Author Topic: Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l  (Read 55202 times)

Offline Dan

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Oh wow sounds great maybe we'll get a trip report right away bc Dan will want it up on the sight (wishful thinking)
ROFL
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline Work-for-ur-muny

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Offline IsraelGuy

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Yes. And Dan, and Mr. Anonymous.

When are you all headed over?

Offline Work-for-ur-muny

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When are you all headed over?
Search through this board you'll probably dish up something somewhere.

Offline IsraelGuy

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Search through this board you'll probably dish up something somewhere.

Thanks for the chase  :D

Found the upcoming trip but no mention that I saw of when...

Offline Dawie

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Offline Work-for-ur-muny

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I love how an Iceland trip thread just took flight to Norway...

Offline IsraelGuy

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http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=44320.msg1412069#msg1412069

I'll stop hijacking-but still just seeing vague quotes. Closest thing I found was this:

In a couple of weeks.

Very much looking forward to reading about this-wish I could join

Offline bluesky

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I love how an Iceland trip thread just took flight to Norway...
Are we going to Abisko next in Sweden? The SAS $47 fare before Purim works for the Northern Lights.

Offline Dawie

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Thank you all ;D!

Just wanted to say that the next segment will not take as long to post as the last one :D... We're also aiming to have finished the entire TR by the end of February.
Nakdimon Ben Gurion in the Gemara in taanis proved that one has until the end of the day to make good on a promise... just sayin

Offline Something Fishy

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[Something Fishy] After what felt like 10 seconds, the alarms began going off. It was 6:00 AM, and we had been asleep for less than two hours. Time to shoot the sunrise!

A quick peek out the window later and we knew that there ain't being no sunrise today. The sky was opaque with thick and low clouds; no way something like this could clear in time. Instead of getting upset, we made the best of it: we hit snooze and turned over to the other side.

An hour later, we were up again: it was beginning to get light outside. The clouds were as thick as ever, but the deep blue light fit the icy location perfectly. I shimmied out of my perch, we pulled on around 16 layers of clothing, slipped crampons on our boots, and headed out into the frozen world.

The scene was stunning. Ice, ice, and more ice, as far as the eye could see. Ice coating the ground, icebergs floating in the lagoon, and glaciers coming off the mountains all around us. Last night this was all but invisible to us; now it took our breath away.

Jokulsarlon is one of the most famous places in Iceland, and for good reason. Located in Vatnajökull National Park, the immense Breiđamerkurjökull glacier feeds into an ever-growing lagoon, the deepest lake in Iceland (814'). Chunks of ice as big as a house calve off the glacier's face and tumble into the lake, where the water carves them into beautiful shapes. Slowly, these bergs make their way through a channel and into the open ocean, where they are further churned up, broken apart, and spit onto a perfectly perfect black-sand beach.

It was to the lagoon that we headed first. A quick walk from the parking lot led us to the edge of a cliff, with and endless variation of color and shapes to photograph. I don't think I've ever seen so many shades of blue.

A general overview of the glacier and lagoon, in the blue twilight:


Photo by Chaim’l:



Photo by whYME:



[Something Fishy] Chaim'l & whYME....



Spot the dragon:







Spot the dolphin:



Photo by Chaim’l:



Photo by whYME:



Photo by Something Fishy:



Slowly it got more light, but the cloud cover remained:



Spot the beluga whale:



After a while, we hiked down the cliff to the edge of the water:





Photos by whYME:







Photo by Something Fishy:



It was during this shoot that we experienced our first major equipment failure: my tripod head seized up from the cold and simply refused to budge in any direction. Not a problem: within five minutes I had run back to the van, removed the busted head, and replaced it with one of two spares we had brought along. As mentioned in the beginning of this TR, we had backup for all critical equipment. Boy was I glad of that fact now.

[Chaim'l] When we started shooting, the place was more or less deserted, save for another photographer or two. When I was done shooting, I turned around and saw the place littered with photographers and the ubiquitous Asian tourists. Of course — given the proximity of our sleeping accommodations — we had front-row seats to the view.

The scene behind us:




Myself:



Something Fishy shooting the scene...



[Something Fishy] After a bit more than an hour's shooting, we decided to head over to the beach and photograph the washed-up icebergs.

