I was taking my brother around Iceland in 2012 when I took this photo. It was the end of the Summer and the nights were dark enough to see good northern lights. The mountain roads were still open and we had just completed a couple of nights at Landmannalaugar before we headed East to the Vatnjokull Glacier. We were really lucky to have clear skies and great reflections on the main glacier lagoon at Jokulsarlon. We spent an hour down on the banks of Jokulsarlon with our cameras up on tripods. We both got some amazing photos. I got cold so was heading back to the car when I saw the Northern Lights explod one last time. I was still close to the lagoon, so I set up my camera and tripod. I balanced the scene so I got the reflections of the aurora in the glacier lagoon.
This Northern lights photograph teaches me to be humble at this time in my life. It represents the place I am at in the universe, and maybe you too? Humbling experiences are often found when the ego surrenders and a higher power is accepted. If your life is not full of humbling experiences, you are not letting go enough. But, just as we consider ourselves as tiny organisms on a small planet orbiting a minor sun in an insignificant arm of the galaxy, we can also consider that running through this tiny organism is the entire universe.
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End of an ice age
Here we can see ice bergs littering a lagoon created by the retreating Breiðamerkurjökull. In the starry skies above the melting glacier we can see a 10 second snapshot of fairly lively aurora activity. If you like, it is the burning ions in our outer atmosphere which give us a little snapshot of the surface of the sun – our sun. The glacier melting has been going on for 100 years and predictions try to suggest the end of glaciers in Iceland over the next 50 years. Global warming? Climate change? or just what glaciers do naturally?
Representation of Nature
This is just a picture, just a representation of what happened on the 8th September 2012 – not a particularly significant event – but this 10 seconds of sky activity was rendered on my digital sensor and transferred to my computer where I edited it and uploaded it for anyone in the world to see it.
This represented event could raise all sorts of questions about what it all means – is the sun angry? will the melting glacier affect us? is iso1600 good enough on the Canon 5D2? But really, it is all about just being able to witness such an event. Being able to capture it in a way that can be shared throughout the world. Life is about experiences, not questions.
So changes are afoot! We should embrace them. If the earth was unable to make these changes, she would be choking under our parasitic grasp. Here you realise that the power of nature (just this thin crust and atmosphere) is greater than all our imagination. Be prepared for change.
This article is about Jökulsarlon and the aurora experience, but mostly it is an examination of how we can become complacent in the presence of great beauty.
Grant takes us through the ins and outs of modern night photography with comprehensive coverage of equipment and preparation, settings and calculations, composition, exposure, focus and finally processing.
The Northern lights in Iceland can yield wonderful displays for your camera, but if you can include some of the landscape you are standing in at the time, it will give your picture a dynamic edge.