Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón (part 2)

The second of two posts on the impressive glacier Vatnajökull and its offspring. Photography on a rainy, windy day might be challenging, but it’s still worth it when landscapes are this amazing!

In the previous post in this series (Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón (part 1)) the focus was squarely on the main feature of the two, Vatnajökull, the magnificent glacier. While not as imposing as the glacier, Jökulsárlón, literally ‘glacial river lagoon’ is a wonderful source of images and a backdrop for four Hollywood movies.

This is truly a river that carries glacial output from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier across the lagoon toward the Atlantic Ocean. Breiðamerkurjökull is an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, as icebergs break away from it, slowly floating away; some of these icebergs can spend as much as 5 years in the lagoon, depending on their size, before they are small enough to make it to the ocean.

Jökulsárlón ice flows

The ice flows in the above image are near the exit of the lagoon, where they will meet the Atlantic Ocean. As these blocks of ice meet the ocean, some break up and chunks are driven back onto a black sand beach, also known as Diamond Beach. On a sunny day, they are a spectacular sight.

Jökulsárlon icebergs

The iceberg sections above still show the striations of the dirt that has been collected along the path of the glacier, to be covered with snow and ice; this gives a sense of the age of the ice, somewhat akin to the rings of trees. Notice also that certain parts of the ice have a distinct glacial blue color; this ice has been compressed into a crystalline structure that is more reflective of the blue area of the visible spectrum.

Weathering the day in Jökulsárlón

Despite it being a rainy day, neither the birds nor the photographers were discouraged from checking out this magical location. It did convince me that it will be wonderful to spend a couple of hours here to photograph its beauty on a sunny day!

As you might imagine, I will certainly want to come back to explore Iceland more in the future!

Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón (part 1)

The first of two posts on the impressive glacier Vatnajökull and its offspring. Photography on a rainy, windy day might be challenging, but it’s still worth it when landscapes are this amazing!

The land of Ice and Fire provides magnificent displays of both, and I was fortunate enough to get to experience the entire spectrum during my recent photography tour.

I will dedicate two posts this week to the ice marvels presented by Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón. Let’s start with the Glacier of Lakes, as Vatnajökull translates, which is the largest ice cap in Iceland and the second largest in Europe. With an average thickness of 380m, it is rather imposing.

Despite the fact that we visited on a rather rainy (and windy, as in hold on to your tripod, lest it blows over), it was inspiring to visit both sites. After a short hike from our parking location, there was a great location to get a complete view of the ablation zone of the glacier:

The Foot of Vatnajökull

As I walked toward this area to set up my tripod, I was greeted by the sound and view of a segment of the glacier breaking off; it was a small section, but still awe inspiring to experience. It is clear from the amount of dirt that is embedded in the ice that a lot of material is collected, as the glacier progress downhill at its slow pace. Of course, the forces exerted by this mass of ice and snow are tremendous and landscape altering.

Vatnajökull Glacier ablation

This second image is a bit further away, so that it provides a better view of the ice sections (miniature icebergs) that have broken loose from VatnaJökull, and have started their journey, as they float along.

In the next post, I’ll cover the lagoon that is also fed by Vatnajökull: Jökulsárlón.

Both of these images are HDR composites of captures at -2.3, 0.0 and 1.3 EV and combined using Skylum’s Aurora HDR. I’m a big fan Aurora HDR, as it not only does a stellar job of the HDR processing, but also makes it easy to make some quick adjustments that provide a sense of what the final image can look like.

After the HDR composites are finalized, I do clean up and touch up in Adobe Photoshop; on a rainy day, there was no avoiding getting some droplet on the lens filter, which had to be removed in post-processing. I did some further balancing of the exposure, as the sky was rather bright compared to the foreground.

Snæfellsnes Teasers

On day two of the photography tour, we left our meeting place, Reykjavik, and headed to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where we were spending the next couple of lovely days. Snæfellsnes is positioned on the western side of Iceland, with the Hornstrandir peninsula to the north and Reykjanes to the south. It is very drivable from Reykjavik at about 120km; a couple of hours and you’re there!

