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Author: Des

Photography, productivity and diving geek from Sydney, Australia. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Autumn Colours in Kyoto

Autumn Colours in Kyoto

Autumn Colours in Kyoto

The Tenryuji Temple in Kyoto’s Arashiyama area is a peaceful temple complex with spectacularly beautiful gardens.

The ponds provide stunning reflections, and in the bright middle of the day light, I found that eliminating sky and focusing on colours and the reflections made for stunning images.

This is a great complex that is worth spending time exploring and finding images that talk to you.

‘Serenity’ was that message that I took from the Tenryuji Temple and gardens, and this was the feeling I was aiming to evoke in my images.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr.

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom
Drama over Kirkjufell

Drama over Kirkjufell

 

Drama over Kirkjufell

Located near the town of Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Kirkjufell may well be the iconic image of Iceland.

There is a reason this sight is so well photographed—it is very accessible, and has the ‘whole package’ of a distinctive mountain and two waterfalls in the scene (the second one is on the bend on the lower right of the image—the white water is beneath the fall).

Being so well photographed, the challenge with somewhere like Kirkjufell is to make an image that is unique.

Over the course of a couple of days during our Iceland adventures I was able to get several different perspectives, and was happy to get some real drama in the sky on in several images.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Lava, Light and Rhyolite

Lava, Light and Rhyolite

Lava, Light and Ryolite

Iceland’s highland region of Landmannalaugar is notable for the spectacular rhyolite mountains, valleys and hills. It is also known for several surrounding lava fields.

For photographers, these features make for spectacular subjects, but a good photograph has a good subject and great light, and Landmannalaugar is also well known for the spectacular light that can be experienced.

After quite an amazing trek up Blahnukur, we explored the adjacent lava fields, and found several vistas showing both the hills and fields, but the light in this vista really took my imagination. It was simply spectacular.

An all day trip to Landmannalaugar allowed time to explore, and you really need to be able to take the time and let the light conditions progress. Don’t rush.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom
Dark Skies over the Black Church of Budir

Dark Skies over the Black Church of Budir

Dark Skies over the Black Church of BudirThe Black Church of Budir is one of those Icealandic photography locations I had seen in various Youtube videos and guidebooks, and the look of this quaint, black, church intrigued me enough to ensure a side trip to visit the location while staying on the Snaefellsness Peninsula.

This was early in our trip to Iceland, and the skies were not promising. As we drove over the mountain pass from Grundarfjordur (the town adjacent to Kirkjufell), the heavy rain and low clouds did not give me great confidence of great images.

We of course persevered, and the cloud did not lift. If anything, it set in even further, with the surrounding mountains shrouded in a heavy cover.

So while not ‘ideal’ the conditions challenged me to look around, and instead of using the mountains as a backdrop, I changed composition to show the sea.

As with many locations in Iceland, the beauty of the scenery is often enhanced by the ever-present cloudy skies, bringing out the saturation in the grasses.

In this case, the black church provided a stunning contrast to the church grounds, and the skies enhanced the mood of darkness that the church naturally evokes.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom Classic
Milky Way over the Lightstation

Milky Way over the Lightstation

Milky Way over the Lightstation

Precisely one year ago we visited Cape Otway on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, staying at the Cape Otway Lightstation for a milestone birthday treat.

There are three or four cottages or studios in historical buildings in which you can stay at the Lightstation. On this occasion, we are pretty sure we were the only guests staying overnight, and given the staff don’t stay on site, we had this incredible piece of history to ourselves overnight.

I haven’t done a lot of night sky photography, but with a clear night and a new moon in a remote location I had to take the opportunity.

Staying overnight provides the opportunity to scout out compositions before dusk, and the use of the PhotoPills app allowed me to plan the time of night when the milky way would be aligned above the lighthouse.

While I am sure that there is a lot of room for improvement, I am very happy with this image. Not only it is a decent image of the magnificent night sky, it brings forth great memories and wonderful imaginings.

