Photographing Iceland in 6 Days: Day 2

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In June of 2017 we took the trip of a lifetime. Mission: Go all around Iceland in 6 days, driving on route 1 (the famous Iceland Ring Road which goes around the entire country) and photographing the most famous and some not so famous natural wonders this picturesque country has to offer.

Day 2 : Akureyri – Mývatn

On Day 2 of our 6 day photo trip around Iceland, we walked around the town of Akureyri and after a late breakfast started our journey towards Mývatn driving along the Iceland ring road (route 1). Along the way we visited the famous waterfall of the gods (Goðafoss) before heading over to the Mývatn Nature Bath area for some unique natural wonders to photograph. Finally we the drove to Lake Mývatn which offers amazing wildlife and landscape photo opportunities and was also our stop for the night with great accommodation right next to the lake.

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Akureyri

Day 2 was a comparatively lazy start. In the morning we went for a stroll to the town harbour and walked along the the walkway which goes right along the shoreline. The day was overcast so everything was looking a bit grey and dull nonetheless it offered so good photo ops.

66 mm | F/11 | 1/100 s | ISO 100

In the lap of the Mountains - Akureyri, IcelandIn the lap of the Mountains – Akureyri, Iceland

A shot from the Akureyri harbour looking towards the valley. This photo shows the scale and shape of these table top mountains. 
Akureyri is a town in northern Iceland. Nicknamed the Capital of North Iceland, it is an important port and fishing centre. Akureyri was settled in the 9th century and was the site of Allied forces during World War II.

After the quick photo walk, we headed over to the town centre for a quick bite to eat. The town centre is very well equipped and there are a lot of good eating joints ranging from Subway to fine-dining restaurants. We grabbed a quick sandwich and coffee and continued on our amazing journey towards our next stop – the waterfall of the Gods.

Goðafoss

Goðafoss which translates to “waterfall of the gods” in Icelandic is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Iceland. It is very famous among photographers and one look at it and you can tell why. The size, shape and power of this waterfall give it an almost mythical character. No wonder the Icelandic name.

In the year 999 or 1000 the lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. According to a myth, it is said that upon returning from the Alþingi, Þorgeir threw his statues of the Norse gods into this waterfall.

25 mm | F/9 | 1/160 s | ISO 100

Goðafoss - Waterfall of the GodsGoðafoss – Waterfall of the Gods

One of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. Located in the Bárðardalur district of North-Central Iceland at the beginning of the Sprengisandur highland road.

The picture above is one of the most common views of the heavily photographed waterfall and with good reason – this view it is right next to the parking. A short walk gets you to a small foot bridge which lest you go across the waterfall. This bridge also offers some stunning views of the waterfall and makes for a very different and unique perspective of this fantastic waterfall.

35 mm | F/16 | 5 s | ISO 100

Goðafoss - A different perspectiveGoðafoss – A different perspective

A long exposure shot of Godafoss from the foot bridge. Most pictures of this iconic waterfall are from the foot of the falls or right on top. Here is Godafoss from a different angle – one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland.

Mývatn Nature Baths

Our next stop were the famous Mývatn Nature Baths which are a cheaper alternative to the hyped Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik. Although smaller, they offer a more natural and relaxed experience as compared to the extremely commercialised Blue Lagoon. We had an hour’s stop as the Mývatn Nature Baths and had two options – Go for a nice relaxing soak in the hot blue water filled with all the benefits of volcanic minerals OR check the area out and get some photographs. Guess which did we choose?

Photography, obviously.

The surrounding area offers a plethora of natural wonders. Volcanic landscape, steaming ground, bright turquoise coloured lakes and snow capped mountains.

35 mm | F/16 | 1/30 s | ISO 100

Turquoise Lake - Mývatn, IcelandTurquoise Lake – Mývatn, Iceland

The Turquoise water of this lake in Mývatn, Iceland is due to the high content of silica in the water. The steam rising in the distance is from a natural geo-thermal vent.

 The most noticeable and photographic feature of this are were the red and orange coloured mountains which have no vegetation at all due to the volcanic nature of the soil. It provides a barren landscape which is almost out of this world.

The S curve shape made by the road climbing a mountain in this landscape creates a surreal scene which I feel is quite close to what roads on Mars would look like.

