|Our GPS track for this day, from Skogar to Jokulsarlon.|
|Alex & Lai Peng on one of their regular morning walks,|
We woke up to a nice, clear morning. So far the weather had been lovely. I told Serene the weather forecast I checked before coming to Iceland predicted that this day and the next few days would see rain and slight snow flurry.
|Alex doing his regular morning exercise..|
or was it something else?
I saw the sun rising out from the mountains in the distance after I loaded our luggage up on the bus and turned around. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough time to take a shot of its rays. I looked to my right and saw Alex standing at the side of the building, standing on both feet first, followed by the left foot and finally the right foot. This must had been one of his routine exercises.
The bus set off eastward from Skogar.
The journey to our first destination took about one hour. And before I even had the chance to doze off, we'd arrived.
Dyrholaey Cape (previously called Cape of Portland by British seamen)
Dyrholaey cape is a promontory about 110m high extending from the southern edge of Iceland. To it east is the black-sanded Renisfjara (Vik) beach and further eastwards the Renisdranger lava Rock formations. The sun was still low at 10am when we arrived at Dyrholaey Cape. Still sleepy-eyed, I alighted the bus and saw everyone already tripodded and aiming their cameras towards the east.
|To Dyrholaey Cape, we detoured down south to the edge.|
|Lai Peng started work right away in the gentle light. Pretty|
"Man, these fellows are really hardcore!" I mumbled to myself. "It's still cold and dark, the black beach down there is in the shadows leh.. Man, I have to set up the GNDs again?!" I was really not very much a fan of the filter holders. I looked around me. To my north, the plain ended abruptly as cliffs, and right below the black sand beach extended out to sea. From nowhere in the middle of the sand beach emerged a solitary rock. My eyes took in the view, but my brain really didn't know how to shoot it. The silly shot with the GND turned out mediocre.
|A dark, misty morning at the cape.|
The whole gang started walking directly south towards the top of the cape. Kai Sing and I decided to take the lesser travelled path to the other side west of the cape where the rest headed to. Sometimes it helped to see things from a different angle.
"Dar it's very cold. Can I stay in the bus?" asked Serene. Ok lor. Just don't let this turn into a Tour de Iceland In-The-Bus. As Kai Sing walked, he saw a rift in between the cape, hidden until he went near. We decided to explore this small little opening. Slowly we made our way down the fully rocky path. The glaciers over the millions of years had produced countless well-polished rocks of all sizes on the plains and the beaches. Very quickly, Kai Sing took up position and started his LE. I occupied the rocks on his left and tested out my angle with a series of LE too.
|The rift between the capes.|
"Could have been better..." I felt. But when there was still no lingam, there was no point flogging a sleeping horse. We started back up where we descended to this opening. I pointed to the west part of the cape, and Kai Sing agreed to give that a try. We reached the top of the cape and found a different angle.
|From atop the eastern tongue of the cape, where Kai Sing and I ventured to.|
Meanwhile, unknown to both of us, Serene had decided to abandon her Tour de Bus and she came down with her 70-200mm mounted, and began shooting. She first took to the east side and found the Renisdranger rock formations, of course, without knowing the name of the sight.
|The Renisdranger rock formation as seen from Dyrholaey Cape. Shot by Serene from atop the cape.|
And finally she pointed her long lens towards our people right at the edge.
|Derek, Alex, Lai Peng, Hannah and Adrian enjoying the brief sunlight.|
After she had her fun up there she walked down the slope to wait for Kai Sing and I, and found us
|Ex-Tripod King, Kai Sing. LOL!!|
Followed by me. And then from way below, she indicated to me that she was going to shoot those fellows up there.
|Our boys and gilrs silhouetted against the rising sun on the cape.|
"I shoot them in silhouette," she declared. And I compared my shots and hers, and she won.
"Dar," I said to her. "Let's use the tripod and take a selfie of ourselves here at the cape, OK?" And this was the first and the ONLY selfy we took of ourselves with the 1DsMkIII on the tripod.
|Our first and only selfy with the DSLR. At the Dyrholaey Cape.|
|Carren & the seagull|
I found myself between Kai Sing and Derek on the edge again. It was getting rather cold by now, and the wind began to blow westward. My fingers were feeling very cold as I fumbled with the dials.
