We walk walk walk along fall colored paths with short stubby native trees. Tall evergreen or birch trees in Iceland are planted anomalies designed to create a forest illusion, and in some cases in this rather exposed volcanic land, the illusion works. Upstream of Hraunfossar, the Children’s waterfalls, the river water flows and churns into a frothy turquoise with a whipped cream top, bashing and smashing its way against jagged lava sides and probably a kayaker’s dream. We stand over bridges, we take pictures, we do the things you do in the Icelandic fall, and the air is crisp and clear and smells like hot dogs. Oh wait, that’s the nearby cafe. Nevermind.
Hraunfossar is roughly translated to Icelandic as the children’s waterfall, or more accurately a series of little waterfalls that offer numerous plateaus and places for those Viking kids to play back in the days of yore. No doubt they’d be startled today by the battery of sophisticated gear aimed their direction from across the river. The water here veers from outright turquoise to this brooding blackened blue, depending on the skies and more particularly, on the angle you’re shooting it from. All around are the colors of a September fall in this stunning country, a farm on a green plain in the upper right, and relative quiet barring the whoosh of the passing water beneath our feet.
In the west of Iceland, a very Nordically named area of Bifrost-hmmm, sounds familiar–we mixed band of motley travelers climbed a winding set of wooden stairs until we hit the rim of Grábrók crater, whereby we were promptly greeted with a smashing gust of wind that literally bent some o’ the littler folk over, and the bigger of us became shaking kites in our parkas, leaning hard against the wind as we took one step, then another along the narrow rim. But the views speak for themselves, and loudly. This particular image above was taken from the gravel rim of the crater out to the surrounding area. Fall colors indeed…hellaciously beautiful. Then, of course, everyone dashed around and back down the steps lest they be blow into the depths of the crater. Spoilsports. Live a little!
The tour minibus drove up and down and around the northern fjords of Iceland, somewhere west of the fishing village of Akureyri, beyond lunar landscapes and into these pleasing patterned landscapes that felt like models for black and white images, but I bleached them cool and let them be. We looked at blacked volcano cinder cones on the horizon, but this little field was littered with sleepy sheep, and the snow came down twirling on the random gusts and stuck to our faces. An Iceland moment? Maybe. It could’ve been anywhere that snows, I s’spose, but I cherished it anyway.
The mighty Vatnajökull glacier is, in fact, SO mighty that it has a number of outlet glaciers that are themselves quite epic…miles across, in some cases. This white beast is the greatest glacier in all of Europe by volume and spans 9% of Iceland. Our minibus stopped in the middle of a gigantic glacial floodplain that had dropped miles of lava rock and ash and had mangled a nearby metal bridge into a twisted ruin. Light played on the far mountain tops and the epic landscape and broad colors of fall that dotted the floodplain enhanced the feeling of being a small dot on a vast planet which itself is a pale blue dot in a seemingly infinite universe. Thinking large as I chewed on dried fish jerky was admittedly not my most original moment. Get to Iceland, people. It’s purty.
We unloaded the minibus to 30-50 mph wind gust hammering rain sideways into our faces, and as we tromped a couple kilometers through a flat lava debris field, we could hear mighty Dettifoss of northeast Iceland, said by Icelanders to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. A waterfall that incidentally had a notable cameo in the opening of the movie Prometheus as the Engineer swallowed some bad alien juju that ate him from the inside out standing over Detti’s waters. The water was roaring beneath the gloomy canopy of clouds, and I took some super telephoto shots of people who made the trek down slippery rocks to get sheeted by the falls down on the cliff closest to them ; I chose to go the high-looking-down route. Wunnerful watery stuff, people. Get to Iceland.
Litlanesfoss is oft overlooked by tourists intent on hiking 3km up to the mighty Hengifoss at the top, but it shouldn’t really, what all with those mighty basalt columns framing the lower waterfall. Honestly, they kinda look like blue whale baleen to me, but I’ve been accused of having a hyperactive imagination. Anyhow, the weather poured random rain on us, so getting a snap of this l’il guy was an exercise in cover-wipe-shoot-wipe again.
“I’m number 3, Mom!” So says Hengifoss with not a little irony, lauding herself for being the 3rd highest waterfall in Iceland, located in the northeast interior. Do waterfalls have an identifiable gender? The parking lot was overloaded, and our guide Biggi said he was surprised there were this many tourists this far east. We had 60 minutes, so I hauled ass out of the minibus and sprinted up the trail, hauling up the 25 lb camera bag slung over my back, using my three legged tripod as a proxy hiking stick. Crossed somewhat treacherous algae strewn slippy rocks over a creek, slogged through mud, waited for an Argentinian tour group to clear the field of view, snapped a photo. Well….a helluva lotta photos, tbh. The view didn’t suck.
More of the magical Isle of Skye, Scotland and the weather drops in a little bit of drama. The Black Cuillins are incredibly dramatic igneous mountains, and the stretch of empty road surrounded on both sides by fields of purple heather gives a nice perspective. The truth is, there isn’t a single image that can capture how magnificent the landscape on the Isle of Skye is, and what dynamic views it offers. Magical. Am I gushing too much? Probably.
First day of our Scotland tour, you may recall from an earlier photoblog post we climbed up to the Wallace Monument, then climbed up its ever skinnier turret steps to reach the top spire. Last day of Scotland, here we are at Stirling Castle, looking across at the very same monument, and really see how well it was positioned when it first opened in the mid 1800’s. The houses in the village below looks like little toys, the green mountains behind the perfect backdrop. So then, I say again, Scotland is lovely and polite and has wrangled its tragic history into a stunning and diverse geographic landscape. 4 weeks wouldn’t be enough to take it all in, so I got the Cliff Notes version. Better than nothing.