Iceland: Skaftafell – Svinafellsjökull Glacier Rainbow – Vatnajökull National Park

In a Northern Lights hunting expedition, my wife Liza and I went to Iceland in March of 2017. We caught the Northern Lights on two evenings out of eight.

But mostly it was cloudy, windy, and rainy. We went out every day anyway. Sometimes there were small breaks in the clouds. This was one of those times.

Feature Image Details: Canon 100-400 MM F 4.5-5.6 L Lens:  I shot at ISO 125 at 188mm for 1/800 seconds at F9.

ISO 125 was hardly ideal. I should have been at ISO 400 or 800 to get a faster shutter speed to counteract the wind. It was windy as heck and I only got two sharp frames.

But this is one of those situations where you grab your camera, put on the right lens then start firing away. I pulled off the highway on the nearest road I could find to get that shot.

That is the widest (red to violet) rainbow I have ever seen. The rainbow lasted about 30 seconds or so, if that. We were on our way to the Svinafellsjökull Glacier in Vatnajökull National Park, image below.

Iceland Aurora Images

  1. Iceland Northern Lights, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Búðir
  2. Iceland Northern Lights, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Búdir, Búdakirkja Church
  3. Iceland Northern Lights, Snæfellsjökull National Park, Malarrif Lighthouse

This was our second trip to Iceland. We returned specifically to see the Northern lights. We caught a very good display on the last evening (the above links).

First Trip

Here are some links of favorite images on our first trip.

  1. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 1, South Region, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
  2. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 6, North Iceland, Selfoss Waterfall
  3. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 8, North Iceland, Husavik, Whale Watching
  4. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 12, Westfjords, Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs, Breiðavík, Puffins
  5. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 15, Brúarfoss Waterfall – Golden Circle

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Please Share!

If you like this article, please share by email or use one of the share buttons beneath the article.

Much more coming: Click to Subscribe by Email. You will not be bombarded by either ads or posts. I write once or twice a week.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Badlands National Park – Double Rainbow at Pinnacles Overlook

These images are from a trip to Badlands National Park in September of 2017. As is typically the case, sunrise and sunset images provide the best light, but there are exceptions.

Feature Image Details

The feature image and the next three images that follow were taken minutes before sunset.

There are at least six cars in the parking lot that I can make out in the feature images. At least another six left within ten minutes of these images.

It was raining hard the sky was 99.5% overcast. No one else got out of their car.

If one was not down at the canyon edge, there was no shot except for the parking lot and road.

The image immediately above was taken right at sunset. You can see the sliver of a hole the sun hit to create the rainbow. When I got out of the car, the only hole was way to the right. The gap lengthened horizontally just as I arrived at the above location. I did not expect this to happen, nor did anyone else, but I took a chance, and I got wet.

Just as the sun hit the sliver of a hole, it stopped raining on me but it did keep raining in the distance. That’s what it takes to make a rainbow. You do not see rainbows looking towards the sun. The apex of the rainbow is 180 degrees from the sun.

Decision Time

I walked down to the location with a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens on my camera. It was not wide enough to catch that complete rainbow. When the sun hit the hold, I did not know if I had 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or two minutes, but I knew I did not have longer than that.

I  wanted that full rainbow image badly, so I took a chance and changed lenses. Taking an extra 15 seconds to change lenses in fleeting light is a huge gamble but it paid off.  I grabbed two quick shots, changed lenses back again, and rushed over to the ledge where I took the second rainbow image.

Note the foreground. Imagine the image without the railing. Extreme wide angle lenses must have a strong foreground. I used the railing because it was all that was available on the left side of the frame. I hopped over the railing to take this image.

Seconds later the light faded. I estimate I had about 90 seconds to photograph the rainbow. Had one been in their car, it would have taken most of that time to get down to the location where I was.

I had more time for the third image, as in several minutes. The rainbow was gone but the clouds in the West started glowing. It’s hard to tell from these images, but it really was 99.5% socked-in gray. That little hole provided the magic.

The third image is an exposure composite, one of the foreground, the other of the sky.

More Badlands Images

This is my second in a series on the Badlands. Please also check out Badlands National Park – Castle Trail and Notch Trail Images.


Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Please Share!

If you like this article, please share by email or use one of the share buttons beneath the article.

Much more coming: Click to Subscribe by Email.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 15, Gullfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle

After a good night’s sleep in Reykavik, one of about three good sleeps for the entire trip, we set off for a tour of the “Golden Circle”.

It was cloudy when we set out, and stayed cloudy most of the time. We went to see the geysers at Geysir, and had lunch there. Geysir was overloaded with tourists. Masses of buses  constantly came an went. Mid-day is not a great time for photography, and crowds made it worse.

Still, Geysir is worth seeing, especially in good light at off-peak hours. Good conditions were not to be on this trip so we headed off to nearby Gullfoss.

When we arrived it was still overcast, but a scan of the horizon suggested the clouds might break if we simply waited it out. That took a couple of hours and these are the results.

Feature Image Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 35MM, F/16, ISO 100 for 1/2 second.


Once again, spray was a huge problem. Carry lens wipes.

