Iceland (part 2)

Aurora Borealis’ dance

Islanda, La danza dell’Aurora Boreale (Artevitae blog) – Italian version

The wait

Dinner has just lightened the fatigue of a journey by six hundred kilometers, that began in the morning in Reykjavik. We are almost ready to go back to our rooms, with the green moss still fixed in our eyes. We absolutely need to “recharge our batteries” for the next day’s tavel stage. But for a few minutes now, people inside the restaurant have been whispering that it’s the right night, despite the forecast. The feeling of great expectation unites residents and tourists. In fact, She had been continuously hiding above the clouds three weeks long.
So you can easily imagine the strength of the emotional storm unleashed inside all of us, since we had placed Her, the Aurora Borealis, at the top of our travel targets list. It was October, the rainiest month of the year for Iceland. So it wasn’t so obvious to be able to see Her, having only a few days available, because the ideal conditions are the absence of clouds and artificial lighting.

We immediately run towards our residence to collect our photographic equipment, regardless the volcanic sand released from our boots, which was still invading the carpet of the rooms since our arrival. We hastily wear some warm clothes to face a night lenght impossible to predict. Soon on board in the car, heading the Jökulsárlón Ice Lagoon, on the southern coast, where we had already been in the afternoon. Just arrived we find the car park already crowded. Many preceded us, without surprising us, because this is one of the most evocative scenarios for capturing that show.
So you can understand that it is not easy to find the right position, because of space needed to place the tripods and the related equipment for long exposure shots. Preparation times are also extended to look for the ideal shooting settings.

The apparition

A few clouds are wandering in the sky, leaving wide spaces for the scene dotted with stars. We are already ready when the first green trails appear, greeted by general jubilation. We then start shooting to gain confidence in an environment we have never experienced before. We continuously exchange questions and advices about focal length, aperture and shutter speed. We murmur under our breath so as not to break thesupreme contemplation atmosphere. The sudden arrival of a car breaks the silence with the roar of its tires on the uneven ground and illuminates the darkness with its dazzling headlights.
It won’t be difficult for you to imagine the concern (and anger) of those who have prepared for a long time to photograph inabsence of lights, to avoid to overexposing the images. Also considering the care in using the soft light of cell phones so as not to disturb the photographs.

The ice blocks suddenly light up and the lagoon becomes a photography studio, leaving us poised between fiction and reality. That scene becomes even more surreal with the appearance of a just married couple getting out of the car. Both are dressed in light wedding attire, regardless of the temperature, to be immortalized in souvenir photos as if they were on a Caribbean beach. This unpredictable condition offers everyone the opportunity to create images with lighted icebergs that no one would have even thought of.

Meanwhile, the “ballerina in the sky” moves with her improvised dance, as fascinating as elusive. The long exposure shots allow to follow Her vaults that She is able to design with elegance, while the lagoon is tinged with Her green color.

Then the stars lightly furrow the pictures with their movements, imperceptible to the eye. The light trails increase in volume and intensity, widening until they melt into a green fan, which almost completely occupies the sky, now clear of clouds. After a while the ballerina exits the stage, leaving all the space for the stars that magically shine in the darkness of the night.

The return

The temperature, just below zero thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream, makes the wait less hard than expected. Here She comes again.She composes bizarre shapes, now stretching vertically, now extending horizontally, coloring the clouds that have arrived to watch. She moves like a fleeing prey while we try to capture Her, constantly changing direction, until She disappears again, but more slowly. Due to the late time, we decide to go back.

Now try to calculate the fatigue accumulated after standing for hours, in addition to the one of a full travelling day. Fortunately, adrenaline is the best support on the most physically demanding journeys and allows you to still keep your eyes wide open and your attention sharp.

The dance with the moon

Despite the tiredness and the feeling of satisfaction, our eyes do not miss a white spot in the sky just above the horizon along the way back.
Arriving at the residence, we find the moon shining on the ocean, as it is about to rise in a green sky again. Yes, it’s still Her.The ballerina is back, unexpectedly. So all we have to do is re-equip ourselves for the new shots, while she forms a vortex with her usual elegance, like a diva greeting her beloved audience by giving them an encore.

When you experience intense emotions like this you are left with the need to relive them. That greeting was not a farewell, but a long goodbye, which came true a few days later in Hellnar on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the north-west. Since then the desire to relive those great emotional moments has remained within us.

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