Archive for Leica M9

Inside The Volcano: A Journey to the Icelandic Highlands

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 28, 2019 by johnbuckley100

All images Leica SL and the three Vario-Elmarit SL zoom lenses. Higher resolution versions of these images can be found at, and purchased from, JohnBuckleyInBlackandWhiteandColor.com, and you can follow me on Instagram @ tulip_frenzy.

Over many years visiting Yellowstone, I’ve marveled at how large the caldera is, how much time is spent traveling within the parameters of an ancient super-volcano that last erupted 640,000 years ago. Across large portions of the 3-million acre National Park, you can see the faint outline of the volcano all around you, even as smaller craters house geysers and fumaroles.

This grounding helped prepare me for a journey of eight days, along with a group of photographers under the aegis of the Leica Store Miami, to some of the most picturesque and amazing quadrants of Iceland. Much of it was spent the Highlands, often inside a massive caldera.

Bruarfoss

You start, of course, by traveling from Reykjavik through land that almost instantly has breathtaking water features. Bruarfoss was not on our original agenda, but a member of our group made the request to go on the six-mile roundtrip hike to see these falls, and I’m so glad we did. Less than 90 minutes from the capital, we had our tripods set up, jaws nearly agape at the color of the water.

I’d been practicing long-exposure photography with 6- and 10-stop Neutral Density filters, and while I’ve always been less than perfectly enamored of the landscape-photography ideal of slowed-down ribbons of water, I’m pretty glad I got with the program.

Kerlingarfjöll

We headed miles away through dusty badlands, similar in topography to Utah or southern Idaho, wending our way up into the Highlands to the section known as Kerlingarfjöll. Unfortunately, the light departed behind clouds literally just as we got there. But walking up and down steep ridges as thermal spots leaked sulfurous clouds made for some interesting photographic possibilities.

That first night on the road, we stayed at a nearby fairly primitive hotel with quite decent food and hot water. What more could one need after an amazing introduction to the wild and sublime elements of Iceland? And we had just begun.

The light was fickle again the next morning, but the sights as we left Kerlingarfjöll were just as stunning.

The image of the Gyrfoss waterfall below was taken at 0.3 of a second so as to capture its power, its anger, rather than to smooth it all out with a longer exposure.

Gyrfoss

We reversed yesterday’s course back down from this portion of the Highlands across parched topography familiar to those who frequent the altiplano of the Colorado Plateau, punctuated by rivers and waterfalls. We had avoided the massive Gullfoss on the way in — it has the power of Niagara, and almost as many visitors — but now we took the time to walk down into it, fortunately, just as the sun came out. It’s amazing.

Gullfoss

Because we were traveling with a knowledgeable local photographer, Brynjar Agústsson, and a very able driver in a powerful red bus that could leap tall rivers in a single accelerated burst, we weren’t locked into seeing only the most popular, easily accessible waterfalls. We could head into the Highlands once again with access to some of the most amazing sights I’d ever seen, or had the privilege to photograph.

That evening, we went to Sigoldugljufur, the so-called Canyon of Tears, and as the sun set, we counted 18 visible waterfalls. The only photo I’d previously seen of it was taken at sunrise, but sunset was, if less dramatic, at least more easily able to be captured with benefit of a graduated ND filter; the light was fairly constant between sky and canyon floor. And yes, while made blurry by a slow exposure, the water really is that color.

Sigoldugljufur

The next morning we set off toward Landmannalaugar, the heart the Highlands, and on the way there, the wind picked up and began to howl. The sandy surface produced so much dust it didn’t take long for one of my lenses to cease working. But while en route, we saw a heard of sheep on what looked like Mars, and it was magic.

On our return that afternoon, the dust storm was so severe — a steady 60-mph wind with higher gusts darkening the sky and getting grit into surface crevices — our evening plans to return to a crater lake for sunset was put off. Fortunately, Brynjar reached into his magic bag of local waterfalls and produced what you see below. For the first time, though, the gale force winds were at our backs threatening to push us and our tripods into the abyss. Once again, the water really was this color.

The next morning brought no respite from the wind and we were seeming prisoners of the dormitory-like hotel we were in. Until Brynjar and the trip’s leaders thought to bring us to a valley far below the windy surface, which was so nice, we deemed it Paradise. Of course the sun came out while we hiked down into it.