Shooting Tips

I like to take vertical and horizontal images of the same scene. If you have hopes of magazine covers, it’s best to consider vertical images. Here are some of my Magazine and Book Cover Credits.

Also consider people. Do you want them in or out. Here is the same image, two ways, with and without people.

The only difference in the above images is people. The first image has them, the second doesn’t. The people did not move. Rather, I edited them out in Photoshop, via a bridge from Lightroom.

Photoshop tools are much better at editing out distractions than Lightroom. Most often I use Photoshop’s clone align feature. Lightroom has nothing similar. At times, especially for small spot corrections, Lightroom is easier.

Both programs compliment each other nicely, but it’s irritating having to learn two products and two sets of commands.

Forced to make a choice between Lightroom and Photoshop, I would choose the former. Lightroom’s catalog and library functions are essential.

Pretty soon it may be impossible to make a choice. Adobe wants subscribers to “Creative Cloud” and bundles all of its programs in that package.

Human Interest

Travel magazines generally like human interest. People also add a sense of scale. But calendar companies most likely do not want people in the images.

If shooting and editing for yourself, simply shoot and edit what you like.

Please Share!

If you like this article, please share by email or use one of the share buttons beneath the article.

Much more coming: Click to Subscribe by Email.

Next Up: Brúarfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 6, North Iceland, Selfoss Waterfall

Selfoss and Dettifoss are a pair of waterfalls on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. You arrive at Dettifoss first. A short 10-minute hike or so leads to Selfoss.

I was driving like mad to get to this location, fearing we would be too late for sunset. We were, in fact, too late for Dettifoss. The waterfall was in deep shadow. The light was gone.

I figured we would have to come back the next day, but we took the path to Selfoss. Although Selfoss is lower in elevation, light from the setting sun had a clear path. The result was a magnificent rainbow, the best I have ever seen.

The light was quite bright, and a polarizer barely provided enough light reduction to smooth out the water.

I did not help matters one bit by shooting at ISO 160 instead of 100. It was an accident that I did not catch. Not wanting to overexpose the the highlights, I made a second mistake by underexposing the shadows. That would have helped smooth out the water as well.

Feature Shot Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L lens at 24MM, ISO 160, F/16, 1/5 second.


Water on the rocks above is not from the river, it’s an accumulation of spray.
Details: Canon 16-35MM L lens at 16MM, ISO 160, F/16, 0.4 seconds.


The above shot is looking across the scene.
Details: Canon 24-105MM F4 L lens at 65MM, ISO 160, F/22, 0.4 seconds.

Shooting at F/22, as I did, is a mistake. That focal length is not as sharp as mid-range F-stops. From this distance F/11, focused on the waterfall would have been about right (there was no foreground to keep sharp). However, F/11 it would not have blurred the water like I wanted.

The solution, as I have mentioned before , is a set of neutral density filters. Polarizers can help, but you have to be careful in how they are rotated or they will obliterate the rainbow. A better choice would have been a neutral density filter. I now carry B&W ND filters of strength 3.0 (10 stops), 1.8 (6 stops), and 0.6 (2 stops). Six stops would have changed the exposure to 2 seconds or so at F/11.

Spray from Selfoss is intense, with emphasis on intense. You don’t exactly get soaked, but if the wind is blowing towards you, which it was for us, your lens will be covered with spray between every shot.

Have a box of lens cleaning tissues handy. Even though I wiped the filter between every shot, I spent a very long time in Lightroom removing spots caused by spray on the filter. Many shots were so covered with spray as to be unusable.

I also took some images with a Canon 14MM F2.8 L lens, capturing the complete rainbow plus more of the side waterfall. The images were beautiful except for one thing: The water looked awful (frozen, not silky), so I tossed the images in the digital bit bucket.

The problem was of my own making.

The 14MM lens does not take outside filters but it does take gel filters in the back, and I had them with me.  However, I was not about to be fiddling around with gel filters with all that spray and with the light changing fast.

If you have a 14MM lens and are going to be photographing waterfalls, put the gel filter in ahead of time. For further discussion please see the section on the 14MM L lens in My Equipment List.

Rainbow Tips, Rainbow Math

The apex of a rainbow is 180 degrees from the sun. You will not see a rainbow looking towards the sun. If you see rainbows images that face the sun, they are fake. Here, you can see the light on the waterfall and the foreground rock. The rainbow is from sunlight refractions through the spray, just like a prism. There is no rainbow in the third image because camera positioning was at a right angle to the sun.

When looking for rainbows, make sure the sun is at your back. The lower in the sky the sun is, the higher the rainbow apex.  At noon, depending on latitude, rainbows may be below the horizon, invisible. Thus, it is appropriate to consider terms like “rainbow rise” and “rainbow set”.

The huge, more than 180 degree arch in the second shot is because the sun is on the horizon and the foreground was below the horizon.

From an airplane, it is possible to see a 360 degree full circle rainbow.

Please Share!

If you like this article, please share by email or use one of the share buttons beneath the article.

Much more coming: Click to Subscribe by Email.

Up Next: North Iceland, Dettifoss Waterfall

Mike “Mish” Shedlock