My Iceland

 Aurora panorama of G3 major storm

Aurora panorama of G3 major storm

This time, i thought. This time i will do some "test-packing" a little earlier. The lofoten islands, last year (WOW, its only one year ago, feels like much more...) were really impressing, and wonderful. But i was really overwhelmed, concerning the photography. On the other side it was very relaxing.

 Packing tests...

Packing tests...

So i need more preparation for iceland. So: "Testpacking" Amazing how much stuff comes together when you don´t want to forget something, when you want to be prepared for every situation. On the picture above there are almost no clothes at all, just some jackets. Seems that the rest has to go into a additional suitcase. 

There are only some equipment parts missing. The hardest task was the search for a fitting pair of waiders. This was a big discussion for the last few weeks in the group. All that will be organized next week, and then   I´m ready to go.

4.3.2016

 Torsten at london heathrow

Torsten at london heathrow

So today we start our adventure and i am using the break between flights in London Heathrow for a first update. We will see how the internet-connection will be in iceland then...

The security-checks were funny as usual. It´s always jocular to see the helpless faces of the security staff when they realize that 7 photographers with an endless amount of equipment want to come through the checks. I had to get out of my X-Large HANWAG trekking boots and had a lot of fun with the security lady who "Never before" had seen shoes in shoes. (The HANWAG has an inside shoe...) Then i had to go through the bodyscanner for my first time and now i found a free WIFI too. 

The morale of the crew is funny to euphoric and it promises to be a unforgettable adventure.

Torsten, our weatherman annoys us with hourly weather updates and Nick checkt the aurora-forecasts for the first time. KP4 is predicted for the night from friday to saturday. So at the moment it does not look for a lot of sleep the next time, also because i am awake since about midnight. 

Lets see how it turns out :-)

04.03. Part II

We arrived in Kevlavik airport, all bags are here, good. One of the biggest fears you can have on such a trip.... Taken the rental cars and impressed by their size. But it turned out that i has been a good idea to change one of the Land Cruisers to a Hilux Pickup with the big loading area. The luggage simply wouldn´t have fitted in two Land Cruisers. Then even plundered the supermarket and get going towards the house. From the airport, past Reykjavik heading Vik. On our way to vik we tryed to get the first locations on the fly. 

Through very interesting landscapes we came past Kleivarvatn, a lake, unfortunately totally covered with snow, but with this very special light that seems to be standard in the north. The we made a short break at the nightly illuminated Seljalandsfoss. After that we finally arrived at our house, that turned out as a real jewelcase. Perfectly pre-heated, very huge and an endless amount of rooms. Until all battery-chargers were  plugged in and everything was putten in place it was allready sleeping time. Thats why this entry is late for one day.


05.03.2016

Our first day on iceland began early, very early. Breakfast at 05:00 was the order. Then fast-packing and off we went. Sunrise at the lighthouse from Dyrholaey was the plan and the icelandic wheather showed its best side. The famous rock-bow was really impressing and the light-mood a dream. The rocktowers of Reynisdrangar in the background were rounding up the whole scenery. 

 Dyrholeay. This picture is a manually processed HDR out of 3 images. It was made in a "processing-lesson" with the photoshop-genius nicholas roemmelt. 

Dyrholeay. This picture is a manually processed HDR out of 3 images. It was made in a "processing-lesson" with the photoshop-genius nicholas roemmelt. 

After the sun came up, we drove to the famous "Black Sand Beach" Reynisfjara. There was lots of time so i took some great images of the breakers at the well known basalt-formations in the sea. Then we had a nice lunch-break at a very nice restaurant near the beach, when lots of busses filled with asians came in. There even was a bride, we should meet later again at the planewreck. 

 Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

  Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

  Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

  Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

Reynisfjara, the black sand beach

After our well-deserved lunchbreak we were going to search for the planewreck. The weather began to get worse, the forecasts told us about a bad weather period. So we made some fotos and footage with the actioncams from, and on the way to the plainwreck. 

