“Frozen” is a travelogue by one of our photosafari participants, Noni Abdullah, to Southern Iceland in late March 2015. Noni Abdullah has been a frequent participant of our photosafari trips around the world. She is an accomplished photographer. Her equipment of choice is a Nikon D810 and a variety of professional Nikon Lenses. She uses the Gitzo 1541T tripod in most of her photos shown here.
Here is what Noni has to say:-
With scars from frost-bitten fingers, I relive my enchanted 10-day adventure to the Land of Fire and Ice last month, as I slowly go through my weak attempt of capturing the magnificent views that Iceland offers. So much has been written about Iceland but there’s not enough superlative adjectives that I can use to describe the visions that hit you, the triangular mountains that suddenly shoot up from the flat vastness, and the peace and tranquility that you feel as you absorb the biting cold.
Iceland, is a Nordic island country between the North Atlantic and the Artic Ocean. Its population of 329,100 and an area of 103,000 sq. kms, makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Its capital and largest city Reykjavik is home to over two-thirds of the population (source: Wikipedia).
Our 10 day sojourn started with an Icelandic Air flight from Heathrow to Keflavik. My first sight of the Island was unexceptional, mostly brown land masses topped with some snow patches. Keflavik Airport was also non-descript. Coming out of the airport terminal, we were greeted by our guide, the man himself, Iurie Belegurschi, who in the next 9 days will show us his country’s nooks and corners. Iurie, an acclaimed professional photographer was most unselfish with his tips on getting the sweet spots, and the settings for the best effects. He’s cute too. Looks like a young John Lennon before Ono intruded. Look him up on his Facebook for his website going by the same name. Truly recommended without any hesitation, if you want a true Icelandic experience, without too much touristy stuff.
No complaints on food. Dinners were really good, considering we were on a “tour”. Their staples of lamb or artic char are really well done and could have come from any of our hotel restaurants. Be prepared for light lunches though, consisting of perhaps of a salad or soup and freshly baked – crusty on the outside and soft on the inside – rustic bread. Being Malaysian, I tahpau-ed a couple for the bus ride – just in case. But my apprehension was not justified, busrides are more often than not, intermittently paused for a cuppa or a pee break by the highway. Be prepared to pay more for water than beer though. Or just fill up your bottle from the tap, its already icy cold and fresh.
Accommodation was adequate, with comfortable beds and warm rooms. I believe they are all geo-thermal heated, which is both ecofriendly and economical.
The weather bordered on treacherously numbing to fresh frosty chill on good times without the wind and the rain. I believe the rain killed a fellow photographer’s Canon whilst the waves killed another D4S and its lens. Too late to cry.
Another proved that the heavy double-zippered water-proof bag worked to keep his gears dry but alas, not himself, as the waves pulled the sand under the victims, toppling them, cameras and all. Those overboots work wonders only if you remember Velcro them well, as many came back with dripping sodden socks. Gloves are a must and sometimes you even have to double up.
Foolishly I made the painful mistake of taking them off to get a better grip on on the camera’s buttons. On a side note, I wonder why eyeballs do not freeze as they are always open to the elements. The Microspikes are god-sent, making the walks on the ice and slippery slopes confidently easier.
The Northern Lights, my initial motive for the trip, came out early for us, usually around 10 or 11 pm, so we didn’t lose too much sleep. Fortuitously we had a good 5 nights of her dancing and streaking away. Icing on the cake was the best one showed up during my birthday night. The moon was out during our time there, and added too much light to the sky. I however liked it, as it added another element to the sky even if my colours of the Aurora Borealis were less distinctive. To the naked eye, the Aurora is anyhow not as apparent as how it is usually depicted.
Too bad the volcanic activity of Holuhraun which begain on 31st August 2014 was declared over on 28th February 2015 so we missed out on the Fire element. But the Ice part more than made up for it.
Iceland seem to have its fair share of waterfalls, some more voluminous and the Gullfoss being the most imposing of the lot, its sheer force of the water sprays upwards, brought by the freezing wind to adhere as ice on our lenses making it impossible to focus. In the middle of the afternoon, this was the coldest place I experienced, more so than the midnight trails. Their waterfalls all have a magical perpetual rainbow.
Animals were few and far between. Some horses and faraway reindeers and a few birds and puffins along the cliffs. And yes, we saw 2 black swans which we are told are extremely rare. Really?
The Geysir park felt a tad touristy but no doubt the bursts into the clear blue skies are still spectacular.
We didn’t have much time at Thingvellir National Park but saw the fissures of the tectonic plates of North American and Eurasia. I think. Would have missed it if not highlighted. Their cemeteries are serene and untouched, quite unlike our packed grounds.
I loved how, in the countryside, the houses with turfed roofs seem to half submerged into the hillsides. Like you can really save on walls.
My favourite is the Ice Beach, where blocks of ice, sizes from a tennis ball to artistic sculptures the size of a dining table, broken off from the glacier, land in abundance on the beach of black volcanic sand. This is where it was most deceptive as the waves seem relatively harmless as it innocently laps your feet, until a huge one suddenly strikes you chest high.
Cliffs were steep and strangely columnar, reminding me of the Q*bert, an old video game, if you’re old enough to know. Apparently these were formed from the cooling of the lava flow which causes a contraction and creates these hexagonal fractures perpendicular to the surface
The Glacial Lagoon was Nature showing you what it can do. Years on, the massive glacier moves but as weather warms, it retreats its borders and melts into the lagoon, making it bigger and deeper over the years. It now is surrounded by floating icebergs in the frozen lagoon. I swear I heard the crackling sounds of what was believed to be from the melting ice and the breaking off of the icebergs from the mothership. The blue tinge to the ice is hypnotic as I stare at its colossal expanse . Its hard to get back to the haze and the smog after this. Sigh.
Thank you Noni for this beautiful travelogue. For those who want to join us in our future photosafaris, please like us on our facebook page or register on our mailing list. You will be the first to be informed of our latest photosafari trips.
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