Our next part of the journey involved a very long drive from Myvatn in the east to the Snaefellness Peninsula in the west. We stopped a couple of times but the journey still took around 7 hours in total. A whole day travelling. As we arrived, conditions began to worsen: the wind picked up, the temperature dropped and things began to look rather dismal to say the least. As we drove through the mountains, we were bombarded by rain, sleet – and even a little snow. In this remote wilderness it really felt like we were heading for the end of the earth.! We finally arrived at our cottage near Grundarfjörður, struggling to open the car doors against the ferocity of the wind. This was wild. Very wild…The larva fields in this region of Iceland are just stunning. Twisted rocks stick up at all angles as they protrude from vast carpets of the thickest moss you’ve ever seen. By the time we got to bed it was near midnight but still light. We did the best we could to sleep.. in a cottage that had the thinnest curtains in history.
The next morning we were up early, scouting close to our digs for local birds. We spotted redshank, oystercatcher and whimbrel – the latter found regularly pottering around in the garden of the B & B (yes.. in the garden!). I managed a few shots of this approachable bird, but by this time the sun was high and the softness of first light had gone. Shelley found some obliging wild ponies by the sea and captured some cracking flight shots of arctic terns.
After breakfast we set off to explore some of the quieter roads further south, but found very little wildlife to photograph. We did however get some fantastic views of skuas and came across the most delightful group of Icelandic ponies. Bernard was in his element! They soon came close and we spent a good twenty minutes photographing both groups and close ups, with the cutest foal posing for us just wonderfully.!
We returned to Grundarfjörður before setting off to explore the peninsula. We left late afternoon, aiming to stay late as the forecast was to be clear. Our first stop was at a fulmar colony which provided some of the closest views I’ve ever had of these seabirds.The light was changeable and it was difficult to get decent shots. I decided that silhouettes were probably the best images to go for.
We were back in the car and soon at Rif to watch a small colony of arctic terns. The colony wasn’t too impressive but a nearby pool provided some more antics from the ever present phalaropes – and after a while we noticed a number of species: ringed plover, dunlin and black tailed godwit – all within the same area. Our next stop was a church we spotted from the road. Driving up a gravel path it became clear that there was potential. Bernard went for a high impact ‘down the middle of the road’ shot, whilst I chose to make wide compositions of the church in its surroundings, with the signpost in front. A bit ‘cliched’ but you never know when images like this might sell.
We continued along the northern part of the peninsula and took a gravel track towards Onverdarnes. The track got narrower and dirtier; I was thankful we had hired the 4 x 4! It seemed to go on forever before we eventually came to a parking area – and there, stood in all its glory, was the most magnificent bright orange lighthouse, surrounded by a perfect boardwalk, overlooking this wild stretch of coastline. We all spent some time shooting this feature, enhanced by the perfect conditions; low sun, blue sky.. and some moving clouds to add to the drama.
The cliffs were stunning. Huge towers of rock and a beautiful archway, with waves crashing at the bottom. I couldn’t leave without taking a few images of this spectacular wild scenery.
With the sun getting lower in the sky, we continued round the peninsula, taking in the ever changing scenery. As we reached the southern section, the sun was really beginning to drop, casting pastel pink shades onto the steep mountains. As we gradually got close to our abode, we watched the sun beginning to set over the ocean. A simply stunning evening.
The next morning we saw a few ptarmigan close to the cottage. One male did a brief rise and fall as he called and I managed a few shots, but it was a little too far away. Good conditions though..
We set off on the last leg of our journey to Reykjavik. As we left I jumped out of the car to take a few snaps of the harbour, with perfect light illuminating the mountains and houses – and reflecting in the water. This gave a rather different feel than the gloomy conditions when we had first arrived.!!
Next – Part 3: The Road to Reykjavik
A Photography Trip to Iceland is being planned for Summer 2016 and will be posted at www.naturephotographycourses.co.uk