Blue Waters of Brúarfoss
My guide asked everyone to be quiet, while he and the driver exchanged words in their attempt to find this place on the first try. The only real landmarks being that this area of country-side butted right up against a community of summer luxury homes, and made me wonder if we might even be trespassing, or what the locals might think. Brúarfoss Waterfall in Iceland is not one you will find on the typical tourist routes, where big buses stop regularly at road-side locations and unload a barrage of tourists armed with selfie-sticks for a 20 minute break. Well actually you would find this along the typical tourist route, if you even knew you were passing it. That is part of the charm of this particular location, because there are no signs to it, unless you already know of it from looking at photographs, and already figured out which unmarked dirt trail turns to take at which junctions. Nor is this something that even looks like it might be in a super-scenic area that you might be inclined to wander towards. In my Photographic Itinerary this was the stop touted as being one few people knew about and a real photographic treasure – I was greatly looking forward to it. In fact, many Icelanders don’t even know about it.
Like so many other Icelandic location names that are difficult to pronounce and spell, they are simple in translation for what they actually mean, unlike how we give less descriptive names to our locations of interest in America. If you pay attention to Icelandic location names, you can begin to understand the meaning of many Icelandic words quite quickly. Brúarfoss means “Bridge Waterfall” (Brúar = Bridge; Foss = Waterfall). How quaint and simple is that? The named derived from a natural stone arch that existed over the waterfall in earlier times – it was a natural bridge when named, but since collapsed and replaced with a human-made bridge. Although since this river is completely glacier water fed, I am sort of surprised they couldn’t squeeze another word buried somewhere in the name to make it even more descriptive, such as “Jökull”, which you see as parts of names throughout Iceland to represent the word “Glacier”. What if they called it “Brúarjökullfoss”??? Sigh, something tells me Iceland does not care what I think, but I digress…back to the story.
It was another dreary and overcast day, marked with the same winds and rains that I was already becoming quite belabored with in previous days. Once we determined the right area to stop, then came the hike. It was not a long hike, maybe 5 minutes at a brisk pace. But the rain and the uneven mud trail made it a slippery exercise with arms full of photography gear. We finally arrived to the bridge overlooking this beautifully powerful Brúará river of blue-water glacier run-off trailing through the vegetated countryside. The brightly overcast sky diffused the sun light, making all the wet rocks sheen with subtle glare, while the vegetative greens lining the sides saturated in color. The real star of the scene though is the stepped waterfall and that water color – churning waters stained a rich aqua blue by glacial silt, ending in what seems like a whirlpool at your feet beneath the bridge. Truth be told I find the best glacial color to show up in situations like this, and I was not disappointed…the rain even let up after awhile.
I got out 3 filters to produce this shot in a single image. One to polarize the scene to reduce some of the glare on the wet rocks. One solid neutral density filter to slow down the shutter for the entire scene so I could slow down the fast moving water in such bright conditions to give it that smooth and brushed feel. Lastly I applied my soft-edge graduated neutral density filter to just the sky to bring the entire scene into a much more even exposure, that the dynamic range of my camera could handle more effectively in a single image. If you want to stay dry, there are only a very small handful of shots to get from the shaky bridge crossing the water, that vibrated with each person’s step; a difficult shot when the bridge is full of uncooperative people and you are trying to shoot exposures longer than a couple of seconds. If you don’t mind trudging through cold glacial-melt and dealing with very slippery rocks in a rough current, then there are great photographic prizes to be had down below, which is where I quickly moved to after getting this typical shot from above. From there, you begin to get intimate with the massive numbers of little waterfall rivulets with amazing designs, all working together to keep your eye back on the water’s flow. This was absolutely one of my favorite locations in Iceland and I should I ever return, you can count on me returning here, away from the typical tourists.