Agnes Caruso Photography

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Waterfalls of Iceland

If any of you were waiting for my continuation of my Icelandic adventures, here is the next installment – waterfalls. Pretty much everywhere you have rocks, hills you see waterfalls from very tiny to huge ones. Iceland has lots of waterfalls and I mean a lot. Some like Gullfoss or Dettifoss are extremely popular with tourists, some a little less and others are not seen much at all. The biggest correlation I found was an accessibility of the site to large tour buses. So if you want to see some less traveled part of Iceland be prepared to take some side roads and add some time to your trip. It is worth it as you will see.

So let’s start with the most popular waterfalls – Gullfoss. The popularity is increased by the fact that these waterfalls are easy to reach by bus from Reykjavik, making it a nice day trip. The waterfalls are located on Hvítá river, span two tiers and flow into a deep canyon. The size of waterfalls is frequently measured in volume of water flowing through them per second. Gullfoss in summer has an average flow of 140 cubic meters per second. Just imagine that the biggest flow rate recorded is on Boyoma Falls in Democratic Republic of Congo with 17000 cubic meters per second. Three other well known waterfalls – Niagara, Iguazu and Victoria falls have flow rates of 2400, 1700 and 1088 cubic meters per second on average. This gives you some comparison scale if you have seen any of those waterfalls.

Here are some of the images from Gullfoss. Starting with one of the more iconic views showing the tiers of the falls.

When you continue on route 1 around Iceland, you will be able to see a lot more waterfalls, the next one is located close by the road and it is called Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one is pretty amazing as you can walk around it, just ensure you have a raincoat with you and your camera is well protected. You will get wet! This waterfall originates from the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull and drops some 60 meters down.

Not that far from Seljalandsfoss is Skógafoss. Waterfall is visible well from the road and it does not take long to get there. A diversion well worth it just as it was for Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is located on Skógá River and you can walk on the river bed if the flow is not too big. The cliffs on which the waterfall is located, used to be coastal cliffs, now located some five kilometers or three miles away.

Weather in Iceland does not always oblige and pouring rain has made some of the picture taking a little challenging. When we arrived at Godafoss or Waterfall of the Gods, the rain was pouring as much from the sky as it was from the waterfalls. OK, not quite but very close, combined with strong wind, it was not fun to walk a short distance to the falls and back. When you stop to see Godafoss, you should walk across the little pedestrian bridge and see both sides of the waterfalls. The view is completely different and amazing from both sides.

All of those waterfalls are pretty popular and you will find lots of tourists stopping by, hiking and taking pictures. The reason is that all of them are very close to the main road and buses can easily stop to drop people off. I found that at least one of the sites away from the main road is definitely worth visiting. Kolufossar falls on Víðidalsá river are spectacular and while there will be visitors the numbers are nothing compare to Gullfoss. Views are just as breathtaking but judge for yourselves.

The last waterfalls I will show you are Hraunfossar waterfalls. They appear from under the lava rocks and are springwater in origin. It is a spectacular view and really different from any other waterfalls you will see.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter of Iceland adventures. There is still more to come. Iceland has amazing places to see and even if the weather is not the best, you can still enjoy the trip and take some pretty great pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Jökulsárlón – Glacier Lagoon and the Diamond Beach

There are many amazing places in Iceland but none like the Glacier Lagoon near Höfn just off route 1. It is a place impossible to miss as you drive on route 1 and only about an hour away from Höfn. The lagoon got created when the glacier receded from the ocean. Currently, the icebergs breaking off the glacier fall into this glacial lake. Most of the large ones stay in place till they get small enough to move freely in water. Smaller icebergs slowly drift out into the ocean. As they travel, icebergs break up and smaller pieces wash out on the black sand beach in Jökulsárlón, known as Diamond Beach. So when you are visiting the lagoon, you also have to take a short trip across the bridge to the beach.

In the images below you will see amazing blue ice. This is the natural color of the ice from the Breiðamerkurjökull, which is an outlet of the Vatnajökull glacier. The first time you see it, the blue hues are amazing and it feels a little surreal but soon you start seeing the different colors of blue, as well as white and grey.

The icebergs are dynamic and they break occasionally into smaller fragments. We witnessed the arch in the photo blow to collapse with a loud bang into the two floating blue pieces above.

One of the attractions in the lagoon is a boat ride. This will take you close to the icebergs and you can admire them from a completely different perspective.

If you do not feel like taking a boat ride, there are two trails, one close to the water and one higher up. They both give you a different view of the lagoon and both are beautiful. So take your time and walk around a little enjoy the views.