After a visit to an authentic Viking village, we were essentially confined to quarters overnight. But the next day was epic — a drive from the Highlands to the sea, through the most spectacular county yet. I’ll post below photos that reflect our journey, pausing to set up the finale. You’ll understand how staggeringly beautiful this day was, along the stops we made to climb hillsides for pictures. Most importantly, think of the entire journey as inside the caldera, inside a massive volcano, like an expanded trip to Yellowstone with thermal activity and visible craters a subset of the larger volcanic terrain.

The pictures above give a sense of how we traveled — on a one-lane dirt road crossing rivers without bridges. At the far end of the photo directly above, we entered a valley from which we could see the enormous glacier that sits at the top of the eastern portion of the Highlands, and then after crossing the river several times — the last time with an impossible-seeming gulf between us and the distant shore — we rose up through steep hills on an almost nonexistent road to come face-to-face with what was, across the valley, an enormous waterfall.

Ófaerufoss

Ófaerufoss is the tallest waterfall in Iceland, and the distance from camera to falls is so great it seems dwarfed. I’ve no idea how far away that is, but certainly more than two miles. As the sun fell, the valley itself was one of the coolest things imaginable, a fitting end to an extraordinary day.

We made our way to the coast, and a more modern hotel in an actual town, and when we got there, the gale-force wind had receded. The next morning brought us to an extraordinary canyon.

Skaftárhreppur

Skaftárhreppur seems like it could have been in Kauai, another volcanic island, with its carved contours and lush green flank. We were now close to the glacier that sits like a threatening cap to the region, and as we proceeded on our journey, were told about the nearby volcano that, 200-years earlier, had proved more toxic than any in the planet’s history. At last we came to the lagoon where the ice flows from calved blocks off the glacier begin to float toward the sea and I came across the most extraordinary sight imaginable.

A Thai Buddhist monk was there – it wasn’t an apparition, he really was there — and while the ND filter I had on flattened the blue of the water and ice, I still treasure this picture, the sheer weirdness of the juxtaposition of a monk in robes at Jökulsárlón.

That evening we returned for the Blue Hour and the ice flow was magnificent.

By now, I was getting the hang of long-exposure photography, with the middle image above shot without filter, but at ISO 100, f/10 and an exposure of 1.6 seconds. I love what the camera captured.

The next morning we went to nearby Diamond Beach to catch the ice flows as they break into chunks and hit the shore.

We’d been up early — 4:15 a.m. departure from the hotel — and so we went back for a nap.

By early afternoon, we headed to Stoknes, one of the most spectacular beaches in Iceland, with dramatic black sand and a peak at the end. But the clouds rolled in, and the only image I care to share is one from the dunes.

On our final day’s drive back to Reykjavík, we stopped at an amazing cluster of structures, abandoned it seemed.

It was spooky, being amidst these abandoned farm buildings with their sod roofs. You could certainly see why whomever first settled here wanted to do so, given the twin waterfalls coming down from behind the structures and the view looking out.

We had one more planned stop. Just beyond Vik, we wanted to capture the famed Three Sisters, those rock formations in the water one often sees in black and white. But the viewpoint we went to also would allow us to see puffins, the only wildlife other than sheep we would have seen on our eight-day journey. Alas, we were met with 90-mph winds — no, really — and had to do the drunken hurricane walk to get to a position where we could get any images at all. Thank Heaven for Optical Image Stabilization and high ISOs, for there is no way I otherwise could have taken the image below with a 90-280 zoom lens.

It was an extraordinary journey, inside the volcano and back to the sea. I am grateful to the Leica Store Miami for having put together this Photo Adventure, as they called it, and for the good-natured crew who met the call and traveled, hours each day, in our bus up and down mountains and across rivers. This is, of course, a curated subset of the roughly 100 GBs of photos I took, and entire categories of images are missing — the glaciers, much of the morning at the ice beach, etc. But these are images I’m pleased with, and willing to share.

For a different take go to this site’s sister — JohnBuckleyInBlackandWhiteandColor.com. And follow tulip_frenzy on Instagram.

Suggested Alternative Album Cover Photo For The Mekons’ “Existentialism”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 11, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 20, 2013 by johnbuckley100

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Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 19, 2013 by johnbuckley100

 

 

Christmas Ornament

The Companion To October Light

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 11, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Faulkner’s Light In August is a great title, because it calls out the subtle change in color temperature suffusing the hot air of a dying summer.  But we’ve always loved the title to John Gardner’s late phase novel, October Light.  Is there anything more gorgeous than the yellow light of October?  But October is not uniformly sunny.  October rain is October light’s sullen, destructive companion. This is what October too often looks like here in the U.S.    This is what it looks like today.    Leica M9, Noctilux.

Rainy October

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