Moss on red – Lake Kleifarvatn

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This landscape photo was taken on February 4, 2012 at Lake Kleifarvatn in South West Iceland. This is a strange volcanic lake. It goes very deep in places and used to be the deepest lake in Iceland. There are no rivers leading in or leading out and yet the water level rises and falls. The lake is fed by underground lava tubes.


  • ƒ/13
  • 24 mm
  • 30 sec
  • 100

Tours Around Iceland


This was a location that was tagged to the end of a Winter tour because it was conveniently on the way out to the airport at Keflavik. I rarely expect too much from this place. The frequent cloud cover over the grotesque lava rock is a challenge. Winter brings extra dimensions with the ice and snow and this week was a strange warm spell that melted 90% of the ground snow. This gave the Moss a surprising airing and in a way revealed some of it’s hibernation secrets.


As usual, there was no light at Kleifarvatn, so I wanted to shoot for the details. I liked the blacks and whites of the lake and mountains in the background, but the sky was featureless. I wanted a strong foreground to dominate the bottom of the frame. One of the things I look for is the basic outline of the foreground. Is there anything that can frame the background? Can I be creative with overlap? Can I balance shapes? I also look for a variety of textures or colours or both.  Weirdly, I am not only looking at objects in a scene, but the spaces in between them as well.



Unlucky for some, I tend to avoid f/13 for superstitious reasons. Truth is I started at f/14, but my results were a little dark within the 30 sec shutter. I changed to f/13 and brought the focal point a little closer to favour the foreground. The DOF is nice and despite being so close to the foreground, the background doesn’t suffer too badly.

Magic Cloth

This was a nice long exposure at 30 sec. This is a good shutter speed to get a little creative with the Magic Cloth. The whole scene can easily be left for 3 – 6 seconds with such a flat sky. After waiting 3 seconds, I moved the cloth down slowly over the image (now we are up to about 15 sec). In the remaining time I used several angles to bring the cloth up to expose the foreground. I am trying to stop before the edge of lake, but because I have such a long exposure, I can do this carefully. Because of my composition with the rock up the right side balancing the dark beach on the left, I can introduce many angles of extra exposure to the foreground.

My Camera Gear

Canon 5D – full frame

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 l

Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod

B+W 77mm SC 106 ND


Un-processed RAW photo.

Lightroom Start

Photo open in Lightroom
Photo open in Lightroom

Lightroom Finish

Processed in Lightroom
Processed in Lightroom
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