The scene that greeted us was straight out of an alien world in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hundreds, if not thousands, of stunningly-blue icebergs lay on the pitch-black sand, glistening sapphires as large as boulders. The dark clouds and roiling sea created a perfectly dramatic background.






Photo by Chaim’l:



[whYME] While Something Fishy and Chaim'l headed straight out to the icebergs closer to the edge of the water, I hung back a bit and took some shots of the little bits strewn about farther up the beach:



Foot:



A goat with a backwards baseball cap?



Chaim'l:



Something Fishy:



[Something Fishy] Every minute or so a wave would reach far enough up the beach and create lovely patterns around the ice. I call this one "Broken Heart":







And if you weren't careful and holding on tight to your tripod...:



Photos by whYME:





Photo by Chaim’l:



Photo by Chaim’l:



Wide view of the beach. Can you spot Something Fishy?



[whYME] A particularly powerful wave smashing into a iceberg:



That same wave as it reached the ice I was shooting:



The thing with waves is, that the more powerful they are the farther up the beach they reach and the deeper the water will be. When I realized that this particular wave was gonna be quite a bit higher than the before it did I quickly get out of the way? Heck no! I stood my ground, hoping to get a great shot out of it. By the time the wave reached about half way up my boots I realized I was in trouble. Remember back in the "Clothing" part where I mentioned that unbeknownst to me my boots were not waterproof? Well with a wave reaching about 3/4 up my boots I sure found out the hard way.

With my feet completely soaked I headed back to the van to change shoes. Luckily I had decided to bring a pair of hiking boots as a backup. Being stuck with only my Crocs would not have been fun.


([Something Fishy] Let me interrupt for the record here: whYME - obviously! - did not learn his lesson... This is him a year later, in Svalbard, during the winter, a couple of hundred miles from the North Pole:



:P)

[whYME] With my feet dry and warm again I tried to get whatever shots I still could without heading back down to the water, such as this one of Something Fishy:



[Something Fishy] Poor whYME shooting from the top of the beach:





We drank our fill of this incredible scene and headed back to the van. At the last moment, we decided to have a quick look at the opposite side of the lagoon which we had shot earlier. This side provided a better overall view of the place:





A bunch of seals and seagulls were relaxing on a long, thin iceberg:



Luckily for this eider duck, there were no eider duck hunters around; unluckily for us, this meant we will be continuing to Snćfellsnes without the ever-trusty Hans:



Here, too, the water had carved the icebergs into all manner of splendid shapes:







Photos by whYME:





We now had a big decision to make: where do we go next? Both Vesturhorn and the Lćkjavik Coast were high on our to-do list, but these were 1:10 and 1:30 driving time to the east. On the other hand, Kirkjufell, a higher-priority location, was six and a half hours due west. After some discussion, we decided to skip Vesturhorn and Lćkjavik. For starters, with the weather this dreary the photography at these locations will not be very good; both spots need strong, nice light to look their best. Additionally, heading west would give us the opportunity to make the drive slowly and stop along the way, as opposed to making an 8-hour beeline from Lćkjavik to Kirkjufell.

So we headed west. Only ten minutes later we came to our next location: Fjallsárlón. This glacier and lagoon are Jukulsarlon's little sibling; they look nearly identical. Fjallsárlón however is missing a beach; to make up for it, the glacier's face is pretty close to the near edge of the lagoon.

The spur road approaching Fjallsárlón:






Photographically, Fjallsárlón was incredibly challenging. You'll notice in the above pictures that it's impossible to see where the mountains and glaciers end and the sky begins. I remember commenting to the guys that this is the first time in my life that the real-life scene looks like a badly-exposed picture - the sky and mountaintops were quite literally the same shade of pure white. No amount of fiddling with the camera or Photoshop was able to fix this; it was simply like that in real life.

The fact that the glacier's face is so close allows for some pretty cool abstract photography:




[whYME] I wish I had taken that picture.

This is another one if those things where I really need to learn my lesson: when we're at a shooting location and it seems there's no shot to be had, if Something Fishy is shooting something, shoot whatever he's shooting. Don't just stand around saying "nu, let's get out of here"

This is the best (least worst?) Shot I got:




[Something Fishy] Looking at this scene, I was struck with its similarity to Alaska, particularly the Chugach Range. They say that everything is bigger in Alaska; I could say with some confidence that Iceland is just more... epic than Alaska. Like Alaska on steroids. Where in Alaska you would have a glacier coming off a mountain, here you had ten. Click on the video below and watch it in full-screen mode, at 1080p - you'll see 360° of mountains and glaciers as far as the eye can see. It's simply an incredible sight:



(Note: the lower-quality pictures (muddy colors and less sharp) from here on are from a windshield-mounted GoPro.)