"Wow, look at that mist approaching not far away!" gestured Kai Sing. We looked towards the direction he pointed. True enough, dark clouds approached.
"It's going to rain," he said.
"Ok, let't quickly take a few last shots," said I.
|Kai Sing taking his last few shots before letting go of this spot as snow|
started coming in. [The melted snow already formed water-droplets
on my filter, as could be seen by the blebs in the sky here.]
What I didn't knew was, in Iceland, dark clouds travelled faster than the speed of sound. And the mist descended upon us. Suddenly I saw in front of my eyes flakes after flakes of snow floating up from below the cliff, and heading right towards us!
"It's snowing!" called out Kai Sing. Shucks, snow landing on the filter meant water droplets which in turn meant that the picture would be full of spots.
"Ok, one last shot!" I said. And release the cable.
|As the snow flakes hit us, Derek, |
Kai Sing & I finished off our last
few shots before we quickly ran back.
The snow came in fast and furious, and the flakes began hitting painfully against our faces. I struggled to finish off my last shots. On my right, Derek was doing likewise. Kai Sing was stretching out to adjust his filters one final time before he opened his shutter.
"Quickly!" shouted Serene. "Come up the bus!"
|Snowing in Vikurskali stop.|
|See their expression! All reeling from the snow and wind. Must had|
been cold yah!
We all got down and found ourselves smack right in the middle of snow and wind. It was fun. We hadn't had this kind of weather for quite some time already.
We were taking our own sweet time walking around when out of a sudden the snow took itself up a
|Acrux also walked quickly into Vikurskali stop.|
We all were feeling the effects of the cold wind, and were starting to run towards the small building for shelter. Interestingly as I stood observing at the doorway, I saw many of the Ang Mohs doing the same, running in flushed and breathless. I would have had thought the locals were used to this kind of weather.
|My left hand. Poor hand. A day after this shot was|
taken, this left hand got broken.
Adrian: "Let's go have lunch inside here."
I always liked to compare the prices of food in various parts of Iceland. And on this day, a burger sandwich with some greens and fries cost about 1900 ISK (S$22). We all hid in the welcoming warmth of this little stop while the snow raged outside. And we ate and relaxed.
|We sat there, talked talked talked... and didn't know what else to do.|
|.. while the two Jiejie's and the XMM sat.|
|... and the Uncles and Aunty drank.|
|Carol, Yilin and Hannah firing away.|
The Renisdranger Rock Formation, of course!
It was THE place that we were supposed to go, but in this weather we could only view it as a small dot from behind the coffee shop.
|The bird, the rocks & the Good Doctor.|
However, our courageous Doctor Teck Siang braved the wind and snow and ventured all the way out to capture the rocks. Kudos to that man!
It was a pleasant surprise, with all these fantastic views behind the shop, with snow and wind and all. These gave the view a dreamy effect, something that we wouldn't possibly achieve otherwise. I didn't know what would be better - a clear sky or one like this.
But whatever it was, this little technical stop did have quite a bit of something to write about because of its location, its view, the weather, and the fact that we were feeling cold and a tad hungry.
|The lonely log, the snow & the rocks in the distance.|
|Until today I still didn't know the name|
on the sign above Serene & Lai Peng.
Anyway time passed. And the driver beckoned. We needed to keep going. The weather wasn't exactly cooperating.
And boy was I surprised to find a name that I hadn't seen for the longest time appearing here in Iceland.
|Names of old time appearing in Iceland...|
Yes, AlexK is another one of these names. I had to etch mine beside this famous name in order to take a shot of this for posterity.
And this Princess Leia just had to control her laughter when she beheld this scene...
|The Princess on Hoth..|
Eldhraun Lava field
In 1783, a catastrophic eruption formed an enormous crater in southern Iceland and the subsequent lava the flowed into this developed into an unludating field of lava rocks. Woolly Fringe Moss covered the entire surface with time. Somewhere near this field was a tongue-twisting Canyon called Fjadrargljufur Canyon that was supposed to be very spectacular, about a few hundred metres in by foot.
|My left foot. Poor foot, a day after this |
shot, this left ankle was busted.
