Iceland, Part 2

Or: the Vantsnes Peninsula, light, horses, rain, and the end of the rainbow.

The second day in Iceland began at 6:30, as we loaded up the Dacia and headed north, toward the Vantsnes Peninsula. The original goal was to find Hvítserkur, the rock formation that legend tells was a troll who returned too late to his cave and was frozen there by the morning sun.

But Vantsnes was so much more than the sad fate of a lonely troll. We watched from Illugastaðir as seals lounged on rocks. Farms and horses (and sheep! always sheep!) and churches dotted the roadside and the light was magnificent. It was alternately cloudy and stormy while we were there and it made for a dramatic countryside.

The first stop, though, was a quick color-check, as I was after Serious Photography, of course.

Color Checker

My lovely wife makes a brilliant hand-model/color-checker holder. Thank you!

The jury remains out as to how helpful this was, but it made a decent place to begin in post-processing.

Our first real stop of the day came in the form of Borgarvirki, a large lava plug that was thought to be a fort of sorts, meant for the defense of the surrounding valley. The fortifications would have been around circa 900-1000 A.D., though according to the information at Borgarvirki, there was no record of there having been a battle or siege at the site. Of course, I think I know why:


Approaching Borgarvirki (long-exposure)

Can you imagine walking up to that wall with hostile intent?

Further north, more farms and churches, horses and sheep. Here, a small church that was part of a farmstead, nestled at the edge of a mountain.

Church, Mountain

And the horses that called that farm home:

Icelandic Horses

After the farm and horses, we made it to Hvítserkur, that poor devil of a troll:



I can perhaps see the trollish resemblance. Of course, the official explanation (that the formation is the remnants of a lava plug, long battered by the sea), is also acceptable. In fact, the sea had done such a good job of wearing away the rock that the Icelanders shored up the foundation with concrete, rather than lose the formation completely.

Hvítserkur sits at the top third of the peninsula, so we soon found ourselves rounding the corner and heading south again. Shortly after making the turn, a small herd of horses came trotting north. I have no idea where they were headed, but they seemed to be able to manage well enough on their own. Further up the road, another small group of them, simply hanging out by the side of the road. Happy to roam and graze. And, in the case of at least one, happy to pose for a photograph.

Icelandic Horse

An Icelandic Horse grazes on the Vantsnes peninsula.

The clouds were beginning to roll in, however. At a promontory on the western edge of the peninsula we could see a storm coming in over the Westfjords. We stopped just long enough to catch a panorama of the sky and sea before the rain began on Vantsnes as well.

Toward the Westfjords

A storm rolls in over the Westfjords, as seen from the western edge of Vantsnes.

I had read, before coming to Iceland, that if you didn’t like the weather, to simply wait five minutes. Of course, I had heard that about South Dakota, too. And Montana. And Alberta and British Columbia. It proved more true for Iceland than for those other places. Within half an hour, we had returned to the ring road and a vibrant sunset with alternating storm clouds, blue skies, sheets of rain, and beautifully scattered sunlight.

Through the Storm

West Iceland sunlight, scattered in rain and cloud.

Five minutes later, as promised, the weather changed:

Rainbow Panorama

From storm to blue skies. Panoramic stitch of four images.

The rainbow formed as we were headed south on the ring road, heading home for the evening. At times it was visible end to end, golden ground beneath it. It took several kilometers to find a pull off, though there was hardly any space. Tourists and Icelanders alike had all pulled off to watch the impromptu light show. Just like the horses, Iceland’s rainbows are kind enough to pause for a portrait, just before the sun set.

Rainbow, West Iceland

For part 3: Snæfellsnes, wild roads, glaciers, and taking pictures of places I’d only ever seen in pictures.



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About Brent DeLanoy

Writer, photographer. Owner of Kickstand Photography, providing photography services in and around Oneonta, NY.