A Second Opportunity

Dawn on Diamond Beach - Iceland No-3

Dawn on Diamond Beach — Iceland No-3 © jj raia

Most people who know me, know that I am not a big fan of photo workshops. Not that they don’t provide a meaningful service for those who sign-up for them, but the rigidity of the schedules and constantly being with other people is in opposition to the things I look for when I travel to photograph the landscape. The group sometimes becomes a slave to the itinerary, moving from place to place without considerations for changing circumstances. I have witnessed this many times and one example along the Blue Ridge Parkway comes to mind which clearly illustrates the point.

Photographing a valley with great early morning side lighting, I was there for quite some time with no intension of leaving just yet. A workshop arrived, everyone piled out of the cars, spread out along the side of the road taking pictures, and before you knew it, the group leaders were telling everyone to pile back into the vehicles because they were going to another location where there is “better light”. Well, it happened I was just about finished there, and I didn’t know what light might be better than we were witnessing at the moment, but thought following them would lead to another location with great light. Well, they headed down on the north side of the range where it was in complete shade to take photos of a pretty lame waterfall. They gave up great lighting (bird in hand), probably so they could check off another box of places they went to. That’s just one instance. I hope I don’t get too much flack, but that’s the way I see these things.

Dawn at Jokusarlon — Iceland  © jj raia

Dawn at Jökulsárlón — Iceland © jj raia

Now that I’m off the soapbox, I can explain a bit more. With just a few more days in the trip, I was at Anastarpi, on the western most end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in western Iceland. At the time, I felt I had to make a decision as to how to spend those last few days on this trip since I had come to a point where my circular path around the island had been completed. I came up with an idea, a possibly crazy idea depending on how you look at it, to drive back to Jökulsárlón, the Glacier Lagoon. It was about 6-7 hours and 555 kilometers (345 miles) away, but I felt I could get there in time for a sunset, thanks to the long days this time of year. There were no clouds in the sky where I was, and prospects for photography were pretty dim there until sunset anyway.

So I hit the road and kept driving until I reached the lagoon and was there to witness the best sunset or sunrise of the entire trip. See the photo on the top of the previous post and the last one in this post. After the sunset, I got a bit of rest and then looked to do the sunrise at Diamond Beach, on the other side of the highway. I managed a few decent shots there in the pre-dawn (top of post) and headed back to a different area of the Glacial Lagoon, and squeezed out a single decent shot as the sun began to show some color in the clouds (above). I thought things would look better back on the other side, so I hopped back over to the Diamond Beach side for a second time and managed to get a few more decent images that included the sun partially hidden by the clouds.

Diamond Beach — Iceland No. 1  © jj raia

Diamond Beach — Iceland No. 1 © jj raia

I’m not sure if all that moving would have been done with a group, or would they have stayed at just a single place. Or after the sunset, they may have had to “retire” to a hotel somewhere, none of which are very close (and skip the sunrise??).

Diamond Beach — Iceland No. 2  © jj raia

Diamond Beach — Iceland No. 2 © jj raia

In any event, these last two shots of the ice stacked up on the shoreline of Diamond Beach, are a case of securely planting your tripod into the sand and taking several versions of the same scene. For the first, the black sand reflects the color and shape of the large berg in the foreground, while this one above shows the surf receding back toward the ocean, adding a sense of motion. It also has a stronger “wet” line leading toward the sun, which adds a bit more depth to the scene with a stronger leading line. After looking at these two images, I wondered if it might work to combine the two, adding the sharper edged wet line to the frame without the surging surf. Or clean up some of the surf in this one so the reflections of the berg are in the sand.

But that is something that will be left for another day when there is sufficient spare time that seems to be at a premium these days, as I’m sure it is for most folks. But these two illustrate why it is important to take several frames, especially along the beach, of the same scene to combine the best of two or more frames. It may work, to do what I mentioned, and it may not. But if you can think of what is possible using the software available to us these days, you may owe it to yourself to, at the very least, try it.

Murky Day at Jökulsárlón  © jj raia

Murky Day at Jökulsárlón © jj raia

So, was it worth it to have made the trek? Who knows what images I may have found if I had remained in Anastarpi and the western part of Iceland. There were a quite a few locations that I had researched that would have filled my time there and probably proved to be a viable path to take. But the tug of Jökulsárlón was something I couldn’t resist… and to see all those places I had gone to earlier in the trip, but not seen because of all the low hanging clouds and mist (above, through the rain and front windshield). I know I am happy with the images I did get. And I know that a tour or photo workshop would not have done it.

Jokulsarlon Sunset - Iceland No-3

Jökulsárlón Sunset – Iceland No-3 © jj raia

Note — It has been about six weeks since I’ve returned as I write this, some two weeks before it is actually posted. I learned yesterday from a photographer and YouTuber I follow, that it has not rained in south Iceland (Jökulsárlón) in six weeks!!! Yes, those are tears in the lower left corner of the murky photo…


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