Leaving Fjallsárlón, our next project was getting gas (diesel, actually). The big chain in Iceland, N1, has stations every now and then along the Ring Road. Research prior to the trip had shown that we should buy a prepaid gas card when we can, as most stations don't take American credit cards and have no services - basically just a pump. Luckily, the first station we came across now was a larger one with a store attached. We bought the largest gas card available - 10,000 krona - hoping that this would last us at least till tomorrow.

Not four minutes into the fill-up, the pump stops due to lack of funds. I marched back into the store to get a replacement, as this card was obviously defective or something. The cashier takes it, checks it, and declares that it's not broken; we had simply used up the 10,000 krona already.

Say what :o?

But he was right - their largest card available didn't even have enough capacity for a single fill-up. Thankfully Chaim'l has European cards with chip-and-PIN so we were able to get gas in the end.




Back on the main road, we were struck by something which we had had not paid too much notice yesterday: there are pretty much no trees in Iceland. Sure, here and there you'll come across a stand of a couple of trees, but as a rule, there were no trees to be seen. You'd expect something like this in a desert; driving through a snowy and mountainous landscape with zero trees makes for a very weird experience.

A random turnout brought us to a singular sight: a lone, bare tree standing tall against a snowy mountain cliff:








Perplexed about the purpose of this turnout, we convinced ourselves that it must be a shrine to the last remaining tree in the country or something ;D. (The real answer was more boring, as we found out later. There were some old ruins there, from the time people first settled the island. Covered in snow, we had not seen the interpretative signs.)

Believe it or not, this is a color photograph:




Whereas some glaciers empty into lagoons, some drain into tremendously wide riverbeds, cutting ever-changing channels. This particular bridge spans such a riverbed, which is over a mile wide. The bridge is one lane wide, with periodic pullouts on the side to allow for passing traffic:





Coming off the other side of the bridge, the weather took a definite turn for the worse. First the wind picked up and started blowing snow across the road:



Then the snow started blowing everywhere:



And then it started to snow. First lightly, then heavier and heavier.

It was around this time when we arrived at the turnout for Fjađrárgljúfur Canyon, an item pretty high on our bucket list. It wasn't long after we started down the road that we realized that we may be in trouble. A narrow bridge spanned a deep gorge, the road rapidly disappearing beneath a couple inches of snow. Ahead was a steep hill, with no way to turn around:




We had to soldier on.



So on we soldiered.

And then we got stuck.


[whYME] Starting up the hill I commented that no matter what we cannot stop on the hill or we won't make it up.

So naturally as soon as I said that I managed to skip a gear and the van slowly came to a halt.


[Something Fishy] Luckily, we were still pointing up the hill, so we were able to use gravity to assist us. The u-turn was laborious, but in the end we made it. Had we been on flat ground, or would there have been another hill on the way back to the main road, we would have been in serious trouble. The spot was incredibly remote, and this was a serious storm brewing here.

But we made it back to the main road. Or at least that's what the GPS said. This is what the road looked like - an absolute white out:






Anyone remember whYME's Three Rules of Driving?







We drove through this for what felt like hours, but eventually the storm died down and revealed a fairy tale landscape:



Onward we pressed, still westbound.

Apparently the storm was somewhat localized, as we passed some areas that couldn't have gotten more than an inch or so:






A roadside pull-out not on our list caught our attention, and so we stopped for a bit to stretch our legs, relax from a somewhat harrowing couple of hours, and clear the van from snow.

I'm still kicking myself for forgetting to take this picture before we cleared the snow off the van... Oh well, next time:




All around us, poking out from beneath the fresh snow, were thousands of stone cairns. Turns out this was Laufskálavarđa, the site of a volcanic eruption in the year 894. So, for the last 1121 years, travelers have been erecting stone cairns here so that they will have good luck on their journeys (I'm not quite sure how piling some stones at an ancient volcano brings good luck, but I digress). Every year, the Icelandic roads department dumps a couple truckloads of gravel so people could continue this tradition.

