This is one of those shots that almost didn’t happen. I literally had about 3 seconds to get this image and that was it. Here’s how it went down: Right near these falls is another massive waterfall that is probably the most photographed scene in all of Iceland. It’s stunningly beautiful. Tour busses full of people are dropped off there every half hour or so. It’s always busy, and iconic too. So I went there to shoot it of course, and try to get my take on the scene.
I loved it, but it was one of those places that was more powerful to just sit and enjoy than to try to capture on film. Don’t get me wrong, I photographed it, and spent a couple days doing so, but wasn’t blown away by what I was getting. My first day shooting this I walked all around the area, including to this waterfall which you can see through a keyhole crack in the rocks or from climbing to the top of these falls and looking down at it. To me, this was a WAY more impressive waterfall and there was no one around it. The falls just appeared to dump into this hole in the earth surrounded by the most plush green walls I could imagine.
Dangling my legs over what looked to be a 400′ drop I straddled a ridge and shot it, I moved around and shot it from everywhere I could, but I just wasn’t able to capture the grandeur of this magnificent scene. I came back day after day to try to shoot it, but I couldn’t get a shot that I felt was “Gallery Quality.” I really wanted to shoot it from ground level looking up, but when I got in through the keyhole opening it was so wet with spray everywhere I knew there was no way I would have enough time to get the shot.
Finally, my last day here I was with a film crew and walked into the keyhole one last time. I was getting blasted with water but I really wanted to try one more time to get this shot. The air was swirling in the caldron and mist was blowing all around. I stood high and ducked low but had a hard time getting away from the spray at all. Finally, I crouched behind this rock as I felt it might give me a slight break from the misty air. I setup my tripod and camera. I left the lens cap on until I was ready to shoot.
I took my best guess as to the settings I would need to shoot this thing manually. As I couldn’t use the viewfinder, I had to guess on the focal length, aperture, focus and position of the camera. When I got it where I thought it might work, I gripped the cable release in my right hand. The air was circling around pretty good, so I crouched down by the camera which was practically on the ground and I waited. Soon a gust of wind came funneling off the falls and I knew I might get my chance. I waited until the gust slowed down and immediately took off the lens cap.
Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. I held my right thumb on the button of my cable release for a bracketed five shots then immediately put the lens cap back on. By the time the fifth shot had fired (all within about 3 seconds) I already had a bit of spray on the lens. I knew when the gust slowed I would get just enough time to fire a shot or two if I was quick before the swirling started again. Fortunately, all my settings were spot on and I was able to work with a couple of the shots I got to create “In the Shadow of Kings.”
This is one of my personal favorites from my travels in Iceland. I had one chance to get this without drowning my camera and I got it. This piece came out great with excellent depth, color and focus throughout!