Iceland Part 4 (Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!)

It’s been a busy time since the eclipse on 27 September, primarily because I am running around trying to get ready for my Open Studio Event in 7 days. But that is a subject for another post.  Today, it’s time to bring out some more images from Iceland.

Readers may have noticed that Icelandic place names tend to be extremely complicated and hard to pronounce.  But there is at least one exception, the small town of Vik located on the south coast.  Perhaps the most notable feature here is its black sand beach, characteristic of a country populated by active volcanoes.  Not far away are the cliffs of DyrhÓlaey where we spent the good part of the afternoon.  One doesn’t have to walk far from the parking lot to get a good view.

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Cliffs of DyrhÓlaey

The classic vista here, however, is from a promontory that looks back toward the cliffs.  It is only about a 10 minute walk from the location shown above.  This is a perfect example of how the scenery can radically change in a very short distance.

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View from the Promontory, Looking West

And after a 20-second stroll to the opposite edge of the promontory one is treated to this view.

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View from the Promontory, Looking East

That evening, the group visited the Reynisfjara Beach, best known for its sea stacks.  One thing to remember about photographing on a beach close to the water is the need to pay close attention to the waves.  I have always observed that precaution, except for approximately 3 seconds on that evening when I turned to respond to a question from another member of the group. In that brief moment an unusually large wave pounded ashore with surprising speed and water was suddenly rushing past me above my knees. I turned to rescue my camera and tripod but it was too late.  My camera was down, I followed, and I saw another member of our group being dragged into the ocean while he desperately held his camera and tripod above the water surging around him. One of the tour leaders reacted quickly and grabbed that camera before the water claimed it.  With his hands free, the downed member was able to get back up about the same time I did.  I retrieved my camera but it was ruined, as was the lens.  The photographs on the card, however, were unharmed.  The image below was taken just a few minutes before this happened.

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Fortunately, I had a back-up camera body and lens and managed to capture the sunset about 40 minutes later.

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Sunset, Reynisfjara Beach

Keep Shooting (but watch those waves)…….

Lunar Eclipse: Not!

September 27, 2015 was the last chance to see a total lunar eclipse in the eastern United States until 2019 according to the cognoscenti.  So even though the skies had been overcast for several contiguous days I didn’t want to wake up this morning and learn that there was a miraculous parting of the clouds for the entire event.

I had a place all picked out for the moonrise, but the clouds close to the horizon blocked the view.  But the next time moon rises at about 90 degrees east (due east), this wouldn’t be a bad place to be. Without the clouds, it would have been right next to the base of the Washington Monument.

WW II Memorial 01

Then, as the time approached for the actual eclipse to begin, I moved over to my chosen location near the German-American Friendship Garden along Constitution Avenue.  The location itself looked like it had potential for a night shot, so I tried a test exposure with my wide angle lens.

Washington Monument 01

But the eclipse was due and the clouds seemed to be breaking up so I set up a few yards away with the hope of getting a series of exposures as the moon tracked across the sky into the earth’s shadow.  These would then be combined into a single image in post-processing.  This, of course, requires a wide angle lens and, because of the timing, a tall building to add some interest to the exposure and the Washington Monument certainly qualifies.  But the skies didn’t really clear and I suspect the substantial amount of clouds in each image will make for a prolonged post-processing effort that may lead nowhere.  However, here is a cropped version of one of the images during the totality phase.

Lunar Eclipse 01 (lighter)

Imagine, if you will, a wider (uncropped) image with a sequence of moons in various stages of the eclipse crossing over the top. My first attempt at this, last year, can be seen here with the Lincoln Memorial

Keep Shooting…..

Iceland: Part 3

Iceland is a land shaped by fire, ice, and water.   It sits astride two major tectonic plates which are being gradually forced apart by the pressure of molten rock deep within the earth.  At the surface glaciers inexorably move through the mountains, slowly carving new landscape formations.  The melting ice from the warming climate and heavy rainfall in the mountains generates innumerable waterfalls, some tumbling over cliffs 200 feet and higher.

As a result, there are spectacular opportunities for the landscape photographer when weather conditions cooperate.  During our time in Iceland, we were treated to a few special moments but more often found ourselves in fairly challenging conditions.  But the challenges are part of what motivates us to take our cameras outdoors whenever we can.  Because sooner or later persistence will be rewarded with a magical ephemeral moment.  A moment you never forget.

One of the favorite spots for photographers in Iceland is the small blue glacial waterfall called Brúarfoss. Although well known to visitors, it can be extremely hard to find.  Fortunately, we were on a photo workshop led by Ian Plant, ably assisted by Alex Mody, and Ian unerringly directed our driver through a maze of unsigned dirt roads to a trail head.  After a short hike we were there and it was immediately obvious why everyone wants to see it, even in poor weather conditions.

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Brúarfoss from the Pedestrian Bridge (wide angle photomerge)

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Brúarfoss, from the Shallows (wide angle photomerge)

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Brúarfoss, from the Pedestrian Bridge (telephoto photomerge)

The next day we arrived at Gullfoss (Golden Falls, located in the canyon of the Hvítá River) for a sunrise shoot, but my efforts to capture the grandeur of the monster cataract were mostly unsatisfactory.  However, a few attempts were OK and are shown below.

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Early Morning at Gullfoss, View to the West

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Workshop Participants, Gullfoss

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Brief (5 seconds) Rainbow, Gullfoss

At midday, we got a break in the weather just as we arrived at Seljalandsfoss, located close to the Ring Road (Route 1).

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Seljalandsfoss at Midday

Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall approximately 200 feet high.  It has a cavern to the sides and rear that allow people to walk behind the falls.  This image is a side view from within the cavern.