 The famous plane-wreck of iceland

The famous plane-wreck of iceland

  Christian Schipflinger photographing the famous plane-wreck of iceland

Christian Schipflinger photographing the famous plane-wreck of iceland

Next objective: Skogafoss. One, if not THE most famous and impressing waterfalls in iceland. Unfortunately we were not the only ones who knew that... There were busses and busses of tourists (Tourists are people who go travelling  but make NO photos) at the parking lot of the waterfall. So much people that we decided to skip this location and search for another one.  Fjadrárgljúfur was the name of the canyon we were searching for. But after scouting we saw that this location would need a longer foot march. The light was not suitable for that anymore so we went to a last location for the day, an also well known waterfall called Stjórnarfoss. This one was unfortunately presenting himself as an icefall. Nonetheless i did some pictures there i like very much. 

 Stjórnarfoss

Stjórnarfoss

  Stjó  rnarfoss

Stjórnarfoss

  Stjó  rnarfoss

Stjórnarfoss

Then we went home. An unbelievable amount of spaghetti with tomato-sauce and some bothering with my macbook later, fatigue caught me. So it suited me quite well that the weather for the night and the next day was not predicted well. Sleeping off was the motto! 


 06.03

After a relaxing night we got up as we woke up and had breakfast. Looking out of the window let us know that it was snowing really much. The plan was to go to Vik and have a look around so we packed and went to our cars that were parked up the small hill. But we didn´t come far.. after some meters chris was stuck in the snow with his Land Cruiser, even though we had spikes and extra high cars with 4WD.

 Stuck in the snow...

Stuck in the snow...

It took us some time to get the car out of the snow, but there was no way to go anywhere by car at the moment. We asked at the nearby houses if and when there will be a snow removal and they told us "Monday, Wednesday, and Friday", it was sunday...

Quite frustrated with the fact that we were stuck we decided to go back to the house and wait for the snowfall to stop. There were pictures to process, and we did some pre-cooking. At about noon the snowfall had almost stopped and we went for a scoutingtour to check out the surroundings. It became a small mountain-hike and i made lots of moody pictures on the top of the hill with a small winterstorm. AND, there were some locations for an aurora-night. Just in case...

It was a little windy up on the hill, so i decided to get some footage of that too :-)

We photographed a very nice sunset on the small hill, before we went back to our house for Tinas great "Chili con Tofu", a poem to the tongue. 

 Sunset near our house

Sunset near our house

Nick and Torsten were checking the aurora-forecasts and from one moment to the other there was hustle and bustle in the house. The forecast predicted KP 5-7! Nick went to the door to have a look and at this moment i first realized that i was allready getting dark. I heard a call from the door: "GREEEEEEEN!!!" So i ran to the window and saw the first tender signs of the coloured lines i love so much in the last light of the day.

Northern Lights!

I had to be fast now. Which i am normally just NOT. Always when we are on phototour i am the last one, the red lantern you can say... But not today. Never before i packed this fast and was out of the door with the cam ready to rumble. I ran up the small hill to our cars and saw Nick freaking out with his matchless woohoo-shouts, though it wasn´t even really dark. He first thought i was chris and didn´t count with me being so fast too. Funny situation.

 One of the first pictures i took, right out of the house. You can see Caro and Gerhard setting up their cams too. 

One of the first pictures i took, right out of the house. You can see Caro and Gerhard setting up their cams too. 

The fact that we saw the aurora so good, allthough it wasn´t really dark allready, let us believe that this is going to be a really strong one. And we should be right. As we found out the next day it was a KP7/G3 rating. A major storm!

One after the other from our group came up an went to the spot with the earth-pyramide, we scouted during the day. I set up a timelapse with my backupcam about 300m away from our spot and went there too. Later that evening another timelapse was made at the spot where the others were. 

I made an uncountable amount of pictures there. Lots of them i did not yet process, and its almost 4 months now from my iceland trip.

