Taken January 10th 2013
Vestrahorn Mountain from Stokksness. The grass anchors itself in the black sand forming tussocks from the drifting sand. Small pools form after heavy rain or melting snow.
- 24 mm
- 20 sec
Vestrahorn is one of the most beautiful places in Iceland. Winter is a great time to photograph it because the angles of soft light are better. The Winter storms allow the sand to cover the 1000s of tourist footprints and create incredible shapes and contours for the landscape photographer to work with. After all that, this shot could have easily been taken in the Summer.
As you can see, my camera is quite close to the ground on this shot. I am struggling to get a reflection of the misty mountain reflecting in the little pool. The low level eliminates any middle ground, so the composition is all about the immediate foreground and the dramatic mountain peak in the background.
F/11 is quite an odd choice when the camera is so close to the ground. But I didn’t require the mountain to be sharp so f/11 was covering only the foreground area. The advantage is nice crisp textures to immediately invite the viewer in.
AV (Aperture mode). Live view with evaluative metering – weighted for the shadows + 2 stops compensation. With my 6 stop ND filter, I had to increase iso to 400 to get 20 sec.
The shutter speed of 20 seconds gives me around 2 seconds to play with the highlights. For example, 0.5 second sky exposure (reflex speed) could help add contrast to such a misty scene, but 2 seconds wouldn’t have burned the highlights, so the contrast could be achieved in post processing. Leaving the sky for 4 seconds would have been close to highlight burnout.
I opted for 1.5 second sky exposure with a karate chop action to cover the whole scene, then a careful exposure from bottom to the horizon (x2). Then I finish off the exposure by gently exposing the bottom corners.
The dawn is not a quick affair in Iceland. The colours can be good for many hours especially on a mid-Summer night.
The black sand beach with magical chunks of glacial ice is where the Atlantic Ocean interacts with Europe’s largest glacier.
This is a very popular ice cave and is normally full of tourists. On this morning, we were in there hours before the tourists.