Well, it's been a while since I've written a blog, partly due to being a busy year, and also a lack of any major photography excursions. Last week however, I got away on a family trip to Iceland. When I booked it, I'd made sure to time it at the peak of the 11 year solar cycle to stand the best chance of catching the Northern Lights, and also with a new moon, to be sure of dark skies.
In the days leading up to the holiday, the forecast did not look promising, with overcast / rain / gales forecast every day and a very quiet sun.
With expectations lowered, we arrived to torrential rain and cold. Picking up our 4x4's from Keflavik we headed out to our log cabin near Selfoss, around an hour inland from Reykjavic.
That evening, the skies cleared and we were treated to fantastic views of the milky way. The following morning we were treated to a spectacular sunrise, which lasted for well over an hour. Because of the northerly latitude, there is only around 4-5 hours of daylight, so it is almost constantly in a state of sunrise/sunset making for some spectacular lighting and hues.
The first day we went to visit Geysir, which was around an hour excursion. It had snowed overnight which had then melted and made the roads quite treacherous, even with studded ice tyres and 4x4. It was well worth the trip out, and seeing Strokkur geyser erupt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strokkur as well as all the boiling springs and vivid blue volcanic pools.
The second day, we planned a visit out to a crashed Dakota which has sat on a black sand beach for over 40 years. It's something I've wanted to see for a long time, and a quick google found the co-ordinates: http://www.amazingplacesonearth.com/airplane-wreckage-iceland/
I'd read that there was around an hour trek including wading through a river to get to it. Luckily with the wonders of modern technology I found a private 'road' which let us drive off-road for a couple of miles across the beach. When the GPS showed we were close, we ditched the cars and walked on foot over the sand dune and were greeted by the shiny fuselage of the C47 standing out like a beacon in the miles of black volcanic sand.
The weather was very volatile with gale force winds and hail showers which made the photography a challenge, but we stuck around for about an hour before heading back to the cars to thaw out and dry off. We then continued on the seaside town of Vik to try and find the giant's causeway-esque basalt columns nearby. We didn't find them, but took some photos of the surf (the black sand and white surf looked like an Oreo biscuit).
That evening, the skies cleared up again. Looking out North, I noticed above the hills had a faint silver light, as though the moon was behind a cloud - I grabbed my camera and tripod and grabbed a quick 20 sec / ISO 3200 / F2.8 exposure, and to my delight, the sky was bright green. We then spent the next few hours taking pictures as the aurora borealis intensified. At one stage it changed from green to turquise, and grew big 'fingers' which stretched overhead from horizon to horizon in a big arc, and then changed back to green. Eventually it subsided and clouded over, which concluded one of the best photography days ever. It turned out that the light show this evening was a result of 'moderate' solar activity (KP4) due to the affects of the solar wind following the traversal of a sunspot facing the earth.
The following day we visited Kerið (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerið) which is a road-side volcano crater, you pay about 4 quid to enter, but you can walk down and round the base which is awe inspiring. We then went on to Þingvellir national park (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Þingvellir) to walk on the fault line between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates - this was awesome, with some fantastic rock structures. It was late in the day and very cold at this point so we had a look around and got a few shots before heading back.
On our itinery the following day was a visit to Skógafoss Waterfall (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skógafoss) en route to try and find the Basalt columns. We failed to find the columns again, but explored the area near Dyrhólaey Lighthouse and were treated to a spectacular sunset. On the return, after driving past eyjafjallajökull, we stopped at Solheimajokull glacier which was stunning, and like walking on another planet. we walked right to to foot of the glacier and took a few shots before heading back home.
On our penultimate day, we headed up to Gulfoss waterfall (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gullfoss) and took a few shots in between blizzards, and called in for another quick walk around Geysir on the way back.
The final day we'd planned to go whale watching from Reykjavic - unfortunately the trip was cancelled due to high seas, so we had a look round Reykjavic, and went up Hallgrímskirkja church tower, which is the tallest landmark and has a viewing platform at the stop to take a few final shots before heading back to the UK the following day.
Our log cabin was fantastic and the owner very friendly - http://www.flipkey.com/selfoss-cabin-rentals/p428516/
We hired our Honda CRVs from SAD cars - they were older cars, and hence cheaper to hire but the company were very laid back and helpful, and was definitely worth going for 4x4s at this time of year - http://sadcars.com/
See my pictures here http://www.robinrowe.co.uk/p698482112
Thanks for reading!