Some of the cairns, atop a small hill:




whYME shooting the cairns, while Chaim'l tries to juggle his camera and selfie stick at the same time:



Side note: Selfie sticks are now banned from all PhotoDOs, with violators getting dunked in the nearest body of water (bonus points if the water in question is the Arctic Ocean - take note, Chaim'l).

An exception is made for truly epic selfie sticks, such as my own:



(FishyStickTM in action at the Cuba PhotoDO)

[Chaim'l] Interesting, the guy in the middle holding the selfie stick looks a lot like SF... Or was that a "FishyStickTM"?



[Something Fishy] AHEM! You gave me your stick since I had the best view!

Sooo... After hanging around for a bit and stretching our legs, we decided to take a group portrait. Out came the tripod and one of the spare cameras, and we had some fun:








The final result (looks familiar?):



[whYME] Right about now we had this brilliant idea to get some pictures of the van driving down the road. The plan was pretty straightforward. Something Fishy would wait there at the side of the road with a camera (and a head-mounted gopro), and we set up another camera across the road on a tripod with Something holding the remote.

Chaim'l and I would drive a bit up the road and turn around at the first opportunity and as we passed by SF would take the pictures.

Sounds like a simple enough plan, nothing to worry about, so off we headed, looking for a place to turn around.

1 kilometer in and still no turnouts. 2 kilometers in, still no turnouts. We figured there has to be something coming up any moment where we'd be able to turn around. On we went, waiting and watching, waiting and watching, all the while getting farther and farther from Something Fishy who by now must be wondering if we'll ever come back for him and if he should start trying to find shelter for the night.


[Something Fishy] So there I was, marooned all alone in a strange world, with only a pistol and a single shot three cameras to shoot and survive with. The scene was surreal, yet slightly creepy. White, white as far as the eye could see, from horizon to horizon, the ground and the sky. Not a sound to he heard, not a whisper in the air.

Just me.



After around 5 minutes, the creepiness level started slowly to rise. 10 minutes, 15 minutes... No sign of the guys. Did they run out of gas? Did they go off a cliff? Were they villainously cackling and rubbing their hands together, glad to finally be rid of me?


[whYME] Turning around safely on the road wasn't really an option. It was a narrow two-lane road and as seen on the pictures above, the sides of the road were completely covered with snow and we had no idea if there was solid ground underneath.

After about 10 minutes we finally found a place to turn around headed back, hoping Something Fishy would still be waiting for us. Another 10 minutes later and we finally got back. My original intention was to pass by at full speed so we'd get the full effect of the snow being kicked up etc, but I wasn't taking any chances with finding another place to stop, so I made sure I'd be going slow enough to make the turn.


[Something Fishy] Finally, after what seemed like hours, a cloud of snow appeared on the horizon. I'm saved!

As they got closer and closer, I saw that they were going far too slow to get the shot we wanted... Oh well, it'll be a hot day in Iceland when I tell them to give it another shot.




View from the GoPro:



View from the remote camera:



Finally safe and sound back in the van, we continued our long trek west. It was no longer snowing, but as the cliché goes, storm clouds were gathering on the horizon (premonition alert):



It was starting to get dark, and yet again it was clear that there isn't being a sunset worth shooting tonight. As it was getting late, we had to skip one of our top targets, the lovely Skogafoss. We caught a distant glimpse of the falls from the road, but didn't stop. We had no regrets; this is just how landscape photography goes. You need to flow with the weather.

We stopped to stretch our legs over a slightly interesting river in front of slightly interesting hills, below a slightly interesting sky:




...and thus concluded day two.

I made a compilation of the day's driving - make sure to watch it in full-screen and 1080p. You'll see the epic drives, sick weather, and, at the end, a sneak preview of our attempts at reaching Kirkjufell in a full-blown blizzard:




And with all the crazy weather we had today, it was nothing - nothing - compared to what the next 24 hours will bring.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2017, 10:51:13 PM by Something Fishy »
Check out all my Trip Reports here!

Offline yochiek93

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It's about time I was getting impatient thank you

Offline tageed-lee

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AMAZING!! Well worth the wait!! Love the different animals you guys found!

Offline @Yehuda

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Another great installment! Thanks for taking the time guys. Your pictures are amazing.

Offline Moshe123

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