Monday, August 26, 2013

WATER, FIRE, AND ICE: A Photo Tour of Iceland, Guest Post by Owen Floody

Puffin on the Latrabjarg Cliffs
In May, our friend Owen Floody went on a photo tour of Iceland.  Owen recently retired from a career of teaching and research at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He has always been an avid photographer and in his retirement has taken several trips that allow him to pursue his passion. Here is a short reflection on his recent trip to Iceland and a few of his amazing photographs. 

A recent 12-day photo tour (Around Iceland, Iceland Photo Tours, convinces me that Iceland fits the bill for a small, not-too-distant place that offers many and varied great sights. It is an attractive destination whether you're concerned with efficiency or not and regardless of your level of commitment to photography. Our tour took us to the far corners of Iceland, including many sites that most tourists wouldn't know of, couldn't reach, or both.  Most of these attractions were natural in some sense, though functioning or derelict buildings added to the variety.

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
Our tour ran in late May, which probably corresponds to very late winter or early spring in Iceland.  This timing permitted us to catch the puffins and other birds in their finest breeding colors.  On the other hand, it may also have contributed to some challenging weather conditions, with frequent high winds and rain, even some hail and snow.  But we were all trying to become better photographers, so that maybe this weather constituted just another part of the instruction. 

Hraunfossar Waterfalls
What else did we see?  For the most part, think water, fire and ice.  Given the frequent rain, you may not be surprised to learn that much of our time was spent viewing some of Iceland's many impressive waterfalls.  One of my favorites was Hraunfossar, not far from Reykjavik.  This is a series of "lava waterfalls" that are strung out for some distance and incorporate much variety on their own.  Many of the waterfalls were extremely powerful, though I found myself especially attracted to the smaller falls or rapids, usually a bit downstream of the main falls. 

Lake Myvatn Thermal Area
At this point, I'm sure that you're thinking that all of this water might come in handy if the volcanoes and other thermal areas that Iceland is famous for were to spiral out of control.  Until this happens, however, Iceland's thermal areas enrich the landscape with volcanoes, other unusual landforms, steam, and lots of color.  We made three visits to the Lake Myvatn thermal area and continued to find other parts of it hidden away and offering new attractions.

Black Sand Beach
What do water and thermal activity create when combined?  Well, in Iceland, one of the products is the wonderful black-sand beaches that line part of the coast and which are especially impressive when the sea is stormy.  In a more practical vein, the water and thermal activity provide Iceland with much or all of its electricity, permitting it to avoid many or all of the financial and climatic costs of reliance on fossil fuels.

Finally, ice.  Perhaps my favorite of all Iceland's offerings were the glaciers and their offspring, the icebergs that littered the associated glacier lakes or lagoons.  Collectively, these icebergs were the ultimate chameleons: They varied in size, shape and color, and were wonderful to see in any light or weather.  What can be equally attractive when clear, blue or covered in dirt?  I think that you know the answer.

Derelict House
Though our travels in Iceland were extensive, one would have to visit at several times of the year to (a) access all parts of the island, and (b) see its many attractions under all possible weather and lighting conditions.  I plan to chip away at this on future trips.  The only problem will be that of avoiding immobilization by indecision about when and where to go next!

You can read about some of Owen's other photographic journeys in his posts of May 6, 2013 Tanzania: African Wildlife Up Close; and May 20, 2013 Nepal: Shrines, Temples and Breathtaking Scenery.


inkin said...
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inkin said...

found your blog when I was trying to build my website answering the same question - where do people like me go when they go places. I tried to search blogs for that - (there are also my own posts)