Photography is a medium for story telling. This image provokes thoughts of the vastness of the universe, it is a reminder of the danger of navigation along a treacherous coastline. These threads combine—for me—into thoughts of exploration and journey.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Laowa 7.5mm f/2
  • E: Lightroom CC
Harbour Sunrise

Harbour Sunrise

Harbour Sunrise

One of the joys of living in Sydney is that you have a magnificent city scape, a beautiful harbour and many beaches and bushlands to explore.

When I arrived on this morning, I was a little disappointed about the low cloud covering the horizon, but the pre-dawn glow was just right to cast some beautiful pinks and reds into the sky. This was also a good hour for minimal boat traffic on the harbour, which my long exposure also dealt well with.

I can’t imagine tiring of taking this exact shot time and again, and know that chasing the perfect image is a worthy quest.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom Classic
Storm over Godafoss

Storm over Godafoss

Storm over Godafoss

Godafoss was one of the key photography locations that I was looking forward to seeing and capturing during our visit there in September 2019. I can’t remember exactly how and when I first learned of this stunning waterfall, but it certainly came up regularly as we planned our trip.

We based ourselves out of Akureyri in northern Iceland for a couple of days, and made the journey out there on our second day. Of course the weather was quite overcast, and the distant mountains were completely hidden in the cloud. We still spent some time hunting for composures and hoping for the weather to clear. It didn’t, so we continued on to visit other locations around Lake Myvatn.

While I got a couple of nice images, I was not able to get the image I had in my minds eye—and had travelled half way around the world to capture.

The next morning was our last in Akureyri, and I planned to get up early to try again for the image I wanted, but the weather was even worse, so we had a leisurely breakfast, explored Akureyri and set off early afternoon for our next destination.

Our route would take us right past Godafoss, but the weather was still poor. As we neared the waterfall, we decided to stop anyway. I got the camera gear out, covering it up a raincover.

Suddenly there was a break in the rain, and the cloud lifted just enough to expose the distant mountains. The drama in the sky added to the natural beauty of this ‘waterfall of the gods.’

A little bit of persistence, and an equal measure of luck, helped me to get the photo I imagined.

View this image on my Photo Gallery or Flickr.

Hiking Landmannalaugar

Hiking Landmannalaugar

Hiking Lannmannalaugar

This is without a doubt one of my favourite images from our September 2019 Iceland trip.

We visited the fabulous 1 region on a day trip from Reykjavik, leaving very early, and getting back at around midnight.

The day was quite overcast, largely with a soft, kind of boring sky.

With our guide, Kaspars Dzenis, we set out to climb one of the mountain trails, up a peak known as Blahnukur.

The rhyolite of the ranges around Landmannalaugar was magnificent, and so we focused on some more intimate landscape imagery, ignoring the sky.

We noticed two hikers approaching a trail on one of the adjoining ridges, and set up and waited for them to get further along the trail.

I love the way the hikers provide not only a sense of scale, but also a sense of mystery – I can only wonder where they are going, and where the trail leads.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45–150mm f/4.0–5.6
  • E: Lightroom CC

  1. A great video to overview Landmannalaugar is Thomas Heaton’s Photographer’s View of Landmannalaugar. This video was where we first heard about this wonderful location. 
Earth’s Extremes

Earth’s Extremes

Earth’s Extremes

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day so I wanted to present an image the shows nature at it raw finest.

This was an image made over a valley between a lava field and the incredibly colourful rhyolite ranges in the Landmannalaugar region of Iceland’s highlands. We visited this location on a photo tour with our guide Kaspars Dzenis.

Clearly the weather was quite overcast, but the muted light only served to bring out the incredible colours of the rhyolite, the grassy valley and the blackness of the lava fields.

We love the Landmannalaugar area, and reviewing these photos is a special opportunity to think back on one of the most special hiking photography experiences.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom CC
Hjállparfoss

Hjállparfoss

Hjállparfoss

Hjállparfoss is a wonderful waterfall on the road to Landmannalaugar in Iceland’s highlands.

Meaning ‘Help Waterfall’, Hjállparfoss is actually twin waterfalls that feed from a common source, and merge back in a common pool.

