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Iceland in winter - Part 2. - What should you pay attention to in the cold?!

This is the 2nd part of our winter Iceland adventure, if you haven't read the first one you should start here: https://www.gyorgypalko.com/post/izland-telen-1-resz


And make sure you watch our short film about Iceland as an introduction: https://youtu.be/d7nqYv_YMrU


In the first part we stopped at our first night at the foot of the wonderful Kirkjufell, as we didn't have much luck with the northern light. Traveling to Iceland in winter comes with the pleasant thing that the sun rises very late, after 10 o'clock. So in the morning, while I drank my first coffee and had breakfast, I was able to work on the previous day's pictures, which is not bad for a one-week "vacation", so the pictures didn't pile up, and family and friends could get a little sneak peek even during our trip.

Esti holdfénynél készült kép. Izland (2024) Grundarfjörður
I could charge the car at nights

On the morning of our 2nd day, I couldn't help myself, while the girls woke up I jumped into the car and then paid approximately 8 Eur for parking (yes, in many cases there is only paid parking around the sights, which sometimes allows for 24 hours, sometimes only for 2 hours to park) and well before sunrise I was looking for the perfect composition at the location I had visited the previous day. The next paragraph is mainly for those who are also interested in the details of photography. I show how I think when creating an image, what I pay attention to, etc. If you are "just" curious about our adventure, scroll down a little, that will be enough for today. :)


Kirkjufell - a landscape photographer's paradice


The pictures were taken at the place of the dots

Kirkjufell is such a famous photography location that one of the episodes of the series "Photographing the World with Elia Locardi" shot by fstoppers.com, one of my most interesting and favorite photography educational websites, was filmed here. In it, Elia shows through several compositions how we can take beautiful, meaningful, balanced photos of this wonderful place.


When I arrived, no one was here yet, and this remained true for about the first half hour. It was a very special feeling to take photos all by myself in a place I had wanted for so long. (The number of hours spent in the cold is 1. This will be important later.)


Unfortunately, my comments for the pictures do not appear as I would like (difficulties of beginner blogger...) so now I write my comments for each picture. If you really want to, I think you can still see the point. In order to make it clear, it is worth opening the pictures large.


1. arrival at the site, the color of the water caught my attention.
2. 17mm, wide angle, I like it, but the waterfall is a bit lost in it, mountain composed in the middle
3. This is a narrower angle of view, 30mm, I don't like how the foot of the mountain is not visible on the right side of the picture.
4. 14mm, the widest viewing angle so far, I went a few steps to the right compared to picture 2. You can see the waterfall nicely, this is a much better image. I like it.
5. The hozizontal version of the previous composition, I like this too.
6.This is perhaps the most classic composition of this place, the waterfall in the left third, the mountain in the right. Since the waterfall is now a huge block of ice, I like the mountain in the middle, which highlights it more.
7. Vertical version of the previous image. 16.5mm. I don't like that the foot of the mountain is missing on the right side of the picture.
8. Still from the same place, a slightly narrower composition, where I tried to minimize the bridge on the left side. I really like this.
9. If we go a little lower, this is the 3rd dot starting from the parking lot, we will find a smaller waterfall. The average tourist who only comes to take a few selfies hardly even walk down to this area. I was not satisfied with the forground.
10. I only went a few meters to the right, but I like the foreground much better, but the foot of the mountain on the right side is missing again.
11. This image is my favorite waterfall composition so far.
12. That's why it was also made in horizontal. (As you can see, if I find a vertical composition really good, I often make a hozizontal version of it as well. I do this in my architectural photography work as well.)

Horizontal images are more commonly taken of this location, and I shot almost only horizontal pictures on the first night. In our house, on the other hand, there are practically only vertical pictures on the wall, and I started looking for the right composition with this in mind. What I pay attention to are the basics, triple segmentation (foreground, middleground and background) and compositional basics, that is, which part of the picture I place the subject: this time, either completely in the middle or on the thirds. You can see many examples of these here, as I got closer and closer step by step to a picture that finally suited me and I could imagine it on the wall.


After the detailed descriptions above, I will not explain the examples below in details. I don't want to bore you, but feel free to ask anything if you feel the need.

After leaving the waterfalls, only the snowfield and the mountain remained for me, and I tried to emphasize this extremely unique shape, which sometimes reminded me of the Sorting Helmet from Harry Potter. I looked for different foregrounds in the pictures and found some interesting ones. (Until this point, I've only seen one fellow photographer guy walk all the way I did that morning.)



The yellowish light of the sunrise slowly began to dawn behind the mountains, so I went back to get the family so that we could see this fantastic place together. Over time, the area became more and more colorful, so I continued to photograph based on the previously detailed aspects.



These are my favorites:



Let's continue our adventrue - Our 2nd day


So I went back for my family and we came back together to witness this wonderful place.



Iceland's main natural attractions, which are relatively close to Reykjavik, attract many tourists even in winter. It is typical for those arriving by bus that one part of the group poses with its back to the current scene, while the others take a photo of them and then switch. In a good case, they enjoy the view for 2-3 minutes after that, but we have experienced several times that they almost didn't look at where they were, they just checked their phone to see if the right picture was taken and went back to the bus into the warmth. Yes, to the warmth, because they dress as if they were neither in winter nor in Iceland. We had a lot of fun just watching people sliding around in sneakers, but thanks to that, we also had a sadder story on the 4th day. I'll tell you about that later.



