The 9-18mm lenses I’ve just bought are, in the words of the photographer who won the chance of endorsing them, “perfect for panoramas”.
In a rare astronomical conjunction where marketing met reality and they both shook hands with user requirements a set of wide-angle lenses was precisely what I needed, for Snæfellsnes turned out to be panorama country.
Doubter are you? Master Yoga would say. If so, allow me to show you some examples that, hopefully, will explain. (Just remember can you can click/tap on any photo to see it in widescreen format).
A storm brewing across the fjord.
The day was blustery to the extreme, omen of the waves of snowstorm that were to lash the coast throughout the following 24 hours. We were driving along the Hvalfjörður as yet another squall rolled in from the howling sea. I remember thinking “What if we took bikes?” and shudder despite the heated seat.
It was a short drive from Lýsudalur – 3 houses, one stable, something looking like a school – to Búðir, one hotel and a chapel. Between the two places a volcano, now long gone, had left a trail of scoria: a tormented landscape of corrugated rocks twisted and turned by incomprehensible forces. A lava field.
A dance of snow and sun.
We were having to stop every half-hour or so to scrape the powdered ice that would inevitably plaster itself all over the car’s rear lights. As we did so the weather kept on turning like the mood swings of a spoilt brat: sun followed white-out and wind followed calm. Briefly, on the road between Hellissandur and Ólafsvík, we were able to witness that changing-of-the-guard moment.
The “most photographed mountain in Iceland”, or so some claimed, lived up to its fame on a rare moment where the crowds with whom we shared it trickled down to just a handful of visitors impregnable to the icy wind, as well as a dog apoplectic with joy at the sight of snow.
Within spitting (with wind in favour) distance from Hellissandur lies Ingjaldshóll. Once a farm; now a church, graveyard and not much more. As the story goes a young man wintered here after arriving at the nearby port of Rif on a ship from Bristol. During those long winter nights he came to learn more about the Vikings’ voyages west, to Greenland and further on to Vinland. That man was none other than Christopher Columbus.
On the beach.
Echoes of Neil Young would be welcome if only Ambulance Blues wasn’t so sombre. A beach just outside Grundarfjörður, deserted but for a man with a drone – thankfully far away. A black beach dotted with purple sea shells, flanked by white hills and covered, in places, by a thin water film over which the blue, golds and greys of the sky can run like a cinema screen.
Past Grundarfjörður is a road turning right, running over the mountains that make up the spine of Snæfellsnes. That road, sneaking as it does up an inviting mountain pass, is an utter joy. And it’s not just because of the driving pleasure: it’s also gifted by great, great views. More on that later on.
The medieval chronicler.
Not too far from the Laugarsbrekka farmstead that saw the birth of Guðríður Víðförla is a locality known as Staðarstaður. There’s a monolith there but, unlike that monolith, it hadn’t mysteriously appeared to make apes intelligent. Soiled as it was by a sacrilegious bird, the monolith is a monument to one Ari Þorgilsson, cleric and XII century chronicler. Author of Íslendigabók, Ari told the story of Iceland between the times where she was settled by Norse outcasts and the conversion to Christianity. I don’t know about you, but if, 1000 years from now, I could be remembered by a monument this grand in a place this supremely beautiful, it’ll be a great, great satisfaction.