In Iceland Part 2.

Posted by on Jun 23, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Gari and I were sat in Grundarfjörður at the Kaffi Emil enjoying what was undoubtedly the best coffee we had drunk all week. It was Saturday morning, the start of our fifth full day, and we had just been enjoying a superb sunrise with Kirkjufell taking centre stage. Parked beside our white Dacia Duster another grey Duster hire car sat with a huge dent in the rear door and panel. Across the room from us a young English couple sat in glum silence, the only other customers in the cafe. ‘That’s bound to put the dampers on your holiday’ I commented to Gari, ‘let’s have another latte and then head off to find some more great locations’. Twenty minutes later we pulled gently out onto the icy road and headed back West. Glancing in my rear view mirror I noticed a silver Renault Kangoo some distance behind us travelling in the same direction as us. It was going to be another great day..























Having arrived on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the dark on Thursday night we spent Friday driving around the headland to visit the Lóndrangar Pinnacles for sunrise which turned out to be a subdued affair with little of the hoped for colour. There was still plenty to work with however and at one point the clouds above painted the snow hues of pastel pink and blue.

Londranger Pinnacles.


Snæfellsjökull, pink and blue.











We then moved on to Malarrif lighthouse where I had been reliably informed ( complete with photographic evidence) that I would find a decaying tractor with a wonderful rusting radiator grill. I found the vehicle but sadly the intervening years had taken their toll and all that was left was an engine block which I struggled with in the harsh light.

Remains of the day.












The area offers a wealth of potential with small craters studding the landscape on both sides of the road and only a short walk to reach their steep sides. There is clearly plenty of superb basalt coastline here too and all away from the busy North coast. After a quick stop at a fuel station/cafe in Hellisandur we were back out as the light was improving as the Sun started to drop towards the horizon. An immediate detour up a gravel track and we found some useable foreground with views to the distant coastal cliffs. The area only really offered a small number of options and with the light improving by the second we opted to head down to the main beach at Rif where we struck gold with beautifully patterned, reflective sand. From the road the beach looked pretty rubbish with a wide strip of land scarred by local industrial use but I’ve often found amazing foreground when looking out and away from the man made landscape.



From Hellisandur


Sand patterns, Rif beach

Helgrindur, the view behind the photographer’s scrum











With light this good we decided to head to Kirkjufell for late light and any afterglow. Arriving at the crowded car park we were lucky to find just one parking space remaining. There were at least three minibuses and two small tour coaches trying to manoeuvre among the hire cars and selfie stick wielding tourists who were oblivious to everything around them. Gari did a superb impression of Scoobydoo running on the spot as he lost his grip on the icy slope leaving the car park for a recce and fell heavily on his back. It really wasn’t funny at the time as it was clearly very painful and I had seen how close his head had come to a large boulder on the way down. I do wish however I had been able to do the ‘bongo feet’ sound effect as he fought to stay upright.

Walking over the bridge above the falls is was clear to see where the occupants of the three minibuses had ended up as there must have been a dozen or more photographers jostling for position to repeat a photograph that had been taken countless times before in far better conditions. There were clearly great images to be made in all directions and a wealth of alternative foreground interest. We only had to walk a further fifty metres to find what we wanted away from the madness up by the falls and we had it all to ourselves. An added bonus was that our lower viewpoint hid the car park and the path with its constant stream of tourists from sight. I was able to make one of my favourite images from the week, a view across the frozen sea ice to the mountains Klakkur and Eyrarfjall.

Deep Winter, Snaefellsnes.


