It is with renewed impetus that I return to Iceland.

There can be nothing worse than feeling like you have lost momentum.  My first post on Iceland was way back in August.  That’s four months ago, already.  It was only a nine day trip and yet here I am, still writing up day 5.  I should try and claim I had writer’s block, only I would never call myself a writer.  Those nine days could have spawned hundreds of posts, but I think that’s perhaps taking things a little too far 😉

My Tsitsikamma interlude has reinvigorated my brain and given me a much-needed surge of mental energy.  Additionally, I cannot say how much I have enjoyed getting to grips with Lightroom 3.  (Yes, I know v4 is out – I’m a late starter).  You may think that cataloguing is dull, and indeed it can be, but my attempts to tag all my photographs appropriately have gotten my curiosity going again.  You know, a tern is not just any old tern: it might be an Arctic Tern, or it may be a Swift Tern; you have to differentiate.  (Now I’ve just had another Monty Python flash-back – “is that an African Swallow, or a European Swallow?”)

I’m wishing I had discovered the power of Lightroom’s Develop module much earlier than now.  You may have noticed that in the past couple of posts, my photos are looking a little sharper.  It isn’t necessarily a function of tweaking my camera’s settings more appropriately – nor indeed, suddenly becoming a better photographer, for that matter – it is because I’m learning how to process and develop the images in order to reflect how they look to me.  I’m trying to make them come alive.

It’s a learning process that I’m enjoying greatly, despite inevitable trials and errors.  It has even prompted me to revisit photos of that other massive waterfall: Gullfoss AND those geyser shots of Strokkur erupting. You should all know, by now, how much I love the colour of blue water, be it at the sea or a geothermal hot-spring.  Now the blues of the Blesi pools, and the surge of water coming up from Strokkur before the bubbles of hot steam burst the meniscus, are truly ALIVE!  I’ve also replaced the ridiculous number of photos, previously viewed as an inappropriate gallery, for a few more choice images all neatly packaged in a slideshow.  I think that works better, too.

Now all we have to hope for is that WordPress can give us the option of adding images to the slideshow in addition to an entirely different selection of stand-alone images – all within the same post, as they have recently done for galleries.

Anyway, enough harping on – let’s move on.  Time to introduce you to a new locality: Dettifoss

This mighty waterfall is probably best known (in recent times, at least) as “The Waterfall that Features in the Opening Scenes of the Prometheus Movie” or more succinctly as “The Prometheus Waterfall”.


Dettifoss (insert alien engineer on left ridge, and large space-craft above cliffs on the right)

I hadn’t seen the movie before I went to Iceland, but I made sure I did so as soon as I could afterwards.  However, I was watching it on-board an Emirates flight, travelling solo, so didn’t have anyone to prod at and yell things like: “I’ve been there!!” “That’s Iceland, you know!?” “That place is A-MAZE-ING!!”  – probably to the relief of everyone.

Dyngjujökull Glacier, the source for the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum, is a glacial tongue stemming from northern edge of the mightiest glacier of them all: Vatnajökull, which is a remnant of the previous Ice Age and not just any old ice cap, by the way.  It’s no surprise, then, that this river has carved out the largest canyon, Jökulsárgljufar, in Iceland.

Stretching for 25km and spanning 500m, the canyon extends to over 100m deep in places.  It is also where you will find this very impressive waterfall.  The middle falls in a series of three, Dettifoss is 1 km downstream of the 10m drop of Selfoss and 2 km upstream of Hafragilsfoss (27m drop).  It is possible to hike to either of these falls from Dettifoss, but we were on a strict time allowance and so declined the opportunity: we still had to drive all the way around to our accommodation in Höfn, on the southern coast – that same day!

Dettifoss upstream

Upstream of Dettifoss, you can just about see Selfoss making a sneaky appearance


Jökulsárgljufar canyon with rising mists of Hafragilsfoss

Dettifoss can be viewed from either the eastern or the western sides of the canyon.  The east has more tourist facilities: well, a car park with some toilets/restrooms – but not much else.  However, the west bears the brunt of the prevailing wind and, with it, plenty of spray.  The plus side of that is you can get some fantastic rainbow shots over the falls – should the sun be shining, that is.

Dettifoss rainbow

My token Dettifoss rainbow

We drove the gravel road (that we were sure ought to have been classified as an “F” road – “Forbidden for small cars”, remember!) to the eastern bank.  Our poor little Suzuki Swift got a proper rumbling.  I’m pretty used to travelling on gravel tracks with work, but this was rough going.  As if we needed any telling as to how fast you could, or could not, drive on a gravel track in Iceland, we met with a big-brother Suzuki that had earlier skidded into a rocky embankment at a bend in the road.  Ironically, there weren’t all that many rocky embankments on this road to meet with, if I remember correctly.  It had been abandoned; its rear windscreen smashed in.  A harsh lesson learned for one and a timely reminder for us all…

Smacked Suzuki

Smacked Suzuki (drive-by photo)

Dettifoss is 45m high and 100m across.

Dettifoss west bank

Dettifoss and west bank (look at all those tiny people …getting wet!)

That’s not all. Oh no, it is regarded as THE most powerful waterfall in Europe.  On an average day, 193 cubic meters of water flow over the edge – Every.Single.Second.  I, of course, tried to capture the dancing, bubbling waters as they reached the edge, just before they plunged over into the canyon. This time, compared to the sorry photographic attempts I made at Gullfoss, I remembered to set my shutter speed correctly – AND the weather played ball.  I had frothing good fun, I must say!

In summer months, 23 000 tonnes of glacial debris are carried down with the water every day.  Now that is some erosive power, scouring the canyon ever deeper.  What would it be like to witness in flood?  Catastrophic, no doubt.

Dettifoss white water

white (grey) waters come thundering towards us

I don’t think I’d be standing where I was, right on the edge, sans barriers.  If you were to be so unfortunate and fall in you wouldn’t just freeze to death, you’d probably be shredded before you hit the bottom! How’s that for a sobering thought?

Dettifoss spectators

Don’t fall in! – I’m pretty sure that double-helix trick in the movie was just special fx…

I still can’t get over the fact that these wonderful natural spectacles are open to the public without having to fork out an entrance fee.  In Iceland, nature is protected without it having to be fenced off.  What a wonderful notion…