Dolphins, whales, puffins, razorbills and landscape. Grimsey is a small island north of Iceland which has it all. The following video is taken last July, on the small Nikon Coolpix A and iPhone. We always have so much fun going there, photographing and having fun. This is the one minute trailer, a longer version is possibly going to be here soon.
Going to Grimsey, takes about four hours by ferry from Dalvik in the north of Iceland.
Ptarmigans are rather easy to find in Iceland when you are not hunting them. The ptarmigan (lagopus muta) is very common and is the only grouse we have in Iceland. In the summer-months it´s possible to find it almost everywhere. In the winter it mostly stays in mountains and rocky landscape depending on the weather. The absolutely most easy way to photograph them is in Hrisey, which is a small island in north-iceland. There they are not nearly as shy as those in the mainland.
It´s a good idea to search for ptarmigans in heath or grassland areas during summer and since they prefer cold and dry weather conditions they can be found in mountains in winter. All lenses can be used for ptarmigan photography. Long telephoto lenses are best, but I have even used the Nikon 14-24 f2.8.
If you take your time it´s possible to get within two meters from ptarmigans. It takes time. By stopping once in a while and waiting for them to calm down it´s possible to use the widest of lenses like my wife, Gyda Henningsdottir is doing in this photo taken in Hrisey. She is using Nikon D3 with the 14-24 f/2.8 lens. None of the best lenses for bird photography replace the benefits of getting real close to the subject. This is why I always keep a pouch ready for my teleconverter when using one for the longer lenses. Very often the subject ends up by getting too close for the framing or even for the closest focus distance. That´s when it handy to be able to take the converter off since you are getting really close.
This photo of a gyrfalcon in Iceland is taken in July, 2013. The camera body is Nikon D3 and the lens is Nikon 500 mm f/4 with a 1,4 converter which is a wonderful combination. Gyrfalcon, also called gerfalcon – Falco rusticolus is the largest of the falcon species and is fully protected in Iceland. Only 300-400 pairs are in Iceland. Therefore it´s not possible to give accurate information of their whereabouts. When traveling around Iceland you can expect to see one. Exactly where is hard to say, but in the northeast and around Mývatn is getting you warm. Photographing them at nest sites is not allowed without prior permission from the Environment Agency in Iceland. If you happen to find a nesting site, please keep the location information to yourself and don´t publish the exact location information in any way.
In the winter it´s quite common to see gyrfalcons searching for prey near the coast. Pay attention to other birds behavior. If they seem to be panicking it´s likely that a predator of some kind is harassing them.
It´s dark outside despite it´s almost noon. January is kind of a long exposure month in Iceland. When it´s cloudy it´s no use waiting for the light in photography. It´s not really coming. Around Akureyri where I live in the northern part of Iceland it´s ice everywhere. The sky is at the best a softbox around noon and at sea level it looks like Jöklulsárlón lagoon. The closest thing to daylight we have is only lasting for two hours or so. Ice is everywhere which means that I photograph ice and it´s motives. It´s easy to be lazy these days but the motives are still out there. These photos are taken near Akureyri few days ago when the sky showed some color. I used Lee Big stopper, 71 seconds exposure, f9.
Christmas is closing in. Outside the cold winter makes the life of birds a struggle which should remind us to feed them. I have mostly redwings visiting my garden which is covered in snow. They feast on fruits which I give them if the temperature and snow makes it possible for them to reach for them. The redwing on this photo was feeding it´s young last summer. Now it´s our time to feed him during the winter months. Don´t forget the small unbelievable tough creatures in your garden when you sit down to eat your steak.
The path along the shore at Rauðanes which is in east-Iceland is about 8 km back and forth. The parking lot is few hundred meters from the sea, but as soon as you arrive at the shore you see the photogenic rocks. The day we arrived at Rauðanes the sky was heavy but most of the time no rain. The rocks are amazing and every 100 m there is some photogenic rock to stop photographers. I did some experiments with a Hi-Tech 10 stop ND filter for the Nikon 14-24 lens. To make a long story short the rain made long exposures virtually impossible. However it was possible to get few shots with the filter taken around 1 minute when the rain stopped.
The sea was calm and it was low-tide. It was great being there and I can´t wait to get a opportunity to go there again in windy weather when the sea will create more movement in the photos. Walking there is relatively easy. One canyon is named Mannskaðagil which might be translated to Dead Mans Canyon. There are though no dangerous paths there and it´s just a easy walk.
We arrived in Drekagil late evening after a long drive on a road which is actually not much of a road. After a good nights sleep we woke up early to start walking. Even in July it took us a 4,5 km walk in snow to get to the Askja area in the central highlands of Iceland. This summer the snow was taking longer than usually to melt. The snow was heavy, wet and difficult to walk in. The weather was cloudy but the sun appeared once in a while which made the contrast in the landscape great. Shortly after we arrived at Víti dozens of tourists and photographers arrived.
In Icelandic Askja means box or caldera. Askja is actually a stratovolcano surrounded by the Dyngjufjöll mountains which rise 1,510 m. The area is only accessible few months a year and is almost as remote as remote can get in Iceland. The astronauts of the Appollo program used the area for preparation for lunar missions and it´s easy to imagine that this is how landscape on the moon looks like – except the snow.
Lake Öskjuvatn (Lake ash) and the crater Víti (Hell) are very popular tourist locations for a good reason. The landscape is spectacular and for some reason this is a location which reminds us how small we are. Öskjuvatn lake is close to Víti and is the second deepest lake in Iceland at 220 m deep.
On the fun side it is possible to swim in the water of the Víti crater if you don´t mind the volcano smell. The water is around 8 m deep and is between 20°C-60°C. Tourist often swim in Víti and since there are no dressing–cabins one should not be surprised to see naked people swimming. One should though be careful. Swimming in the crater can be dangerous because carbon dioxide can accumulate on top of the water on calm days causing you to pass out. Not much fun in that.
Most of the photos in the gallery from Askja are taken with the Nikon 14-24 lens and the SW-150 filter holder and softgrad. It takes effort to get to remote locations like Askja. Besides capturing few good photos there, experiencing this lunar landscape is worth the heavy steps in the snow and mud.
When driving to the western Iceland and the Snæfellsnes area there are many opportunities to stop and photograph the wonders of the area. Snæfellsjökull glacier is probably the most famous site. It´s in the most western part of the peninsula in Iceland. Along the shore at Arnarstapi and Hellnar the rocks form many shapes which can be of interest to photographers. Arnarstapi is a busy harbour for pravate fishing and recreational vessels, but Arnarstapi is also a popular destination of tourists in summer.
The following photo is taken by Einar Gudmann this summer. Click to see the album.