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Visiting Iceland – Part 1

Visiting Iceland – Part 1

I visited Iceland for 8 days last year and I would like to share some of my experiences with you, some information that might be helpful in case you plan to visit and some of my favorites photos I took during this trip.

I going to write several posts since it is a lot of information to put into just one, I hope you enjoy them, so here we go!

Before Arriving

Inspiration

We all know that lately Iceland has become very popular thanks to social media and I can honestly say I am not the exception. I follow a lot of photographers who inspire me with their shots and techniques, lots of whom have shared lots of great shots of Iceland which of course had made me want to visit this gorgeous country.

Every time I saw one of these amazing photos I showed it to my husband which made his interest in visiting Iceland grow as much as mine. After several years of wanting to visit this beautiful country, in 2016 we decided that 2017 would be the year we will go and then we started planning.

Planning

One of my biggest influencers was Iurie Belegurschi who is a recognized landscape photographer from Iceland and also co-founder of Guide to Iceland, because of his influence and his photos we decided to use his company to book our trip.

We wanted to have some help with the itinerary but we didn’t want to go in a guided tour so we could have more freedom and be able to adjust our plans if we wanted to, so we booked the 7 Day Northern Lights Self Drive Tour that included the car and all the hotel bookings plus extra tours that we wanted to do but with the freedom of driving ourselves.

From Guide to Iceland we got our itinerary for each day which included suggestions for places to visit, suggested amount time to spend on each place, the coordinates and some other useful tips. Each booking had their contact information, address, phone number and email in case we needed to contact the hotel or service provider directly.

Moving Around

Since we were driving ourselves we made sure we had all the information needed before driving in Iceland during the winter. Thankfully Guide to Iceland provides lots of information, couple of helpful blogposts are:

In addition to this, to help us understand our itinerary better and have a visual version of the trip for a given day I created Maps with the routes and possible stops using Google My Maps. These maps were incredibly helpful because you can add images to each stop which helped me associate a place with a name as these names sometimes were really hard to remember. I will be sharing the maps I created in case they might be useful to you.

As many people these days, I rely on my smartphone a lot to access information, but sometimes you don’t have coverage and you cannot access your data when you really need it, so one recommendation is to make sure to write down the coordinates of all the places you want to visit during a day, either in a notepad or in a note file in your phone that you can access offline. Also make sure to rent a GPS for your car as this is almost always reliable.

Day 1 – Arriving and Reykjavik

We booked our tickets through IcelandAir, we arrived to Keflavik International Airport at 6:15 am where the car rental people were waiting for us to take us to get our car, it was still dark and it was snowing a little bit.

The car rental company that we got the car from was SScarrental, they provided a good service, transportation from and to the airport and the car was in good condition, we had no issues.

Blue Lagoon

The first stop in our itinerary was at the Blue Lagoon, we booked the standard entrance ticket and rented towels and robes when we arrived, they also rent flip flops and have drinks and food.

After a long flight, having a swim in these thermal waters is very relaxing, also there are some trails outside the building where you can walk around and take pictures of the lagoon.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

Reykjavik

From the Blue Lagoon we went directly to Reykjavik to get some lunch and then check in, we parked at a public parking near the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre where we were able to pay with a credit card, we never needed cash anywhere.

For lunch we found this nice small restaurant called  Verbúð 11 – Lobster & Stuff where the food was simply amazing, we didn’t have a reservation but were lucky to get a table fairly quickly, totally recommended.

After lunch we went to the hotel to check in and take a nap. We stayed at Fosshótel Rauðará, it is a nice hotel in the middle of Reykjavik, only 150 m from Laugavegur shopping street, 50 m from Klambratún city park and around 1 km from Hallgrímskirkja Church.

After checking in and taking a short nap we went to see Hallgrímskirkja Church which is the largest church in Iceland and it is visible throughout the city. It was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937 who got his inspiration by the shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock.⠀

There were a lot of tourist but I still managed to take a shot of this amazing building without people in it.

Right in front of the Hallgrímskirkja Church there is the Skólavörðustígur street where you can find a lot of shops and restaurants. In this street we found a restaurant which name I can’t pronounce but where the food was to die for, we ventured in hoping to get a table and luckily we did even though it was pretty crowded, sometimes that is the advantage of just being two.  The restaurant’s name is Sjávargrillið, I totally recommend this place but to be on the safe side I suggest getting a reservation as it gets pretty busy. It was so good that we went back on our last night in Reykjavik and ordered the exact same dishes.

The next day we left Reykjavik to drive up to the west to visit Buðir and Kirkjufell, I’ll talk more about these places on Part 2 of this series.

Sun Voyager

Day 1 Map

This map lists some of the main points of interest in Reyjavik, we didn’t get the chance to visit them all but here they are as reference.

Thanks for stopping by!
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Where to shoot in Santa Cruz – Part 3

In Part 2 of these series I wrote about Panther Beach, today I want to talk about Shark Fin Cove.

Part 3 – Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove features a big rock that depending on the angle you see it looks like, you guess right, a shark fin. It is located around 1 mile south from Davenport, CA and it contains a lot of natural elements to play with.