Diamond Beach is a black sand beach with ice crystals washed on it. These crystals melt slowly once they wash on shore. Everyday they will be changing and never be quite the same, so pictures taken on any day will be unique. We have seen mostly smaller pieces but occasionally there will be quite big chunks of ice on black sand.

And this is how you get to take those photos, I am the one in purple vest, lying on the beach. Thanks to my husband, Tom for taking this picture.

The spectacular beauty of the lagoon inspired some of the Hollywood directors to use it as a backdrop in their productions. Four movies have been shot on location and those are”A view to a kill”, Lara Croft: Tomb Rider”, “Batman begins” and James Bond “Die another day”.

If you are intending to take pictures in the lagoon, it is good to have a tripod, ND filter, and lots of time. Summertime is great for visiting Iceland but may not be the best for taking images with low setting sun, at sunrise or sunset, so depending on your preferences and plans this could be a factor for you to consider. No matter what, you will enjoy the spectacular views in the lagoon.

To leave you with something special here are the two short videos.

Diamond Beach

Boat ride

 

 

 

 


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Focus on sunsets – Part 3. Travel or not to travel?

A not so unusual question is “Travel or not to travel?” to photograph beautiful sunsets. I will hope to give you some idea of what you can achieve from your own living room or for that matter close by where you live. And before you say “my view is nothing like that”, there are still tricks that can let you photograph sunsets by just walking a few minutes down the street, up to the top floor of the building, into a garden or park… I hope you get an idea. If you live in a city take a look around see where the sun sets and how you can get a good view. If it is from your apartment, it makes it very easy.

The below series of images are from a living room of an apartment complex. My camera is always ready to be picked up for a photoshoot, so if you are serious about capturing moments in life make sure that yours is also.

The second set of two images show quite stunning texture of the clouds, fabulous color and light. There was no travel involved and the pictures turned out very interesting.

If you do travel to some of the most amazing National Parks, there are sites which are recommended to see at sunsets or sunrises. Look at the maps, ask the rangers, check on the web. While travel photography and landscape photos are frequently astounding, remember one thing, the photographers frequently spend a few days trying to capture this one perfect moment you are admiring now. When you travel, most often you may not get a perfect weather, too many or too few clouds. So can a beautiful photo be taken during a normal family travel? Yes, just try to focus on what and when to photograph. Plan ahead of time where you want to go and explore some photos online to try and figure out what would be the best spot to get the view you want. Once you are on site you will probably change your mind, as to what you want to photograph.

Before my trip to Arches National park I knew of two locations I definitely wanted to photograph. The first, perfect for sunsets – Windows at Arches and the second, for sunrises – Delicate Arch. Sunset was quite interesting with few clouds over the arches but the setting sun changed the illumination of the rocks, altering the color.

 

 

The moment of the perfect light on the rocks. Stunning color lasted just a few seconds.

This image was taken while waiting for the sunset light to focus on the windows. Colors are very different, partly because of the angle of the sun but also due to the clouds in the sky.

Within minutes sun is hiding beyond the horizon, beautifully colored windows become dark and uninteresting. At the same time cloudscape on the horizon is capturing everyone’s eye.

In order to finish this sunset series, I wanted to share one more image with you. This one is a Lumia 950 image of lake Champlain in Vermont. Great destination for those from outside Vermont. However, if you live close by, this can be your perfect sunset location. The sun is going down behind the mountains on the west bank of the lake but the light is still visible in the sky.

Enjoy taking pictures of sunsets and if you take any, you can tag me in your images on instagram.

 

 


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Focusing on sunsets – Part 2, sunsets in California

I hope you enjoyed the first part about sunsets. This time we will head out to California for some really stunning sunsets. My two favorite places in California are San Diego area and Malibu beach. Both offer really amazing sunsets as you will be able to see.

Let’s head to Malibu beach with its great views. The beach is quite long and on both ends enclosed by a hill. What you can visualize on a photo will depend on the position of the sun, especially if you want to capture it going down over the water. Taking a wide angle lens can be helpful as you can create a very unique view. My favorite subject on this beach are the lifeguard towers, creating  beautiful silhouettes on the orange to red sunset light.You can also capture birds in flight as in the second image.

San Diego area is definitely great for photographing sunsets. You will meet lots of people coming to watch the sunsets in La Jolla, Del Mar or Solana Beach. They are different every day and very beautiful. The golden sea of one day turns into a dark red sunlight disappearing beyond the horizon.