If you’re wondering what makes the Snæfellsnes peninsula worth it, let me start with the following image of the mountain Kirkjufell:

Kirkjufell Mountain

This mountain is claimed to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland, which I can believe on a day that we had. The mountain is unusual in that it’s not a volcano, but does contain volcanic rock. Its shape goes back to the ice ages, when it was a nunatak: a summit that protruded from a glacier. Also, I’m sure that Game of Thrones fans will recognize this location. And, yes, there are waterfalls nearby…

As if Snæfellsnes doesn’t have enough going for itself, there are Icelandic horses to be found everywhere:

Not so Old Blue Eyes

The Icelandic horse are a proud stock of the country, and their bloodlines are well protected. These hardy animals are long lived and unique to Iceland, where horse are not allowed to be imported. One of the unique characteristics is that they are five-gaited: in addition to the walk, trot, and canter/gallop, they have an ambling gait known as tölt, and a pace called skeid, or flugskeid, which is very smooth. The ancestors of the Icelandic horse are likely to have come to the island with the Vikings who settled in the 9th and 10th centuries, C.E.

What else might one expect on Snæfellsnes? Lots more landscape variety, interesting black-colored churches, captivating coastline and great food; yes, there will be more photos in future posts!

As we wrapped up our first day in Snæfellsnes, the light turned rather pretty for us and we caught this scene:

Ingjaldshólskirkja

This location was just magnificent with the mountains in the background, dramatic cloud cover and a beautifully lit church. The location has been the site of a monastery during the middle ages, and it is said that Columbus has stayed at this monastery during the winter of 1477-78; this is where he learned about the voyage of Leif the Lucky, whose crew were the first Caucasian people to discover Vinland. The current church at the site was built in 1903 and is the oldest concrete church in Iceland.

As you can tell, we were off to a great start on our voyage!

Thoughts on Drone selection

How I got to buying the DJI Mini 3 Pro and my initial impressions.

As promised earlier this week, I’ll share my process for choosing a photography drone with you. As you read this post, please be aware that

  • I am not an expert in the field of drones, as I have not tested various drones’ performance against each other
  • I am not being compensated by any drone manufacturer or vendor

My interest in drones was piqued by my photography trip to Iceland, during which I hiked into the active volcano Fagradalsfjall (topic of a future post). After overcoming the sense of being awestruck by mother Nature and taking a number of photos, I saw some of the photos that were taken by various photographers, including the leader of our photo tour, Loren Fisher. The ones that stood out to me were those taken with a drone (see Loren’s blog post), as the perspective allowed for something that we humans don’t get to see.

Clearly, I needed a drone! So the next question was: which one to get. On my list were the following factors:

  • Ease of flying the drone
  • Quality of the photography and video captured by the drone
  • Price point

Speaking with Loren Fisher, I was assuaged of my fear of flying the drone; as he explained to me that today’s good photography drones are much easier to fly than those little toy drones that many of us have struggled with. The key to the current crop of drones is that they have a lot of built-in sensors and smarts that enable them to hover without human intervention and stay in place rather accurately.

Turner’s Falls View

My search next went to a number of drone reviews for the current crop and watching several YouTube videos that provided more in-depth reviews of the models that might be of interest. After reading a number of reviews, it became apparent that the DJI Air 2S and DJI Mini 3 Pro were the most likely candidates for a great started drone with excellent camera and flight characteristics. The DJI Air 2S has a slightly higher price point, and the DJI Mini 3 Pro is slightly smaller.

Meeting of the Connecticut and Fall rivers

After watching several in-depth video reviews of the DJI Mini 3 Pro, there were a couple of advantages that helped me make my decision. The technology in the DJI Mini 3 Pro (released in May 2022) is about a year newer than the DJI Air 2S (released in April 2021); this may not sound like much, but in high-tech changes and learning evolves rapidly. The deciding factor for me was that the DJI Air 2S weighs in at 595 g, whereas the DJI Mini 3 Pro is a mere 249 g; of course, that means that the Mini 3 Pro might be a bit more wind sensitive, but there’s another aspect to this: drones weighing less than 250 g don’t need to be registered with the FAA unless used for commercial purposes. As I wasn’t sure about my long-term drone intentions, this is a step I may want to skip for now.

Coming in for a landing

In purchasing the DJI Mini 3 Pro, I did splurge and upgraded the controller to the DJI RC, which has a built-in touch screen, so that I don’t need to use my phone for flying. That $150 extravagance has made for a wonderful flying experience.

