It was the last day of our 5 day workshop, early February 2016 and we arranged a special early trip to the ice-caves with one of our regular Vatnjokull glacier guides. The Vatnjokull ice caves have become extremely busy over the last few years and at this point of writing there are 4 companies running 2 x 10 seater buses 4 times each day to the same ice cave. As a consequence, there are always around 20-40 people in the ice cave at any time… Unless you set off in the dark. Us photographers have all the gear for long exposures so why not take advantage of the hour before the tourists arrive?
Our Ice Cave Guide/ Superjeep driver, Laufey helpfully posed with her shovel for the group and we had time to move around the ice cave and explore some different compositions. It is important to think upside down visually because in Normal Landscape photography, we generally search the lower part of the scene for interesting details, lines or patterns. In an ice cave, the interesting stuff is over your head. The bottom of the scene is also important because this will help the viewer make sense of the scene and a person will help communicate the scale.
Ice Cave Exposure
The better shots are towards the ice cave entrance although there is often an extreme dynamic range. Unless the sky is exceptional, I always find it better to expose the cave well and not to worry about the sky outside. The shot above doesn’t suffer with lack of sky, don’t you think? It would suffer much more if the deeper ice wasn’t exposed well.
On this morning the sky did become more interesting on our way out of the cave so I attempted this HDR. Although the girl walked into my final frame, I like her smile. For composition I am trying to include an interesting piece of sky through the entrance while keeping some interesting overhead ice and lower ground shapes.
Before this HDR, I attempted a low light exposure. Although the composition has potential, the exposure suffers a little and the image required a lot of noise reduction.
Shortly before this, I found myself crawling on hands and knees through ice tunnels to get to a back chamber. I had to crawl to get into position for this next shot, it was so tight that I ripped my trousers with my crampons. Here, my faithful f/8 has just about captured the depth of the tunnel with some good sharpness in the details. The composition could have been better, but after a 16:9 crop where I have centered the path of the tunnel, the eye can comfortably move around.
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These are multi-day photo tours that include Vatnjokull ice caves. If conditions are good these tours can include glacier hiking.
Glacier Ice Photography
Here are some more pictures of ice in Iceland.