Iceland Workshop - Day 3 and 4

Iceland Workshop - Day 3 and 4

This blog is part of a series of blogs about my time on a landscape photography workshop run by Tom Mackie in Iceland. Read the first in the series about day 1 and 2 or skip to the end and read about day 5,6 and 7.

Day 3 – Iceland bares its teeth

We’d stayed in a beautiful hotel in Vik and woke in the morning to a horrible day. The wind was up, the sky was overcast and the snow was steadily falling. We decided there was no real point heading out and hid in the hotel and looked at photos. It was great for me as I got to see some of the superb work of my fellow photographers, genuinely inspirational stuff, and I don’t say that often. If you haven’t already I recommend you check out their photos, ignore mine, they suck in comparison –,, and Peter’s Flickr feed. I could only find a site that was obviously still in development for Paul so, sorry, you haven’t been included!

After that we headed out to check out some of the locations we would have shot had the weather been less harsh. There were some potentially beautiful locations, but the dark skies and, most of all, incredible wind, meant all we could do was have a quick look and move on. On our way to our hotel in Hali, East of Jökulsarlón, the wind was starting to threaten to knock us off the road. With slushy roads and gusts of 100mph there were a few moments when it started getting hairy and we started sliding across the road. Eventually we came to a part of the road that had been closed, and had to take shelter in a different hotel for a few hours. We later found that the wind had been so powerful that some cars had to be abandoned after wind picked up rocks and smashed them through their windows, so we got away lightly. Soon the road was reopened and we made it (barely) to Hali, hoping the next day would bring us some more luck.

Day 4 – A break in the weather, mountains and Fjallsárlón

The day started gloomy but calm. We decided to head to Jökulsarlón beach, a black sand beach that is littered with icebergs that have floated out of the Jökulsarlón lagoon and crashed onto the beach. The weather meant photography was still not on the cards, so we had a nice look round there and the lagoon, then headed off to Fjallsárlón, a much more out of the way frozen lagoon littered with icebregs broken off the same glacier (it’s a really big glacier) that feeds Jökulsarlón. It was a great spot surrounded by mountains and, of course, the glacier, so we took our cameras out and got shooting. I also somehow got persuaded to pose for this.

Me…Yup. Photo courtesy of Michael Blanchette Photography.

Still, the weather wasn’t great so it was all a bit gloomy and uninteresting. We headed back to the hotel at Hali and had some lunch. Peter and I stepped out and suddenly spotted something we thought we’d never see, a break in the clouds. It was a tiny break, but it was something. As the others came out we pointed at the sky and pretty soon we bundled into the van and chased it down. On the way there we stopped at the side of the road to shoot this great location.

Mountains. 1/80s @ f16, ISO 125, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 24mm
Mountains. 8s @ f22, ISO 50, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 24mm

No idea what the areas called, it was just on the side of the road and looked pretty. These mountains are on the edge of the biggest glacier in Iceland, which you can just see to the left and right. This was the first time we’d seen a nice break in the weather all week, so we wanted to make the most of it. We decided to head back to Fjallsárlón lagoon for sunset, mostly because it is a lot quieter than Jökulsarlón but I was also happy because I thought it was actually a slightly nicer spot, perhaps because it was a little more tucked away. The whole area looked completely different with blue skies and a nice setting sun, so we wandered around to try and find the best angle to shoot from.

Fjallsárlón at sunset. 1/60s @ f18, ISO 100, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 36mm
Fjallsárlón at sunset. 1/30s @ f20, ISO 160, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 70mm

I loved the blue of ice and the snow you can see blowing off the mountains in the distance. I’d already used a graduated filter to bring out the sky more, but for all of these I needed to do a bit more post processing to balance out the exposures of the foreground and the sky. I used the graduated and radial filters in Lightroom to gently even everything out, without anyone hopefully noticing…?

Mike photographing Fjallsárlón at sunset. 1/50s @ f16, ISO 160, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 24mm

So the day ended well. After a couple of days of inclement weather it finally looked like things were on the up. There was one small hiccup. I’d already lost one of the handles off my tripod head at Fjallsárlón and not been able to find it again, but it turns out I also somehow managed to lose an entire leg section of my tripod. God only knows how, but somehow an entire leg section just fell off somewhere, so if you’re in Iceland and find a black aluminium leg from a Manfrotto tripod, give me a shout.

Read the last in the series about day 5,6 and 7