The Aurora was dancing on the sky in red and green, there were almost no clouds, and the lights were so unbelievable strong, that the whole surroundings were reflecting the green colour. And it was bright, brighter then a fullmoon-night. The exposure-times we needed were so slow, nobody counted with something like that. I did lots of shots, panoramas, portraits, selfies, movie-clips, and so on. After hours of shooting, the aurora became less defined. It was turning more into a greenish mash, with less structure. So we ended the session and made us on our way home. With some more pictures and motives along the way i went to bed really happy. What a night, what an aurora borealis.


  07.03.

I woke up happy. The memorys of the northern lights yesterday were so strong. I had breakfast and a second look at the pictures on my harddisk. They were really impressing. Someone was looking out of the window and checking if the snowplug has been there allready, and we were lucky. The street was free. So we drove to the beach next to Vik, on the other side of reynisfjara. The weather was iceland-style. Changing all 5 minutes. We had snow, rain, storm, mist, clouds... I did some long exposures on this beach that i like very well. It was funny when i was processing them, ´cause they look like Black&White pictures, but they are not. The scenery just had no colours at all.

When the weather began to get really bad now, we decided to have another rest in the nice cafe at the reynisfjara beach. Some of the group had another go on the beach, the others were waiting in the cafe. 

As we saw that the weather conditions did not look to get better we drove home for packing and cleaning the house. The next day we were going to leave.   


08.03.

Leaving our house

After a pleasant night we got our stuff up to the cars and off we went. The drive to hali and the hali guesthouse was scheduled and my personal tour highlights stood on the plan. 

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the "diamond beach" opposite of it, where these big iceblocks were lying on the beach.

On our way to hali we made a detour to svartifoss. A small rain hike was scheduled. After all groupmembers were persuaded, we were ready to go. Fortunately half way up it stopped raining. It started to snow :-)   After i was playing the red lantern, as usual, i recogniced some ptarmigans. One of them landet about 20m away from me and didn´t seem so shy. And it promised some good shots. So i attached the 70-200 and the 2X converter on my SONY and took some testshots. As the SONY isn´t really a wildlife-cam i was quite sceptic if it would work well, but since there were no fast movements of the bird it turned out ok. The ptarmigan seemed to be the coolest on iceland ´cause it didn´t move at all. Also not as i moved closer. I came about 8m near before i decided to leave it alone. I had lots of pictures and anyway. As it saw me move away, it also turned around and went away. As if it had posed for me.  

At the waterfall, another point on my list because of the fascinating basalt columns, i did my program as planned. Close-ups, longexposures, moody pictures. Here, for the first time, i was able to test the filterholder for my 11-24mm from canon, that was kindly sponsored by Logodeckel.de. Unfortunately the snowfall was very strong, but on the other side the pictures show the often discussed "iceland-weather" At the end of the photosession the snowfall began to ease up a bit and there was some very nice light at the end. Back at the car we had a small "picnic" out of our "supply crates", before we drove on, heading to my dream-destination.  

On our way to the glacier lagoon, we had the huge vatnajökulsþjóðgarður on our left side. From time to time we stopped to take some pictures of this impressive glacier. 

In the glacier lagoon there swim small, medium and also huge floes of ice in front of this breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately the sunset was hidden behind clouds, but the nonetheless the mood was very nice. In the background the Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður calves into the Jökulsálón glacier lagoon. The tide, incidentally one of the strongest in the world, pushes from the sea through a small "river" into the lagoon. When going back it takes the ice out to the sea and washes it ashore, where it lays around like diamonds on the sandy beach. 

For me, as a animal-lover the birds were a thankful subjects, but i was hoping for seals too, because i heard that maybe, when i´m lucky there will be some.  And i was!  Now my, how i call it, "wildlifecombi" was the weapon of choice. So i took out my Canon EOS 7D Mark II and attached the Tamron 150-600mm to it. About 800 pictures later i was sure to have some great seal-pictures on my card. As it became darker we left the site for the Skyrhúsid, our quarter for the night.

We had a great dinner in the museum restaurant we checked the aurora-forecasts and the weather for the night. It was predicted to get clearer and the aurora could become KP3-4. So the plan was to get up at about 02:00. That was only time to have a shower and a short nap of about 1 hour, because it allready was late and we had to remanage our backpacks, make them dry, load all the batterys and, of course, sift through our results of the afternoon. 

