Every year as the old year ends and new one starts we trying to summarize what we achieved. This first summary chapter of 2018 is focused on landscapes. Some of the travels this year were spectacular and images are amazing. Enjoy the selection of some of the best.
Taking pictures, especially great ones requires time, patience, great eye but also some luck. However, when traveling luck may not always be on your side. When you are driving in a car, you see this amazing view but there is nowhere to stop a car, if you are on a train it will definitely not stop for you. What should you do? Be prepared for unexpected. This way , when you see a great view or wildlife in the distance or by the road, on the road you can be ready to take a picture.
You ask how to do that? Here are some pointers from my trips around Ireland and Iceland:
Always have a camera with you and ready for taking pictures. Obviously, not possible if you are driving, so…
Explore a place with someone, who will be happy to do the driving
Clean the windshield, dirt can make it hard to autofocus
In many places in Ireland and Iceland it was impossible to pull over and stop. Mostly because the roads are narrow, they have no shoulder and traffic is unpredictable so stopping is not an option. Just check out the images below, both from Ireland. Even if the road seems clear do not stop to take pictures if there is no space to pull over.
Now, how can you prepare and what should you do to make those images look the best you can?
Mount a fast lens on your camera, it could be your primary or secondary camera
Using a zoom lens is preferred as you can end up with nice pictures of the dashboard, also being able to zoom in on objects further away can actually get you a nice image
While sitting in a car test the light you get through the windshield and remember that you may be going in different directions or light can change, so adjustment may be needed
You want to use high shutter speed, settings above 1/800 will be preferable, but you could get away with slightly slower speeds too
Use high ISO, that can cause some noise in the images but using ISO 100 is just not a viable option when taking pictures from a moving car or train
You have to use autofocus, manual focus is just not going to do it and best setting is AI Servo setting allowing you to photograph moving objects
In order to make your life easier, you can use Shutter-Priority AE mode if you wish and set your shutter speed to upwards of 1/800 and your camera will adjust the rest when you are taking a picture
Here are some examples of pictures taken through the front windshield of a road ahead. Probably the most classic images you may see also probably the easiest to take. I use a manual mode only, which is a bit more challenging but gives me more control over how I want the image to look.
In most cases if you are driving in a car, you will be in a front seat with your seat belt on and with your primary view being forward. Technically, you can also take pictures to your side, through an open or closed window. Those can be a bit more challenging to get the speed correctly set for the photographing an object of interest. The closer the object is to the car the more likely it will be fuzzy. You can see that effect in the image below, with flowers closest to the road are fuzzy. If you do not get shots you want the first time just keep trying. It is worth it to just practice so next time you can get a great photo.
One other interesting point is that when you taking pictures from a car your horizon can get skewed, so more than likely you will need to do a little bit of rotation of your images.
This last image was actually taken with a Zeiss camera on my Lumia 950, amazingly sharp and beautiful picture of the clouds clearing up. With a phone camera the rules are the same as with a real camera. Do not be afraid to take photos out of a car or train, just remember to set up your camera correctly and practice. Good luck!
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.
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.
Iceland is a land of ice, fire and geothermal energy. This series of blogs will show you the beauty of Icelandic countryside, waterfalls, ice, black sand beaches, craters, lava fields, amazing geothermal pools and more. The world you will see is beautiful but also fragile. Icelanders have learned how to live in this not always most welcoming environment. They also make the most out of the natural resources of the island, such as the geothermal pools.
Geothermal pools or hot lakes are not exclusive to Iceland, they are found also elsewhere. Water in those pools is heated by the energy coming from the earth’s crust. Temperatures in some pools is too high to be used for bathing, but in others it is just perfect for relaxation. The one I will show you today – the Blue Lagoon, is between Reykjavik and Keflavik International Airport. In contrast to some others, those pools are are man-made, the water comes from close-by Svartsengi power station. It is also one of the most frequently visited geothermal spas in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon is a great place to visit, especially when you are tired from a long flight. You will be relaxed and refreshed in no time at all. There are different packages or tickets you can purchase and you need to pre-purchase those selecting your preferred time of entry at the time of purchase. There are secure lockers you will be able to leave your stuff in, there is also a luggage storage by the parking if you want to leave your large suitcases. Basic package includes a towel and a drink but remember that the outside temperature in Iceland is pretty low, even in summer so an upgrade to next package with a robe can be a good solution.
Once you are ready to enter the pool area, you can check out the temperature in the pools. It is handy but you are unlikely to remember details once you are in the water. Do not worry though, water is comfortable, not too hot. You can swim, walk or just soak in the pools. As you play in the water, you may get thirsty, to take care of that there is a drink bar in the lagoon. It offers a selection of drinks, from water, through healthy juices, smoothies, soft drinks to wine or beer. Do not worry about money, at entrance you will be given a band to put on your wrist and it is used to record all of your purchases while inside the spa.
There is also a second bar. It is a mask bar, where you can get your free silica mask or get an upgrade to one of their special masks. Putting it on can be fun but avoid getting any of the masks into your eyes or on your hair. In this part of the pool you can see plenty people walking with the masks on their faces, shoulders and even backs.
Another option at the Blue Lagoon is to get a special package with in water treatment included. In a separate area of the lagoon, there are in water massage beds. And if all this is not enough for you, there is also a wall of waterfall, steam rooms and sauna. You can also stay on-site in a hotel. Rooms are definitely expensive but you will get a lot for your money. Some of the rooms include even a private lagoon. Yes, your own geothermal lagoon! Staying at the hotel on site lets you enjoy the spa when you want and pick and choose what you like. Being close to Reykjavik, it makes it possible to go there for an evening if you wish as well or spend your evening in a warm pool under the stars. This obviously not in the middle of the summer, when there is no real night to talk about.
As you can see area surrounding the lagoon is pretty surreal with the black volcanic rocks everywhere. In the distance you can see green grass on the hills surround the lagoon as well as the power station itself. The mist over the pools is hot water mist, as the pools are much warmer than the air around you. The moment you get out of the water is memorable, you suddenly feel cold, this is when it is great to have a robe to wrap yourself in it.
Relaxing in the water or outside water is great. You can get pampered in the water, you can also use relaxation lounge and sitting area inside, grab a snack or drink. Once you are too hungry to carry on relaxing, there is a snack bar, as well as full restaurant. And you do not have to get changed, just go right in, get seated and enjoy a meal with a view of the lagoon. Food is local and delicious.
Once you have relaxed enough and had some food to get you going, there is a shop, which sells cosmetics to keep your skin perfect once you are back home. As you are leaving the spa it is also good to see the surrounding area, which will take you close to the other pools which are not a part of the lagoon and offer views of volcanic rocks, delicate moss growing on their surface.
The Blue Lagoon is just one of the geothermal spas in Iceland and you can enjoy many others even around Reykjavik. Once you get into the countryside, there are some spas with fantastic views. So whatever your choice might be, you need to see at least one of those spas, they are unforgettable. It is a true experience in healthy lifestyle and relaxation. Perfect moment in time to enjoy.