Iceland trip report

I was fortunate last week to go to Iceland - fortunate not only in that I had the opportunity to go, but also that I saw not one but two (well, three really) spectacular events!  The first was a very powerful display of the Northern Lights in the popular glacial lagoon location of Jökulsárlón, south-east Iceland.  The forecast at one stage this night was 9 out of 9 ('extreme')!  As the evening progressed, this dropped down to a 7 but it was still a very strong forecast and enough to send alerts to the UK that they would be visible there too (not that we cared!).  Most importantly, there were predicted breaks in the high cloud that would otherwise obscure this phenomenon.  At around 10pm, chasing a cloud break, we finally got our chance and saw streaking green curtains of light as we set our cameras up.  For the next two hours we were treated to an amazing display of green, pink and violet lights which scanned across the sky and lit up the icebergs and the water around us.  I took lots and lots of shots on my main camera and a couple of timelapse sequences on a secondary one - unfortunately the Lights have a habit of moving from where you initially point at!

 Like multicoloured lightning...

Like multicoloured lightning...

The next special event was the total solar eclipse of March 20th - and Jökulsárlón was again the location, although this time at the ice beach rather than the lagoon.  There were scores of tourists and photographers there to record the event - and naturally I couldn't help but point a 300 mm lens at it.  Having seen a (somewhat disappointing) eclipse many years ago in London, where the light levels hardly seemed to change, this one was quite different.  As 9:40 am approached, the light levels faded rapidly and the colour temperature took on a very strange purpley-white hue, nothing like a sunset or sunrise.  It wasn't quite dark enough for torches but not far off!  After a celebratory breakfast on the beach, we all began to disperse, leaving a few hardcore photographers to carry on, but it left a big impression on everyone who was there - a very special experience.

 Presume that's a sunspot!  Taken approx totality - 15 min, via 16 stops-worth of filtering

Presume that's a sunspot!  Taken approx totality - 15 min, via 16 stops-worth of filtering

The same day, the Northern Lights forecast was looking good again and we set off to a different glacial lake location which had been pre-scouted.  Nothing could prepare us for the display we saw that night, though, even with a prediction of 'only' a 5 out of 9!  After an hour or so of general green glows, the sky suddenly erupted into a series of vivid green streaks, so bright that all my careful camera settings were instantly blown out of the water.  It was so sudden and moved so quickly that it was hard to point the camera at anything, let along compose a shot!  It got stronger still, with all sorts of coloured curtains and lines stretching right overhead, moving so quickly and yet silently that it was almost... paranormal.  Everyone present was amazed and in awe of this wonderful display - I doubt I'll ever see another like it.  The photos, the ones that I managed to grab in half-panic, don't really do it justice but then if photos were enough, no-one would travel to see them, right? :)

 Earthlings desperately trying to capture the scene exploding above them!

Earthlings desperately trying to capture the scene exploding above them!

In amongst all that excitement, there were of course many more regular sights to see and photograph; if you can call the Icelandic landscape regular, that is.  My favourite was probably the black sand dune beach with grass growing from the volcanic mounds.  It makes for a sight that looks unreal, especially with a mountainous backdrop.  Here's a taster of the kind of landscapes I visited - for the full gallery you'll have a wait another week or so, though!