Miraculously, it was clear when we awoke. Like, sunny. In some degree of disbelief, we strewed our wet belongings across the grass and hung them on tree branches, hopeful to ease the perpetual dampness that had crept into the daily reality of our backpacker’s lives. Nausea racked my body as I huddled by the campstove, cooking breakfast, and for a few minutes I panicked – was my brain swelling, after all? A dull pain ached from the spot I’d hit, but otherwise all seemed well. Even the weather smiled upon us, and by the time we’d broke camp, I was fine again. Donning our impossibly heavy backpacks, we took off into the landscape bright and early, ever-hopeful of finding someone to give us a ride.
As we reached the highway, we were greeted by this signpost. 139 kilometers! We exclaimed, excited. Thanks to Einar and Tryggvi, we’d traveled that entire distance in one ride. Cars were few and far between that morning, but eventually we got picked up by two young Czech guys on their way to work at a nearby hotel, and from there, by Alda and Max, a young Icelandic/German couple on their way to our same destination: Jökulsárlón, the glacial lagoon. The weather was unbelievably clear – our field of vision suddenly expanded to infinitely explore the horizon, we sat with our faces pressed against the glass. And then we were there.
I had grown up around glaciers, but this one was undeniably spectacular. Photographs can’t do it justice – the vast expanse of glaciers surrounded us in a semicircular panorama, dumping their ice into a pristine blue lagoon, which in turn flowed out into the ocean, dragging icebergs to sea in the current. There, at the seaside, the open ocean raged, thrashing the ice right back onto a foreboding black sand beach. Greg had never been around any sort of glacier like that before, and in his company I found all the wonder and astonished excitement of experiencing a glacier for the first time. For hours we wandered along the grassy lakeshore, eventually splitting up to breathe in the wind and the silence. I made some important photographs, none of which are actually featured here, but still. It felt like a breakthrough. For the first time, I made an important photograph in dazzling sunlight.
Evening approached. I knew that I wanted to photograph the sea ice in the blue light of dusk, so we set up our kitchen on the beach, taking off our shoes and delighting in the ease – and deliciousness – of the freeze-dried meals my mom had given me before I left. It felt like Nordic summer. We pitched our tent on the side of the road.
As dusk exploded across the sky in vivid color, we went to the seaside. The icebergs glowed like diamonds against the black sand; most of the other tourists had disappeared. Nothing but the crash of the waves and gentle hiss of the sand as the ice scraped along it in the tide.
Everything turned slowly to indigo, and it was time to make pictures.