Searching for Trees

Marching Trees — Geysir, Iceland  © jj raia

Marching Trees — Geysir, Iceland © jj raia

In Iceland’s past, there were few trees due to volcanic eruptions and removal for grazing sheep by the earliest settlers. Amazingly, by the 1950’s, only about 1 percent of the land had trees. But the National Forest Service, established in 1908, began a reforestation program that as recently as the 1990’s, saw the planting of 4 million trees each year. But still, generally speaking, there are no trees in Iceland. Vast areas are only volcanic rock and sand; no bushes, no trees, no grasses. The country has only one forest located in East Iceland called, a tongue-twisting Hallormsstadarskogur. It is obvious which trees were planted as they are all identical species and grow evenly spaced along roads and some other areas. But that isn’t to say that they aren’t worthy to be photographed. One group (above) were set along the road opposite Geysir and are silhouetted against the ever present storm clouds. I was able to use the additional reach of the new 70-300mm to narrow down the field of view, while another, thicker stand near the town of Vik is blurred showing the bright greens of spring. I had seen this stand a few times when I drove by and wanted to photograph them. So when there was a short break in the rain, I parked nearby and walked over, taking many frames until I felt the blur and placement of the trunks was what I wanted. I have just recently come to find out that this method of taking a photo while the camera is moving, or moving the camera a split second after the shutter is tripped, is called Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). Prior to finding out this new information, I just called it motion blur. But what do I know?

Spring — Vik, Iceland  © jj raia

Spring — Vik, Iceland © jj raia

The Dimmuborgir area on the east side of Lake Myvatn is a maze of wandering paths through the convoluted terrain of lava flows with twisted birch trees growing throughout the area. It was difficult to separate out a single tree or a small group to fit into a frame, but as I wandered around, I found a few that had some pleasingly soft light and beautiful new spring leaves.

Spring Birches — Dimmuborgir, Iceland  © jj raia

Spring Birches — Dimmuborgir, Iceland © jj raia

A surprising, small “oasis” of evergreens and other trees, was in an area east of Vik in the Eldhraun area. It is a vast terrain of lava flows that are almost totally covered in bright green mosses without any trees. So it was surprising to find this small pocket of trees along the Ring Road. The even light of the overcast was perfect to portray these bright trees against the darker evergreens and among the moss covered volcanic rock. Standing on a small ridge, looking down at this group allowed me to keep the blank, gray sky out of the frame which would have been a bright distraction. The dark path from the lower right into the center of the frame creates a subtle leading line.

Pocket Forest — Eldhraun, Iceland  © jj raia

Pocket Forest — Eldhraun, Iceland © jj raia

Eldhraun goes on for miles on either side of the highway, and you could probably spend quite a bit of time exploring the area. But trampling on this delicate area would damage the delicate mosses and other small plants that inhabit it. So I stayed along one gravel road looking for interesting subjects close by to photograph, and found this singular stone as a subject. I’m sure there are many, many other interesting rocks and formations out there, but it is better to let them continue to exist as they have for centuries without our intrusion and degradation. Since the area was mostly flat, it was difficult to find something at a lower level to eliminate the sky, but here, the ominous clouds were a nice addition to the scene and didn’t detract from the main subject as a brighter sky would have. And no matter how far in the distance I looked, I could not see a solitary tree.

Moss Covered Stones — Eldhraun, Iceland  © jj raia

Moss Covered Stones — Eldhraun, Iceland © jj raia


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