There is no official parking lot but you can park on the side of the road, there is a enough space for several cars and the area is wide enough so your car will not be too close to highway 1.

How to get there

If you use Google Maps it is easy to find, it is one of those popular places among photographers so much that Google Maps has a camera icon on it. Use this link to get the exact location.

Same as with Four Mile Beach and Panther Beach, Google Maps will show you the location of the cove and not necessarily where you need to park, so once Google tells you that you have arrived you still need to drive around 300 feet more if you are coming from Santa Cruz or park 300 ft before you reach your destination if you are coming from Davenport.

Once you have parked you need to walk down a dirt road, cross the train tracks and then go down to the cove which can be a bit strenuous for some, it is not too bad but it is something to consider.

Shark Fin Cove Map

What to do

Once you cross the train tracks you can get a view of the Shark Fin rock from above, the view is amazing from this angle. I took this shot from the trail down the cove during Spring last year.

Shark Fin Cove

Once you get down there are many different angles and compositions you can play with. There is a whole in the rocks where the waves come through.

Shark Fin Cove

On the other side of this wall there is like a platform that depending on the tide might get full of puddles creating beautiful reflections.

Shark Fin Cove

You can also play with the water motion around these rocks, the possibilities are endless.
Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin CoveOther compositions are also possible that not necessarily involve the Shark Fin rock, for example I enjoy a lot when the waves are strong as you can combine them with the other elements of the area and create interesting photos.

Shark Fin Cove

If you don’t want to go down to the cove or you want to also look for another compositions from above, there are several trails that you can take that will give you different perspectives.

Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove

Shark Fin Cove is also very popular for night shots with the milky way, you get a bit of light pollution from Santa Cruz but not that much that will prevent you from taking a great night shot. I still need to go and get my night shot from this place, hopefully this year I will get to do that.

There are no trash cans in the cove, so please bring a trash bag and take all your things back with you so you can dispose them appropriately later.

If you visit this beach please let me know your experience in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by!
Don’t forget to follow me on social media and please feel free to share this with your friends using the buttons bellow.
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Where to shoot in Santa Cruz – Part 2

In Part 1 of these series I talked about Four Mile Beach, gave some tips and showed some of the pictures I have taken in this beautiful beach. In Part 2 I want to give you more tips about another wonderful beach in the Santa Cruz County area.

Part 2 – Panther Beach

Santa Cruz Coast

Panther Beach is located around 9 miles north from Santa Cruz and around 2.6 miles from Davenport.

How to get there

If you are using Google Maps, use this link to get the exact directions to the parking lot. The parking lot is a dirt road on the side of Carrillo Hwy 1, it is quite big but still it might get crowded on a sunny day.

To get to the beach you need to go to the end of the parking lot and follow the trail, you will cross a railroad and then go down a dirt trail that can be a little tricky sometimes, nothing terrible but you need to be careful.

Panther Beach

If you want to take photos from the cliff, after the railroad don’t take the trail down, take the trail on the left and you will get to see the beach from the top, which is a pretty amazing view on both sides.

Panther Beach

It is not recommended to get too close to the edge, so please be very careful and don’t risk your life.

What to do

Once you get down to the beach, if you go the right, you will find some cool rock formations where, if the tide is high, you can get small waterfalls which are fun for long exposures or you can also get action shots of the waves.

Santa Cruz Coast

California Coast

Both photos above are from the right side of the beach, the first one is however with an exposure of 1.3 seconds while the second one is 1/250 seconds creating totally different effects on the water.

On the left side of the beach, there is a huge wall that has a whole in it, because of this some people also call this beach Hole in the Wall Beach. In this area there are some rocks that are great for long exposure and you get direct view of the sunset.

Santa Cruz Coast

If the tide is not high, you can cross through the hole in the wall and go left to another beach, some people call that beach Hole in the Wall as well, in Google Maps I see is called Seven Mile Beach.

California Coast

This beach is huge and gives an even wider view of the sunset, on the far left end of the beach there are some rocks that are great for different compositions.

Santa Cruz Coast

If you get to this side of the beach, just make sure the tide is not that high so you can cross back through the hole in the wall, because as I far as I know there is no other easy way out. If there is, please let me know in the comments.

Santa Cruz Coast

This beach is very popular not only among photographers but the public in general, so it can get very crowded. After the sun goes down, people enjoy bonfires on the beach which can also generate great photo opportunities.

Santa Cruz Coast

I hope you find some of this information useful, if there is any other tip that I missed please leave it in the comments.
If you visit this beach please let me know your experience in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by!

Don’t forget to follow me on social media and please feel free to share this with your friends using the buttons bellow.
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Where to shoot in Santa Cruz – Part 1

I received an email from a fellow photographer asking me for some suggestions on where to shoot in the coast, I replied to his email with several options to consider. After replying I thought why not put those tips into a blog post so it is available to everyone, so I decided to create a series of posts describing some of the beaches I have been to in Santa Cruz and some tips about how to make the most of your trip.

