Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 5

Magnificent Kirkjufell

Welcome to the second day that we spent on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. After a busy first day, there was plenty more to experience!

Our first planned stop in the morning was at a magnificent location: Kirkjufell, Icelandic for Church Mountain.

Kirkjufell Mountain

This 463 m high hill is located near the town of Grundarfjörður and is claimed to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland. This makes me wonder if that was before or after it was featured in Game of Thrones as “arrowhead mountain”; this was seen by the Hound and his band when they were north of the Wall busy capturing a wight.

Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss

There is also a wonderful set of waterfalls across the road from Kirkjufell, which are known as Kirkjufellsfoss. On this longer exposure to get the water to be more ribbon-like, you’ll notice that there are plenty of people crossing the falls.

The views here are stunning and I would love to go back here during the off-season to spend more time exploring the possible images, such as using the opportunity to get down lover by the waterfall to capture them from an even better angle.

The images in this post are taken with my iPhone 13 Pro Max and Canon EOS EOS R5 using a Canon RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens. First level processing of the images was done using Skylum’s Luminar AI software; for these images, I created a template based on the Backlit Clouds template that is part of the Overcast collection of templates. Touch up processing was done in Photoshop.

Snæfellsnes Evening – Day 1

Enjoy the view!

Our first day on the wondrous Snæfellsnes peninsula was drawing to an end, as we had a fantastic meal at Viðvík Restaurant and were just checking out the last of the sunlight.

And then we came across this location that was worth a stop…


You might recognize this location from an earlier Snæfellsnes teaser post, as we photographed this church on the next day as well with something more than our mobile phones.

Even with an iPhone 13 Pro Max this view stands out strong, particularly as we had a long clear view of the edge of the Snæfellsjökull National Park.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 4

Wrapping up our first day in Snaefellsnes.

As we follow the coastline of Snæfellsnes peninsula toward its westernmost point, we reach Svörtuloft (Black Sky) where we find a 4-kilometer long cliff and a wonderful lighthouse. It’s a slow, bumpy ride over the gravel road to get to this spot, but it’s worth the ride!

Svörtuloftaviti Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Svörtuloft strikes a strong figure as its 12.8m height towers over the cliffs and its yellow-orange hue stands against the blue of the sky. The lighthouse was brought into use in 1931, as sailing by this western tip of Iceland has always been rather daunting. Over the centuries many ships have stranded here, which usually resulted in the ship’s hull being broken into piece on the sharp, black lava cliffs.

Lava cliffs at Svörtuloft

The cliffs upon which the lighthouse is built present their origin in the black foundation: lava. Grasses and mosses find fertile ground here and are not easily discouraged by the stormy weather and fearsome seasons, which gives a much softer feeling to the landscape. Do not be fooled, as the edges of the lava are sharp and hard, which also makes for rather uneven footing.

Easy walks and a picnic area.

Luckily, Iceland provides a welcoming feeling to all tourists and easy trails and even a picnic area are available to get around the lighthouse here at Svörtuloft. Thanks to this German traveler for posing in this image.

Sturdy windows are important!

Construction of any lighthouse puts a premium on sturdiness, as the elements will wreak havoc with any point of weakness. For this reason, the windows in Svörtuloftaviti lighthouse are small and set strong in their concrete surroundings.

Svörtuloft Halo

In all, it was wonderful to visit this location, and it definitely made me look back as we were getting ready to leave. That allowed me to capture the Sun at just the appropriate location to light up this tower of strength, which, in turn, lights up to warn travelers of the dangers that are on its shores.

After this, our fourth stop of this day of arriving on the Snæfellsnes peninsula from Reykjavik, it was time to go in the direction of Hellissandur to find our lodging and a chance of dinner. Not a bad way to start our tour!

The images in this post are taken with my iPhone 13 Pro Max and Canon EOS EOS R5 using a Canon RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens. First level processing of the images was done using Skylum’s Luminar AI software; for these images, I created a template based on the Backlit Clouds template that is part of the Overcast collection of templates. Touch up processing was done in Photoshop.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 3

A mysterious beach with a wreck…

As we continued our tour of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, we came upon a mysterious black sand beach with the name of Djúpalónssandur, which translates to Deep Lagoon Sand. This name traces back to the initial first settlers of Iceland, some 1200 years ago.

