Spend Time on Location. Jokulsarlon, Iceland.

Spend Time on Location. Jokulsarlon, Iceland.

Iceland Post #2/16: Ice Formations, Jokulsarlon, Iceland.

[960 Words | Reading time: 4 min 30 seconds]

Ice formations, Jokulsarlon, Iceland. By Alberto Mateo

The main problem of photographing the most famous spot of a country or city (like the Ice Formations of the glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon) is to avoid falling on the ‘cliché’, not to photograph once again what has been photographed endlessly by the thousands of photographers who have visited the location before you attracted by the inherent beauty of the place. It is a difficult, sometimes impossible task.

Related Image: Tram in Aleksandergatan, Helsinki, Finland.

In these situations a photographer has two possibilities:

  1. Find a CREATIVE WAY to shoot what has been done before and being able to find something that separates your image from the rest (a different point of view, a special composition, special atmospheric conditions...) This is a possible approach, but not easy to achieve. Counting the huge number of photographers out there trying creative ways to photograph over and over again the same locations, we can conclude that this is a possibility to try, but we cannot be sure that can be achieved. It won’t be easy to wow your audience this way. I tried this possibility in the too often photographed ‘Rialto Bridge’ in Venice.
  1. Make a better work than the other photographers who have been before you in the same place you are now. This means you have to be technically better to make the more of the situation/location you have in front of you, and that you will show in a better face (usually SPENDING MORE TIME exploring your subject) or the location you have at hand. This was also my attempt in the Regent Street in London.

Henri Cartier Bresson said that the only way to take a real COMPLETE reportage of a place is living there. The TIME you spend exploring your subject, trying new photographic possibilities and taking pictures is the key factor for a great reportage. However, we cannot all go to live to Jokulsarlon, but we can spend more time than the average photographer, or at least more time than the average tourist who travel in a bus and have only a couple of hours in this stunning location. That is why I planned my trip from the beginning on a rented car, outside the general bus tours organized for tourists, and saved some unplanned time at the end of my trip. The final third of my trip would have to be decided after I knew first hand the locations and was aware of which places gave better photographic possibilities.

Tourist canned circuits are oriented to people who wants to know as many locations as possible in a short period of time, but have too tight schedules and are not aware of the photographic possibilities each place has to offer. In addition, at sunrise and sunset the average person is usually sleeping or having dinner, and that is a luxury that a landscape photographer simply cannot afford.

I can say that in my trip I spent nearly three days at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and the (also impressive!) near Diamond Beach. I worked mostly at sunrise, at around 5:30, with no people, just ice shapes, black volcanic sand and the sea. With my D800 always on my Gitzo/Manfrotto tripod, playing with different shutter speeds to try to get different relations of the surf moving around the shapes of ice. During the day, when the first visitors appeared, I tried to shoot images with human figures among the ice shapes or in the shore to add human factor to the scenes.

I shot this image on a gelid morning, just after sunrise, under the soft light of an overcast sky. It had been snowing during the night and all ice shapes had a beautiful thin snow cover that made the ice shapes look even more pristine than the previous day. Melting ice and old snow may have a grayish tonality that does not look as beautiful as the blue-cyan-whitish new one. I took many pictures of the ice formations when I went all over the shore, but this one is one of my favorites. This ice “tree” shaped formation looked great. The soft light from the overcast sky marked the shapes without creating shadows, which would have looked nasty if they were too dark, hiding the detail in parts of the ice.

Ice formations are continuously arriving to the lagoon detaching from the huge masses of ice glaciers that break in this huge mass of water. The currents move them inside the lake and deposit them in the sea. In addition the above zero temperatures of the Icelandic Spring make the ice crunch and melt. All these conditions create a landscape that is slowly, but continuously changing. The more time you spend with the camera in this place, the better pictures you make, no way around about this.


Related Landscape I took in Vietnam: Fog entering the valley, Bac Ha, Vietnam

I have not visited the Northern part of the Island, or the volcanic landscapes of the interior (all the roads were still closed in the early spring), but have to say that in my honest opinion, If there is a place that makes a difference, that is unique in the world among all the landscapes of Iceland, it is Jokulsarlon and the nearby Diamond Beach.

I will soon upload some more images of the ice shapes melting in the surf in this black volcanic sand beach.


Camera Model: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 80-200 AF used at 145mm
SETTINGS: Aperture: f16 | Shutter Speed 1/250 | ISO 100


Tripod: [Legs: Manfrotto 055 Pro] & [Head: Gitzo 1372M Magnesium Alloy]
Backpack: LowePro with rain cover (absolutely needed in Iceland)
Filter: B+W 77mm Graduated 0.6 Neutral Density Filter 2 points, soft transition
Memory Card: Sandisk SD Extreme 64Gb

NEXT SCHEDULED POST: Skogafoss, Iceland. Coming soon...

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