On this winter night the Aurora Borealis was active over head and mostly in the Southern half of the sky. This is quite rare so it made the ice beach an obvious choice. We were staying close to the Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon on a 3 day photo tour. It is unusual to have such a strong aurora in the Southern half of the sky, so photos of Northern Lights on the Diamond Ice Beach are very rare.
We didn’t want to miss this unique opportunity. I was set up for 30 second exposures with Magic Cloth over the sky after 10-15 seconds. This particular shot was blessed with a superb wash of ocean during the exposure. Interestingly, the top half of the image is short exposure (because I was trying to limit star trails) and the bottom half is long exposure because it shows the wash of the ocean.
The Northern lights are ok. I am not keen on the splodge of colour in the right part of the sky. This suggests a huge amount of energy but low pressure. Thankfully there was enough dynamic pressure in the aurora to form a strong line heading to the top left of the photograph.
The ocean swells can really flood the beach. It is more of a “getting wet” danger that photographers face everyday on the glacier ice beach. There are greater dangers if you are actually in the sea because huge chunks of ice can smash against your fragile limbs when a big wave hits the shore. At night, you can’t see the big waves coming although it is the sound of the wave gives an indication of it’s size and strength. When you are engrossed in photography, the roar of a big wave is actually the best warning you get.
The number one rule for photographing safely on this beach is to have an escape route. It is no good running from a wave if you trip over the first lump of glacier ice that is behind you. Other photographers can also block your escape route, so you have to be aware of all potential obstacles – especially when you are making night photography on the beach.
Planning a Photo Trip?
A self-drive tour allow you to have quality time at Jokulsarlon and the ice beach. Both are great for Northern lights photography and catching sunrises. There is a lot to choose from if you want to include other locations or extend your trip. There are really good hotels in the area, so you don’t have to rough it. Take a look at some of my trip suggestions HERE.