After getting up and reassuring that the weather is ok, we started to the Jökulsárlón once again. It would give us a great foreground for the northern lights, which were not so strong today, but perfect to put in scene the glacier lagoon.


09.03. 

 360° panoramic shot of the jökulsárlón glacier lagoon with the aurorabow and the milkybow at once

360° panoramic shot of the jökulsárlón glacier lagoon with the aurorabow and the milkybow at once

A wonderful green bow was standing high over the lake and the water was reflecting the green colours in between the ice-flows. And as a bonus on the other side the milky-way was standing there for some additional colour. 

As the morning twilight began, we changed the location for diamond beach on the other side of the road. Number two on my list of top-locations on iceland.

The iceblocks that were washed ashore by the seawater were totally fascinating. The surf was incomprehensible strong, i had never seen something like this before. We reverently stood there for a long time just watching the cross flowes. Waves from the left, the right one after the other and sometimes at the same time. And in the background the first light getting brighter. In the beginning we were alone but later more and more photographers were coming to the shore and had a lot of fun doing the "beachrun with camera"

Even the known photographer Ken Kaminesky was on location, we allready met him the day before on the glacier lagoon.

The best shot gets the one who stands in the water the longest time. So the whole thing endet with wet feet for Chris and Gerhard. Nick and i were able to convince ourselves from the waterproof abilitys of our shoes, the HANWAG Fjäll Extreme GTX. Not only once i stood in the waves to the knees. But the pictures are sensational.

One of the first waves was surprising all of us and Christina stumbled over a small iceblock when running away, whereupon she became totally drowned. She was able to save her SONY A7S but the 15mm Wideangle-lens literally had "sand in the gears". A real DejaVu for me, i drowned my 5DII with the 16-35L last year in Norway...

Right now our biggest problem was that we had to reach our Icecave-tour that we had booked. So we had to get our stuff and set off. 

We took pictures as long as we could, from the meanwhile upcoming sun and then started our Icecave-tour without any break or even breakfast. So i jumped into my waders, because i dind´t know what was expecting me, and because they were dry. After the beachtour the ski-trousers were a little wet, naturally...

The icecave-tour was nick´s #1 location, he was expecting a lot there. Unfortunately due to the very strong snowfall, the glacier had lots of new snow too. That´s why our initially planned private tour was cancelled. The choice we had was either to just not go there, or to make the tourist-tour, what we decided to do.

 The "icecave parking lot"

The "icecave parking lot"

That was a fault... First of all the cave was MUCH smaller then i thought, and there was an endless amount of tourists on the location. It was totally filled up with people and you could hardly take a photo. There were SOME good shots because Nick and Christina were acting so professional, that the crowd thought its a big shooting and, because of that, went to the background to make the scenery free. That gave to some of us the opportunity to get some great pictures with tina as the perfect model. 

It was not my personal tourhighlight, but it would have been very nice without that much people. The drive in the huge Ford troop-transporters was a lot of fun though. 

Back in our cars, we finally went for something to eat. The we prepared ourselfes for the long drive to our last destination: Höfn. Short before we started i told everybody: I WILL BREAK FOR REINDEERS! And so we started.

After arriving in Höfn Nick and Chris wanted to scout the location for the night first, before we had to split for the two appartements. Not much later we made "sunset at vestrahorn" Unfortunately without sun but very interesting light-moods. Mist and moving clouds gave the whole scenery a lot of drama. 

After sunset we met in the larger one of the two appartements to cook some pasta. and have dinner together. Then we went to our appartement. We were so tired because of the last days that our eyes almost fell close when sitting on the table. My time definitely had come when i wanted to show some pictures to christina and fell asleep with the finger on the cursorkey of my notebook...


10.03.

Our last full day on iceland began gorgeous. Sleeping off was the announced. I slept until almost 9:00 what is totally unusual for me, but the strain of the last days demanded their tributes....

