Tag Archives: waterfalls

Iceland – just amazing…

There is a moment when you know that you’ve fallen for a place. I’ve just been co-leading a workshop in Iceland, a land which is awesome in every sense of the word. But the place that encapsulates that wonder is the beach at Jökusárlón, where the bergs get washed up on the black sand and create amazing temporary sculptures. Stunning.

Iceland is not just black beaches and icebergs. It’s glaciers, fish, volcanoes, waterfalls, geysers, sulphur, mud, horses and expensive hotels. Empty roads too. Route 1, the equivalent of the Icelandic M25, is empty once past Reykyavik and the glory spots of the south coast. I drove for hours only passing a few cars the whole time… 2500 kms, empty most of the way.

 

 

I can’t wait to go again. Next year, perhaps in late March when it’s a bit colder, more icy, more dramatic, more raw. If you want to come, let me know. We will be in 2 4x4s, space for 6 passengers on the photographic trip of a lifetime…


Meditating on the Isle of Skye

Skye view

Skye view

I have a good friend who meditates. Every day, at least 40 mins. He empties his mind, lets his thoughts go. He says he can watch individual thoughts leave his body/mind and drift away. As a result he says he feels calmer, more grounded, less stressed, more happy. I’m rather envious…

A sea loch

A sea loch

In a way photography has a similar effect. Certainly landscape photography. Slow down, look, then really look, set up the tripod, get the camera out, look again, ponder, frame up, decide on exposure and only then trip the shutter. It’s a slow process and all the more meditative for it. There’s no point in hurrying, the photos will just be worse.

Isolation on Skye

Isolation on Skye

I started to learn this about 10 years ago when I did my first photographic workshop – 4 days on the Isle of Skye. There was just me and the tutor and all this expansive land, sea and sky-scape. The isolation helped slow everything down, empty the mind of the rat race in the big city. Hugely quiet and empty. There was just no-one there. Time and space to look and reflect.

Reflections

Reflections

This was the view of the loch just below my B&B. I watched a sea otter fish along these shallows (I’d just gone for a short stroll without my camera, how typical!). It was a big otter, at first I thought it was a dog in the water. Must have been a good 2-3 feet long. That’s one for the memory bank rather than the hard drive.

Classic Skye thatching

Classic Skye thatching

So I think landscape photography is a bit like meditation. Very inwardly focussing, rather solipsistic, even a bit selfish. That would certainly be the reaction of the rest of family (sighing and groaning if I show the slightest inclination to get the tripod out…I always ignore them). But not so easy to do on a day-to-day basis. Maybe I’m going to have to have a go at the real thing. I wonder if meditation might improve my photography? We shall see…

Skye - real isolation!

Skye – real isolation!


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


Getting drenched won’t stop me taking photos! Niagara.

One of the benefits of working for a global organisation is that occasionally I get to go to fabulous locations, and OMG, this is one of them!!! Niagara Falls, awesome, no truly – AWESOME, in the real sense of an over-used word.

Here’s the pic from the top. The water is moving at a relatively slow sedate space just here. But even so, you can just feel that water pulling you forward. You know you want to go with it, float forward, forward, gently, ooops, over the top and aaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!

Over we go....

Slightly feverish imagination running wild with me there, apologies….

So this is the view looking down towards the Falls:

See the little yellow dots in the bottom right corner – that’s people, all dressed in waterproofs. They are getting drenched. Serves them right for getting so close. Mind you, I’m always up for a thrill, so no sooner had we spotted the mad little yellow people than we wanted to get kitted out and go and join them….

The (wet) view from the platform

….And this is the close up view that awaited us. What this photo can’t really convey is the thundering roar of the water. It is quite deafening.

Whilst the view of the Falls is of course stupendously, gob-smackingly amazing, we humans are ever so puny beside it. And frankly, those yellow waterproofs are pretty pointless anyway. And that depends on whether you know how to put the blessed thing on! Here’s a pic of Clive struggling with his yellow plastic mac. The slightly raised eyebrow hints at the beginning of his desperation at getting it on….

Wet boy struggling with waterproof (Clive, it ain't that hard...!)

Later on that day we went on the boat trip. More cagools, this time in blue (all very colour co-ordinated the Canadians). And look! Clive can’t manage this one either. Turn it round man! The kids behind you – they know what they’re doing, ask them!!!

Clive - you've got it on backwards!

Dig the flip flops…

You put the blue macs on to protect yourself (ho ho) from the spray on the boat, see pic below – head over to flickr (button on left hand side of the blog) if you want to see a larger more impressive version. The boat goes right into that mist, up to about 20m from the water crashing down. I feel it coming on again, I can’t hold it back, I’m going to have to say it…   …   …. AWESOME !!!!!

(Shot on a Canon G11, which got very wet and survived)