• Iceland,  Travel

    Arctic Circle and Arctic Henge

    After this hot year, it’s starting to get cool, although Iceland is also uncharacteristically warm at the moment. With twists and turns we finally reach the hotel in Raufarhöfn via the 870 with stops in Raudinupur, Skinnalón and the Arctic Henge.

    To reach the lighthouse in Raudinupur we had to walk 6 km there and back. Just arrived, the sunny weather changed and a thick, icy fog surrounded us. We became unsure which would be the right way back. The chattering of the gannets did not stop.

    Lighthouse Raudinupur © Julian Köpke

    My personal highlight of the day is the abandoned farm Skinnalón. It lies at 66 degrees and 31′ north latitude, which is only 1′ below the Arctic Circle, just a few steps from the Arctic Sea. The area was closed off to vehicles, the footpath uneven and a strange smell drifted over to me the closer I got to the former farm. My eyes quickly became irritated and a headache set in, as if an allergic reaction was taking place.

    Abandoned farm Skinnalón © Julian Köpke
    Collapsed storerooms in Skinnalón © Julian Köpke

    The Arctic Henge has been under construction as a work of art since 2002 and is unfinished. Somehow the goings-on at the construction site are reminiscent of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, perhaps because the stone arches are irregular, but geometrically very precisely arranged.

    Arctic Henge in Raufarhöfn. Wikipedia tells: "The Arctic Henge is an Arctic monument planned in 1996 by the artist Erlingur Thorodsen, which has been under construction since 2002 and is up to 11 m high. The name Arctic Henge is based on the name Stonehenge. The Icelandic name is Heimskautsgerði." © Julian Köpke

    In the early evening, a fog began to settle over the place, so we went to Arctic Henge again at nightfall. For a long time I looked at the arch as a gate with a little moving person in the background. Only during post-processing did I recognise a stone.

    Nocturnal deception in the arctic mist at the Arctic Henge in Raufarhöfn © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Landscape,  Travel


    Today was the day of forgetting. Super sunshine seduced us into relative inactivity bordering on planlessness. It was good for our exhaustion, because the last few days had been full of highlights and emotional highs. That is why we went whale watching.

    Two adult dolphins and a young, obviously at the swimming school © Julian Köpke
    Tail fin of a humpback whale © Julian Köpke

    We could have ended the day so calmly. In the early evening, shortly before nightfall, my friend Detlef remembered his most important waterfall: Aldeyjarfoss. He really wanted to go to Iceland for that. 50km of unpaved road lay ahead of us. When we arrived, it was not yet completely dark, the unsecured path high above the river valley was still passable.

    Aldeyjarfoss © Julian Köpke

    We had hoped for moonlight to shoot the waterfall, which was a 96% full moon. But it took its time and only rose when we had left the spot.

    Moonrise at Aldeyjarfoss © Julian Köpke

    The way back took us past the Godafoss car park. As if we hadn’t seen and photographed enough, a few sparse northern lights appeared. They were mixed with the clouds and the Big Dipper was in the middle.

    Polar light and clouds near Godafoss © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Travel


    Yesterday a long drive from Höfn to the hotel near Husavik. The journey started in the rain, but by midday it was gloriously sunny. First contact with the big volcanic fissure in Namafjall with intense sulphur smell and mud springs. 

    Námafjall hot mud sources © Julian Köpke

    After a short tour around Myvatn we reached Godafoss.

    We decided to photograph Godafoss again early in the day before the sun rose. Thick fog greeted us at the East car park. There were few people, and those who came after us ran as if their lives were at stake. If you had a spot, someone was happy to stand in front of it, armed with a smartphone.

    Sunrise and fog near Godafoss
    Sunrise and fog at Godafoss © Julian Köpke

    Down on the riverbank I could take my shot in peace and without people. The warm sunlight first reached the rocks at the small waterfall to the right of the two big ones to the left. Through manual and software-based HDR, different exposure times were superimposed so that the river appears to be strongly moving.

    Godafoss at sunrise © Julian Köpke

    Today it was the day of the waterfalls. Each one is different, each one has a different photographic appeal. The Dettifoss waterfall made a viewer feel the force of nature. We reached it after a 130km drive by car, the last 50km on a road without pavement. So one was already emotionally prepared by the tangible road conditions.

    Dettifoss detail western drop edge © Julian Köpke

    An arduous 1.4km walk took us to the east side of Sellfoss, which I immediately liked. For a creative eye, Sellfoss is a veritable treasure trove. So many waterfalls at once !