The weather was on our side once again, i was raining cats and dogs. So we decided to get it on slow and had a nice and calm breakfast, while planning the afternoon and evening. The forecasts predicted weather improvement for the evening. At the moment it was iceland-weather. That means precipitaion from the side in form of snow, rain and graupel, with and without sand in it. So mainly the weather we all were initially counting with. Somehow it was kind of cosy :-) 

As the weather began to improve a little we planned a short drive to scout the fauna in the surroundings. On our way to the Vestrahorn i saw some iceland-horses and reindeers next to the beach, that i wanted to take some pictures of. We indeed were lucky with the reindeers which are living "wild" here. Some of them stood right next to the bay near the street and gave a perfect subject with a great background. The reindeers were quite jumpy and wanted to run away across the street, but there stood another car so they had to turn around and run right on the terrain edge to the water what gave me the opportunity of some fantastic shots of them.   

The light became better and better and so we let the horses be horses and drove straight to vestrahorn again. When we tried to leave our cars we recognized a really strong storm. We almost weren´t able to stay on the embankment that built the street. We did some great actioncam footage there. But we were here for pictures. The whole thing turned out as an real hardness test for man and machine. It was a real sandstorm now. 

I did some long exposures with the mirroring vestrahorn that were able in the very long and wet beach. Once again our Hanwags made some pictures possible that we had to stay in the water for. 

As it began to dawn and the last usable light was gone we went for dinner. Stefan Forster, iceland specialist and a absolut awsome photographer, commended a restaurant in Höfn, where we then went to. The tipp was great, there was almost no free table. In the meantime the aurora forecasts were checked and it was kp3-4 predicted. That made us look out of the window every 5 minutes. Chris said that he had seen some green lights, but as i turned around it was snowing from the side. The weather was really icelandic right now.

There is an icelandic saying:

"If you don´t like the weather in iceland, wait 5 minutes" 

I can only confirm that, the conditions were changing every minute at the moment. The weather became better and so we started another try at Vestrahorn. This time with the focus on northern lights. 

And we were lucky again. Cloudgaps, stars, green sky! 

5 shot panorama of the vestrahorn und the aurora borealis

But this time it was really hard to get a shot. The storm was still blowing, we didn´t see more than 5 meters with our headlamps and we had parked far to much in the front, because of the bad view. Nonetheless we made some really spectacular pictures. The vestrahorn with the aurora in the background is a great subject anyway.

As the sky began to close completely, after a short discussion, we drove home. The long drive back to Kevlavik airport was scheduled tomorrow. Quite exhausted i went to bed early, i didn´t have to do the laptopsleep again :-)


11.03.

After a short breakfast we more or less "threw" our stuff into the cars and made us on our way to Kevlavik. Naturally not without stopping on every occation for a quick and nice picture of the breathtaking landscape.

After a short souvenier-stop in Vik we had another lunch at "our" cafe at Reynisfjara beach. French fries for all stood on the menu. The last stop of our tour was at the unfortunately totally overran Seljalandsfoss. The famous waterfall where you can go completely around. We wanted to do some sunset shots there but nature seemed not to know that and covered the site in rainclouds. At least the spray cleaned our gear ;-)

Because of the many people it wasn´t easy to take pictures and so we set our sails and drove to our airport-hotel. Naturally not without shopping a little for a last hotelroom-party, that we discussed in seconds, with immidiate accordance of all involved people. (Danger, irony)

Refuel the cars, check in, shower (FINALLYYYYYYY), packing, weight the suitcases, do the online check-in. After all of that we met in Caros room to eat the last food and empty the wine-bottles. 

And then to bed, the alarm clocks were set to 04:00 in the morning.


12.03.

"Fresh like a blooming flower" we met for breakfast 5 minutes later... At least i felt like it were only 5 minutes :-) 

There was a strong storm outside, we could hear it well here. Anyway... We had to give back the cars and the rest was business as usual. I´m sitting in the plane to munich right now and finish this iceland-diary while we slowly decend for landing.

For me this was a unbelievabel adventure with friends, that i never will forget.

Thanks to everyone who read this diary, i hope it was good fun and you like the pictures.

Untill next time...

Niki