Djúpalónssandur, or Deep Lagoon Sand, beach

One can imagine this cove during the days of yore, when it was home to 60 fishing boats, creating a strong economic foundation for people in this part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. If you look carefully, you see the strewn remains of the Epine (GY7), a fishing trawler that was wrecked here on March 13, 1948; the Epine hailed from the port town of Grimsby in North East Lincolnshire, England.

Another feature of this beach are the glistening pebbles that cover it, which are know as Djúpalónsperlur, or “pearls of the deep lagoon”. These pearls on the beach stunning and appealing, but should be left alone, as it is against the law to collect them as a souvenir of your trip!

View toward Djúpalónssandur Beach

The path down to the beach is a bit of a steep descent (and climb on the way back), as the parking area is high and dry upon the volcanic cliffs. As you walk toward the beach, you may want to test your strength to see if you would qualify to work on one of the fishing boats. The four Aflraunasteinar, or Lifting Stones, are along the path toward the beach. These stones range from Fullsterkur (full strength) weighing 154 kg, Hálfsterkur (half strength) weighing 100 kg, Hálfdrættingur (weakling) weighing 54 kg to Amlóði (useless) at 23 kg; to qualify for work on a fishing boat you should at least be able to lift Hálfdrættingur.

A word of caution is that this is definitely not a swimming area, as the Atlantic Ocean has unpredictable and strong rip currents here that will pull one far into sea. Also, it is not wise to go wading here, as surprise waves will often come far onto the beach.

On the photography part, both images were capture with my Canon EOS R5 mirrorless, using a Canon RF24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens. First level processing of the images was done using Skylum’s Luminar AI software; for these images, I created a template based on the Backlit Clouds template that is part of the Overcast collection of templates. Touch up processing was done in Photoshop.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 2

Another stop along the paths of the Snæfellsnes peninsula

One of the things that I cannot overstate about Iceland is that there are great views wherever you go. Even when the weather might not be perfect, you’ll find yourself in awe of the landscape, just about no matter where you are in this gorgeous island nation. And when the weather plays into your hand, you find yourself almost overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounds you.

During our first day on the Snæfellsnes peninsula our tour leader, Loren Fisher, just about blew our mind with the number of great locations and the vistas that we experienced. Even when he took us on a little detour from the main attractions, there appeared a great photographic subject in front of our lenses.

Arnarstapi Vista

In real estate the operative words are “Location, location, location”. That doesn’t begin to describe where we see this house that is near the little harbor in the village of Arnarstapi, also known as Stapi. The house is called Amtmannshúsið in Icelandic, as it was the residence of the Danish Prefect during the time that Iceland still belonged to Denmark. This is now a historical site.

In the background you see the snow-covered peaks of Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000-year old glacier-capped stratovolcano. For the readers who remember Jules Verne’s book ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, you may be interested to know that Stapi was the last stop before climbing Snæfellsjökull, where they enter the interior of the planet through a tunnel.

To the left, we see the slopes of Mount Stapafell, a pyramid shaped palagonite mountain; atop the mountain sits Fellskross, the dwelling of the “hidden people” or elves. It is rumored to have magical powers!

The hill in the right hand side of the image is part of a lavafield, a landscape feature that is ubiquitous in Iceland.

For the photography nerds among you, this image was captured with a Canon EOS R5 using a Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens. I shot this at ISO 800 and an aperture of F/11 and 1/640 sec shutter speed.

Processing was done using a combination of Skylum Luminar AI and Adobe Photoshop. In Luminar AI, I created a template for the Snæfellsnes images that was based on ‘City – Cozy Streets’ from the Ultimate Travel Collection of templates by Albert Dros. Starting from this template, I added warmth, structure and strength to the sky, as well as several other adjustments, resulting in what I named ‘Snæfellsnes Drama’. Photoshop was then used for some minor adjustments and a bit of soft light and contrast.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 1

A while back, I presented you with a teaser with some images of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which provides an incredible variety for photography, ranging from stunning landscapes to history and wildlife.

Today, I’ll highlight one of the early encounters on our trip: Búðakirkja in the town of Búðir.

Búðakirkja standing strong under a heavy sky

This is one of a set of so-called ‘black’ churches in Iceland, which stand apart from many other churches due to their exterior being covered with tar pitch, so that they could better withstand the elements.

Búðakirkja was built originally in 1703, when it was a small turf church with a cemetery to provide consecrated grounds; burials have taken place here since 1705. Due to the rough weather and economics, the church fell into disrepair and was abolished by royal letter in 1816 due to its poor condition.

