To Gush or not to Gush
Geysir is the spot in Iceland with the most active hot-springs and geysers. The name of this location actually gave us the word ‘Geyser’. In Icelandic, ‘Geysir’ means ‘to gush’… and indeed that is what they do. This compelling attraction is only a couple of hours drive from Reykjavik, so Geysir is a good choice for a day trip. Geysers are formed when ground water seeps into cracks and tubes that run deep in rhyolitic rocks. If Magma is close to the surface, the water in the deeper tubes gets super heated until it has to release energy.
The star attraction used to be the geyser ‘Geysir’ which rarely spouts these days. When it does, it is among the largest Geyser eruption in the world. It now happens less than once a year and you would be extremely lucky to see it. The eruption of Geysir used to be a regular show. Soap powder was able to wake the Geyser. This meant you could trigger an eruption at will. This practice was reserved for important visitors until Geysir finally quit. I was believed that a local earthquake could have changed the shape of the geyser and that another earthquake could bring it back to life. There is a story, more than 100 years old, that once a cow fell into the large geyser and was ejected 10 minutes later, fully cooked. This legendary incident is reported in Sabine Baring-Gould‘s book ‘Iceland’ (1863).
Strökkur is considered to be Geysir’s little brother. Strökkur eruptions are frequent and occur around every 15 minutes. The photo challenge is to either capture the blue bubble which occurs just before eruption or to capture the full height of a large eruption. Strökkur eruptions are very brief, lasting just a second or so. The scene just after eruption is just a misty veil of steam. Camera settings to capture and freeze the movement are usually very fast shutter speeds of at least 1/125, but sometimes I have experimented with slower shutters to achieve slightly more original shots.
Geysir is often the coldest spot in Iceland as Arctic winds blow straight over the glaciers in Iceland’s interior. The area is very close to Gullfoss and has a hotel, restaurant and gift shop (selling dead animal fur – ugh!) which are open during regular hours.
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Photo tips: Use a wide lens (17-24mm) to shoot the full Geysir eruption. Use a short lens (70-100mm) to shoot the pre-eruption blue bubble. Adjust iso to 200-400 to get a fast shutter. Capture the action. Try shooting into the sun to get a dramatic back lighting – don’t forget to compensate because the eruption will introduce a lot more white into the scene. On the other hand it will block out the sun, it that is in your frame. Don’t worry about the crowds, you wont see them when Strökkur erupts.
Don’t try to test the temperature of the water in the hot-springs. The tiny streams usually have cold water in them, but the water in the hot-springs can scold or even cook your skin. Don’t stand down-wind of the Geyser. The steams tells you the wind direction, so if the steam is coming at you, make sure you are not too close to Strökkur. An eruption will give you a lovely warm shower. This sounds nice, but in freezing temperatures your wet clothes could give you hypothermia.
GOLDEN CIRCLE TOURS
All Golden Circle tours include Geysir.
Private Golden Circle
Golden Circle minibus
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