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General Blog

Worth A Flat Tyre?

Frostastdavatn, Landmannalaugar, Iceland.
(With apologies for the Australianized spelling - it's as close as I can get for an email newsletter)
Phase One 645DF & IQ180 with 110mm Schneider Kreuznach lens.
30 seconds @ f5.6, ISO 35

This photograph has a special memory for me.

As is often the case in Iceland, it was blowing a small gale up on the ridge, just above where this photo was taken, but by walking down a few metres, I was able to set up my tripod in relatively calm conditions. The area is called Landmannalaugar (incorrectly spelt in my previous correspondence) and it is understandably a favourite area with landscape photographers. And the name of this lake is also incorrectly spelt in the caption above because when I use the special Icelandic characters, they display differently on Macs, PCs and goodness knows what else.

But this isn't the memory.

As I was enjoying taking my time to resolve the composition, Tony Hewitt walked past and said that my van had a flat tyre. We were on our Icelandic workshop last year with Antony Spencer and Christian Fletcher, and the four of us (the leaders) were driving transit vans occupied by incredibly patient and resilient photographers. But as we were in photographic heaven, all was good in the world.

Until this flat tyre. Upon inspection, I realised I would have to do a wheel change. The spare was pumped up, which isn't always a given in a rental vehicle (but we had checked this at the beginning of the trip), so I slowly rolled the van down the hill, along a dirt road and off to the side. All the photographers bundled into the other three vans and disappeared, leaving me with my disabled mechanical chariot. Well, you know what I was thinking: why did it have to be my van that had the flat tyre?

I found the necessary tools and jacked up the vehicle without getting too muddy. I even managed to get the wheel nuts off, but that was as far as I could go. The wheel was jammed on tightly by corrosion and nothing I could do would budge it.

To his credit, Christian returned to give me a hand. I think he was feeling guilty for taking the best van and giving me the worst. Given CF's extensive experience in outback Australia, I was sure he would have the solution, but when he tried to open up the 4WD hub (thinking that was what was holding the wheel on), my heart sank. 

Fortunately, a gentleman in an oversized 10WD Hummer (or something like that) came past and offered to help. Also perplexed, he suggested putting a rope around the wheel spokes and using his car to lever the wheel off. I was a little unsure at first, but with no real alternative, we tied the rope to his tow bar and gave it a go.

Success! And thanks again to that kind gentleman.

So, that's my memory and no doubt every time I look at this photo, I will think of flat tyres!

The photograph is taken with a moderate telephoto lens. It's easy to be overwhelmed by such a magical landscape, so I find limiting the angle of view a good way to deal with it. And I used a 10X neutral density filter which has smoothed the water surface. I think this helps the photo because there is already so much fine texture and detail in the land that a smooth water surface creates a welcome balance. The colours are pretty true to what you will find there - amazing greenery and some really rich reds in the earth below. Iceland is an incredible destination and well worth a visit.

And if you're interested in a photography workshop later this year, I have trips going to Karijini, Kununurra, the Daintree, Arnhemland, Whitsundays, New Zealand, Bhutan and, with a bit of luck, Patagonia and the Atacama Desert in Chile as well. Full details on the Better Photography website - but please book soon!


Peter Eastway Uses

Peter Uses

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