Iceland has plenty of magnificent jaw-dropping scenery, but as is often the case, I found myself drawn to some of its more subtle landscapes. Brúarfoss is a small but beautiful waterfall in southwestern Iceland, its churning waters stained a rich aqua blue by glacial silt. I made three visits to Brúarfoss during my two week trip. On my first visit, I had trouble finding the falls; Brúarfoss is tucked away and easy to miss. Luckily, I happened to have on my iPad a copy of Forever Light: The Landscape Photographer’s Guide to Iceland by Sarah Marino and Ron Coscorrosa. With the help of this fantastic photo guide, I was able to finally find the falls—just in time for it to start pouring. I gave up and decided to return again.
On my second visit, I tried many different compositions, but overcast conditions meant I could only focus on the falls themselves and not include the sky. I wanted to capture the pattern formed by multiple rivulets of water cascading down the deep chasm which is the heart of Brúarfoss, so I zoomed in from a distance with a telephoto lens. I found that I needed a long exposure to bring out the rich blue color of the water (shorter exposures resulted in too much choppy foam), so I dropped my ISO to its lowest setting, added a neutral density filter, and used a polarizer filter to reduce glare in the water and on the wet rocks, thus enhancing color and contrast in the final image. “Heart of Blue”—Brúarfoss, Iceland. Canon 5DIII, Canon 100-400mm lens, LEE Filters 2-stop ND filter , LEE Filters 4×4″ Polarizer, ISO 50, f/13, 8 seconds.
On my final day in Iceland, despite being exhausted by two weeks of non-stop shooting and getting no more than a few hours of sleep each night, I decided to give Brúarfoss one last try. So I did the two hour drive from Reykjavik to the falls, only to arrive under cloudy skies again. Not terribly excited about my prospects for sunset, and hoping to get some rest before my flight home the next morning, I decided to leave without shooting. Just as I was about to drive away, I noticed a crack forming in the clouds near the western horizon. I grabbed my gear and ran back to the falls, arriving just in time for sunset to start breaking through. I put my chest waders on, jumped into the water, and got close with a wide-angle lens to some interesting rapids, using them as my foreground. The color wasn’t spectacular, but overall I really liked the mood set by the scene. (By the way, this image previously illustrated my post 6 Tips for Beating Bad Weather.) “Rhythm and Flow”—Brúarfoss, Iceland. Canon 5DIII, Canon 16-35mm lens, LEE Filters 4×4″ Polarizer, Singh-Ray 2-stop graduated ND, ISO 100, f/11, 0.5 seconds.
The light was fleeting, and soon faded, with the sky returning to its typical Iceland dreariness. Once again, I packed my gear, ready to head back to my hotel in Reykjavik. Once again, Brúarfoss was not done with me. The sky sank into a deep purple twilight, and the clouds formed a radiating diagonal pattern. For this image I opted for a higher perspective, shooting from a foot bridge above the river. I was fascinated by the white and blue pattern formed by the whirlpool below the falls; I went wide to include the swirl and the moody sky above. “Parting Gift”—Brúarfoss, Iceland. Canon 5DIII, Canon 16-35mm lens, LEE Filters 4×4″ Polarizer, Singh-Ray 2-stop graduated ND, ISO 400, f/11, 0.6 seconds.
If you are looking to take your waterfall photography to the next level, I highly recommend The Advanced Guide to Photographing Waterfalls and Streams by Justin Reznick. Justin is a great shooter, a wonderful educator, and a heck of a nice guy. His book delves deeply into the techniques and equipment required to make great water images.
You can see more of my Iceland images in the following blog posts: