Iceland on Film, Part V

And what happens if you get your ass out at 4 o’clock in the morning

Five days ago I arrived in Iceland for the purpose of taking photos with couple of my friends. I only took a 35mm film camera with me. If you are wondering what happened before, you can read the previous chapters of the story here: Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.

Last evening in Iceland we ended up sleeping in a small cabin with all the luxuries of a proper hotel. I of course enjoyed the luxury so much, I woke up 4 o’clock in the morning.

I saw beautiful colours outside through the window. That made me think: should I stay in warm nice bed and sleep some more hours or instead, go out in the freezing cold and take some pictures. I have to say the decision was harder than it should have been, but I figured: am I a photographer or not? Eventually I decided: probably not so much, but I still want those damn pictures!

I have to say I never regretted this.

I ran out of the roll and the sun was coming up, so the magical light was lost. I went back inside and changed the roll.

Every time new roll is loaded you have to advance two frames before you can start shooting. This is done to get past the part of the film that was exposed to the light when you inserted it into camera.

First frame is completely overexposed, but the second one usually is only partially damaged and the labs often scan this one too. There is something magical about those frames — as if they have this otherworldly feel to them. So here is one of the window of our cabin:

The flames are caused by the hairs of the film container textile light seal. The scanner colour correction is thrown off by the overexposed area, giving the entire picture an interesting tint. Dark area is the window frame.

Nothing is intentional about this frame, I just pointed the camera towards the light, so camera would expose the frame. Olympus cameras have pretty nifty light metering. If you point the camera towards dark or leave the cap on, it just measures the light until it considers there is enough of it gathered to complete an exposure. Even if it takes several minutes.

Having finished with our morning routines, we carried on our trip through Iceland. First place to visit was Raufarhöfn, the northernmost town in Iceland. Supposedly it was one of the most important ports in it’s time, but nowadays it is best known by a stone instalment known as the Arctic Henge, which we deemed not interesting enough to visit.

Instead we visit this brightly coloured and slightly tilted lighthouse which drove me crazy when I was trying to straighten out the picture. It was installed on top of a cliff overlooking the village. Slightly before it was also a cemetery. You can get a glimpse of the Arctic Henge from the latter picture.

This was the first time, when I tried to take a picture with long exposure using the ND filter I had acquired previously.

You may notice the odd white stripe on the bottom of the image. This is a light leak from the viewfinder. I did expect this to appear, but I did not have anything to cover the viewfinder with, so I just went on hoping it will be fine. As life shows, don’t hope! Just cover the viewfinder with something and your pictures will be fine.

The water is extra transparent because in addition to the ND filter I also used a polarising filter. This is used in many pictures throughout the entire trip. It does provide a huge difference in those picture if you know what to look for.

They day was mostly cloudy so far. So most of the pictures came out fairly gloomy and dark and for some reason, a lot more contrasty than what I was used to seeing on Portra.

We stopped in Þórshöfn to have bit of a lunch in Báran Restaurant and Cosy Corner Cafe. Food was great as we had come accustomed in Iceland and I do have to say it was one of the most authentic feeling places we visited during our trip.

The entire Iceland is covered with sheep and horses. Nobody in the world knows why icelanders need so many horses and sheep, it is a mystery which has baffled scientists and historians alike for many millenia. It also baffled us, that’s why we tried to acquire some closer pictures of those creatures.

Sheep are common sight in iceland. Usually they stay off the roads unless you go chasing them down with slightly too short lens.

Turns out sheep do not appreciate very much if you want to get too close to them and they run away. On the other hand, horses are the total opposite, they will come and check you out in return.

The horse committee checking out our lens selection.

We continued down the road until we noticed an interesting bridge. I tried to take pictures of it, but I never got any half decent composition that would in any shape or form satisfy me. So I took a picture in a totally opposite direction.

Next up was Hengifoss. Well let’s say it was slightly more than we had expected. We knew the waterfall was small hike away from the parking lot. And we did also know the hiking did involve some elevation. Having lived my whole life on a flat land where the entire country has less elevation than first 50 meters of the hike, I found this to be quite a challenge.

The waterfall on the picture is Litlanesfoss, it is being fed with water from the Hengifoss, but it considerably lower. As you can see I tried to take another long exposure without covering the viewfinder.

So as you see, I never made it to the top. 2.5km of climbing was just a bit too much for me and as I wasted too much time taking pictures on the way so the others already came back when I was on half of the way to the waterfall.

Having slept two nights in a nice warm bed we didn’t feel like going back to sleeping in a cold tent, so we had booked a hotel earlier in Neskaupstaður. As it was already getting late, we started driving towards the location.

I had just ran out of another film, so I decided to load a roll of Fujifilm which I had bought from Akureyri few days ago. I soon regretted this decision, as some of the most stunning views revealed themselves while I was rocking an unknown film with a whole stop lower sensitivity than I felt comfortable with. Fortunately, as it turns out the film was not exactly as big disappointment as I was afraid it would be.

Neither was a disappointment our trip to Neskaupstaður. It was a tiny road that winded higher and higher to mountains, until it went into a one-car-wide tunnel through the top of the mountain.

But what was a big disappointment was our arrival to the hotel which we had booked. When we came to check in, the receptionist went full on awkward and asked: “Oh, you didn’t get my email?”

I checked my emails. And behold, there it was, a message stating that the hotel is unfortunately overbooked and they have to cancel my reservation, while the app still showed booking as confirmed. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but they could really have called me or cancelled the reservation through Checking email is just not something I do very often during my vacations.

So we were stranded with no place to sleep and it was already getting dark outside. It was already too late to make bookings through the app. Fortunately quick google showed there was also a campsite nearby. The weather had cleared up quite a bit, and it looked like not a bad day for camping, so that is where we headed.

We were happy to learn the camping site was almost inhabited, there were just couple of tents and a single camper, yet it had toilets and showers. Everything we needed. So that’s where we stayed for the night…

Continued in Part VI.