Hjállparfoss is easily accessible and well worth a stop. There are several vantage points for the falls, having tighter shots (like this one), or other shots from further back.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom CC
Valley of the Tears

Valley of the Tears

Valley of the Tears

Known locally as Sigöldugljúfur Canyon, the Valley of the Tears is a stunning canyon nearby Haifoss in Iceland’s Highlands.

Arriving in a dusty carpark a short stroll to the edge of a cliff overlooking the valley exposing the stunning vista seen in this image.

As with so many of Iceland’s amazing landscapes, it is difficult to produce an image the brings to life the country’s rugged and amazing beauty.

Sigöldugljúfur is a lesser visited location for visitors to Iceland, but it is certainly well worth the stop on the road to Landmannalaugar. We were fortunate to be taken to this stunning location by our photo guide Kaspars Denisz.

View this image in my Photo Gallery or on Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
  • L: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • E: Lightroom CC
Scuba Diving at Silfra Fissure

Scuba Diving at Silfra Fissure

One of the adventures I looked forward to most when visiting Iceland last year was the opportunity to dive in Silfra in the Thingvellir National Park.

There are two exciting draw-cards to diving at Silfra—the famously clear water and the fact that the dive occurs in the fissure between the continental plates of Europe and North America.

Des & Belinda diving at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. 
Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

We booked on with DIVE.IS, and completed our dive medicals and equipment sizing online, well before we left Australia. DIVE.IS’ system and customer service were seamless and responsive.

We were picked up from our hotel in Reykjavik at about 7:15am and then travelled to Thingvellir National Park for our dive.

As stated, Silfra Fissure lies on the tectonic fissure between the North American and European continental shelves. Above the surface the fissure is a couple of kilometres wide, but underwater you can reach out and touch both continents simultaneously.

Europe on one side, North America the other while scuba diving at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

The visibility here was nothing short of amazing — it was at least 50m, but the range of vis was limited by the rock shelves and formations in the distance. The water is glacier fed water filtered through the rocks of decades and centuries.

Crystal clear water at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

The dive entered at a set of metal stairs onto a metal platform where one group enters at a time, does their buoyancy checks before descending to 5-6m. You swim along, coming back up to the top of a wall in <1m ,before re-descending to a maximum of 18m (we got to about 15m). After a time you do a left turn into a lagoon, with a separate exit platform followed by a short walk to the carpark.

One of the shallow sections at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

The water was, of course, very cold. While the dive leader (Tanya) stated that the range was 2—4C, my (borrowed) Oceanic OC1 computer showed that the temp got down to <1C. The rental drysuits (Bear hyper crushed neoprene) and undergarments did a perfect job — no leaks. We also wore mitts and a hood, and although these were not sealed they did an adequate job of keeping relatively warm — although the hands did get so cold that you lost most dexterity.

Des and Belinda scuba diving at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

No life to speak of in the fissure — the reason to dive the site is for the site itself, with its spectacular rock formations and crystal clear water. The guide did mention that there are fish in the lake Silfra empties into, but they don’t come back up in into fissure.

Incredibly clear waters at Silfra Fissure in Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

DIVE.IS1 is a professional dive operator, with good equipment, facilities at the dive site and very good leaders. Group sizes were small (3:1 max), and there was a very welcome hot chocolate waiting back in the carpark.

The dive itself was conducted very professionally, following strict safety protocols. There was oxygen at both the entry and exit points, and additional staff were on hand to assist with gearing up and de-kitting, and to assist during entries and exits.

With over 1,500 scuba dives to my name, I have had the opportunity to dive in many very special places, but the experience at Silfra will certainly go down as one of my top five dives to date.

An outstanding dive.

Des & Belinda kitted up and ready to dive at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS
With thanks

Images by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS and used with permission.


  1. As I write this the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. DIVE.IS has suspended tours until things improve, and are currently intending on resuming limited operations in early May. I wish the DIVE.IS team all the best, and look forward to diving with them again in the future.