Ice Caves of Iceland

One of the most exciting and terrifying experiences I have ever had was exploring an ice cave with a mountain guide in a remote area of Folljokull, Iceland this past January.

A few things that our mountain guide taught us is that ice caves are temporary structures that appear at the edge of glaciers. The ice is centuries old and is highly pressurized and contains almost no air. The lack of air allows the ice to absorb almost all visible light. This is why the ice appears so blue.

The ice caves are formed as the result of rain, snow and ice melting on the glacier surface. Streams form and enter the glacier through the crevices. The sediment in the surrounding soil causes the water to take on a muddy color while the top of the cave retains a blue tint. Some glaciers move quite rapidly, up to 1 meter per day. This causes the ice to crack forming the cave.

After donning helmets, our guide instructed us where to walk and where to stand, so as not to be in the path of any ice walls that may break off. He pointed out one area in the cave where we could not stand, as he had heard it cracking just the day before! Once I began photographing, I lost all fear of dying and was focused upon the task at hand .

The resulting photo shown is a combined series of 5 images ranging in exposure from very dark to capture the detail of the sky, to very bright so that I could capture the detail of the interior of the cave. I then merged the 5 together to increase the range of tones. This makes it possible to see all the detail inside the cave at the same time as the stormy sky that is outside the opening of the cave.