a mixed bunch. A Spanish guide (in Iceland…) plus a Scot, a South African, an Aussie and a Brit. Sod the night sky – we’re up at dawn to take photos of the windswept view. Bracing!

Sunrise

Sunrise

I should qualify what dawn means here. The sun rises at 10am, gains perhaps 10 degrees of height above the horizon, and sinks at 3.45pm. But the dawn and dusk penumbra last for hours – we’re that far north. And it’s beautiful. Blue turning to pink, slowly. Exquisite.

the 'main' road

the ‘main’ road at dawn

This is the road that runs around Iceland. It’s pretty basic. Once Reykjavik is left behind the traffic vanishes. We count – roughly one other car per hour. This is true wilderness. There’s simply no-one here. Except us crazies, searching, hoping for the Aurora. If the mornings are clear, the evenings are sure to be cloud covered. But we don’t give up hope. In the meantime we go to…. waterfalls!

Skogafoss falls

Skogafoss

 

Awesome

Awesome

 

and cold,...

and cold,…

 

Iceland has very sophisticated weather forecasting systems, including a scale which predicts Aurora activity. The scale goes from 0 (nothing happening) to 9 (New Year’s + Bonfire night + Independence day all rolled into one). As the cloudy week progresses we get a forecast of 7 for Thursday night! Jose (he’s the Spaniard, obviously) is ecstatic – this is virtually unheard of! what a show!! Complete awesomeness in the sky!!! We camp out – till 2 in the morning – freezing our nuts off – only for cloud cover to obscure the show. Foiled again. The Gods are against us.

Iceland's M25

Iceland’s M25

We decide that as we’re in Iceland, land of sagas, we should tell each other stories to keep our hopes up whilst we wait for the elusive Aurora. The Viking spirit – tall tales and moving memories. We should be telling them around a campfire, but we huddle around a thermos flask of hot coffee under cloudy drizzling skies. Where are those blasted Lights!?

Here are our sagas. I leave you to guess which one is mine…. : the youngster amongst us turns out to be a fully qualified pilot (ok, that rules me out, I’m not young, and not a pilot…), one has cycled across South America communing with shepherds and dogs, one retells a real Viking saga of true love between Tristram and Isolt including ordeals by fire, one has just finished caring for handicapped kids on the ski slopes of Austria, and one lost a scarf only for it to be returned to feet by the sheepdog from the next farm the following day… The Aurora are not impressed and still hide behind clouds. We are cold and desperate.

The view from Skogafoss

The view from Skogafoss

the road, the light

the road, the light

Our last night and we are almost defeated. But our indefatigable Spanish guide says we must have one last go. So we drive out into the dark countryside late in the night. The forecast is a 1 (…) but the cloud cover is light. Suddenly the sky glimmers and shimmers… the Valkyrie are riding! A green whiplash slicing the sky. Fumble the tripod, focus in the dark, 30 second exposure and hope for the best. Whiplash slice turns to curtains of green. Valkyrie and Valhalla, the Northern Lights streak the sky! The last night, the last chance, at last, we are blessed by the Norse Goddesses. Now, at last, the cold is forgotten and we stand in awe of the Icelandic sky…

Curtain Aurora

Curtain Aurora

Riding Valkyrie!

Riding Valkyrie!

If you liked this post, don’t forget to read: Icelife in Iceland


Icelife in Iceland

Modern life vanishes. Two and half hours flying north from London, and the city seems a million miles away. All that ‘stuff’, it’s gone. I’m spending a week living in the land of ice, literally…. Iceland.

Mighty glacier, all powerful

Mighty glacier, all powerful

Take a closer look to spot the photographer front right on the spit of land – that’s how awesomely massive this landscape view is – there are two of them:

Dwarfed

Dwarfed

Ice, glaciers. mountains, rocks, everything is solid & permanent. Time moves at a different pace – glacially you might say… The slowness of time is echoed by sound – at first it seems there isn’t any. But as ears tune in to the tempo, you hear the cracks of the shifting ice. There may be very little sign of human or animal life, but the ice itself is alive. It’s moving, shifting, living and dying.

Crevasse - highly photogenic, highly dangerous

Crevasse – highly photogenic, highly dangerous

Ice life starts high up in the mountains. The snow falls again and again, compacts and becomes ice. The weight is so heavy the air is forced out and it turns blue. The mighty glacier moves imperceptibly, sometimes is covered in ash, dirt, rocks. Changes colour. Now the ice is brown, red. Crevasses open up. This is not a place for a Sunday afternoon stroll. Fall in, you’re gone.

Boulder trapped in the black ice

Boulder trapped in the black ice

The ice is imperious. Nothing can stand in its way. Rocks! Pah! Picked up to be dumped miles away on the plain. At the face of glacier are ice caves. The ice here is striated and contorted, run through with absorbed dirt. It has become multicoloured.

The cave's maw

The cave’s maw

Our guide allows us in. And here, in this most awesome of caves, we see the first signs of ice vulnerability. This cave is not permanent. It will not last the year. The stream hints at the ice’s fate.

That stream began to trickle whilst we stood there...

That stream began to trickle whilst we stood there…

The life of ice is speeding up. Suddenly, imperceptible movement accelerates. Ice carves into the glacial lagoons.

Icebergs in the lake

Icebergs in the lake

Ice transforms from awesome majesty into vulnerable beauty. The colours are more transparent and ephemeral.

The glacier is still defiant here

The glacier is still defiant here

But it is disintegrating

But it is disintegrating

The more it dies, the more beautiful it becomes

The more it dies, the more beautiful it becomes

Ice being consumed by snow

Ice being consumed by snow

Pushed out of the lagoon into the ocean, the ice is now pitilessly attacked by the Atlantic waves. Time is short. Once it swept all before it, now it is small and vulnerable, tossed up on the beach, broken and discarded.

Ice washed ashore

Ice washed ashore

How ironic that ice is at its most beautiful now. It becomes exquisite, jewel-like, Swarowski-esque crystals. One last glisten and sparkle on a black beach before it dies and vanishes for good.

Transient jewelry

Transient jewelry

And then death

And then death

But of course, the ice hasn’t died, it has simply mutated. In the fullness of time it will return as snow, and the cycle will begin again, refreshed.

ice to water to ....

ice to water to ….