ICELAND 2013 TRIP REPORT

May 27 to June 12, 2013

This report was originally intended to test a new website design--the first design proved too difficult to adapt to an image-driven website, and the second design (more image friendly) is on the verge of a major revision (to also work on small screens like phones) so it makes sense to wait for that. Rather than delay this report further, I decided to just use the old Trip Report format... And sorry in advance for the obnoxious copyright overlays to reduce the chance of image theft.

A new Iceland Air route this year allowed me to fly directly from Anchorage to Reykjavik, rather than from Seattle or the marathon return last year via Boston and Seattle. I took advantage of a now ended mileage partnership to fly "free" on Alaska Airlines mileage, and even upgraded to Economy Comfort class (with a First Class Seat!). The Anchorage to Reykjavik route arcs northward to about 500 miles short of the North Pole before dropping back down to Iceland, so most of the flight is over the remote Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland. And I flew directly over my house getting there! Luckily I had good visibility for a large portion of the flight.
Evening sun reflecting off open water and icefloes, Canadian Arctic. At 37,000 feet altitude, the sun never set in late May.
Like Alaska and most of northern Europe, Iceland had a late spring (and then cooler weather through July) which set Nature back about 2-3 weeks. Since I had purposely arrived about two weeks earlier than last year to avoid the crowds, I experienced spring for a second time this year. To add insult, Alaska's weather turned hot just before I left! Memo to self: Avoid overplanning in the future...

Because of all the snow, most of the roads in the Highlands were still closed, and even roads to several waterfalls were still snowed in. And with all the melting snow, some of the largest waterfalls were thundering rain-makers which made photography nearly impossible.

Godafoss, with multiple times the normal water volume
An example of a Closed Road barricade in the Highlands, and the snow conditions
This road on the eastern coast just opened to traffic, and you can see why! The Jeep Grand Cherokee proved to be reliable and smooth riding on 4x4 roads, but at 18 mpg and gasoline costing $7.75/gallon, proved that luxury costs money! But it was large enough to sleep in, saving lots of money over a motorhome, and I didn't need to set up a tent in the wind and rain.
Luckily I did very good last year photographing such iconic waterfalls as Gullfoss and Dynjandi, since either the high water or high winds made for rather mediocre images this year.

But all was not lost with waterfalls--many of the smaller falls were still photogenic this year, and I found some new ones.

Just up the mountainside from the iconic Seljalandfoss waterfalls (which was too windy for decent photography), I found these two smaller falls with almost no wind.
The Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon again provided some great photo opportunities, just after thinking that I didn't need to spent much time there since I did so good last year. Oops...
Just 6 miles east of Jokulsarlon is another glacial lagoon, Fjallsarlon, with floating ice from another tongue of the same Breidamerkurjokull glacier, which itself is only a small part of the largest glacier in Iceland, Vatnajokull.
On the Solheimajokull glacier, a tongue of the much larger Myrdalsjokull glacier, a guiding company conducts glacier walks for the tourists. I noticed a bus load of high school students prepping for their walk, so I waited in the rain for their departure. Their colorful rain gear stood out on such a gloomy day.
While waiting, I watched a Japanese photo shoot--a French male model, wearing next winter's version of the latest pseudo-outdoor apparel. (I know he was French because he asked me to take a picture of him on location with his iPhone). Iceland is very popular for commercial photo shoots--from fashion and car ads to movie locations--because of its exotic scenery.
Despite Iceland as a whole begining spring 2-3 weeks late, the migratory birds arrived on time, if not a little early (so I was told).

Latrabjarg Cliffs, the furthest west point of Iceland, was alive with Atlantic Puffins and other seabirds as usual. Over 17 miles long, millions of birds nest each summer on the cliffs, and are surprisingly approachable. It is a "must see" if visiting Iceland.

Purple Sandpiper
Eider Duck (very common along the coastline)
Arctic Tern hovering
The horses didn't disappoint this year, but I think because of the late spring they were located in different fields. That was a common complaint among farmers this year--the animals had to be fed hay much longer into the spring this year because the grass was so slow growing.
A windy day hair style
Maybe he depends on the wind to see?
I think I found the Village Idiot!
This year I had a chance to photograph the Harpa, Iceland's premire Concert Hall and Conference center in Reykjavik. A very unique design--the exterior was designed by an Islandic artist--a steel framework clad with geometric glass panels, with very few right angles or vertical exterior walls. A little difficult to photograph, as every tourist with a camera was trying to do the same thing I was! Another must see, well worth spending several hours...
Iceland has produced many talented artists and musicians (maybe the long winters with nothing to do?), so I made a point to photograph some examples of sculptures when I happened upon them.
A revisit: The Solfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture portrays a dreamboat for a journey to the sun.
In the middle of nowhere, I found this stainless steel reindeer atop an ornate column. It turns out this is a vent pipe for a penstock (underground water tunnel) that carries water 34 miles from 3 dams to a hydroelectric plant near the coast.
A fanciful sailboat at the Stykkisholmur Harbor.
One of this year's goals was to spend more time and photograph in the Highlands, but because of the late spring, that really wasn't possible. So hopefully next year I will be able to visit again in late June--the tourist hordes rarely get to the Highlands--but any excuse will do so I can revisit this interesting country!