When we last left off, our lovable heroes were driving through the icelandic countryside. They had just parked their amazing camper van in the back corner of a hotel parking lot and laid their heads down to rest after a rainy yet beautiful day exploring waterfalls of southern Iceland. If you happened to miss episode one, fortunately for you, there happens to be a rerun happening HERE.
Now, our heroes (can I stop with the heroes bit yet?) were resting up for an adventure they (read: I) had been looking forward to for a while. We were going to be exploring an ice cave in the Vatnajökull glacier. To put it in photographic bucket list perspective, going to the ice caves in Iceland is akin to visiting Antelope Canyon outside of Page, Arizona. Any landscape photographer who has looked at other people's work know that at some point they need to go there. I can now say that I've been to both places and I had similar experiences both times. In each place, the draw is the unique way that light interacts with the surroundings. At Antelope Canyon it is the light beams shining through the slot canyon onto the sandstone. In the ice caves, the light shines through layers of ice giving a eerie blue glow to everything. In both places I tried to look at and photograph the scenes differently than I had seen in the work of other photographers. Maybe one day I will do a post on my Antelope Canyon black and whites, but today we get to talk about ice!
We booked our tour, you must be on a tour to get there, through Local Guide of Vatnajökull. We showed up bright and early, got in a super jeep (van with tires the size of me) and drove out literally onto the glacier toward the last cave they were taking people to. We happened to get lucky in that we were visiting right at the end of the season. They don't run tours into the spring because the ice begins to melt, caves begin to collapse, and I don't suppose one wants to be inside of a collapsing ice cave. Once there we donned our helmets and head into the cave.
My Fearless Companion, Tali
Now, when I said that I tried to shoot things a little differently that is because the first thing I noticed in the cave, other than the freaky blue light, was the patterns that the sand and dirt made in the walls of the cave. The combination of the wet ice, light filtering through and the black sand trapped in the ice instantly made me think of abstract paintings. While most people will shoot the caves in a way that says "hey, look I'm in an ice cave, cool!" I decided to follow that first gut instinct and go with the abstract.
For those of you who aren't photographers, you might be a bit turned off by the idea of editing your photos. Let me assure you though, that post processing in photoshop after the fact is no different than what the masters of film photography did before digital was a thing. Yes, dodging and burning is much easier when you can hit Control+Z (i.e. undo) instead of starting an entire print over, but the concept is still the same. With that said, while editing these photos, I got to the end of my ice cave shots and I was a little bored so I tried something new. White balance is something that digital photographs use to determine what is true white. When shooting out in the sun, or in the shade, or under fluorescent bulbs, the light shining on the subject has a different hue. The white balance is what the camera, or photoshop in post-processing, uses to correct for the hue of the light cast by whatever the lightsource is so that the colors look as they do to our eyes. So, after looking at dozens of photos colored blue (the shade of light that makes it through the ice and into the cave) I thought to myself. What would I have to do with the white balance to turn snow, for instance, actually white in my photos. I messed around, got an interesting result and then went back and applied this white balance to the photos that I had already worked on from the cave. Here are some side by side examples of the difference.