Part 1 – Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

Today I am going to talk about Four Mile Beach which is a beach north of Santa Cruz that offers a lot of photo opportunities.
But first things first, let’s talk about some general tips:
  1. Before going anywhere always check the weather, you don’t want to drive an hour or more and then find the weather is not ideal for shooting.
  2. Do a quick search and look for a webcam in the area so you can confirm the coast is clear, a little bit of fog can add some drama to your photos, but if the fog is too thick most likely the light is not going to be great.
  3. Bring water and please use a reusable bottle.
  4. Dress in layers, California coast can get really cold really quickly, also a beanie sometimes can come handy.
  5. If possible wear waterproof shoes or have a second pair in your car. Sometimes waves can catch you off guard and you don’t want to drive back home with your feet wet.
  6. Don’t forget your tripod.
Four Mile Beach is a big beach with a lot of room to walk around so if it is your first time visiting get there early so you can explore and find the areas that you want to shoot when the light is right.

How to get there

Traffic to Santa Cruz can get really bad, specially on the weekends if the weather is good, so what I usually do is I leave late in the afternoon so I can get there around 1 or 2 hours before sunset. In this way, I avoid traffic since most people at that time are leaving Santa Cruz but I get there with enough time to explore, set up and shoot the sunset.

If you are using Google Maps, it will give you directions to the beach and not necessarily to the parking lot, so use this link to get the exact directions to the parking lot.

The parking is a dirt road on the side of Cabrillo Highway 1,  once you are there you need to make a short walk down to the beach, around 10 min.

Four Mile Beach

What to do

Once you get down to Four Mile Beach there are several options, I have usually just gone to the left where there are some rocks that depending on the tide can be a lot of fun because you can do long exposures of the water flowing down the rocks or capture the waves when they strike the rocks. You can also find a lot of surfers in this beach, so you can get some cool action shots as well.

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

If you pass this rocky area there is more sandy beach where you can catch the sunset, play with long exposures, whatever you want to experiment with.

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

If you continue walking you will find some more rocks that will provide additional views, I have yet to completely explore that side.
Sunset is over, now what? Well I usually stop by one of the many great restaurants in Santa Cruz for a warm meal, a few suggestions are:
I hope you find some of this information useful, if there is any other tip that I missed please leave it in the comments.
If you visit this beach please let me know your experience in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by!
Don’t forget to follow me on social media and please feel free to share this with your friends using the buttons bellow.
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Yosemite National Park in Winter

We have visited Yosemite National Park in the past but never during winter. This year after returning from our trip to Costa Rica we decided to go to Yosemite during Martin Luther King’s weekend, we prepared our bags and left early on Saturday morning, we stopped for breakfast in Manteca and reached Yosemite Valley mid-morning.

Our first stop was Bridalveil Falls, there were a lot of people in the trail and there was a lot of ice which made it difficult to walk, a lesson we learned that day was to get ice grips for our shoes. We could not reach the end of the trail due to the icy conditions but I managed to get a shot of the falls that I like.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

After Bridalveil Falls we decided to go to the valley and we made a stop at Swinging Bridge, we took our snow shoes out and walked through the meadows, there was still a lot of water from the flood caused from the storms from previous weeks, which were creating some awesome reflections. It was not sunset yet but the light was nice giving a lot of life to Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

After the meadows we headed to Tunnel View to catch the sunset and because of the weather we had to drive really slow, we made it to Tunnel View just a few minutes before the sun went down, there were a lot of people, tourist and photographers, it was super icy making it a bit hard to find a good spot to shoot from. There were no clouds but the colors were amazing and due to the rain and snow of the previous weeks all the trees looked beautiful. I was able to get a shot before the sun went down, there was fog coming from the valley which gave the view a mystical feeling.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

The next day we drove down to the Valley and stopped at the Chapel, the contrast of the sky, trees and snow against the Chapel colors was amazing.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

After this we decided to hike to Yosemite Falls, again we found a very icy trail but we managed to walk up and get some long exposure shots of the lower falls.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

In the afternoon of that beautiful Sunday we went to Valley View where we saw the fog was starting to come up making the view breathtaking. That side of the valley was under the shade however the top of El Capitan and the Three Brothers were being hit by the sun creating a lot of contrast, lots of snow down on the valley, not so much at the top, also the light and the shade created some amazing views.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

We decided to head back to Cathedral Beach to shoot some photos of El Capitan before going up to Tunnel View for the sunset. The Merced river water was very clear and I was able to get a shot where you can see the rocks in the river and a beautiful reflection of El Capitan.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Again we run up to Tunnel View, there were some more clouds and the sky was on fire that day, the tip of El Capitan and Half Dome were painted red by the sun and I was able to get a better spot to catch that amazing view.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

We stayed a little later after the sunset to try to catch the car trails in the valley, I was able to get one shot however since there was not a lot of fog that day the car lights were not reflecting as much as I wanted, but still I am happy with that shot. We didn’t stay much, it was incredibly cold so we went back to our rental for the night.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

On our last day, we stopped at Tunnel View to get a shot early that morning and then we spent some time in the Valley before heading home, it was a wonderful weekend that we hope to repeat next winter.

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

Yosemite National Park in Winter

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