Magical Dawn – Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon – Icelandic Summer

Categorized as Magic Cloth Technique
Jokulsarlon ice reflection

This photo was taken on a Summer morning on the great iceberg lake at Jökulsarlon. The sun was just coming up and the sky was filled with these beautiful soft, pastel colours. There were perfect reflections because the glacier lagoon was so still.

We had been camping at Skaftafell National Park so we could make the most of the twenty four hour day light of an Icelandic Summer. In South Iceland, the sun does set for a couple of hours, but there is no darkness, there are just a few hours of twilight.

Sometimes these twilight zones can have terrific colours in the clouds so it is worth staying up all night for the quiet and the Summer dusk light.

In some cases these strange places can have amazing tones in the mists so it merits remaining up throughout the evening in the event that you wouldn’t fret the uneasiness of dozing during the day.

Serene Reflections

This photograph was taken throughout a mid year night at the Jokulsarlon glacial lake in Iceland. It was so serene there, just me and 1 other photographic artist and a crowd of Icelandic Eidur ducks.

I adored the manner in which the day break light lit up the mists and chunks of ice on the tranquil tidal pond. The reflection truly makes this photograph extraordinary.  The smooth curves of the iceberg and the long cloud bring some valuable lines into the scene.

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Long Exposure

This photo was taken with the Magic Cloth Technique. The Magic Cloth Technique is a a unique way to record a scene with high dynamic range. Maybe you want to give more exposure to the shadows like a normal sunrise beach, the The Magic Cloth Technique is a good tool for your camera kit. It is convenient and inexpensive.

Magic Cloth Tools

  • Neutral Density Filter: (Not at night!)
  • sturdy Tripod: I use a medium weight Gitzo.
  • Shutter bulb: in case your exposure goes over 30 sec.
  • Magic Cloth: a mouse-mat, hat or sleeve.

Choose a large cloth like a mouse-mat, or black card of similar size. Has to be able to cover the glass completely. Better to be Black. A dark colour is better. Use a straight edge of any shaped cloth.

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What you do:

Begin with a filter or low light for a for a slower shutter speed, then over expose the photograph by two to three stops. It is preferable to work with a long Exposure time. Shorter exposures (2-5 seconds) require a quick, but controlled action to darken the sky within a reflex time.

A shutter speed of 5-10 seconds gives you a controlled exposure of the middle-ground. Double your metered exposure for a straightforward scene that just requires a bit more exposure on the land. Snow scenes and reflections work well with this approach.

Magic Cloth Action

In most situations I bring the cloth down quickly and up slowly. But you can change the action to capture a dozen short exposures of the sky, rather than one initial exposure (longer exposures only).

Camera Gear

Canon 5D - full frame

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 l

Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod

B+W 77mm SC 106 ND

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Moments later the sun became visible over the Vatnjokull glacier. The dynamics of the scene changed completely. Shooting into the sun gives the photo dramatic contrast. I prefer the softer, subtle light before the sun poked over the glacier.

Jokulsarlon Iceberg
Sunrise behind the iceberg on Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

By Tony Prower

Tony Prower spent over 15 years photographing the landscapes of Iceland. Tony Prower is a pioneer of the Magic Cloth Technique and ran thousands of photo tours in Iceland over 10 years.