Monday 9 July 2012

Falling for Southwest Iceland

During my research into photography opportunities in Iceland, I noticed that many of the amazing photos were of Icelandic waterfalls. My list already had a couple of famous fossar, when I stumbled upon this crazy blog dedicated to one fella's passion for the myriad of waterfalls around the world. I was inspired. Plus the overcast weather was perfect for water photography.

We drove out of Stykkishólmur with Tia at the helm, steadily steering our way along the narrow dirt roads. Our first stop was Glanni, a small but pretty set of falls just off the Ring Road. The river meandered through the vast open landscape with the falls landing beside what looked like a local attempt to revive some of Iceland's rarest plants - trees.

Glanni Waterfall
Here we had a coffee and the super friendly café owner pulled out a map and directed us to some other spots for photography, advising which roads our little Suzuki Swift wouldn't be able to go on.

Hraunfossar was next on the list. This name meant 'lava falls' and they really are quite uniquely special. Most falls occur along a surface river, however these falls occur instead as a 900 metre wide series of springs that flow straight out from underneath the desert-like expanse of the Hallmundarhraun lava flow - how typically Icelandic is that?! This particular interesting section would have been about 30 metres wide.

Overview of the Hraunfossar Waterfall. Notice that the water is not coming from a surface river; instead it flows underground to these springs where it falls into the river. Very impressive and unique.
Details in the Hraunfossar Waterfall
We had some driving to do from Hraunfossar as we made our way south to Iceland's most popular waterfall. Gullfoss was a massive set of thunderous falls on the mighty glacier fed Hvítá River, featuring a pair of sharp 45 degree angled drops into a sheer-sided gorge. The overall scene was impressive, but my attempts at getting a decent shot were hampered by huge gusts of wind picking up equal volumes of falling water and spraying all onlookers with the stuff. Our raincoats managed to keep us partially dry, but suffice to say my lens cleaning cloth ended up saturated and useless after many wipes of the glass.

The misty and dramatic Gullfoss Waterfall
We found a small nook of shelter from the wind right down next to the falls themselves, and I found the silky detail over sharp rocks more photogenic.

Details at the Gullfoss Waterfall
Water falling the wrong way, Gullfoss Waterfall
This 'golden circle' area also contained the original Geysir, after which all other geysers (hot-water spouts) are named. Apparently some people in the fifties clogged it up with rocks, so it doesn't go off as often or as high anymore, but the world's most reliable geyser, Strokkur, was just a few metres away and went off every 10 minutes or so. We hung around for several spouting sessions, but the darn geyser kept surprising me with how high it shot and I never seemed to have my lens set wide enough to capture the whole height.

Strokkur Geysir
We continued our southward journey to Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall was popular because it was a big drop over a huge cave-like overhang that allowed you to walk behind the falls with some degree of dryness. This was another fun, wet waterfall visit.

The standard shot with water on my lens - Seljalandsfoss
Something different at Seljalandsfoss
It falls at Seljalandsfoss
Then there was the powerful but beautiful veil of Skógafoss.

Skogafoss Waterfall
A moody shot of Skogafoss Waterfall
And last but easily the best looking falls I have seen - Svartifoss. With the small stream pouring over an amphitheater of hanging basalt columns that looked like the pipes of a giant church organ, our Icelandic waterfall experience was complete.

Svartifoss or Black Falls
Svartifoss or Black Falls
The colosseum surrounds Svartifoss

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