I visited Iceland with Leisa, my wife and youngest child, Justin for 8 days in November. My visit came a day after G1 conditions had produced vibrant displays of the aurora on the 8/9 November. It turned out that conditions were relatively quiet for the aurora during my visit, but of course the stunning landscape did not disappoint.
I saw three good displays of the aurora, the first (and probably the brightest) soon after we arrived into Iceland at around 5:00 pm. As we drove the 48 km from the airport to Reykjavík , we could see the white arc of the aurora to the north. I wanted to stop but we were all keen to get settled into our apartment in Reykjavik. The display flared up briefly and could be seen naked eye green from our 4th flour balcony. I took a brief time lapse of a 5 minute display by a particularly bright display of the aurora near the Big Dipper but it fizzled out after 5 or so minutes and clouds moved in.
After doing the golden circle tour on 11 November, the rain settled in. I decided to set my alarm early to see if any gaps in the clouds had developed. To my delight, the Icelandic weather cloud chart indicated clear skies about 20 minutes to the east of Reykjavik. The forecast proved accurate and I witnessed a beautiful display of the lights from 730 am to 845 am before it got too light (sunrise was just before 10 am in the morning). Surprisingly it only dropped to minus 5 degrees or so.
This aurora was unlike any I had seen. The main auroral arc was a bright white. Blobs of auroral flashes were occurring even over head, it was an amazing sight and I had the spot all to myself. My captures under some power lines were accidental as I thought I had walked out underneath the wires but somehow they provided some foreground to my shots. As there was not a great area that was cloud free, time was the enemy and I did not have too much time to be fussy about where I went.
On 12 November we headed to Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes peninsula about 3 hours north of Reykjavik. At one stage we passed through a tunnel under a fjord. We stayed at the Kirkjufell guesthouse which was excellent and had great cooking facilities and was very clean. The Guesthouse had a great view of Mt,Kirkjufell a 463 m high mountain which is reputed to be Iceland's most photographed peak.
Even though we were only a few km south of the 65 degrees north parallel, the aurora proved illusive. A morning visit to the mountain on 13 November only revealed the slightest green glow which perhaps with a vivid imagination could be ascribed to the aurora. This experience served a stark contrast from all the spectacular aurorae I had seen photographed there. We toured the peninsula the following day and walked around the mountain in spectacular scenery. Cloud was a constant companion. However, I awoke early at around 4 am to clear skies and a quick shot from the car park at our accommodation revealed the aurora albeit in a small display performing over the mountain Whilst not a spectacular aurora, the result was a very pleasing silhouette on the rising tide which nearly engulfed one of my tripods .
In later days, we did a fantastic walk up a steep mountain trail to a warm river, swam in a "hotpot" pool suitable for three people and walked up a volcano. We toured the south of Iceland and did an Ice cave tour, a tour of a crevice and Diamond beach. we were most taken by the black beaches. Our final day was very windy and we were unable to swim in the thermal pool at our last night's accommodation due to the high 80km/h plus winds!
We plan to go back to this sensational part of our planet!