Iceland 2017 5 days on the SOUTH Coast

October 2016 marked my 50th birthday and my wife had arranged for the pair of us to spend 5 days in Iceland (kid free) as my birthday present. We flew out on 17th February to a rainy Reykjavik, grabbed our hire car and drove two hours along the south coast to the small town of Vik. We were staying at Icelandair Hotel Vik which is to be recommended.

The next morning was a 6am alarm and a 2 hour drive through the darkness down the coast to Jökulsárlón lagoon and beach. This lagoon is a recent one, left by the retreating Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. Huge chunks of ice calve off of the glacier face and into the lagoon where they might spend 5 years before finding the narrow outlet to the sea. Some of that ice then gets washed up onto Jökulsárlón beach which itself is comprised of black lava sand. Jökulsárlón has been a setting for four Hollywood movies: A View to a Kill, Die Another Day, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Batman Begins.

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Even when you turned away from the beach there were amazing views to be had!

After sunrise at the beach we moved to the lagoon. A mist had risen but this added to the atmosphere. For a long time I took no photos but just watched the icebergs move slowly through the water crashing and grinding against each other whilst eider ducks and grey seals swam past.

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By lunchtime we were done at the lagoon and drove back to the hotel. This however took far longer then the journey out as we could now see the landscape and I had to stop at every turn to photograph, mountains in mist, jutting peaks, waterfalls etc.

Even the road itself is dramatic...
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We eventually got back to our hotel exhausted but, with the promise of some breaks in the cloud, headed out to look for aurora. We parked up in a side track and started to see the glimmer of something. I took a shot on the camera to check and got the image below. Finally I had fulfilled the ambition of seeing the Northern lights albeit dimly. We settled back to see if it developed but then two middle aged American guys approached us to say that there coach had broken down further along the track and that a young lady in the coach was having abdominal pains. They asked if we'd take her back to her hotel 6 kilometres away. I looked up at the sky and, as fate would have it, the aurora chose that moment to dance. Reluctantly, but rather chivalrously I thought, we collected her and drove her back to her hotel. We returned to the same spot afterwards but the display was negligible by then. I was gutted but Karma would later see me alright. The image below is the one real shot I got of that night...

The next day was damp and foggy but we wandered around locally taking in Dyrholaey cliffs, Skogafoss waterfall, Solheimajokul glacier and Reynisdranger sea stacks.

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The next morning was our last in Vik as we headed back to Reykjavik. We left in fog but the sun soon started to appear. I also wanted to go back to Skogafoss early to beat the tourists and get a clear shot and so we arrived just after sunrise, A couple were there already and as the guy photographed his partner in a red jacket I moved to place her in the frame to get a feel for the size of the Falls.

Skogafoss

Along the road we decided to detour and take in Geysir and Godafoss falls. This made for a huge drive but there was plenty to see before we got to those places...

Just another awesome view from the road.
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Shots from along the road.
Icelandic horses on the Tundra

Geysir and Godafoss were the tourist honeypots I imagined. I wasn't particularly keen to go but Helen wanted to see them as we were "only an hour or so away". I'm glad we did-Geysir in particular was fascinating and Godafoss is dramatic although I struggled to get decent photos of it..

Geysir about to blow...
Godafoss.

The journey back to our hotel in Reykjavik went through Pingvellir national park. Oh wow what a beautiful area. Again the Icelandic horses caught my eye...

Icelandic Horses 1
Icelandic Horses 2

Our last full day started snowy and grey so we wandered the City until lunch and then drove for a few hours stopping as we saw something interesting to photograph.

As sunset drew in we saw on the map a place near Pingvellir that had a small set of falls near mountains so went to look. The track was too icy to get all the way there but the view at sunset from nearby was awesome.

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Helen doing her "enough with the camera or I'm leaving without you" pose.

So that was it. We just had to pack and prepare for our early flight back home. Except that a clearing sky was forecast, we wouldn't return for ages, we hadn't seen the aurora properly and Helen is an eternal optimist. So at 9pm we drove back to Pingvellir national park and we sat, and we waited.

The first shot. The aurora was barely visible to the eye but the camera picked it up. I was happy with this but more was to come....
The aurora started to rise and lengthen and became more vibrant.
until it began to shimmer and dance with deep pinks reflecting in the snow on the mountain tops.

We drove back into Reyjavik in stunned silence at what we'd seen but I wanted to get two other shots on the way:

The Sun Voyager, Reykjavik
The Harpa Concert Hall.

And that was it. We went to sleep at about 2am and the alarm woke us at 5:45am for the trip home. We drove to the airport watching a superb sunrise over the city and wishing we were staying for a bit longer.

What an amazing country-easily the most beautiful I've been to. I nicknamed it the "Oh wow" country as every 5 minutes you saw something that made you say it. It is a country that shows you the real raw power of nature; the intense cold, the aurora, the deafening roar of waves hitting the South coast that have travelled from Antarctica, the geothermal pools, the volcanoes, the icebergs, the immense glaciers, snow covered mountains, the absolute silence deep in the mountains, the quality of the light.....

Oh, and did I mention I saw my first ever fogbow as well...?
Thank-you Iceland.

All images shot with an Olympus OMD EM5ii or OMD EM10, 7-14mm pro, 12-40mm pro, 40-150mm pro lenses, NISI v5 filter holder, polariser and ND grad. A Three Legged Thing Punk Travis Tripod kept the camera steady in the wind and a Mindshift Gear Backlight 26L carried it all.

All images copyright of Chris Day at www.chrisdayphoto.com

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Chris Day
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