Stacy Smith Evans Photography » Virginia Landscape + Portrait Photographer

Foto Fridays | Ice Caves at Vatnajokull | Iceland Landscape Photographer

You know how they say you should be able to operate your camera equipment in the dark…yeah, that would’ve been helpful!

Stacy Smith Evans Photography - Iceland Landscape Photographer

The Technical: ISO 1000, f10, 1/13 of a second

The Equipment: Nikon D750, Tamron 15-30mm, Manfrotto BeFree Tripod

The Story:  In February, my husband and I took a winter vacation to Iceland!  I was uber-excited just anticipating nights spent staring up at the dancing northern lights, adventures traipsing across glaciers, and our full day exploring ice caves!  My husband, on the other hand, was busy packing foil thermal blankets, downloading offline maps for our GPS tracker, and scouring all the sporting goods stores for 800-fill, waterproof parkas.  🙂  We approach travel a little differently to say the least!

As luck would have it after three days of blissful blue skies, we experienced our first major snowstorm in Iceland the night before our ice cave adventure!  After confirming it was still on, we set out to drive about 125 kilometers from our cabin in some very Icelandic weather conditions — picture white-knuckle driving through a blizzard for about three hours!  We slowly meandered to Jokulsarlon guided only by the yellow road posts, and just before our arrival our tour guide called to cancel due to high wind gusts!  It’s true that Iceland’s weather is unpredictable, in flux, and should be taken seriously.  Fortunately, we built some extra time into our travel plans and were able to reschedule for the next day.  Unfortunately, my husband had to drive us through the same conditions all over again as more snow fell that night.

In my trip research, I came across a family-owned, tour company called Ice Guide recommended by photographers and tailored to photographers.  Yay and yay!  Our guide, Oskar, outfitted us in crampons, helmets, and safety lines for the descent; led us a couple miles to the cave opening; and then let us explore the ice cave on our own after pointing out the two entrances.  My husband, who seemed to be the only non-photographer on our excursion, really enjoyed talking to our guide about the movement of the glaciers over the past few years and learning how they scout for the best caves.  Amazing and educational experience, win-win!  The best part of opting with a smaller company, aside from being able to stay as long as we wanted, was the very small group size (just eight of us!) and that we were the only ones in this particular ice cave for most of the day.  Oh, and the ice cave had a waterfall flowing through it!

I took this shot midway through our adventure after descending ice steps leading to the cave entrance and crawling around to get a nice composition beside the rushing water.  Once I was in position, I figured out that my headlamp didn’t work and it was pretty dark without it.  I fumbled a bit dialing in my settings and maneuvering my tripod in the tight, rocky alcoves.  As my hands got cold, it also got harder for me to twist the knobs and lock the tripod legs into place.  Basically, it’s a miracle that I got a couple decent shots that day!  This shot is one of my favorites of a guide walking near the mouth of the cave.  He had just knocked off a potentially dangerous piece of low-hanging ice from the entrance with his pickaxe and slung it over his shoulder in this pose.  I love the way his bright jacket really stands out against the snowy background and complements the blue walls.  And finally, I’m so glad I had my super wide angle lens with me to capture the ripples of the ice above and the rocks and waterfall below.

Thanks for stopping by!  Feel free to comment with questions below or just to say hi!

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