Day 3 - SydsPics
Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, United Kingdom

Photographing Iceland in 6 Days

In June of 2017 we took the trip of a lifetime. Mission: Go all around Iceland in 6 days, driving on route 1 (the famous Iceland Ring Road which goes around the entire country) and photographing the most famous and some not so famous natural wonders this picturesque country has to offer.

Day 3 : Mývatn - Egilsstaðir

Day 3 of our 6 day adventure around Iceland was an early start and we managed to get up in time for breakfast, Yay! (This happens a lot less than it should). We wandered among the Dark Castles where Trolls live. Visited a crater nicknamed "Gateway to Hell", then strolled through an alien landscape where the earth we were walking on was literally younger than us and saw the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Day 3 was filled with geological wonders which make Iceland a truly unique place.

Dimmuborgir

Our first stop for the day was Dimmuborgir which is a place right out of a fantasy book or someone's nightmare. In Icelandic, it literally translates to dimmu "dark", borgir "cities" or "castles".

As soon as you arrive, the first question that will come to your mind is: How the hell does something like this occur in nature?

The Dimmuborgir area is a huge, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption to the east around 2300 years ago. The lava pooled over a small lake or marsh. As the lava flowed across the lake, it caused the water underneath to boil and produce vapour that rose through the lava forming lava pillars. As the lava continued flowing towards lower ground, the top crust layer collapsed, but the hollow pillars of solidified lava remained creating this place.

16 mm | F/11 | 1/320 s - 1/20 s | 5 Shot AEB | ISO 100

Dark castles where the Trolls live - Dimmuborgir

In Icelandic folklore, Dimmuborgir is the home of a troll named Grýla, her third husband Leppalúði and their sons The Yule Lads.

Iceland is a place where history and fantasy are often entwined. Its the land of Vikings and Sagas and every place has a folklore associated with it but none more than Dimmuborgir.

Apart from the Trolls and the Yule Lads folklore, Dimmuborgir is said to connect earth with the infernal regions. In Nordic Christian lore,  Dimmuborgir is the place where Satan landed when he was cast from the heavens and created the apparent "Helvetes katakomber" which is Norwegian for "The Catacombs of Hell".

Námaskarð

Well, if the devil indeed fell down in Dimmuborgir, he did not have to travel far as Námaskarð is the closest thing to hell on earth. This was our next stop and as we entered this alien landscape, we quickly realised that the place doesn't just look like hell, it smells like hell too.

The steam escaping from the earth stinks of sulphur and the pungent smell of rotten eggs is all around as the place is filled with hot sulfuric mud springs and steam springs (solfataras and fumaroles).

16 mm | F/14 | 1/30 s | ISO 100

Taking a stroll on Mars - Námaskarð, Iceland

A shot trying to capture the otherworldliness (if that's a word) of this Alien landscape. I decided to include the couple in the shot to show the scale of the place.

Once you get over the smell, you realise that this place is a photographer's paradise.  Barren red earth all over, steam rising out of vents in the earth, streams of black water to act as leading lines and distant snow covered mountains providing the perfect background, what more could you ask for?

35 mm | F/14 | 1/50 s ! ISO 100

In Hell, Heaven on the horizon, Námaskarð, Iceland

Located near Lake Myvatn, Námaskarð is a geothermal wonder. Black rivers, ore deposits and bubbling pools of sulfur create a landscape that’s rich with colorful minerals and is continuously steaming.
Looks like we are standing in Hell and can see heaven (beautiful snow covered peaks) just over the horizon.

Krafla Víti Crater

While we were on the topic of hell, we decided to take a quick detour and visit a place which literally translates to "hell" in Icelandic - "Víti", and the Víti crater is locally known as the gateway to hell. Well makes sense, if the devil landed in Dimmuborgir and hell on earth was right next door in Námaskarð, he would need a doorway to hell's underground level and he found one in Víti.

iPhone 7 Pano shot

Doorway to Hell - Viti Crater, Iceland

iPhone 7 Panorama of the Viti crater near Lake Mývatn.
It is a huge explosion crater, about 300 metres in diameter. Formed during a massive volcanic eruption during the famous Mývatn Fires in 1724.
The eruption continued for 5 years and the mud in the crater boiled for another 100 years giving it the name Víti which means HELL. So this place was literally burning for 5 years and boiling for the next 100. An apt nickname.

Dettifoss

Our next photo stop was Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It was a long walk from the parking lot and when we reached the waterfall, all the access routes to get down to the fall were closed apparently because of some accident involving a tourist recently. The winds in Iceland can be extremely strong and relentless especially near Detiifoss, so be careful if you plan to visit.

18 mm | F/22 | 1 s | ISO 100

Dettifoss - The most powerful waterfall in Europe

Dettifoss is located in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland. The water comes from the Vatnajökull glacier and is sediment-rich, colouring the water a greyish white. The Jökulsá á Fjöllum river falls for more than 44 metres, causing a massive, crashing spray and creating this marvel of nature.

Our only option was to get a picture from the viewing platform right on top of the waterfall. The wind and the sheer power of the waterfall made it quite difficult with constant sprays of water enough to drench us and our gear. Getting a long exposure was especially a challenge because of the almost constant spray. Using a ND filter was impractical so i just stopped down to F/22 to get a 1 second exposure.

Rjúkandi Foss

Dettifoss was supposed to be our last stop for the day before we headed to our accommodation in Egilsstaðir but as fate would have it, it wasn't. Well, we should have expected it, I mean how can you drive for almost 150 km in a country as beautiful and picturesque as Iceland and not stop for a quick photo-op.

Rjúkandi Foss is one of the not so famous destinations in Iceland and is right next to the ring road (route 1), nonetheless it is as beautiful as any other waterfall in the country.

16 mm | F/13 | 1 s | ISO 100

Rjúkandi Foss, Egilsstaðir, Iceland

This waterfall in east Iceland descends the steep valley of Jökuldalur into the Jökulsá a Brú river.

5 minutes after we left this place it started to rain like hell. We completed our journey to Egilsstaðir which was our stop for the night. The weather continued to worsen and it pretty much rained the entire night.

We took this as an opportunity to enjoy the rainy weather with a few drinks and headed over to the hotel bar. After a few drinks and a nice hot meal we retired for the night with the hope that the weather gods would show some mercy tomorrow.

Even tough filled with stories about trolls, the Devil and Hell, day 3 was not bad at all. We got to see some truly unique and otherworldly landscapes and experience true Icelandic weather which can change every 5 minutes (not that different for the UK in the respect.)

Keep following for Day 4.

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