Bleak or beautiful? (why not both?)

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Hítardalur

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:

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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:

 

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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.

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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.

Panoramas with lava field, volcano and cumulus clouds

Click on any photo to see it full size.

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Stitched together from four images, using Canon PhotoStitch 3.1.

This gravel road branches off from the main highway between Keflavík and Reykjavík and leads to a small geothermal works in the middle of a lava field. Off this road there brances a track that leads to the picturesque volcano Keilir (The Cone), which can be seen in the next photo. I love the sense of openness in the landscape.

The following photos show the view immediately to the right and left of the above photo. Together the three show an approximately 300° panorama, but due to technical reasons they do not look good as one big panorama. I had intended them to form a 360° panorama, but the two photos taken in the direction of the sun turned out overexposed and nasty, and the stitching software made the joints between the three sections banana-shaped, so I gave it up.

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Stitched together from three images, using Canon PhotoStitch 3.1.

Keilir is a small volcanic cone not far from Reykjavík. It can be reached by taking a very bad gravel road through the lava fields and then hiking up to the mountain along a path that winds through the lava field. The hike up the mountain is steep and gravelly but even out-of-shape persons like myself can do it without overstraining themselves.

I was actually photographing the clouds, but the feeling of emptiness issuing from the moss-covered lava field is incredible and I wanted to show that as well. One stitch is rather visible, but I felt it was necessary to put it together like this to show the lava field and the cloudscape in relation to the mountain. BTW, the horizon is this shape not because of the stitching but because I was standing on top of a small hill, higher than the lava flow.

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Stitched together from three images, using Canon PhotoStitch 3.1.

Icelanders have an irresistible urge to build cairns. Sometimes they mark a road or path, sometimes (like here) an interesting place to stop, and occasionally it is considered good luck for travellers to place a rock on them before going on. Consequently, they can grow to huge proportions. This one is just a baby.