Upon first sight, the white ice and snow on the lava field might appear slippery. And I believed Serene and I pulled on our shoe-studs again, being our kiasu selves. But we realised later that the snow and ice were soft and the mosses made it even less slippery to walk on.
It was a strange sensation walking on the moss-covered lava rocks. It was as though we were walking on thick spongy padding. Every step was a bounce, unless one happened to stepped into a hole and plunge right downwards.
The lighting was terrible. Gloomy and dark. But like what Adrian always say, light was what a photographer couldn't control, and as such, he had to make the best of whatever was dealt him.
|The lava rocks, the mosses, the snow and the people.|
I could imagine how much more colourful this scene would be had it been in a brighter season. Other than that I was struggling to find some foreground subjects to shoot. It was a real toughie. I simply couldn't.
|Serene very guai, listened to me.|
Foreground subject & background
I didn't know too.
I told her to look for human subjects in the background to show the vastness of the field.
I walked in and out, left and right. Every angle looked the same to me.
I was starting to feel a little sian already. Yes, the place was amazing. But from a photographic point of view, the dark gloomy sky made it a little uninteresting.
"I got to go back home and pull out all the colours in post-processing," I told myself.
I kept on looking high and low for some subjects. But all I could find was some reddish little shrub. Even with my 50mm f/1.2 I couldn't do much. Haiyah.. just enjoy the scene lah.
Finally I found my subject that would stand out from the dull surrounding ~ my queen (sometimes she preferred to be called the Princess for it made her younger) with her red tuque, and her classic XMM pose.
|Princess in the lava field.|
|Photo and Chinese captions: Courtesy of Eddy Chung|
By this time, I was looking high and low for a 'technical break' for my bladder. I saw Acrux at the side.
"Hey I need to Xiao-bian (pee)!" I called out.
"Me too," replied the man in blue.
"Ok, let's look for somewhere a little further away so none of our teammate will see our most intimate parts."
And somewhere out there, we gave back a little bit of something to Nature, taking turn to keep watch for each other. Only thing was, he didn't know that I secretly took a shot of him while he was at it. But of course, from a photographic point of view, it was indeed foreground and background interest.
|Acrux giving back to Nature.|
A long drive...
"Today we are going to take a long long drive to our destination," I remembered Adrian telling us early in the morning. "And when we arrive at our destination, we will be looking for the ideal foreground for us to capture the aurora."
Our Driver Isaksen showed Alex and myself on his iPhone a couple of evenings ago in Laugavartn a website which I couldn't remember, something like www.vethur.is or something to that effect, which gave us a map of the aurora and gave an aurora sighting reading.
In order to see the aurora, it had to be a cold night. But it had also to be a clear night. So snow and mist and clouds were big no-nos. Kai Sing, forever the astro-man, would constantly point out the presence of clouds, by looking for stars.
I felt so secure having these experts around me.
A common set of memories, a common experience...
For me, it was very simple. Even if we ended up seeing no Aurora I was ok. The whole experience of being with a group of good friends with common interest, living, cooking and eating together under one roof, albeit for a short period, and braving the biting cold wind out there on the cliff together, was enough to be listed as a trip to remember.
I had always been a strong believer in having a set of common memories among friends. It was like a common karma, which brought people together, be these good or bad. And the more extreme in conditions, the more happenings, the better the members would gel, and the more we would cherish it in years to come.
|Michelle, Yan Yan & Serene giving the hot dogs a go!|
The day was half gone. But the most interesting sights had yet to come. Honestly at this point in time, I was quite sure most of us didn't know what lay ahead of us. This tour of Iceland was just so 'like that'. There was so many destinations, so many sights, so many unpronounceable names that all it took was a few days and the scenes would merge into each other. But we persevered.
The Un-named waterfall
|All auto-pilot at the unplanned stop...|
It was an unplanned destination, an impromptu stop. A nameless waterfall. But it was no less fun. By then most of us were already in auto-pilot mode when it came to LE scenes like these. There was still not much light, but the scene was lovely, and without water droplets flying all over, it was much easier to shoot.
|My humble take of the nameless waterfall.|
Approaching the Glacier...