Thus far, I’ve been extremely happy with the DJI Mini 3 Pro performance, and even happier with DJI as a company. Reason is that on my third flying session I overestimated my abilities and crashed the drone into a tree branch that overhung a river… It was a gut-wrenching moment, and I couldn’t recover my drone. Luckily, I had bought the 1-year DJI Care Refresh Service Agreement, and after contacting DJI’s support team, I was quickly sent a replacement drone for a heavily discounted price; their support people were empathetic and extremely helpful and I had a replacement drone in hand within 10 days.

And how’s the video quality, you ask? I’ve been capturing video in H.265 codec and have found them to be fantastic. You be the judge and check out my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@dutchgoesthephoto

Looking forward to your questions and experiences!

The Mighty Geyser – Strokkur

Catching a geyser eruption sequence in Iceland of the mighty Strokkur.

I think it’s an understatement to say that Iceland is paradise for photographers, as I have found no other single island that offers the variety of scenic wonders that I find here (if you know of one, please share, and I will add it to my bucket list).

In August, my good friend and excellent photographer, George Fellner (link) and I joined a photo trip to Iceland that was led by Loren Fisher (link). This trip was a lot of fun and filled with amazing photography opportunities (there are a lot of images still to edit).

One of the iconic bits of Icelandic scenery that I was lucky enough to capture is the geyser Strokkur (Icelandic for ‘churn’), which you can see in this eruption sequence.

Strokkur has been around for quite some time, as it was first described in 1789, when an earthquake unblocked a conduit, so that the geyser could manifest itself. Even though its activity was rather variable it was active throughout the entire 19th century until at the beginning of the 20th century, Strokkur’s conduit was blocked once again by another earthquake. It remained inactive until its conduit was reopened in 1963; this time it was done with human assistance.

Since the 1963 re-plumbing, Strokkur has been very reliable with eruptions every 6-10 minutes and producing a typical height from 15-20 meters.

During our visit to the site, I witnessed 5 or 6 eruptions and noticed that some might be quite a bit smaller than others. As I was trying to predict the exact time of eruption, I built up a sense of the surface tension that builds up just before Strokkur lets go; it is almost as if the earth is taking a number of breaths in order to have enough air to propel the geyser. At the split second before eruption, a large bluish bubble rises up, which then explodes upwards, as you can see in the photo sequence.

The photo sequence of the eruption is was shot using my Canon EOS R5 camera and a Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens. The sequence was taken in aperture priority mode with an f-stop of 6.3 and 100 ISO; the resultant shutter speeds were in the 1/1000 to 1/1300 second range.

Not to drone on, but…

Greeting All! Yes, it’s been a long time since my previous post; 140 days to be exact. I can make lots of excuses why this bout of bloggers block has lingered, but I won’t bore you with that.

Instead, let me share a couple of fun items that might be of interest:

  • I’ve been on two vacations this year:
    – In early August there was a photography trip to Iceland
    – In mid-September, my wife and I cruised the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel
  • I have added a photo/video drone to my arsenal of devices!

So, there will be future posts (spoiler alert: I’ve already scheduled one for later this week to feature something Icelandic), as I have a boatload of RAW images to edit and lots of fun ones among them.

Here, I just want to drone on a bit about my drone, which is a DJI Mini 3 Pro (I’ll write a post about my experience with this photography drone, which I really love thus far). When I visited Iceland, one of the marvels that I got to witness was the volcano Fagradalsfjall, which was active from August 3 to August 22, 2022. Besides being stunned by the power and beauty of Nature, I realized that there was tool that I lacked in my bag: a drone. After getting back from Iceland, I researched features and capabilities, which led me to the DJI Mini 3 Pro.

Let me share a couple of images first!

The Quinapoxet River in West Boylston, Massachusetts
The Old Stone Church in West Boylston, Massachusetts

It’s been an adventure of exploration to use the drone to get a completely different perspective on subjects that are already familiar to me. The Old Stone Church is very much in that category and it was fun to find an angle that would work well with the strong, early-morning light that rakes across the scene.

The other door that has been opened by the drone is the opportunity to shoot videos in Nature from angles that would otherwise be inaccessible; the drone really gives a sense of being able to fly across the landscape in the manner that we normally do in our dreams.

I’ll share one of the videos that I posted on YouTube here; it’s an exploration of a section of the Connecticut River by the old mill town of Turner’s Falls. As the bulk of the water of the Connecticut is redirected for power generation and flows through the old canal that used to power the mills, one can stand at riverbed level and see the mighty Connecticut in a whole new fashion.

