The featured nature photo features the Blue Pool (Blahver) hot-spring with a warm Summer Sunrise. I took this photo at 3 a.m. on a camping trip with my partner. This was my third trip to Hveravellir. I got nothing on the first trip because I had a heavy cold. I was achy and snotty and just wanted to keep as warm as possible in my car.
The second trip to Hveravellir was on a professional photo tour with a French photographer named Cedric. The skies were full clouds and we were praying for a little bit of colour and all we got was beige and blue. The blue pool was still stunning despite the overcast weather.
Hveravellir is not an easy place to get to. The road is often in a bad state. It is gnarly and requires full attention for the 3 hours of gravel. If you are lucky, you can drive the Kjalvegur just after it has been graded. This road cuts Iceland in half, you can drive from the South to the North, although it is no quicker than taking the road around. The road was used by labourers hundreds of years ago. North Icelanders would walk the Kjolur Route at the end of the summer to work on the cod boats in Reykjavik and South Iceland.
Camping not Glamping
There is a campsite at Hveravellir with very basic facilities. The first time I visited they didn’t even have toilets, you had to dig a hole behind a bush. As tourism increased, facilities have been added. There is a hut which can be rented and is part of the bathing pool. The bathing pool is an open-air geothermically heated pool. It is large enough for around 40 bathers and is quite a sight when it’s full. During the summer nights, people will dare to bathe naked.
On this trip we arrived around 9-10 p.m. because we explored Kerlingarfjoll on the way. Kerlingarfjoll is about an hour before Hveravellir. It is a volcanic highland area between glaciers. The mountains have attractive peaks and a light brown colour. It’s a great area for hiking and has a campsite. The Hveravellir campsite is small, but we had plenty of room to pitch our tent. We were just in time to capture the evening colours as the sun set. I was satisfied that I caught some colours in the sky. The clouds were scattered which really helped to give the photo some depth. The white deposits around the hot-spring were crisp, so I knew I had some really good details in the image.
We went to bed, but mostly to rest rather than sleep. After midnight it was hardly dark and in just a couple of hours the sun would be rising in the North East. I got going again around 1.30 a.m. My partner was asleep (it’s hard work being a Jeep passenger on the Kjalvegur). In the twilight, I was keen to try some long exposures with some of the lesser hot-springs. Steam is not necessarily good with a long exposure. Sometimes you have to capture some abstract shapes in the steam to make the picture interesting. I met a fellow photographer from Akureyri and we started to share photo tips. We practiced our composition around the Blue Pool and paid particular attention to the North East where we expected the sun to rise.
The wind was blowing towards the North East. There was a bank of steam and mist from the hot-springs. Finally the sun shone through. The earl sunlight glowed orange and lit up the clouds. I set my tripod quite low. Although this flattened the Blue Pool, I noticed the warm colours were reflecting in the honeycomb texture surrounding the hot-spring. This was the first time I had photographed Blahver with any sunlight. Sunrise and sunset is a slow process in the middle of the Icelandic Summer. The midnight sun moves at an acute angle. The warm light and colours can go on for over an hour.
I didn’t really change my composition from here. I had the opportunity to practice my Magic Cloth Technique. as I experimented with the sky exposures. I don’t think the scene needed a lot of landscape and sky balance. There was a lot of reflected light in the landscape, so it couldn’t be over exposed too much without losing highlight colour. I used a B&W ND filter to slow the shutter to a couple of seconds. The filter does add a little bit of a warm cast which suited the scene.
After photographing this scene, I moved on to the Öskurhöll furmarole to capture the unique textures against the warm light.
Canon 5D – full frame The Canon 5D is a professional landscape camera than I have used in all weathers. It has a powerful full frame sensor and the live-view has great quality colours.