Saturday, 6 February 2016

Iceland 2.28: Hali and Jökulsárlón at Midnight

Our bed for the night was at the Hali Country Hotel, and it is probably the best place we've stayed in the whole of Iceland.  It is situated about 10km east of Jökulsárlón, and incorporates a farmstead where one of the country's most revered authors - Þórbergur Þórðarson - lived.  There is a modern building which is part restaurant and part museum, and its exterior has been imaginatively created to look like a very large shelf of books.

I'd hoped for a decent sunset over Jökulsárlón, as the conditions in the afternoon had been flat light, overhead sun and a clear blue sky.  By the time we'd finished dinner the clouds had descended, unfortunately, but I decided that - being so close to the lagoon - I really had to take the opportunity to go there as the light faded.

Unlike during the day Jökulsárlón's car park was virtually empty, with only a handful of camper vans there.  The lagoon itself was eerily quiet: just me plus some arctic terns, a couple of seals and a flock of barnacle geese for company.  It's a beautiful place at any time of day, but it was absolutely magical to be there as the sun went down.  I can only imagine what it's like in winter with the aurora borealis playing overhead.

There was a golden patch in the sky for a while, but not the spectacular sunset I had hoped for.  Things improved after the sun had dipped behind the mountains, however, as the lighting became much more even and I was able to take full advantage of the "blue hour".

I was fortunate to be at Jökulsárlón at the turn of the high tide, meaning that the river flow which takes the bergs out to sea was virtually non-existent.  Even so, with exposures in the 30 seconds to 2 minutes range, it was inevitable that there would be some movement visible.

One particular berg caught my eye when I was at the water's edge, so I moved onto higher ground in order to get a better look.  It was being used as a roost by dozens of arctic terns; and, more importantly, it was big enough not to move during the long exposure.  It was just after midnight when I took these shots, but there was still enough light in the sky to see what I was doing.  Just.

By 1am I was getting cold and tired, but decided to go down onto the beach for half an hour before heading off to bed.  The light had dropped sufficiently that I needed a torch to find my way around, and the images of the beach bergs were taken in almost complete darkness.  At this point, cold but happy, I went back to the hotel, trying very hard not to wake Harriet up in the process.

True landscape photographers are clearly made of sterner stuff than me, but it was still a wonderful and peaceful experience which I shall remember for a very long time.