Birds and Basalt

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Kittiwakes at Londranger No.2 — Iceland  © jj raia

Kittiwakes at Londranger No.2 — Iceland © jj raia

I don’t often take photos that include animals, but in the new found fondness for columnar basalt, the resulting rock of lava that’s cooled, birds could usually be found among the cliffs of these intriguing rock formations. During the cooling process of a thick lava flow, the molten rock contracts, and how rapidly it cools, is the determining factor for the size of the columns. Slow cooling is likely to produce the long, mostly hexagonal columns we might recognize in the field. But there were other types of basalt and rock throughout Iceland that were great photo subjects. It’s interesting how the rock seems to pick up some coloration depending on it being in shade or sunlit. On a clear blue sky day when the photo above was taken, areas in shade will take on that sky blue color while warmer tones come out when the rock is hit by sunlight. The photo below illustrates how, if both shade and sunlit areas are included in an image, there is a greater possibility that there will be more implied depth due to the color differences. Cool colors generally recede while warmer tones move forward in this two dimensional media, and helps invoke a three dimensionality to the image.

Kittiwake Pair at Londranger No.1 — Iceland

Kittiwake Pair at Londranger No.1 — Iceland

In the photo below, you can see the result of two separate lava flows. The columns in the center, along with the tops of other eroded columns along the river near Aldeyarfoss, are topped by a second more recent layer that was probably hotter and more fluid than the thicker layer underneath.

Basalt at Aldeyarfoss No.1 — Iceland  © jj raia

Basalt at Aldeyarfoss No.1 — Iceland © jj raia

Kalsharmasvik Light - Iceland  © jj raia

Kalsharmasvik Light – Iceland © jj raia

Some of the researched locations along the intended trip route were on the list of places to visit simply because columnar basalt was there, and at Kalsharmasvik, there was an added bonus of a lighthouse. It was hoped that there would be good late afternoon light there, which there was, but with clouds behind the lighthouse. Barely a single cloud was there to break up the sky and take on some color. However, I did find a singular column top with some green algae that lit up nicely in the steady sunshine just before it went completely into shade.

Basalt Detail — Kalsharmasvik, Iceland  © jj raia

Basalt Detail — Kalsharmasvik, Iceland © jj raia

One of the major stops on the southern coast was at Reynisdranger Beach, where there are hundreds of feet of basalt columns, caves and a few sharply tipped sea stacks. Searching along the cliffs for columns that seemed to connect with one another, took up several hours on a dreary day with scattered rain. From raw file to final image included quite a bit of artistic license, but did not include moving or replacing any of the columns. There were several separate groupings, singular rocks or patterns that were extracted from these huge cliffs (and the marauding tourists photographing one another), with the intent to create multiple images similar in tone and style to the one below. All have the almost Black & White look, but there is quite a bit of color which hopefully shows on your screen. Converting them to B+W lost quite a bit of warmth and subtlety, and so were kept as color images.

Basalt Study - Reynisdranger Beach

Basalt Study – Reynisdranger Beach

An obviously unforeseen photo shoot was going on when I first scouted the black sand Reynisdranger Beach, and since I had my son’s backup camera, I decided to just stand there and click away as things unfolded. I liked the scene, but from my perspective of knowing almost nothing about portrait posing, I didn’t care too much for how the photographer posed the two folks in the photos. He sometimes had the gentleman looking out toward the ocean revealing much of the whites of his eyes, which seemed unattractive. In this image, he seems uninterested, without any physical connection. It was almost like he was being embraced by his crusty, great-great aunt on his father’s side who he had never met. I’m sure there are great photos from that shoot, but I was there until the end, and the two never seemed to have a connection, even though my belief is that they were engagement photos. But who knows. It does illustrate how a unique landscape can make for a very compelling photograph no matter how it is approached. But the star of the shoot was that raspberry dress against the dark gray stone.

Reynisfjara Columnar Basalt  © jj raia

Reynisfjara Columnar Basalt © jj raia

There was actually another photo shoot going on a bit later, with video and stills. I ended up being part of it afterward when they wanted a group (very large group) photo and I was enlisted to take it. I felt a bit self-conscious to ask them to change their positions and the angle I shot from to take it so I was not shooting into the bright sky. But after a few tries, everyone was happy with the result since I was able to get them all jumping in the air at the same time. And all this happened without our understanding the other’s language.

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