In May of 2010, the volcano in Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull erupted halting air travel for weeks, bringing Europe to a virtual stand still. Months afterwards, I stumbled across this wonderful video of the volcano that simply mesmerized me.
Having had a fascination with Iceland before, I never knew how stunning the landscape could be. So when I had started to plan my trip to the Olympics I noticed that one of the consistently affordable plane tickets was via Iceland Air. And taking advantage of their stop-over policy, I extended my layover in Iceland for nearly a week. Unlike London, and my other cities, with this last leg of my travel I had every day planned out and activities booked in advance.
Day 1 - Blue Lagoon & Reykjavik for some relaxation at the world renowned spa. And since the sun doesn't set until well after 10:30 PM, I was able to tour the city. Even though the Blue Lagoon is teeming with tourists, it lives up to the hype, especially the 120 minute body treatment/massage - highly recommended if you are going to splurge.
Later that evening, I ventured out to the city taking advantage the daylight hours (nearly 20+ hours of it daily). I toured Reykjavik this picture of the famous Hallgrimskirkja church was taken at 10 PM!
A glimpse of the my first day pictures are on this slideshow of the Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik.
Day 2 - Glacier Walk and Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon to live out one of my dreams which is to walk and touch a glacier. It was so fun to strap on those crampons and don an ice pick! We didn't go very far (likely because me another photographer was slowing the group down). The guide did mention how the glacier was rapidly receding. He avoided the topic of the causes, but no matter where you may stand on the issue, the fact is the ice is melting and landscape changing daily for them.
But where I was hoping to be able to get up close & personal to the glaciers was at the lagoon. I was hoping to see something spectacular. We were told that most glaciers in the lagoon will completely melt within a month. It was uncommon that the lagoon was as full as we had seen it that day we visited. Usually there are smaller pieces floating, due to the winds it had blown the big pieces towards the middle of the lagoon. We were even lucky to witness a piece of one the glaciers breaking off (image 49 & 50 in the slideshow)!
Day 3 - Snaefellsness Photo Tour - ever since my trip to Mt. Rainier in Washington state, I have had a greater respect for landscape and nature photographers. And knowing that I wanted to do the images of Iceland justice, I figured the best way to do it is to take a photography tour. These were especially appealing because I would have a guide and instructor for virtually a full day to take me around the photo spots for a region. My first tour was to Snaefellsnes, which apparently is famous for being the mountain in Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Even though most of the day was overcast, the last shots of the day are usually the best ones, we were able to get a great reflection of Kirkjufell.
Snaefellsnes was shrouded with clouds that day, thus slideshow echoes a more somber side of Iceland's western coast through its little boating town, abandoned house and lonely lighthouse. Due to the volcanic origins of the island, one of my impressions of the landscape is that it resembled crinkled peanut brittle on a cookie sheet. The slideshow below are a few of the shots from that tour.
Day 4 - South Coast Photo Tour - I love it when God saves the best for last. And I wasn't disappointed this day, my guide Kiddi along with another photographer toured the South Coast. The best thing about a tour is the flexibility of the guide to take us where he thought was best for the day. And we were treated to locations with spectacular views.
What was especially stunning is overlook of the town of Vik and sea stacks of Reynisdrangar.
I hope that Iceland will remain as raw and natural without commericalization overtaking its pure beauty. And one of my top highlights was a surprise from Kiddi to take me to the location of the downed airplane that you saw in the video above. I had thought the plane was somewhere in the middle of the country. He took us off-roading through wheat fields, and even through a creek to emerge on the black volcanic sands where this abandoned US Navy plane lies.
To a photographer, lighting is everything. One of the last spots he took us was Seljalandsfoss. You can see the difference the time of day matters in these pics. This first one is from the morning.