Our outlandish luck finally abandoned us. After several days of weather that supported our photographic desires, day and night, the second storm of our trip descended on us with as much fury as the first. We had driven into its teeth returning to Hali from Vestrahorn yesterday afternoon. Hurricane winds carried heavy rain and lashed at Iceland’s southern coast. This storm was warmer, so the rain never changed to snow, but the wind kept us off the roads, vast segments of which were once again closed.

Late into last night, Thor searched for alternative locations and Nick huddled with several of us to check forecasts for any break in the clouds, but eventually a sense of relief settled over the group. Maybe it was about time for a break in the action. We had taken advantage of our great run, so when we decided to hunker down for the coming day, there was almost palpable relief. It was an opportunity to catch up on sleep, sort and clean our gear, share some processing ideas, and tell stories.

The Hali guesthouse has a central living room and this became a commons area between trips to the restaurant and museum. Nick processed a few images in real-time and guided us through his work flow and several alternatives. Soon little groups formed around laptops to share images and early processing results. The variety of compositions was impressive. Processing experience varied greatly, with some folks just getting traction, others being proficient in Lightroom, and still others rocking results out of Photoshop. I’d think I had something good, and then someone would let me look over their shoulder and I’d watch and learn as images sprang to life.

At seemingly random intervals in the evenings, a guesthouse staff person would open a small refrigerator and allow us access to the exorbitantly priced beer. Erno remarked that it was basically like paying ballpark prices while sitting in your living room. But, when in Iceland…  We were probably better off that there was limited supply. We’d have gone broke and our processing and story sessions would have gotten out of hand. Needless to say, it was a nice, long day of finally getting to know everyone.

Over the course of our conversations, while watching the forecast, we realized that a few of us had an extra day on the island after the workshop conclusion. A small group gathered and a plan developed. Nick wrangled up a rental van and we found an empty guesthouse near Grundarfjörður and Kirkjufell. The weather and aurora forecast looked promising, and the plan was set. The close of our adventure could be post-poned for one more day and night!

In the dark of the late afternoon, with the roads mostly open, Thor decided we could head west and make Dyrhólaey for dinner. That would set us up for some waterfall shots in the light of tomorrow. There was one 30-kilometer section of highway that had wind restrictions, but we all agreed it was worth the effort. Our cool sprinter van would be pushed along, but hopefully the down-mountain gusts wouldn’t be too bad. We were off into the blustery night.

The van was quiet, it seemed all could sense that the workshop was coming to a close. We were now heading toward Reykjavik and tomorrow would be the last day with the full group. Would the rain let up and clouds break for some good light? The drive wasn’t bad, a couple gusts buffeted the van, but we sliced through the squalls and climbed to the Dyrhólaey guesthouse, well-rested and ready for the falls.

No photos for Day 10 but here’s a few that didn’t make my Iceland “galleries” but bring back selected and very good memories…

Late in the night, after leaving the plane wreck location, we ventured to Skógafoss, hoping to capture another dancing sky above the falls. We hiked the short distance and started our wait. And wait. And wait. I remained optimistic while most of the crew returned to the warmth of the van. I have an aversion to headlamps while prepped for night photography and try not to use one if at all possible. The floodplain below the falls was basically pitch black with only the weakest glow of from the mist of the falls, is it reflecting starlight? I moved carefully toward the edge of the bouldery outwash in hopes of framing the falls under the aurora that was yet to come. I’d set up and was again waiting in the growing chill, thinking I was alone. A scrape of boot and the boulder next to me came to life with Nick’s voice. “I don’t think we are going to have much more luck.” It was like the talking boulder back at the writer’s museum at Hali. From the dark, he once again talked me through high ISO framing and bracketing and I captured several practice images; the aurora never returned. Even so, to have the place alone for an hour was relaxing and special. This image is from those few moments. It wasn’t until I downloaded the image that I noticed I’d been up against the trail boundary chain and never realized it would be prominent in my frame.

Watching the equestrians in the dawn at Vik made me think of home. Someday I hope Des can ride these black sand beaches.

While we often had specific locations in mind, with strategies and plans within the otherwise loose and adaptive itinerary of the workshop, Thor occasionally responded to calls from the back of the van or had an idea of his own for a quick stop. We’d veer into a pull-out or parking area and disperse for a few images. Somehow, whenever we did, two or three other cars would pull up next to the van and a load of copycat photographers would pile out. It never failed. If Thor stops, it must be good.  I shot these blue reflections at the icy edge of a partially frozen pond. We had a series of hilarious dance routines as I set up my tripod, and one after another, each team member walked to the edge of the pond and lost footing, with usually three or four whirly gymnastic moves before crashing to the snow. I avoided it for a few minutes, until I turned toward the van and took my turn getting intimate with the frozen landscape.  

Back to Day 9. Click here for Iceland Gallery. Up next: Workshops must end…

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