>>>Stunning photographs of Vatnajökull
Photo: Mikael Buck/Sony

Stunning photographs of Vatnajökull

Photographer Mikael Buck has captured the beauty of the ice caves of Iceland’s Vatnajökull glacier with a precision never seen before.
E
urope’s second largest glacier is on the move. Every year, Vatnajökull shifts and changes, creating complex cave systems that last for just a few weeks. “Each autumn, we identify the caves for the winter season,” says Einar Runar Sigurdsson, who, along with Helen Maria, work for the Local Guide agency, and are leading experts in this glacier. “We usually find them in the south face of Vatnajökull. Some are very special indeed, and others also, depending on the light. They can be stable, and if so can be visited in all weather conditions. Others can only be accessed at temperatures below zero. Any water on the floor has to freeze before you can enter the cave.”
The Vatnajökull glacier covers more than 8,100 square kilometres.
Photo:Mikael Buck/Sony

A country under the ice

The Vatnajökull glacier covers 8% of Iceland’s surface. Stretching out more than 100 kilometres in every direction, the ice cap is, on average 400 metres thick and 900 metres deep at its highest point. Lying below the surface is a chain of active volcanoes, whose most recent eruption was in 2011.

London photographer Mikael Buck is one of the lucky few to have explored these caves in person. His goal was to photograph the ice with the highest level of precision yet achieved. “To be honest, it’s like being on a planet in outer space. The colours and shapes are extraordinary,” he says. “Technology has made it possible for us to feel like we are right inside the glacier in a way that was never possible before.” To achieve this, Buck and his team, guided by Sigurdsson and Maria, had to rely on the same techniques that Robert Peary used to explore the North Pole. “To reach the caves, we had to cross the glacier for two hours every day using crampons and ice axe,” he recalls. “The main technical problem lay in getting to the caves with sufficient time to explore and photograph them. As we were there in November, the days were short and we had move fast to get back to the jeep while there was still daylight.”
The photographic adventure has given us a fascinating insight into the formation of the caves. Sculpted by the movement of the glacier, the walls are curved, though with dramatic edges similar in appearance to Neolithic flint axes. Through such close exploration, the glacier reveals itself to be a fortress of deep blue crystal tunnels.
Mikael Buck has over ten years’ experience as a photojournalist.
Photo: Mikael Buck/Sony

Glaciers more photogenic than politicians

Vatnajökull has not been Michael Buck’s most difficult assignment. He himself confesses that the biggest challenge he has faced was when he had 30 seconds to get a shot of the UK Prime Minister in full sunlight in the Downing Street gardens.

To portray the immensity and majesty of the cave complex, Buck photographed local climbers ascending its ice walls. The shots were taken using only the natural light that filtered through into the cave. Despite the low light, the imaging sensors developed by Sony for their α7R II, RX10 II and RX 100 IV cameras made it possible to capture in full detail the colours and texture of the glacier. As Maria, who accompanied Buck on his mission, explains: “I’ve explored these caves for years. To be here is a truly marvellous opportunity. To realize that here we are experiencing such a short-lived phenomenon makes it even more special. This series of photographs has done justice to the glacier, and I hope that, as a result, many more visitors will come”.
A 4x4 vehicle is needed to approach the glacier.
Photo: Mikael Buck/Sony

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