Friday, September 24, 2010

Incredible Iceland!!

This past July I spent a week in Iceland with Tony Sweet and Focus on Nature. At this point I think most of my friends have given up on seeing my pictures. It is not that I have not wanted to show them, but it has taken almost 2 months to go over the couple thousand images that resulted from this magnificent trip. I’ll detail the workshop experience in my next blog but for this post I just want to concentrate on the landscape.

The interesting thing about Iceland is that the landscape changes with the terrain. The mountains, colors, clouds, lava fields, volcanoes, waterfalls, blue lagoons, farms, horses, and glaciers were all beyond my wildest expectations. One unexpected experience was our ability to shoot anywhere. We stopped at a power plant one morning looking for a bathroom and before I knew it we were getting a tour of the control room. I can not imagine that happening here in America. It seems that the Icelandic people rely on their common sense. If you get too close to the edge of the cliff you fall over, no warning signs or ropes. I love this approach to life.

I think perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself so I’ll try and start from the beginning. I waited too long to purchase my tickets and had to fly first class on the way over. What a bummer, hanging out in the first class lounge and enjoying all of the other little niceties and I think I’m spoiled. The flight was great. The only bad part was I could not see the thunderstorm that was happening on the opposite side of the plane. That would have been cool to try and shoot.

The first day on the road we arrived at a geothermal power plant. Behind some of these facilities were giant blue pools of water. The salt residue from the geothermal process made for great leading lines to work into my compositions. The next day we headed out for a very long and bumpy ride through the mountains. The landscape was forever changing. Sometimes it looked like the surface of the moon, other times it was lush and green. The volcanic landscape is like nothing I have ever seen. At times I found it very challenging to shoot and other times I could hardly contain my excitement about the grandeur in front of me.

The volcano that made news earlier this year has died down. I did get to see it, but from a bit of a distance. There was a little steam emanating from the top, but it was otherwise quite. The ash was a different story. In some places with each step I would kick up a little cloud of ash.

One night we stayed in a town called Skaftfell, in a hotel located at the base of a glacier. After dinner Tony and I headed out to shoot the glacier and stayed until midnight so we could shoot sunset. We went back to the hotel and crashed for 2 hours and then got up to shoot sunrise at the Glacier Lagoon. What a place, there are huge chunks of glacial ice that break off and head out to sea. Some of the chunks get washed up on a nearby beach and make for great subject material.

The only disappointing part of the trip was that there were no night skies, a little bit of twilight between midnight and 2 a.m. was as dark as it gets. I had hoped to lightpaint the glacier ice, but it does not get dark enough in July to do so.

At the end of the workshop I asked our driver how long it would take him to show me everything worth photographing in Iceland. I was expecting him to say 3 months, instead he told me 3 years. I suspect he is correct.

If it were not for the expense and the need to return home, I would have loved to stay another week!

Click here for a gallery.

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