    Sellfoss late afternoon © Julian Köpke

    Finally, we went to Hafragilsfoss, whose viewpoint could be easily reached by car. Because the feet didn’t want to carry the weight of the equipment any more. Here the picture was of an animated autumnal green-yellow landscape in the middle of a dead stone desert. Again and again, the stony landscape raised the question: on which planet are we right now ?

    Hafragilsfoss © Julian Köpke

    The water in Iceland ultimately comes from precipitation, which either glaciers, melts or penetrates directly into the ground as rain. A late summer rain in the early evening with the typical Icelandic light coming in from some side forced me out of the car on our return trip. I only noticed the rain outside when I walked around the car with my camera. It was weak and warm.

    Late summer rain driving the 845 © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Landscape,  Travel


    Long days in Iceland with a time difference of 2 hours to Germany. It’s light here, while at home those who stayed at home go to bed.
    Early in the morning we started our tour to the lagoon of Hoffellsjökull. There is no tourist infrastructure, the car has to have a lot of ground clearance and the tyres have to be well inflated to reach the lagoon.
    A harmonious light situation awaited us today, light cloud cover making the sunlight a little more diffuse. The contrasts of the icebergs were clear.

    The constantly changing light through the clouds made the icebergs alternately light and dark. The consistent structures were brought to life by the permanent change of light.

    Morning at Hoffellsjökull glacier lagoon © Julian Köpke

    Changing the lens is not a change of perspective. Nevertheless, the change is worthwhile, because the higher focal length has the effect of enlarging a section. The change of light does its part.

    Morning at Hoffellsjökull glacier lagoon © Julian Köpke

    The drive to Skalafellsjökull via the F985 pass road was somewhat adventurous. Although our Japanese car kept making very different beeps and noises, the meaning of which we could not always identify, the car was technically usable for this road.

    At the top we found a base camp for glacier tours with snowmobiles. A short walk over rocks of all shapes and sizes brought us to the edge of the glacier. A cool, almost constant wind blew around our ears. Gloves were great for working with the camera. With a rather dull light I created a panorama of the early glacier.

    Glacier Skalafellsjökull at the end of F985 © Julian Köpke

    The most impressive structures of the glacier are found crosswise and lengthwise to the flow and are called „ogives“ resp. „band ogives“. We had already admired their charm many times on the ascent. We devoted ourselves to them on the descent.

    Glacier Skalafellsjökull ogives and some band ogives © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Landscape,  Travel


    Besides the Vestrahorn near Höfn, there is the Eystrahorn near Hvalnes, situated right next to a lighthouse. The bay at Hvalnes was windless, sunny and warm. Just as we turned east at the lighthouse, the weather abruptly changed to stormy, cloudy and cold. It took me 3/4 of an hour to safely photograph the mountain group, because clouds obstructed the view.

    Fragile clouds at Eystrahorn beneath Hvalnes Lighthouse © Julian Köpke

    The view to the west shows the peninsula, the sea and Vestrahorn in the distance. The fragility of the weather situation is not noticeable in this direction.

    Hvalnes beach and peninsula beneath Eystrahorn. Vestrahorn at the horizon. © Julian Köpke

    In the evening it became increasingly overcast and the prospects of seeing the abundantly announced auroras sank into the bottomless pit. The clouds were coloured by the evening glow. Hotel guests gathered on the terrace to greet the sunset with many photos.

    Evening at Fosshotel Vatnajökull © Julian Köpke
  • Iceland,  Landscape,  Travel

    Patterns and glacial flows

    This morning we were far from convinced to book a photographic sightseeing flight. Because the clouds were hanging 20m above the ground when we left our hotel. The closer we got to Skaftfell, the brighter it became, but still plenty cloudy. Only on the peaks of Vatnajökull was there plenty of sun.

    The experienced pilot was sure we would have fun. And so it came to pass. Because our pilot liked to take pictures from the air himself and knew exactly how to get the best light conditions in front of our lens in the clearing weather. How impressive it was may be understood by pointing out my rapidly aching hands, which from focusing, positioning the camera and releasing the shutter on both sides had me feeling the saddle joints after only half an hour.

    Our flight was a complete success thanks to this young pilot whose machine was more than twice his age. Only the engine was new, he said.

    Glacial flows and patterns on Iceland © Julian Köpke

    After crossing the first glacier flow, we reached the glacier itself. With the old Cessan we slowly crept up the glacier. I felt reminded of films where the altitude limit is reached and the hero has to dare to jump. The cold downdraft winds were hard on the plane, but the pilot still guided us safely up the slope.

    The sight of a glacier reminds me of frozen waves that take you up and down with power. The frozen glacier seems less dangerous, almost still.

