A Barren World

Aldeyjarfoss is in the highlands of Iceland: an otherworldly, barren, remote and lifeless place. The Apollo astronauts trained in this area ahead of their missions. This image was taken early winter when the rivers and waterfalls were just starting to freeze over. For a time it got as low as minus 17ºC. The ground glass of my 4 x 5 camera froze at one point making it very difficult to focus. That morning I had picked up a hitchhiker: this short, stocky, tough as nails bearded bloke from the Czech Republic. He was an extreme caver who had caved all over the world on expeditions.  The car got stuck in the snow that afternoon and we had to dig ourselves out. We then walked for 2 hours in from the gravel road.  He carried most of my camera gear because at that stage I was still repairing from a broken back and couldn't physically carry weight over any distance. We got to this spot at twilight hence my five minute exposure. Just one precious exposure and then it was time to pack up the gear and walk back to the road side through rough terrain in failing light. The whole episode was a fraught with concern.

Not until recently have I considered this image part of the collection as I'm very strict as to what goes in and what's left out. This image doesn't immediately relate to climate change. Aldeyjarfoss, like many of Iceland's waterfalls, freezes and thaws each autumn and spring and likely will for many years to come. However, the more I understand the complexity of the climate challenge the more I realise this photograph communicates it very clearly.

Climate change is happening faster and more dramatically in the cryosphere (the term given to the regions of our globe which are covered in ice and snow - either seasonally or year-round) than anywhere else on earth. Changes in snow and ice affect air temperature, sea level, ocean patterns and the earths albedo (reflectivity).


Aldeyjarfoss, Iceland in early winter. An otherworldly, barren, remote and lifeless place.