Mountain view

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Grábrók and testing some features of the LG G3 camera

I tested out the panorama feature in the LG G3 camera last weekend while coming home from a visit to northern Iceland. I stopped by the small volcano Grábrók (“gray pants”), near Bifröst in Borgarfjörður, and climbed it. It was easier to get up there now than the last time I did it, because now there are wooden steps all the way up, and down into the crater, and a wooden walkway with viewing platforms around part of the brim of the crater. It was more fun to scramble up there through the loose lava rocks, but it was inevitable that the stairs and platform would have to be built in order to protect the fragile vegetation and the loose volcanic material on the sides of the mountain. While the pale wood stands out like a sore thumb among the dark lava, it’s better than looking at the marks made in the landscape by feet trampling on and killing plants and tamping the volcanic gravel into scars on the mountain’s side.


I found the joining of the frames to be nearly invisible, which is fantastic compared with all the panorama stitching software I have tried out over the years. However, both of the photos needed additional sharpening. I found that when I tried to sharpen the one above (after reducing its width down to a manageable size) it seemed to be made up of a grid of tiny frames with pixellated sides, and in the end I gave up trying to sharpen it. (You can see the grid if you click on the photo to enlarge it and peer at it, especially the middle section). The one below also showed signs of this when I blew it up to 100% on the screen, but the effect seemed to disappear when I reduced the size and didn’t reappear when I sharpened it.


I have also found that using the digital zoom is not a good idea when I plan to post the photos online, because the zoomed photos only really look good when viewed on the small screen of the phone. On a larger computer screen the loss of detail is obvious and they come out blurry and/or pixellated (depending on the amount of zoom used), and the colours are off. This has only been made smaller, no other work:



And here is a sharpened version with colour correction (just auto levels and sharpen because I wasn’t in the mood for doing more work):



Walking through a rock

Lambafellsklofi is a spectacular place to visit: a cleft straight through Lambafell, a small mountain/large hill/rock (we have no definition of when something stops being a hill and becomes a mountain, and such a feature is often called a “fell” or a “stapi”, although the former can also be found in the names of genuine mountains).

The cleft passes straight through Lambafell and is just wide enough to make it possible to pass through to the other side. It is so narrow that I could, where it is narrowest, touch both walls without fully extending my arms, and only at the lower (western) end is it too wide for a tall man to touch both walls at the same time. It only takes about 20-30 minutes to get there by car from Reykjavík and the hike, a circular route, only takes about 40 minutes, less if you are a fast walker. You do have to be able to handle a steep slope, as the slope of the ascent (or descent, if you approach it from the east) is, in my estimation, about 45°degrees, albeit not very long. The knobbly walls of the cleft provide good hand-holds for the climb.



Bessastaðir + Keilir

The conical mountain is Keilir (the cone), one of the most distinctively recognisable volcanoes in the Reykjanes peninsula. The buildings belong to Bessastaðir, the official abode of the president of Iceland.



Hítardalur (the valley of Hít) is a long valley in western Iceland. Driving along it, you can see the effects of volcanism, including lava flows and several different types of volcano.This particular example seems to shimmer with rainbow colours as you drive towards it:


Halfway up the valley the road splits in two and becomes on the one hand the driveway up to a farm nestling at the root of a small volcano and on the other hand a track leading further up into the valley (ending at Hítardalsvatn, a sizeable lake). Coming back from the lake and nearing the small volcano, which is called Bæjarfell, you can see two rock columns:




As you come closer you can see that they are sort of human-shaped. The upper one is called Hít, after the troll-lady who lent her name to the valley, and the lower one is called Bárður. In some folk tales he is said to be Bárður Snæfellsás, a human man who became a troll, but in other tales that Bárður is said to have settled in the glacier Snæfellsjökull, making this a different Bárður.


There are also a number of caves in the mountain, and a cliff face with carved graffiti going back to the 1700s. I didn’t visit the caves on this particular drive, but I may go back there later and find them.

Þórsmörk trip: Looking at Þórsmörk

The name Þórsmörk (Thor’s Forest) properly refers to the mountain ridge between the river Markarfljót to the north and the river Krossá to the south, but is commonly used to refer to a long valley, carved long ago out of the mountains by an outlet glacier and further smoothed and leveled by the river Krossá, which flows out of the glacier Mýrdalsjökul. Here is a map of the area, showing various hiking trails.

The valley is quite sheltered and this has created a  microclimate that is warmer than the surrounding area, making it an oasis for various plants and shrubs. Several rivers need to be forded to get there, and while some of them might be passable for regular 2WD cars with high road clearance, others are not, especially the last two: Hvanná and Krossá. These rivers can only be crossed by 4WD jeeps, trucks or buses (or the huge tractor kept on hand to pull out those that get stuck – an entertaining sight for everyone except the unlucky driver).

On the way you pass several interesting places, including Stakkholtsgjá: a small, gorgeous river gorge well worth exploring (more of that in later posts). Click either image to enlarge.


Looking at Þórsmörk. This is just before you reach Stakkholtsgjá.


Looking into the valley. This is taken from the bank of the river Krossá.