    Flying up the glacier Vatnajökull © Julian Köpke

    We left the glacier area again to approach the glacier lagoon Jökullsarlon. From above, everything looks small, I didn’t even notice the many icebergs I would later find from the plane.

    Flight from Vatnajökull to Jökullsarlon © Julian Köpke

    In one hour I took 700 pictures, which is about 50 GBytes of data. At the end, the exhaustion of the hands and body was noticeable. We only had bananas and nuts for breakfast, as we had to leave the hotel before breakfast. Fortunately, we had gloves, scarf and hats to brave the cold that came in through the open plane windows.

    Glacial flows and patterns on Iceland © Julian Köpke

    Deep sleep had been indicated and possible before the evening excursion. With a small diversions via Hafnarnesviti lighthouse, we reached the Viking Café in Stocksness at 11 pm. Many cars took the same route. Northern lights at Vestrahorn were the final destination for all. For the first time I experienced polar lights with my cam under clear skies.

    Polarlights at Stocksness © Julian Köpke
    Polarlights at Stocksness © Julian Köpke
  • Landscape,  Travel


    Our first stop is Skogafoss, which we had already visited last year. At that time we were almost alone. Today it is crowded like at the Oktoberfest. Along the outflow of the waterfall, I moved along the bank of the current with the tripod forward to somehow capture the overwhelming scale of this place.

    Skogafoss © Julian Köpke

    In front of each monument you may recognize people posing or acting. If you wait long enough, there is always an opportunity for a special picture that shows the scale of the force of nature and the relative tininess of human appearance.

    Skogafoss © Julian Köpke

    In Reynisfjara at Black Sand beach we find flow that has become stone. Basal columns and many variations of them, to be viewed from above and marvelled at from below. Frozen movement shows the past time of unbridled geological power.

    Reynisfjara basalt formation © Julian Köpke
    Reynisfjara basalt formation © Julian Köpke

    The basalt columns on Reynisfjara beach are a place of joy for all those who have made the long journey there. Is there anything more beautiful than climbing on the rocks and being photographed ?

    I experienced a moment of peace in the Verzasca Valley in Ticino. It was late afternoon and I had climbed down close to the stream to take a picture of the rocks and their reflection in the Verzasca in a pool of greenish light. What a joy this morning, because the picture was put into the explore stream of Flickr.

  • General,  Landscape,  Travel


    The prospects are good: with high probability northern lights are announced for tomorrow and the following days in Iceland. We had wished for northern lights, but in no way expected to see any, nor to be able to photograph them.

    Our first day of travel starts with a seven and a half hour delay of the plane. A short wait turned into a long day with lots of sun outside and little movement in the lounge.

    „Have camera, will travel.“ I can’t get this sentence out of my head. The prospects are good: beautiful Icelandic landscape and auroras with high probability.

    Have camera, will travel. © Julian Köpke
    Probability for Northern Lights
  • Architecture,  Travel


    Our journey to the Land of the Midnight Sun starts in Oslo. The hotel is just a stone’s throw from the harbour. lot of rain and constantly changing light from more or less dense clouds greet us. Because we don’t want to miss anything, we start our first tour right after arrival, despite a certain tiredness.

    The first building that caught  our eyes is the opera. Built with Carrara marble is white.

    Operaen Oslo (Opera house) © Julian Köpke
    Operaen Oslo (Opera house) © Julian Köpke

    A sculpture in the middle of the harbor attracted me. It took me some moments to see the resemblance to a painting of Caspar David Friedrich („Eismeer“).

    Failed Hope (Sculpture inspired by "Eismeer" by C.D. Friedrich). A flexible mounted sculpture in the harbour of Oslo. Light is different every moment: it will be never the same. © Julian Köpke
  • Architecture,  General,  Travel

    Fragile in Amsterdam

    A lot of things are falling apart these days. We feel how fragile we are. How do you show fragility in a picture ?

    Entering the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a new, modern entrance area has been created. Light and shadow in rapid succession through concrete door arches.

    Entrance Rijksmuseum Amsterdam © Julian Köpke

    The arches are unadorned, yet the eye clings to them. Despite – or due to ? – the simple concept, every perspective offers new impression.

    Entrance Rijksmuseum Amsterdam © Julian Köpke

    A still life painting (not „life style“) may be irritating by its compositional elements, like objects at the edge of a table top. Just these elements evokes a feeling of fragility. The next image is a photograph I made in the museum without tripod as indicated. The painting by Willem Claeszoon Heda was about 1635. It is a Vanitas theme, 13 years before the end of a 80 years long war in Netherlands, the end coinciding with the 30 years long war in Germany 1648.

    Nature morte Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Netherlands By Willem Claeszoon Heda 1635. Photograph. © Julian Köpke