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

iPhone Friday

Sometimes, it’s not the camera, but the moment!

I’m confident that many of us have heard the statement ‘That must be a great camera’ when someone sees one of our images. And yes, my Canon EOS R5 is a fantastic camera, but I have a backup camera that is equally fantastic!

On a really rainy day in Iceland, it’s kind of interesting to take a quick shot with your mobile phone and see how it looks. Plus, the reason I take at least one shot wherever I do a shoot is that it provides location data, which can come in handy when you’re trying to remember the spelling of an Icelandic location.

Vatnajökull Glacier

After doing a shoot (see Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón – part 1) to get some interesting images,I noticed a slightly different angle to take this shot with my iPhone. One of the cool features is that the logic in the camera app is very smart about balancing exposure and making clouds appear dramatic. To be honest, I really like this shot, as it presents a mood that fit the scene.

Jökulsárlón Lagoon

This shot was an impromptu capture, as it was raining pretty hard, making it a bit cumbersome to do another tripod-mounted camera setup (despite rain gear for the camera, it’s always a bit of struggle to deal with fogging, those pesky rain drops on a filter, etc.) . So I pulled my iPhone out of my dry pocket and took this low angle shot. The blue of the ice, drama of the clouds and rain drops on the water came across rather nicely.

Both images were processed using Luminar AI and touched up in Photoshop.

I look forward to hearing about the opportunities that your mobile phone has provided you to capture that special image.

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!

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!

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!

Wednesday’s Choice

As I was editing some of the substantial backlog of my images (don’t ask how many), an idea came to mind. Often, during these editing sessions, I like to experiment with alternate looks to create for my images. It’s a way to check what mood comes through with a particular look.

So I thought it might be interesting to ask for feedback from all of you to find out how these alternatives resonate (or don’t) with your sensibilities. Here’s the first one in this series.

This images was taken a bit later in the morning of the A Very Early Sunrise in Maine post, as I had found a different location with a view of some of the Porcupine islands lined up and a sky that was rather pleasing.

Cadillac Mountain Sunrise #1

The first treatment is the more sedate of the 2, as I made use of Aurora HDR’s ‘Rocks Sunset’ preset that is part of their Natural collection of presets. As I looked at this result, I felt that it didn’t really do the overall scene justice, as even a bit of brightening of the foreground didn’t produce a good sense of the beauty of the landscape on the mountain.

Cadillac Mountain Sunrise #2

The second treatment is definitely more aggressive; it uses Aurora HDR’s ‘EggHDRugs on Brain’ preset that is part of their Trey Ratcliff Looks collection. It pops the foreground quite a bit and with a bit of darkening, the sky look came in as pretty dramatic.

Hope you enjoy these comparisons and I’m looking forward to hear from you about your preferences.

Weather Is Coming

Dark clouds

Despite all of humanity’s advances, there is still an element of dependence on the weather, that is inescapable even in today’s high-technology age.

As a significant portion of our food supply comes from agriculture, it is important to reduce our adverse impact on weather patterns as much as possible; the ability of future generations to feed themselves may depend on it.

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Waiting for the weather.

The tractor sits quietly to see what the morning will bring: will it clear up and be ideal for mowing or will these clouds bring heavy rain, thus stalling progress.

Time will tell…

Technical Details

This image was taken with an iPhone 4S using the standard Camera app; some adjustments were made in Instagram.

 

Inspired by Daily Prompt – Sky.

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