Solana Beach is another great place to see sunset and the difference is that you can capture a very tropical image, complete with the palm trees. View of the beach is relaxing and peaceful.

You can see most of those images on my FineArtAmerica site or on Picfair in the landscape collection. They can be licensed or purchased from both sites.

The last of the Sunset series, coming soon, will focus on some unique shots of sunsets from Virginia and from Arches National Park. It will show that even when you do not travel far you can still take amazing shots of sunsets.

 


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Newfoundland – Gros Morne National Park

Newfoundland is a home to some amazing scenery, fjords, fauna and flora. There are a few national parks on the island. Gros Morne is on the west coast of Newfoundland, not far from Deer Lake, which is a host to a small regional airport. Flight into Deer Lake from the mainland will take you over the Cabot Strait. As you reach the island, there will be numerous lakes down underneath you. Forest and water are the main things welcoming you to Newfoundland.

Route 430 north will take you towards the Gros Morne National Park. The main part of the park is located along route 430 north, however, you can also turn towards Woody Point, which is the south side of the park. We headed north all the way to Parson’s Pond, located just outside the northern border of the park. We stopped there at a Sunrise Bakery & Cafe for a snack and then headed back towards Rocky Harbour. Weather is unpredictable in Newfoundland and we started the day with fog and rain, heading south still into the fog.

The big stop on route was Western Brook Pond. Currently a lake but before it got cut of from the sea it was a fjord. It is a beautiful hiking trail, taking you across the bog and forest. A bog is wetland area accumulating moss, primarily sphagnum. There are other plants growing there too, irises, orchids and fly traps. Trees growing too close to the bog are dying, creating an amazing landscape with old tree trunks along the path. Higher lying ground boasts a beautiful but relatively sparse forest.

Once you get to the end of the trail leading from the parking area to the edge of the lake, you can sit down relax, take a boat ride on the lake or walk some more along the lake. There is a little snack bar with some warm food and drinks. The view that opens up in front of you as you approach the lake is amazing. This is the widest part of the fjord, to see the narrow part, you need to take a boat or walk some more. Poor weather can be a problem on this trail as most of it is exposed and in parts takes you across open wetland with water splashing onto the trail. Do have this in mind when getting ready for this hike, raincoats and proper footwear are essential unless you want to get wet.

The road south will then take you along the shore and you can enjoy a walk on a beach. However, due to construction one of the entrances was closed. As a result we only walked a little bit to explore just a part of the beach. This part as you can see was pretty stony but offered a great view.

 

Eventually, we reached Rocky Harbour with its beautiful lighthouse at Lobster Cove Head. You can see some of the images on the video above. In addition to visit inside the lighthouse, you can also walk around it with some spectacular views.

If you want to do some more exploring, head further south to Norris Point. This takes you to Bonne Bay. At the very end of the peninsula in Norris Point you can catch a boat tour on Bonne Bay. However, the views are spectacular even without getting on a boat. As you drive back towards Rocky Harbour, you should stop at Jenniex House. The views from outside the house are spectacular.

While Gros Morne National Park is beautiful, the weather in Newfoundland is unpredictable and you can be faced with rain, fog, fast changing conditions, so plans do not always turn out perfect. Take it easy and have some spare time set aside so you can see the area without rushing.

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Using a reflector – indoors and outdoors

Light is the heart of photography and getting it right is extremely important. Reflector is something that many starting photographers wonder about. “Do I need it? How do I use it?” If you cannot or do not want to invest in anything super fancy, you like taking pictures with natural light – a reflector is something that I would strongly recommend. There are stacks of different types, priced from very cheap to very expensive. So how do you even start?

What are you photographing? Portraits, still life, large scenes or objects or small? An answer to this question will determine what size reflector you will need. The larger the subjects, the larger should be your reflector or you will only get change of light in a small portion of your object. A related consideration is how are you going to handle a reflector? Are you going to buy a stand or are you going to hold it? Questions just keep coming and honestly you have no idea where to start or if on fact you need a reflector.

I will try to explain in this post why you should use one and when as well as how to start working with a reflector.

A reflector at its basic, is a piece of white foam board. However, more frequently reflectors are much more advanced with silver or gold foil covering them. You can make one yourself if you wish (DYI Photography How to make a photo reflector, Make your own reflector DIY tutorial) or you can even use your car sunshade. Using a white foam board will help you not to blind your subjects and depending on the board can actually produce a nice soft light. That said, the most frequently used reflector is probably the silver one. Similarly to white board it does not alter the appearance of the subject.However, you need to be careful not to blind your subject so reflect with care!