The following morning saw us back at Kirkjufell and again down beside the shore for a beautiful soft, pink sunrise.Perhaps not the drama I had hoped for as there was very little cloud to hold interest throughout the image but a great start to the day nevertheless. Much of the rest of the day however was spent stood beside route 54 while we tried to sort out the aftermath of an incident where a local driver in an aged silver Renault Kangoo rammed full of wire fencing materials had decided to overtake us on a blind left hand bend. Half way through the manoeuvre and while he was exactly alongside us be changed his mind and just pulled in, straight into the side of our car. With a barrier and steep drop on my right hand side I had nowhere to go as I saw his car closing in and despite braking hard the rear side of his vehicle connected heavily with the front wing of ours. “It’s not your driving you need to worry about, it’s the locals’ “

In reality the damage was pretty light; some long scratches and crumpling around the wheel arch but I had (foolishly) opted not to take out the extra damage waiver and the small print was suggesting a £3600 excess charge! Since we didn’t speak Icelandic and neither of the occupants of the other car spoke English we decided it best to call the police out to help us communicate and more importantly for me to make sure that they were writing an accurate report of the event on their part of the accident report sheets which are compulsory in Iceland and a great idea. The whole thing took two and a half hours to resolve and we had been stood out in the shade of Helgrindur for the whole time. I was chilled to the bone so more coffee and a couple of Pylsur was the order of the day at Olafsvik. I wish I had Gari’s ways of dealing psychologically with stressful situations. It’s pretty obvious really that if you can’t do anything about a situation you just have to let it go and move on but I struggle to do that and for the next 48 hours my mind was full of worry. Was the other driver insured? Was his car taxed? Had he filled the form out accurately? The policeman said he had but was he telling porkies? Where was I going to get £3600 from? Would I be able to leave the country if I couldn’t pay? The questions in my head were getting more ridiculous by the hour and I even found myself standing outside a locked police station later that night trying to find out the name of the officer in order that, if necessary, I could present a solid case. Looking back all of this anxiety had an impact on my photography but not a negative one. Perhaps the whole incident snapped me out of holiday mode and into a more analytical way of thinking that improved my composition. I won’t try car crashes as a means of improving in future but perhaps a little adversity or the distraction away from photography for a while changed the way I was seeing for the rest of the visit.

I didn’t feel in the mood to head out later that day but in the end we did head back to Rif beach where there were plenty of superb detail studies to play with and take my mind off the day’s events.

Shattered boat, Rif


Sea washed wreckage.


Ice flow, Rif


Our final full day in Iceland saw us take the gravel mountain road over the Fróðárheiði heathlands and down to Búðir. Stopping high on the pass we were rewarded with some superb wind carved snow formations which must have been formed earlier in the week during the storms we had experienced down on the South Coast.

Fróðárheiði, frozen lake.


Snownami, Fróðárheiði


Búðir was looking lovely in the overcast conditions too but having spent two hours there we decided it was time to head back to civilisation before darkness descended. The long drive back to Reykjavik was spectacular with so many stunning views but so few (known) places to park up. A few more visits should help to solve that problem but then there is still the South, East, North, Westfjords, Central Highlands, and Reykjanes Peninsula to visit too. Having made my first visit I’m well and truly hooked and looking forward to returning with the hope of a new set of opportunities.

Last Sunrise, Reykjavik.

The following lunchtime, after a few hours in the capital we found ourselves back at the car hire desk. I had to pay an £1100 excess bill to cover the damage but with the efficient Icelandic system ( and the fact that the car hire company called the other party involved to check the story) this was refunded to me within 48 hours but next time I will definitely be taking out that extra insurance.


A few people have asked me how my camera performed while out in Iceland given the extremely low temperatures. Both Gari and I were using one and I didn’t have any issues beyond perhaps a slightly slower processing speed in the coldest conditions. At Eyrarbakki Gari did experience his screen going darker but certainly neither of us missed a single shot due to gear issues as I recall. I kept my spare batteries inside my clothing to keep them warmer and when the camera batteries were registering as low I switched them out and put these inside my clothes where once warmed up they would mostly register at back up over 50% again. There were no issues with water as almost all of what we encountered was frozen solid and any spindrift was too cold to stick to the cold front elements of our lenses. The UK weather is probably far more of an issue for the Sony mirrorless cameras as it tends to be far more humid, having upgraded to an A7r2 since the trip I hope I’m carrying a far more robust camera now anyway and the increased weight would suggest that is the case.


Looking to the coastal plain


The Black Church

Ice Rif










Rose Dawn, Kirkjufell











Pre-dawn light, Klakkur

















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