In the mid-19th century, a local widow, Steinunn Sveinsdóttir, applied for permission from Church authorities to rebuild a church at Búðir. Her efforts led and paid for the building of the wooden church that we know today.

Búðakirkja with mountain range in the background

Construction of the church finished in 1848, and it was consecrated in 1851. Steinunn passed away in 1854 at the age of 77 years; she is buried in Búðir cemetery, where a gravestone still stands in her memory.

The church itself is rather small, as it measures approximately 9m x 5m, which is a single space; it seats about 50 people and is still available for ceremonies. Just be aware that there is no heating or running water in the church, so you may have to rough it a bit.

Búðakirkja holds one’s attention

Visiting this location definitely provided me with a sense of mystery and a deep appreciation for the people who made (and make) this area their home. It takes dedication, perseverance and faith to be successful in this rugged land.

More details about the church can be found at its website link.

Visit to a Volcano (part 2)

Part 2 of a trek to Fagradalsfjall volcano and the experience of witnessing Earth’s tremendous power

In yesterday’s post (Visit to a Volcano – (part 1)), I documented the journey to the August eruption of Fagradalsfjall, which took us about 2-1/2 hours to reap the reward of the sound and fury of Mother Earth.

After overcoming the first sensations of the sound and vision produced by Nature at its finest, I found a spot from where I could set up my tripod and camera; with a Canon RF 100-500mm telephoto lens mounted, I wanted to get to the capturing of this amazing spectacle…

Volcanic Action #1

In the first couple of images, I attempted to get a sense of the scene in front of me. Under the spell of Nature’s prowess, these were feeble trials of basic photographic work.

Part of what I had to come to grips with was that I needed to connect with what was happening in front of me; having never experienced a volcanic eruption in person before, I was overwhelmed…

Volcanic Action #2

As I tightened my shot and reduced the field of view, I started the process of building a connection with Earth’s power. Heat was palpable and even the bright day could only diminish some of the glow of the lava flowing away from the cones.

As I slowly started to make a connection, there were aspects of the eruption that I could sense: rhythm, magnitude, under-worldly sounds…

Volcanic Action #3

Lines started forming in from of my lens, as the feel of the volcano’s machinations could be felt in every fiber of my body. Between the low register sounds emitted by build up and compression of air in the underground chambers, and the semi-explosive emissions of lava into the air, one cannot help but be inspired.

Slowly but surely, I attempted to build a series of images…

Volcanic Action #4

There is a sort of fiery dance, as the lava is thrown up into the air with the grace of a ballerina, where it solidifies into shards that glow in their descent. It reminds me of a hot spring, where the mud releases streams of water into the air, but significantly hotter!

The visions kept dancing…

Volcanic Action #5

The glow of the lava stream with the multitude of fiery shards in the air really gave me the sense of witnessing something beyond humanity’s capability to fully harness. The immense power coupled with such beauty left me staring in amazement.

And the best part is that this spectacle kept on performing in front of my eyes…

Volcanic Action #6

Capturing protuberances gave me a sense of what it might be to look at our Sun from a closer vantage point. We’re given a taste of our home star’s power on our own planet.

The unfortunate part is that our visit had to end, as we were on a timetable. I could have spent many more hours at this amazing site, and would have loved to capture this brilliance under darker conditions. However, I will cherish that time that I had at Fagradalsfjall volcano, knowing that I was lucky enough to experience something that lasted for only 19 days. Sometimes, it’s good to be lucky in getting to a place!

The 4.5 mile hike each way was well worth it, and I feel privileged to share this experience with you!

Visit to a Volcano (part 1)

First of a two-part series about my visit to Fagradalsfjall

On August 13 2022, I was fortunate enough to view something that might be a once in a lifetime opportunity: an active volcano! On August 3 2022, Fagradalsfjall volcano on Reykjanes peninsula erupted, which would last for 19 days.

On that day, my traveling companion, George Fellner, and I, accompanied by two other photographers in our tour group, took on the hike to the active volcano. The initial trek in was pretty smooth, as there was a reasonable path in; volunteers had worked tirelessly to improve access to this amazing attraction. Soon the landscape became more dramatic…

Path to Fagradalsfjall

Boulder fields, such as in this image, were common place and required a bit more careful traversal. As we picked our path through this terrain, we encountered evidence of great lava flows…

Lava Flows

The lava flows were still a significant distance from the volcano, but they helped keep us inspired to keep moving forward to our goal. As we crossed more ridges, our hope kept rising with each of them…

Approach to a volcano

With each cresting of a ridge, we expected to be treated to the view that we were after! In the above location, we were still about 25 minutes away from our target, but we were getting closer…

Getting close!

