The Seljalandsfoss waterfalls looked pretty ordinary from the spot where our car was parked. But the whole point of visiting Seljalandsfoss waterfalls is not to watch them from a distance. If you were wearing a sturdy pair of shoes and could muster just a little bit of courage, you could walk on a slippery stone path and get behind the waterfalls. It was soaking wet there. For a view like this, we would have been willing to put up with a lot worse:
That also explained why we had spotted so many tourists walking about in raincoats on a sunny day.
There was a stall selling hot chocolate and coffee near the parking lot and doing brisk business. Never before had a cup of hot chocolate felt this irresistible.
We had had our fill of waterfalls, but since the Skógafoss fall was along the way, we made a quick stop. I was quite content to admire this one from a distance.
Given how far we still were from Jökulsárlón, we really shouldn’t have been thinking about detours. And yet, against our better judgement, we found ourselves looking at the ocean from the promontory of Dyrhólaey.
From where I stood, the parking lot looked like a modern-day Stonehenge.
We prepared our lunch (which is to say, poured hot water into cup-noodles) that day at a picturesque viewing spot that overlooked a green valley.
In that setting, even improvised cellphone towers looked quite out of ordinary.
Within a few minutes of driving from this spot, we found ourselves driving through a strange, desolate landscape comprised mostly of volcanic rocks covered in pale-green moss. A couple of hours of driving later, the landscape changed again. The road we were driving on now, had large, black fields of loose gravel on either side. No moss grew in this strange desert, just scant patches of grass and other wild herbs.
A neat row of pylons ran a few meters parallel to the road.
A drizzle rendered the landscape a touch more surreal – if such a thing was even possible. We stopped to get a better look at two large, mangled beams of steel that had been set down onto a pile of rocks by the road. They were once part of (and now a monument to) a bridge that had been washed away in recent floods. Against this grim backdrop, a couple was getting their wedding portfolio shot. As the couple was about leave, the wife stumbled upon the bride’s handbag lying in the black gravel. She managed to rush to their car and return it just in time!
Someone had parked a vintage car at this spot and left. At first I thought that this was a prop for the wedding photo shoot, but no one came to claim it after the couple had left. It was both out of place and belonged right there at the same time.
Jökulsárlón at last
The sun was going to set around 9 PM, but the light in this part of Iceland was already deteriorating fast. Fjallsárlón, another glacier lagoon just before Jökulsárlón, wasn’t originally on our itinerary, but we took a short detour to it just to be able to see something before the light faded out completely. A very strong wind from north pinned down the doors of our car. Once we had wrestled them open, the cold hit us like a slap across the face. Before us was the lagoon with large, blue, rock-like chunks of ice floating in it. Behind it the Hvannadalshnúkur glacier loomed large. So mesmerised were we with the view, that we crouched and stumbled through the chilly, gale-force wind to get close to the edge of the lagoon.
Holding my phone steady to take a picture proved nearly impossible. I knew that cold adversely affects battery life, but I didn’t realise that the effect could be this dramatic. My phone’s battery went from 26% to zero in less than 15 minutes. Frankly, the cold was also beginning to befuddle us a little. We rushed back to the warmth of our car and drove on.
Jökulsárlón stunned us into silence. The rock-like chunks of ice we had seen at Fjallsárlón before, were now actual icebergs. The wind had calmed down and the light had a strange, blue cast to it. Occasionally, a piece of the iceberg would break off and serenely float away in the gentle current of a channel that connected the lagoon to the ocean.
Standing there, global warming feels even more real. I felt guilty for the impact that our species was having on the planet. I wondered how much of this glacier was going to be around in 10 years.
A mound close to the lagoon was a popular spot for photographers to perch their tripods on for taking long-exposure photos.
We left an hour later and booked a hotel for the night’s stay on our phone. The hotel was a little on the expensive side and reminded me a little of The Stanley Hotel from The Shining. Thankfully, we had no intention of staying till winter set in.
p.s. A photographer flew a drone over the lagoon to get a footage of the glacier. Drones make me a little uneasy. Probably because of their recent use in warfare and vandalism. And who knows where the research into swarms of drones will take us. The privacy implications are bothersome too, but I guess they are not all that much worse than cameras and telephoto lenses. Still, imagining a serene view like this buzzing with drones breaks my heart. Personal drone-anxieties aside, I pose this question from a pure photographic aesthetic point of view: will we be able to shoot a landscape without a drone in the background in a decade from now?