We spent about three quarters of an hour here, Johanna really enjoyed being able to slide a little, she ran, danced, sang and made a snow angel. Experiencing these moments as a father was very uplifting and heartwarming. (Time spent in cold 1 hour 45 minutes.)


Exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Apart from Kirkjufell, there are many beautiful and interesting natural phenomena on the peninsula, which we naively planned to visit in only one day. We didn't count on the fact that if we leave from Kirkjufell after sunrise, it will be 1 in the afternoon before we reach our first stop.

On the way, we saw the most beautiful Tyndall phenomenon of our life so far, so I was "forced" to stop by a huge lava field for a few minutes and fly the drone. (2 of these scenes were also included in our video.)



Despite the stormy winds and slippery roads, we arrived at 'Djúpalónssandur beach' without any serious interruptions (Icelandic place names are not easy to say, but not even to read :) ) You can get here on an almost 2-kilometer long 1-lane gravel road, which leads through a lava field all the way to the ocean. On this stretch of black sand, rather pebbly, we saw the rolling ocean up close for the first time. It's an indescribable experience that can't be captured in photos. We spent about 45 minutes here as well. (Cold time 2 hours 30 minutes.)


Djúpalónssandur beach



So we are in the middle of a lava field, we set off for the main road on a narrow road, the width of a car. It's a perfect place to create some epic drone footage, the car is going slowly, we're in the middle of nowhere, it's going to be beautiful. I'm driving, Eszter is handling the drone for the first time in her life, so sometimes I glance here and there to see how the shoots are looking. Meanwhile, I've heard some troubling noises from the front of the car, so I immediately stopped and jumped out to see if there was something under it, or if I hadn't damaged the front somewhere. (In retrospect, I think that it is probably the dust that is making such a grinding sound, which is stuck between the brake disc and the brake pad, because we heard a similar sound several times on the gravel roads during the journey.) Since I did not experience anything, I sat back and wanted to start, but the car did not he wanted to turn on because it didn't recognize my key. It just wrote on the screen where to put the key and what to do to get it going, but it couldn't detect the key, so it refused to start. I'll show you where we are at this moment.


At least three turns after the end of the world, in the middle of nowhere. Moreover, I stopped to look at the car like an amateur, novice driver. The road widened in several places so that we could let oncoming traffic pass, but I managed to stop immediately after such a widening, so if I can't get out of the way, nobody could get in or out... Nobody. There were also two 15-passenger minibuses in the parking lot belonging to the beach section, I really didn't want them to have to wait for us, like the 2 cars that were already forced to wait in front of me. I called the car rental company, who very kindly tried to help me over the phone, but they only repeated things that I had already tried three times before. It's almost 3 p.m., the sun will set in about an hour, and the nearest inhabited settlement is at least 40 minutes away... I've never felt so vulnerable in my life. We were so out of our comfort zone as if we had gone to Mars.


Our distance from the capital

This went on for about 10 minutes, during which I almost kicked the car a couple of times, which cannot be moved by hand, so it was just a big roadblock during those minutes. Little by little, I realized that the problem was probably our key and not the car. To test this, I walked with the key in my hand to a distance so that the car would automatically lock, which it did not. Ergo, the key is the problem. "The battery must have died in the cold," said a voice in my head, and I began to rub the key with my hand to warm it up. I got back into the car, which finally recognized the key and was willing to start. (And a few minutes later, Tesla generously announced that the battery in the key is slowly dying, so I should replace it... Thanks, mate...) But we were finally on our way.

We didn't spend that much time in the cold, but it was enough despite the fact that I kept the key in the inside pocket of my jacket, in a relatively warm place compared to the situation. The situation turned out to be a good experience for a lifetime, thanks to the fact that it was resolved so quickly.

Lóndragnar and Arnarstapi


Our next stop, less than 20 minutes away, is a lighthouse and an extremely interesting group of stilts called Lóndragnar. Here we managed to calm down a little, but the evening was approaching and we started to get hungry. Before we left, I droned and took some photos. I was also really looking forward to this place, but during the winter it is very difficult to spend as much time as you really want everywhere, especially if you want to see so many things like we did. WIth all that said I managed to create a couple of nice images and drone footage here too.


As I already mentioned, finding a restaurant is not the easiest thing in these small settlements. We found one nearby, which was also close to the attractions we wanted to visit, but we were only able to get to the place called Stapinn 10 minutes before closing time (3:50 p.m.). At that time, they could no longer take orders for the kitchen. But after I told them that we had a pretty hectic day and that my little girl was hungry, they made us some French fries. The three of us were snacking on the tastiest - without exaggeration - french fries of our lives, when suddenly the song Chasing cars by Snow Patrol came on, to which we marched to the altar 11 years ago... Then Eszter and I got a little emotional.
The lesson of this day was for us to be able to enjoy the small things (when the car starts, or that we got a portion of fries for 8 Eur :D ), and we can accept that our time is not always enough for everything we want do or visit. (We definitely wanted to get to one more place, but we will go there in the summer!)


By the way, Arnarstapi is a very cozy little town, with amazing rock formations on the coast (we didn't have time for that either) and a wonderful statue called Bárður. We looked around the nearby beach, but the previous adventures took so much strength out of us that we didn't even take the shorter mountain road as we did the day before, but instead drove around the mountain on a slightly longer road. After a quick shopping trip - we had to buy batteries for the key - and charging, we got back to our accommodation in such a snowstorm that I didn't notice the driveway to the house at first, I just drove past it.


In the evening, we hoped for a long time that it would clear up and we could see the northern lights, but that did not happen. I will continue soon!

I took this battery home...

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