100 mm | F/16 | 1/200 s | ISO 250

Curvy Mountain Road - Mývatn, IcelandCurvy Mountain Road – Mývatn, Iceland

The otherworldly landscape of Iceland is filled with strange looking lava formations, mountains, bubbling mud pools, lakes of turquoise water and geothermal vents.
The mountains in the Mývatn area are known for their different colours, you can find mountains in red, yellow, orange, white, green, brown and many other colours.

Lake Mývatn

We dumped our luggage in the room and headed for a trek around the lake. The first thing that hits you as you approach the lake is the number of Midges. There are literally millions of them (maybe billions). Mývatn, as we found out later, means the “Lake of the Midges”. Had we known before, we may have been better prepared. If you are visiting the lake in summer and plan to be there for more than 5 minutes, I would highly recommend an insect net to cover your face.

The lake was created by a huge lava eruption 2300 years ago, and the surrounding landscape is dominated by volcanic landforms, including lava pillars and rootless vents (pseudocraters) which is a volcanic landform which resembles a volcanic crater, but is not an actual vent from which lava has erupted. This shot was taken from the top of one of such rootless vents looking towards the Hverfjall

35 mm | F/11 | 1/100 s | ISO 100

Lake Mývatn Pseudo CratersLake Mývatn Pseudo Craters

Myvatn pseudocraters in northern Iceland.. pseudocrater or rootless cone only looks like an actual volcanic crater. They are formed when hot lava flows over ground containing water, causing a steam explosion.

 This shot was taken from the top of one of such rootless vents looking towards the Hverfjall crater (which is a true crater) in the east while the sun went quite low on my left (west) which caused these deep shadows and high contrast in the scene.

Lake Mývatn, in the summer, is a bird photographers dream come true. Mývatn is a shallow “eutrophic” lake which means that it has high biological productivity due to excessive nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. It is fed by nutrient-rich springwater and has a high abundance of aquatic insects which act as a source of food for numerous bird species.

600 mm | F/6.3 | 1/640 s | ISO 2500

Golden reflections - Red-necked Phalarope, Mývatn, IcelandGolden reflections – Red-necked Phalarope, Mývatn, Iceland

Shot at lake Mývatn in north Iceland a short while before sunset. The calm water by the edge of the lake combined with the warm light from a low angle made for some beautiful reflections and colour in the water. Red-necked Phalarope in breeding plumage.
Lake Mývatn is known for its abundant wildlife in the summer with many species of ducks and other waterfowl nesting and breeding here.

About thirteen species of ducks nest here including Tufted duck, Greater scaup, Barrow’s goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, wigeon, gadwall, mallard, common scoter, long-tailed duck and Eurasian teal. Apart from ducks, other aquatic bird species found here include Slavonian grebe, red-necked phalarope, great northern diver, red-throated diver and whooper swan.

600 mm | F/6.3 | 1/1250 s | ISO 500

On the Prowl - Horned Grebe, Lake Mývatn, IcelandOn the Prowl – Horned Grebe, Lake Mývatn, Iceland

Horned Grebe in Lake Mývatn which is a shallow eutrophic lake situated in an area of active volcanism in the north of Iceland, near Krafla volcano. The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago.

Horned Grebes dive underwater to feed on aquatic arthropods, fish and crustaceans. The Horned Grebe has the ability to swallow fish whole. They eat their own feathers, so their stomach has a matted plug that functions like a filter to hold fish bones till digestion.

The day ended with an unexpected dose of wildlife photography and fortunately I was lugging around my super telephoto lens (Tamron 150 – 600 G2), which was a pain to carry around but paid off well in the end. If you are there in the summer, I suggest that you put in that extra effort and take your longest lens with you, you will not be disappointed.

A trek around the lake and we headed back to out hotel to get some rest only to realise that we had totally missed our dinner time. The area does not have any grocery stores nearby and even if there were, none would be open at 12 AM in the night.

Yes, 12 AM, we were out taking pictures until 12 AM and it still felt like day, because the sun never sets in Iceland during the summer months. It goes below the horizon for a few hours but it never gets completely dark.

Apart from the skipped dinner, Day 2 was a huge success. Stay tuned for day 3.

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