We were starting to doze off under the effect of the constant hum of the bus engine, and certainly post-lunch. The time was half past three in the afternoon. And then it came. At the horizon, the road made a right curve, hugging two mountains. The mountains themselves weren't of anything special. But what was in between them was a whole sheet of glacier, lost in mist higher up at its origin, but at its mouth, the blue of the ice got reflected where the sunlight hit it.
|The Vatnajokull Glacier.|
Looking back, I realised this stop was our primer to a whole lot of glacier, ice, glacier lagoon, ice beach and glacier ice caves. This was the beginning of the Tour de ICE-land!
As we drove along, Derek exclaimed in sheer astonishment: "So much ice, so much glacier ice! The only place that has more glacier than this is Alaska!"
The boys and girls couldn't wait to alight. And everyone just went wild.
|Hannah hadn't a filter holder. Cleverly she held the GND in front of |
her lens. Must be the usual advice from Adrian. Carol? Her usual
Koren style sitting on the floor to shoot.
|The one feeling cold & the one feeling not-so-cold. (Or perhaps didn't|
bring enough clothing as Adrian said no need to? LOL!)
|The last time I ever saw anyone shooting while standing on one leg was|
an Icelandic Marine years back. Leng Zhai had mastered the art!
|Usually I saw people shooting in one direction at the glacier. But.. here|
Yilin and Yan Yan were shooting in opposite directions. Must be some
big discovery on the other side!
|Somehow XMM seemed to be|
enjoying being shot rather than
|This poor man. Even taking group photo he was also sooooo intense.|
|Sometimes it didn't matter what you use to shoot. It was how your|
heart was feeling at that moment of capturing the shot that mattered.
With such a killer smile, even an iPhone shot would be a winner.
|... and with such a killer look, any photographer|
could transform this model into a superb
|Group photo at Vaynajokull.|
[Photo: Courtesy of Adrian Loh]
The problem with photographers was, we all really spend more time than we were allocated wherever we set foot on. It was something that the driver Isaksen probably had to learn to live with. One location would easily set us back by at least an hour. The driver Isaksen was very candid about it.
"Here in Iceland we have a saying. We can easily sacrifice 10% of our population and it will still be ok because it doesn't make much difference. So here on this tour, as long as the number of you missing is less than 10%, I think we can still move out."Thus from this point onwards, he would often joke about the "10% rule" and asked if we could move out even if one or two members were still missing. I loved this old fellow. He always had the knack to turn an awkward moment around.
|Moving out from this view point of Vatnajokull.|
There would be many view points over the
next few days.
In my mind, I was thinking we would be almost coming to our last destination for the day. It had been a long day. We should be targeting to rest soon.
|Running down the bus to shoot... rainbow?|
"Quick! A quick stop, guys!" shouted Adrian. Bing-bing-biang-biang... and we were all down, gazing at that magnificent full rainbow. This one looked even nice than the one at Skogafoss, in my opinion.
Serene said: "How to shoot? Can I use my iPhone to shoot?"And I was right! Her iPhone picture captured the full glory of the rainbow.
I replied: "Yes you can. A beautiful rainbow such as this, anything you use to shoot will turn out nice."
Here was my rendition of the full rainbow, with very little enhancement done.
Hofskirkja Turf Church
4:45pm, said my watch.
I could feel in my stomach that something big was coming up. I didn't know what it was, but the anticipation was there.
|Another 'they shoot the scene, I shoot them' shot.|
This Hofskirkja church was about 30km east of Vatnajokull glacier. It was built in 1884, and was the last of the 6 turf churches built in the old style left standing, and was preserved as a historical monument.
On this day, the sun was still up and the lighting was nice and warm. Little did we know, a few days later when we returned, the whole scene would have had taken a totally different flavour.
|This was the moment my pair of gloves dropped out of my pocket without|
me realising it. Luckily I could see them from afar when I went back for 'em.
[Luckily I realised it later when I was back in the bus, I stopped the driver to go down and look for it.] Heng ah! Otherwise I would have had to deploy the spare glove.
Serene took a shot of the Hof church with her point and shoot camera.