Thus far, I’ve only posted a couple of videos, as I’m experimenting with video techniques and learning how to best process them. There will be more to come!

Exploring in a New Light

There are times in all of our lives, whether professional, personal or creative, that we need to find a new spark of inspiration to drive us to that next level.

I have been looking for a while to find a that source of ignition in my creative endeavors, as my photography was suffering from seeing the world around me in the same way that I have for a long time. One area of photography that has intrigued me for a while is that of Infrared photography, or, more accurately, filtering out a significant part of the visible spectrum.

As there was an upcoming Infrared photography workshop led by Lee Varis and Bobbi Lane (link) rather nearby to me, I took the plunge and had one of my DSLRs converted to a sensor that would filter all light wavelengths shorter than 590nm. As 590nm is in the yellow-orange part of the visible spectrum, the sensor will capture from there to the deep red and infrared bands.

Here is an image that I captured yesterday during this workshop…

Nature’s Beacon

The image is an allium flower backlit by the afternoon Sun. I was pleasantly surprised by the effect of a slight bit of lens flare within the body of the flower, as if provides the sense of hot gases escaping from a celestial body.

Part of what I enjoy thus far in IR photography is that what you see through the camera is not the image that you’ll create after processing. The Raw capture by the camera looks like this:

Nature’s Beacon (unprocessed)

In this unprocessed image you can see the part of the spectrum that was capture. While I’m still learning more about the processing of 590nm IR images, the basic steps I follow are these:

– Convert RAW image to DNG for white balance adjustment
– Select my 590nm white balance profile in Adobe Camera Raw
– In Photoshop swap the Blue and Red channels in the image and make other edits

As I gain more experience with the processing, I will put together a post about it.

A Lazy Sunday Afternoon (all Day)

It’s been a busy week, and still a bunch of things to do around the house before a short work-trip this coming week, so nothing like the present time to play around a bit editing some more puffins to share with you.

Which Direction?

After leaving the island in the afternoon, we toured a bit around the shoreline for several different views, which provided the opportunity to see these lovely birds floating on the calm sea. I’m still not sure, if they were just passing each other or they couldn’t agree on the direction to the next tasty morsel of fish.

My beak is shinier!

Part of the fun was observing all the interactions among the puffins; these two atop the rock stood there for quite a while, as if to decide who was getting the best spot in the neighborhood; of course, the referee might be the only winner in this contest!

Have a wonderful week!

Sunsetting the Week

As this week comes to an end, or begins again, depending on your perspective, I thought I’d share another sunset from last year’s outing to Maine.

While enjoying some more spectacular weather, we spent time sauntering around the lovely downtown waterfront of Bar Harbor, anticipating the sunset. Near the end of this exploration, I was fortunate enough to be able to view this scene in front of me.

Bar Harbor Sunset

Part of what attracted me to this vista are the people who have ventured out onto the sandbank, as they provide a sense of scale. The gently gliding seagull made for a lovely bonus element.

This image was captured using a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4/L lens; exposure was 1/1600s at f/9 and 125 ISO. These settings were chosen to purposely underexpose the image a bit with this much sunlight coming straight into the sensor. Post-processing focused on bringing a bit more detail into the water and darkening the sky to get more balance between the bright sun and its reflection in the water.

Hope you enjoy this one!

Impression of a Boat

As I’m going through the images from last year’s photography trip to Acadia National Park and surroundings, it’s fun to see some of the moments that were captured away from the main events of the trip. Yes, there was lots of stunning scenery, cute animals and grand vistas, but that shouldn’t take away from those times when the eye catches a slightly different moment.

The moment shared here was from when we wandered around the docks of Bar Harbor in preparation of capturing the amazing sunset that presented itself there. Out of the corner of my left eye, I noticed this reflection of a boat that had lots of interesting light on it.

Impression of a Boat

The first thing you may notice is that the image is not tack-sharp, which is what we often look for in our photography. That was my intent, as I wanted to soften the image in camera to get an effect of becoming an impressionist image. I shot this with the Canon EOS R5 using a Canon RF 24-105 F4L IS USM lens at 0.6s, F7.1 at 125 ISO; there was a lot of light there, which is why I dropped the ISO and the longer exposure allowed the rippling of the water to have this effect.

Processing was done in Luminar Neo to add a bit of warmth with the Instant Result preset and followed up by work in Photoshop to reduce the impact of the brighter white part of the reflection near the top of the image.

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