You can also use a gold foil reflector, however, it will give your subject a bit of a golden glow. Depending on your intentions that can be a desired outcome. All this is very interesting but why should you even bother using one? It is not even convenient carrying one with you all the time.

If you look at the following pictures you will notice the difference between the images on the left with no reflector and ones on the right with silver reflector on the side opposing the light source.

As you can see, in an image with no reflector you can see the dark shadows on the face away from the window. They do not look pleasing and it would be best to lighten them up. One way of doing it is to place another light source to lit up this side of the face. However, a much simpler way is to place a reflector opposite to the light.

In order to get a appearance you wish a reflector can be easily moved a little to the front or to the back. I can hear the next question, how do you hold on to a reflector while taking a picture? You can ask someone to hold it for you, place it on a stand, have your subject hold it, stand it on a chair, table, hand it from a door, coat hanger… There are many ways to place it in position.

Light will reflect in many directions, so the little drawing is a simplification of the set up.

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite model, toy chimp, this time has a light coming from the right, this time a strobe. A reflector in the second image is positioned on left. You may also notice that a reflector has softened shadow cast by the light.

However, those are not the only cases for using a reflector. It can be also used when shooting outdoors, especially on a very sunny day a reflector can come in handy. Would not having one affect your pictures? It does not have to, however, in such case you will need to stay clear of a bright or direct sunlight if you are taking portraits and want them to look great. Yet, even then it could be handy to bring just a bit more light onto your subject.

A little bit of reflected light here makes a difference. In this case, I was taking picture in shade and while no obvious deep shadows are seen, the image is not appealing. By using a reflector you can make a lot of difference in appearance.

Portraits and studio pictures get usually the most attention when it comes to use of a reflector, they are not the only ones that benefit from such approach. How many times have you gone out to photograph flowers? Yes, those great subject that do not walk away or fly away. Frequently we go out in nice weather or the flowers we want to photograph are in full sunshine. Yes, we can come back when it is cloudy. However, that is not always possible. So how can you make a pleasing photo while still photographing in full sunshine?

You guessed it! Use a reflector. I took one with me on an outing to National Arboretum in Washington DC. And here are some of the images it produced.

 

   

The first image was taken without a reflector. By adding a reflector I was able to reduce the highlights, soften the image just a little, bring the azalea flowers to much more natural and pleasing appearance.

 

Creative use of a reflector can allow you to manipulate light and highlight the area you want to bring to a viewer’s attention. In general I use mostly silver reflector as it keeps the colors true, while the gold one will warm up your images by altering the color just a bit. If this is something you wish to do, then try it out. You also need to test different angles as not all will create a desired effect. Above all be creative with objects you already have, until you truly know if you need a reflector make it happen with things you have on hand.

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Arches National Park

A long drive from Denver Colorado across the Rockies brought us to Moab, a gateway to Arches National Park. This area is very popular with tourists so make sure you book your accommodation well in advance. There is a lot to see in Arches, including a visitor centre with exhibition on geology of the area. It explains how the arches were and are being formed. You can drive yourself around the park or use a shuttle. In peak season you may find that parking will be a problem. However, driving does allow you to stop whenever you want in many of the pull over spots, overlooks and parking areas.

While the national park is great to visit at any time of the day, sunrise and sunset are the most amazing times provided there are not too many clouds. You will be able to see some areas best at sunrise: e.g. Great Wall, Delicate arch, or at sunset: e.g. Park Avenue or windows.

Hike to Delicate arch is quite long so you have to allow enough time and in some places there is a need to pay attention, so you stay on the path. This hike is worth the effort, especially when it is not cloudy. The morning I was there it was cloudy but we had a moment of light and this is what it looked like.

However, not all mornings were great, the next day sunrise did not really bring the light we were all hoping for, despite that there was still time to take some interesting pictures.

During the day there is plenty to see in the national park, I spend quite some time wandering around the dunes and broken arches.

Colors you will see in Arches are amazing, they will vary depending on the weather and time of the day. The area is quite dry so you will see lots of desert plants, including cacti. In May they were just starting to flower. There are also beautiful textures and occasionally you can see animals hiding in between the rocks or among the plants.

You need to bring food and water with you as there is nowhere to get food, but water can be topped up in some places. Remember that the area is the desert and going out for a hike with no water is not a good idea. While lots of hikes are short, there are quite a few medium and long ones, so pretty much a little bit for everyone.