"Dar!" she said. "My shot, the colour is so nice! I think mine is better than yours!"
"Yah hor... so nice! You win!" I said.
|Serene's shot of the Hofskirkja church.|
And we ALL moved in close to the church.
Everyone was concentrating on finding his and her angle. I just lifted up my rangefinder and took a shot. I just wanted the cross of the cemetery with the church.
|My take of the cross and the Hof church. Leica M9P with Canon LTM 50mm f/1.2. Wide open.|
"Dar!" I called out to Serene. "Let me take a shot of you like this."
|The Princess and the Hof church. Leica M9P with Canon LTM 50mm f/1.2. |
Some brake problem...?
At this moment, when all of us were boarded, a screeching high pitch mechanical noise emitted from the bus's dashboard. The driver Isaksen looked troubled. The noise continued for a long while as we silently watched him deal with it. And then, as sudden as it came, the noise went. And a smile returned to his face and the bus started to move off.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
It was 5:30pm. The bus chugged to an open parking spot.
"Ok guys, this is it. The Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Let's get down and have a look," instructed our tour leader.
|Walking to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.|
|Serene's shot of the chunks of ice floating on Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon. It was cold, but the magnificence of this scene|
captivated us. Despite frozen fingers, we continued snapping away.
|Didn't know Serene & Kai Sing knew what they were shooting|
or not. I knew I was shooting blindly, cos my mind was blinded.
|A shot of both of us (Sorry, my mind was so blank I couldn't remember who shot this.. might have been Kai Sing).|
|Serene just looking for huge chunks of ice.|
Before the trip I remembered seeing on one of Adrian's pre-departure briefing note a beautiful huge chunk of floating ice, almost transparent and totally glowing with the hue of blue on this Jokulsarlon lagoon. And it was with that image in mind that I looked around for something similar. On this evening, the closest we could come to was this chunk of ice. Sadly it wasn't as transparent as the one shown. But it would just have to make do.
|The Ice. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.|
|The Portrait Master shooting portraiture of ice.|
The temperature might had been just slightly above freezing. My fingers were frozen once again, together with my brain. Somehow, a tropical dweller like me doesn't seem to fare well under such cold condition. I could shoot no more. And all I could see was Alex standing high up on the shore taking aim. This fellow sure had determination.
We spent not too long a time here this evening. Over the next few days we would be visiting this location repeatedly.
Gerdi Guesthouse.. and refillable lamb porridge!
|Unloading our luggage at Gerdi Guesthouse|
Our bus took the curvy road and stopped just outside Gerdi. What a quaint little guesthouse! And what was even more impressive was, the staffs and waiters were soooo much more polite and helpful as compared with those at Reykjavic, and some of those young brats in the hot dog shops. I was really liking this place.
|It was cold and dark by the time we arrived at Gerdi.|
"Ok, we will gather at 7pm for dinner," said Adrian. Yes, I was famished. Kai Sing and I were the only persons who ordered our favourite lamb soup (refillable). And when our lamb soup came, we were delighted to find that it was soupy porridge with lamb and some vegetables! We both devour our lamb chunks, and we kept asking for more refills until the waiter declared they were out of them. Shucks! But it was so delicious, even though it was just a simple dish of dumping everything in together, something that Serene could easily prepare for me back home.
It must had been the cold of the whole day and the tiredness, that the Chinese-ness of the chok (porridge) brought back so much warmth and fond memories that Kai Sing and I couldn't stop singing our praises...
"Ok guys, have a good rest," after dinner, Adrian announced. "Tomorrow morning we will gather at the small little house behind. The one with only one door. That's our kitchenette. I will be preparing breakfast for you all there. Anyone who can come and help me, I will be there earlier to start our preparation."
This tour leader was really something. In between worrying about destinations, about lights, about making sure everyone was accounted for, about keeping to time, he still had to worry about cooking for us. I didn't think any other tour group would have had such a goot-lat leader, not by any long shot. With such a reassuring thought, Serene and I hit the pillow and fell right asleep.
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Iceland Day 5 ~ A broken bus, a close encounter with Fjallsarlon, a flirt with Jokulsarlon (Norman) Ice Beach... and Bukit Lim Wee How