To be continued…….


Iceland: Part 2

As we continued up Route 47 to the waterfall at Kirkjufell, a series of intermittent showers began to tantalize us with a series rainbows shimmering in the fjord (Hvalfjörður, which is about 30 km long and 5 km wide). We finally found a place with enough room to park off the road, but as we scrambled out of the vehicle we were immediately buffeted by extremely strong wind gusts.  Nevertheless, a complete rainbow hung over the water and we would not be deterred.

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Rainbow over Hvalfjörður fjord, Iceland

This was the last we saw of any sunshine on this day.  By the time we reached the waterfall, the wind was approaching gale force (my opinion, based on the fact the rain was going more or less sideways).  But extreme weather can be an exhilarating experience and while I captured no memorable photos at this waterfall, I’m not likely to forget the power of the wind and rain during my brief excursion around the falls.

Based in Hellnar for the night, we headed out to Arnarstapi for a twilight photograph of the Gatklettur Rock, a natural arch formed on the beach.  The rain had slackened, and the dark clouds provided a foreboding scene. Two members of our group can be seen in the lower left corner of the first image, prviding a sense of scale.

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Gatklettur Natural Arch from Overlook

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Gatklettur Natural Arch, Close View from Overlook

Since the images of the horses were well received, here is one more which I suspect is an equine interpretation of the verb “photobomb.”

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I failed to mention in the previous post that the horses were located in a large pasture along Route 47, about 7 km northeast of the intersection of Route 1 and Route 47.

To be continued….

Iceland: Part 1

I’ve finally returned from Iceland and while the weather was not highly cooperative, the country’s famous scenery made it possible to capture images at most of the spots we visited.  Probably the most agreeable conditions occurred at an unplanned stop on the morning we departed Reykjavik. About two hours northwest of the capital, we spotted a sunlit pasture with about a dozen of Iceland’s famous horses.

Iceland 01

According to the Lonely Planet Guide and other sources, all horses in Iceland can be traced back to the animals imported by the Vikings.  The small breed is hardy and long-lived, well-conditioned for the country’s harsh conditions and still plays an important role in Icelandic life. Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.  They have five gaits, including the unusual töit, a running walk so smooth that riders can drink a glass of beer without spilling a drop. In addition to performance competitions, horse racing is a popular sport and the animal is also used for traditional sheepherding.  Some are raised for slaughter and much of the meat is exported to Japan.

Based on our brief experience interacting with the herd we encountered, the Icelandic horse is social, curious, and seems to enjoy having its nose petted.

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Shortly after we resumed our drive, the weather took a turn for the worse.

To be continued…..

AfterBefore Friday–OnePhoto Focus (September 2015)

This is the first Friday of the month and that means it’s time for Stacy Fischer’s OnePhoto Focus, (1PF) where photographers from all over take their turn on the same image.  The range of interpretations is always impressive, and you can find the links to the other submissions at Visual Venturing. For those who wish to get into the game, the guidelines can be found here.

This month, our image has been provided by Ben Rowe of Aperture64 and, as anyone who has visited his site already knows, Ben is a highly skilled user of post-processing software.  Consequently, it was with some trepidation that I undertook the challenge this month.

Robin Kent 1PF September BeforeHDR version from Adobe Camera RAW

But, as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  When I saw that Ben had provided 3 versions of the image, taken at different exposures, I figured at the very least I could try out the new HDR feature in the most recent release of Adode Camera RAW.  The default choices produced the image above, an evenly balanced exposure that has no areas of under or overexpsure.

The next step was to take the result through the standard Camera Raw workflow to set the white and black points, open some of the shadows, add a little contrast with the Clarity slider, and a little saturation with the Vibrance slider.  Nothing special was needed here because the image really had no exposure problems.

It was also clear that Ben had made an excellent choice for the group because the image provides a wide variety of creative possibilities. I can’t wait to see what the other participants have done.

But before I started the intrusive surgery, a couple of standard Photoshop tools were used.  The sky was darkened with a Curves Adjustment Layer, the grass was fertilzed with a Color Balance Adjustment Layer, and the Castle was also warmed up with a Color Balance Adjustment Layer. The results are shown below.

Robin Kent 1PF September Before 02

After Photoshop Adjustments

It seemed that one approach was to take advantage of the open spaces that could be filled with interesting objects so  I decided to go in that direction.  But I didn’t take notes because I knew some ideas would not work, directions were likely to be reversed, and restarts might be frequent.

For those who like puzzles, I ended up adding 12 changes  to the image, some of them quite obvious (e.g., the 4 planes count as 4).  Others, such as color changes may be a little harder to find.

Robin Kent 1PF September After

Final Image

At any rate, I invite you to zip over to Stacy’s site and take a few minutes to enjoy the other ideas for post-processing this image.  You can find them here.


Off to Iceland!

Tomorrow I will be heading up to Iceland with a pair of photo colleagues for about eight days on a photo workshop.

We have been on several joint ventures previously but this will be the first time our little trio has joined a workshop.  It’s also the first of our photo expeditions to a location that none of us has seen before and our first international destination.  Given all of that, this promises to be an interesting time.

After the workshop I will be heading to New York City for about 5 days where I hope to meet up with a few fellow bloggers.  The itinerary will probably prevent any postings for a while, but I hope to resume sometime after the 3rd week in September.

So, in the meantime, here are a few images from some of my previous photo shoots with my two colleagues.

Great Falls 01

Potomac River Rapids, near Great Falls, Virginia

West Virginia 01

Elakala Falls, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

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Shays Creek, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

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Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Yosemite 02

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

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Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite 01

Clearing Storm at Sunset, Yosemite Valley