Glacier Ice Beach

Taken on January 11, 2017

Location: The Ice Beach at Breidarmurkursandur

Winter Sunsrie on a stormy Jökulsarlon lagoon and Ice Beach. The storm was overnight and we caught the tail end of ice. The wind & sand created incredible scalloped textures in the fresh glacier ice. The sand was also mixing with clouds on the horizon giving the event a lot more colour than usual.

Camera settings

  • ƒ/6.3
  • 24 mm
  • 5 seconds
  • 200

Mode: AV mode with + 2 stops over (compensation +/-).
Focus: f/14 hyperfocal mark. Focus is heavily weighted to the foreground.

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • EF24mm f/1.4L II USM
  • Medium weight Gitzo
  • 6 stop B&W ND filter
  • Magic Cloth = Black Winter glove.

Canon 5D – full frame

Recommended for Magic Cloth Photography.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM

Don’t forget to share!!


This is early January on 3 day Jökulsarlon tour. We delay slightly at breakfast because there are storm force winds a the lagoon. I am expecting them to drop with the sunrise, but I don’t want to lead the tour into a dangerous sandstorm. As soon as there is a drop on the wind meter readings, we head to the ice beach. It was manageable there with continuing strong winds and the occasional sand-blasting. I cautioned the group to protect their eyes with sunglasses, goggles ect.

ApertureBecause of how close I was to the foreground ice (see “Composition”) f/6.3 was chosen because sharpness is important only in the foreground, the sea and clouds are moving over the 5 second exposure. From memory, my lens was set to f/14 hyperfocal (favouring the foreground – because the details are more important than the sea and clouds in the background).


For this composition, the concept is to oppose the diagonal in the sky with an opposite, softer diagonal along the edge of the ice. The ripples on the ice blend beautifully with the textures on the sea. The challenge is getting my camera into the right position to ensure good proportions of sea, ice & sky.

My tripod was set up with only 2 legs extended and the 3 rd folded flat so the tripod is leaning on the ice. The glacier ice chunk became my 3rd tripod leg.

Focal lengthBecause of the rich colours in the sky, and the ability to get as close to the ice as you like, I strongly recommend a wide-angle.

Thanks for Reading!!

Magic Cloth

Long exposure = 5 seconds.

Because of the foreground ice’s refraction and reflection, this is not a massive dynamic range scene. My starting exposure (AV mode) was 2 stops over in the live view. A very simple karate chop (after a second) followed by slowly raising the cloth over the remaining 3 & half seconds. A second on the sky capture all the colour and detail including the sun glow. The shadows had to be brought up a little in LR. The extra exposure time on the foreground was almost perfect and just a small increase in contrast gave me fantastic color saturation and clarity.

Magic cloth:

Pick a big cloth like a large sock, or the same size black card. Should be large enough to totally cover the optics. Better to be Dark. A dark colour is best. Use any shaped cloth, as long as you can get a straight edge.

The Magic Cloth Technique:

Camera settings

Begin with a dark filter or low light for a for a slower shutter speed, then over expose the image by 2 – 3 stops.

Shutter speed

There is an advantage to a long Shutter speed. 2-5 seconds requires a fast, but smooth movement to burn the sky within a reflex time. 5-10 seconds allows for a controlled exposure of the foreground.

Magic Cloth Action

I usually lower the cloth very quickly and bring it up carefully.

Different ways of doing it

Change the Action to allow a dozen short exposures of the clouds, rather than one initial exposure (30 seconds & over exposures only).

Use your spot meter for the highlights and {multiply that shutter speed by 4|then x 4 to get the total exposure time.

Treasure Iceland

Treasure Iceland

If you catch the glacier ice beach at the right time, you can photograph the incredible colours of a sunset or sunrise.

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