At last, we can see smoke rising in the distance: the volcano is near (about 15 more minutes). More immense lava flows are encountered in our path…

Lava Immensity

These older lava flows give a good sense of the awesome volume of lava that was spewed forth by the volcano. This field is truly immense. And then, one last ridge…

The final ridge

It was a truly inspiring moment to crest the final ridge and reach the crater; after 2-1/2 hours of hiking, we had reached out goal!

The first part that struck me was the sound of the lava: it reminded me of heavy waves crashing on the shore with much more of a bass note; I could feel the impact of the lava waves throughout my entire body, and was awestruck by the sense of earthly power in that moment.

In the next post, I will share more of the photos of the volcano, which were shot with my EOS R5. These trekking photos were all captured with an iPhone 13 Pro Max, as the rather heavy backpack had all the serious gear stowed in it.

And, of course, I had to take a selfie…

Feeling the Heat

A Walk through Reykjavik (part 3)

Mirrors and reflections abound in Harpa

In this conclusion of this 3-part post (cf. part 1 and part 2), we visit one of the most interesting architectural constructs in Vesturbær: Harpa.

Harpa is a concert hall and conference center. Its construction started in 2007 as part of the redevelopment of the Austurhöfn area; due to the financial crisis work was put on hold until the Icelandic government decided to fund the rest of the costs to finish the half-built concert hall in 2008.

Harpa reflects the Harbor

Positioned on the harbor and facing the Atlantic Ocean, Harpa is built as a steel frame that is clad with glass of various colors to give a sense of the basalt landscape of Iceland.

Harpa Facade

The facade is intriguing, as it allows one to look through parts of the hall, and invites the viewer to look for reflections and color patterns; there’s even a particular pane that is appreciated by selfie takers for its reflection of the views!

The facade and overall structure are very appealing, but there’s one feature that really caught my attention: the ceiling!

Harpa Ceiling View

The ceiling had a wonderful pattern of mirrors, lights and angles that are just wondrous to behold. Every turn of the head gives the eyes another set of inputs that intrigue and amazement to entertain the brain!

One literally could spend hours exploring the reflections in the ceiling and the patterns that appear; while not spending that much time, I did take a good number of photographs. Here’s another view:

Q*bert in Harpa

If you are familiar with the Q*bert game of the 1980s, you may also see the geometry that was the hallmark of that game’s 3-dimensional look and feel. The ceiling provides countless views like these, as we keep our eyes open and minds receptive to the varied views.

I look forward to the possibility of one day experiencing a concert in this wonderful space and having more time to explore all its views and angles.

A Walk through Reykjavik (part 2)

More impressions from walking through Vesturbær

In this second installment (cf. part 1) of our walk around one of the neighborhoods in Reykjavik, I’d like to share a couple of impressions of the mixture of architecture in the small area that we explored. The area where we wandered around is the Old West Side, Vesturbær.

This section is the earliest area of Reykjavik to be settled, starting around 1800. When walking through the area, one of the things that stands out is that the older structures are slowly being surrounded by newer architecture that rises up around these houses and looms over them.


Hlíðarhús (sign on the structure) were small farms in the Reykjavik area, which stood near the current Vesturbær; Vesturbær used to take its name from them, when it was called Hlíðarhústastigur. This particular house stands surrounded by concrete edifices, and an inspiring mural art work.

The Vesturbær area is definitely upscale, and sought-after in the real estate market. There are several foreign missions sprinkled across the neighborhood, which still has its regular feel as well.

Bicycle Storage

With real estate at a premium, space utilization should be optimized. The people that live here understand how to do that, as a balcony is a good spot to put the bicycle.

The overall layout of Vesturbær is somewhat haphazard, as the turn of the 20th century didn’t include a lot of city planning, as Reykjavik was expanding. It does make for a cozy neighborhood feeling, as houses might be tucked in great spots and you get to know your neighbors!

Modern life in Vesturbær

This more modern-looking house had found a perfect spot in the Vesturbær neighborhood. Even here it is evident that much thought was given to how to best fit in the space afforded.

As we walked up and down streets throughout the area, I couldn’t help but get a sense of the old town charm that exists here.

Vesturbær street view

It’s amazing to think that streets like this one are a mere 5 minutes’ walk away from hyper-modern structures, such as the Harpa Concert Hall and Meeting Space…

More about that in the next installment!

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