Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Sunday, 15 June 2014

Aerial Iceland: What I Did on My Holidays

I went to Iceland for a long awaited holiday and, while I promised myself some computer-free time for hiking, camping and coffee drinking (Reykjavík offers a mean cappuccino), I did also manage to cram a few kites into my luggage. Here are some of the low altitude aerial photographs from the trip, taken while my companions waited patiently (for the most part) while I flapped around with a kite.

Iceland presents a beautiful yet bleak landscape where human settlement sometimes feels against the odds. Causeways built to avoid erosion from glacial melt water at Borgarnes make an attractive sweep from above (top left) and between rain showers one morning I got some shots of the two lighthouses on the peninsula at Akranes (top right and above). That is our "experienced but well maintained" vehicle (according to the hire company) at the bottom of frame.

We also had the skilled drone pilot Jacob Rowland in our midst for some of the trip, seen here dodging geysers with his phantom (and getting some fantastic footage at the same time). It was great to see Jacob's UAV in action and the Phantom is now firmly on the Christmas list (you'll find no kite related bias on this KAPers blog!)

We had little wind for much of the trip but walking a little way onto Skaftafell glacier I managed to launch the kite in the breeze created by cool air sinking off of the Vatnajökull ice cap and streaming down the glacial valley. While quite reliable, this 'fake' wind had quite a low ceiling so the shots above where taken after a bit of running kite line in and out to gain height.

The volcanic black beaches at Vik (above and below top left) were one of the excellent locations for aerial imagery along with some of the more desolate stretches of the ring road, which crosses mossed-over lava fields and glacial rivers along the south coast of the country (below top right and bottom). You will notice our "well maintained" vehicle has changed colour, not after a paint job but because we had to swap it for a slightly less broken one.

We were also lucky enough to catch this higher-altitude glimpse of the Westman Islands (below) from the plane on approach to Keflavík. You can make out Eldfell, the crater of the volcano on Heimaey (to the left of the large island), which came close to destroying the town and harbor in the winter of 1973.

Iceland has a way of captivating people and after a very busy visit we left with a list of places to go back to, and another of things that we didn't have time to do. The striking colours and landscapes make for something of a  photographic playground. I hope to have more fun with aerial photography here some time in the future!