Iceland Journal – “Selfoss” – North Iceland

“Selfoss” - North Iceland

“Unlike the majority of people, he did not hate or fear the wilderness; as harsh as the empty lands were, they possessed a grace and a beauty that no artifice could compete with and that he found restorative.” 
― Christopher Paolini

It’s really hard to describe this place. The photo was made about an hour after the one I posted yesterday. That’s how fast conditions change in Iceland. For about thirty minutes, we enjoyed relatively clear skies, though snow squalls loomed on the horizon.

This is Selfoss, a broad, but relatively low waterfall in Northern Iceland. The landscape around this waterfall, and the higher, Dettifoss below it is unbelievable. From beyond Selfoss, the steep ravine you can see here gets even steeper with an almost tortured look, like the earth was torn apart, leaving a gaping maw of high, jagged cliffs of black basalt.

There is nothing smooth or soft here. The entire landscape is dark and sharp and barren, with a few mosses and sparse grasses clinging tenuously between the blasted rock. There must have been a great upheaval here, in the vast volcanic plains of Mývatnsöræfi, in Iceland northern region.

The other thing that does not show in the photo is the biting and relentless winds that whipped at us as we made photos of the waterfalls, stepping through deep snowdrifts and winding between the sharp rocks that line the edges of the gorge. Don’t get me wrong, this is a well-travelled tourist site, with a large parking lot and well-marked trails, but at times the drifts made it tough to walk and they covered jagged rock beneath them.

We spent about an hour photographing both Dettifoss and Selfoss. Then, looking to the sky and seeing another squall approaching , we made our way back to the car, which is about a half kilometer walk. Before we got to the car, the squall hit and made it difficult to see more than a few meters ahead of us. By the time we got back to the car, the full savagery of the storm was on us and we could barely see the length of the parking lot, so we decided to wait it out. As we sat in the car, we saw a tourist bus pull in and had to wonder how that bus had navigated the horrible, drift covered road that led us to the waterfalls, 26 kilometers off the Ring Road! Not to mention, people would have paid good money for the tour to the waterfalls, been transported through along dubious roads, only to arrive in blizzard-like condition.

The storm eventually eased and we left the parking lot with three other cars, knowing that the road we had travelled to get here would be in even worse condition on the way out. Fortunately, the trip was made safely and our journey continued.

Nikon D800
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 160 mm
1/500 sec, f/13.0, ISO 800

For more images like this, please visit my website (images are available for purchase)

3 Comments on “Iceland Journal – “Selfoss” – North Iceland

  1. Ah, I have been on several tours of famous views only to be presented with mist or fog. The weather seems as brutal as the landscape. A fascinating place.

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