Some days in Iceland are more crazy than others. This was one of them. After making my way through winds that were so cold that my iPhone switched itself off, getting completely soaked from torrential rains and having to change all of my clothes in the car next to the road (fortunately nobody saw me), eating canned beans next to a milk truck in the middle of nowhere under a sky that reminded me of a surrealist painting and visiting a waterfall that looked rather boring, I arrived at the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon just as the sun was starting to go down.
I grabbed my tripod and camera, stuffed another lens into my pocket and jumped out of the car. I left the – still wet – backpack behind. I quickly made my way up a little rubble hill, rammed my tripod into the ground as good as possible to protect it against the extreme winds and started shooting picture after picture after picture. After sixty-some pictures, my memory card was full. And the spare cards were in my backpack. I ran and jumped down the hill back to the car, at times almost getting carried away by the wind. I don’t think the wind was strong enough to actually carry me away but it still felt funny. After changing memory cards, I sprinted back up the hill, much to the amusement of the few couples who were enjoying the romantic sunset from the warm comfort of their SUVs.
Fortunately, I hadn’t missed much of the scene. In fact, the most spectacular moments had just begun. So close to the Arctic circle, the sun goes down very fast during winter. And just for a few minutes, it sets the sky on fire. Higher clouds are illuminated directly from behind, lighting up in an intense red-orange glow. The water in the glacial lagoon of course reflects the spectacle. And with drifting chunks of ice shining naturally blue the whole scene became even more breathtaking. I actually had tears in my eyes. Might have been due to the wind, though.
After about half an hour, the sun had gone down far enough to make the magical light disappear. I had taken almost 250 photos by then. Back in the car, my fingers were stiff and my face was burning from the frost. But I didn’t care much, I was too ecstatic that at the end of an otherwise suboptimal day, I got to see the most beautiful sunset of my life thanks to nothing but luck.
I turned up the music and the heat for the remaining 80 km to the next city, already planning to return the next morning for some daytime pictures of the glacier.
With temperatures outside exceeding 30° Celsius today, I felt like looking at some pictures of colder weather. The coldest weather I have ever experienced was probably in March this year in Iceland. The temperatures were around -25° Celsius but because there was also a severe snow storm going on, the windchill was much lower. Packed into several layers of warm clothes and carrying my trusty weather sealed Pentax K-5 II, I went for a little walk outside. The only other option was hanging around the hotel all day because the roads leading into and out of town were closed due to the weather.
Akureyri is the largest town in Iceland outside the Greater Reykjavik Area. I wouldn’t have found the center of the city without a phone with GPS and maps because, well, you can’t actually see that much during a snow storm. The local busses were still running, though and I noticed a few people leaving a bus and walking past this coffee shop (which to my amazement was open). I just stood still in the middle of what must have been a street and waited for the right picture. I don’t normally do a lot of street photography but here I was really fascinated by the way people dealt with the extreme weather.
Traveling through the United Arab Emirates, you get used to the omnipresent world records rather quickly. Everything seems to be the largest this, the most expensive that and the fastest what-have-you. So to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that impressed when the tour guide told me that the carpet I was about to walk on was the largest in the world.
As usual, the exact details vary depending on who you ask but it took 1,200 carpet knotters about 2 years to complete the carpet. It has a total of 2.2 billion knots, weighs about 50 tons and measures 6,000m² – almost an entire soccer field. It is so large that it had to be manufactured in 8 separate pieces in Iran and shipped to Abu Dhabi together with some knotters who finally joined the pieces together inside the mosque. It provides space for up to 7,000 worshipers and the carpet’s pattern matches the patterns of the ceiling, especially the chandeliers.
Speaking of the chandeliers again, here is one more photo that illustrates the immense size of these lamps. You can see how small the people at the bottom of the picture appear compared to the chandeliers hanging above them. And from the side, the upper parts also become more visible with their thousands of small pieces of glass and Svarovski crystals.
Despite all the fascination I have with these chandeliers, I think they only look so good inside the mosque. I can’t imagine having an obviously smaller version of one of those inside my living room, it would just look out of place.
As usual, you can find these and some other photos from inside Sheikh Zayed Mosque in the Abu Dhabi Gallery. I also took a lot of photos outside, but who knows when I’ll post those.
The little irregularities in the last photo kept bothering me, so I decided to try and fix them with some digital trickery in the GIMP. While I was at it, I also enhanced the contrast slightly to brighten up the bottom a bit and make the pattern on the wall more prominent. Here’s the result:
You probably have to directly compare it to the previous version to actually notice the changes in the bottom right. And only if you pay very close attention you can see parts of the cheating in the final image. While I don’t normally do this kind of manipulation on my photos, it is very common among photographers and I find myself playing with it more often these days.