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Haifoss at Sunset



This picture was taken around 11pm just as the sun was starting to go down on a lovely Icelandic Summer's evening!

This picture was taken around 11pm just as the sun was starting to go down on a lovely Icelandic Summer's evening!
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Chillbrook December 01, 2015
Iceland is very young geologically. The strange formations and basalt columns you can see in this image are fascinating. You can see the layers of volcanic ash and rock that is slowly being compacted. You take your life in your hands standing on the edge because the rock is so friable. The patterns of erosion by water and by the weather add to the curious shapes present. I'm not sure about the holes, probably erosion again.

Behind The Lens

Location
This photograph was taken at Háifoss (pronounced how-a-foss), said to be Iceland's second highest waterfall at 122m. It's a little off the beaten track and so doesn't feature in most people's 'Golden Circle' tours of Iceland but it's one of my favourite places. A 4x4 vehicle is necessary to get to the falls, otherwise it's about a mile's hike from Route 32. Completely cut off in winter, I visited at the end of May and the track was still impassable. By the 25th of June however, driving a Toyota Land Cruiser, I was able to drive to the falls, having to ford a river to do so.. After the climb to the head of the falls following a rocky difficult track. It was only when I stopped the car that I realised just how windy it was as the car was rocked by the occsional gust. Getting out of the car I was blasted with a gale force, ice cold wind. There was still snow lying in patches all around. The cold was quite a shock after enjoying temperatures around 20°C at lower altitudes. Thankfully, I was prepared and had a winter coat with me. I wrestled my coat on as the wind threatened to rip it from my hands, got my camera and tripod set up and set off down the track towards the spray that could be seen rising above the gorge.
Time
It was 10.30pm when I started to take pictures. The summer solstice had passed just a few days before and at this time of year, the sun barely dips below the horizon before it's rising again at the start of another day. The sun was just starting to set though as I positioned my tripod on the edge of the gorge.
Lighting
Given the sun had dipped behind the hill, the gorge was really quite dark whilst there was still a lot of light in the sky. I knew I'd need an ND filter to balance the exposure. Without the filter, to properly expose the gorge the sky would have been blown, losing the delicate shades of pinks and apricots that I wanted to preserve. At the same time if i had exposed for the sky, I would have lost all detail in the dark shadows that were now apparent in the rocks hundreds of feet below me. Thankfully the wind was carrying the spray away from me so I wasn't going to be bothered with trying to keep the filter dry.
Equipment
I took the picture with my D800e and a Nikon 14-24mm wide angle lens. I wanted to capture both waterfalls so the 14-24mm lens was the obvious choice. My manfrotto tripod is fairly sturdy but even so, I decided against extending the legs, keeping the tripod low to try and reduce the effects of the buffeting wind. The Lee SW150 filter system, specially designed for the 14-24mm lens, creates a large surface area for the wind to act upon and given the very low light, my exposures were going to be on the long side, 5 seconds so under these conditions, getting a sharp picture was not going to easy. I composed my shot and using the remote I set off the exposure, hanging onto the tripod, anchoring it down to try and keep everything steady.
Inspiration
This is one of my favourite places in Iceland. It's remote and deserted. I've always been totally alone when I've visited. Sitting on the edge of the gorge, looking down the valley with the falls thundering across from you it's easy to feel like you're the only person alive, witnessing the sun going down on the first ever day. You can feel the raw energy of the falls, the beauty of it all makes you catch your breath. Sitting there on this particular evening, the tears in my eyes had rather less to do with the wind than I'd have cared to admit to anyone. The feelings and emotions always threaten to overflow here. Leaving your worries and fears many thousands of feet below you, the falls are untouched by the horrors and grief that are reported daily on news programmes around the world, they don't intrude here. This is virginal territory, as yet clean and unsullied by all the woes of the world at lower lattitudes. It's a privelege to be there, to be allowed in to witness the raw beauty of the earth as it should be, as it was at the dawn of time. Taking the photograph I wanted to capture some of that. Not everybody will be able to make it to these falls, it's a difficult road and only open at certain times of year but I can share some of what the place means to me through my photography and this was the inspiration for the photograph..
Editing
The post processing on this photograph was minimal thanks to the the Lee .3 filter balancing the exposure. If I hadn't of had the filter, I'd have probably been blending two exposures. From the RAW file I adjusted brightness and contrast along with saturation and vibrance in photoshop along with some sharpening. I used the smart sharpening filter set at 60% with a 1px radius. That was about it.
In my camera bag
In my camera rucksack I carry my D800e along with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens, a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens, a Nikkor fast 50mm prime and a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED. I also carry a Sony A7R camera with a Carl Zeiss 35mm prime along with a Sony Carl Zeiss 24–70mm Vario-Tessar T* zoom. My Manfrotto tripod always comes with me as does my remote shutter release. I carry a chamois leather when in Iceland as it deals with moisture so well. Wether it's snow, rain or the spray from a waterfall, it's ideal for mopping up. I also have the usual lens wipes, spare cards and batteries tucked away if various pockets.
Feedback
Having taken photographs in Cornwall for many years in very strong winds I was well prepared for this shot in Iceland. It's very easy to underestimate the effect of even a fairly light wind on the sharpness of your photographs. Add a longer lens or a filter to your set up and you're effectively begging the wind to move your camera during exposures. The secret is to get as low as possible, make yourself as small a target for the wind as possible and be prepared to physically hold everything steady during the exposure. I've heard people talking about slinging your camera bag from the bottom of your tripod to anchor things down. This generally doesn't do any good in my experience. It relies on you having your tripod fully extended and you've immediately made yourself a nice big target for the wind. Get low, shield your equipment by creating a barrier between the wind and it if possible and in really strong winds be prepared to hold two of your tripod legs firmly with downward pressure and the results should be sharper.

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