Magnificent desolation.

Askja is a caldera of the Dyngjufjöll volcano in the north-central Highlands of Iceland. With a length of 200 kms and width ranging from 5-20 kms, it is the largest volcanic system on the island.

This is a bleak, primordial landscape, not easy to get to given its remoteness. To the north of the caldera lies the vast and barren expanse of the lava field Ódáðahraun which translates to “Lava of Ominous Deeds.” As part of the training for the Apollo programme, NASA dispatched its astronauts to this area, and I suspect that it was here in Askja that Buzz Aldrin had his first brush with “magnificent desolation.”

My wife and I, along with my dear friend and guide Börkur Hrólfsson, made a day long expedition to Askja in the summer of 2012. I had intended it as a preliminary get-acquainted-with-the-lay-of-the-land foray. But with Börkur there are no half measures. Testing the limits of stamina and human endurance, he pulled off a marathon session ploughing non-stop for 18 hours through this difficult terrain; it was one hell of an introduction to Askja. As the images suggest, this area is an overflowing treasure trove of photographic gems.

Aside: this is the first post featuring images processed on my new toy.

Colourful hills in the Askja desert, Iceland

Askja, a volcanic wonderland
5D Mark III, TS-E 90


The explosion craters Viti (lit. hell) and its larger sibling Öskjuvatn (lit. Askja lake) were formed in an eruption in 1875. In 1907 two German scientists vanished in Öskjuvatn and their case remains unresolved to this day.

Viti explosion crater in Askja, Iceland

Walls of Viti explosion crater
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP


In the image below, the dots in the centre of the lake are Icelanders enjoying a dip in the mineral-rich tepid waters of Viti.

Viti explosion crater in Askja, Iceland

5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

Viti and Öskjuvatn in Askja, Iceland

Viti and behind it, Öskjuvatn
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II


Öskjuvatn panorama, Askja, Iceland

Panorama of Öskjuvatn and Askja
(Click on image for larger view)
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

Börkur and Veena in Askja, Iceland

Börkur and Veena near Öskjuvatn
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

Volcanic pebbles at Askja, Iceland

Indian spices? Pebbles cooked in volcanic broth
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

Pattern of ice and volcanic ash in Askja, Iceland

Pattern of ice and volcanic ash
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP


Desert sands near Askja, Iceland

Lone hiker and sand desert
(Can you spot him? Click on image for 100% crop)
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

Lambagras in Askja, Iceland

Life finds a way: Lambagras in the Ódáðahraun desert
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

Ódáðahraun lava field near Askja, Iceland

Ódáðahraun lava field
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

Ropy Lava near Askja, Iceland

Rope lava (aka Pāhoehoe lava)
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

Superjeep in the Ódáðahraun desert near Askja, Iceland

Börkur’s superjeep in the Ódáðahraun desert
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

  • Jens - June 23, 2014 - 3:09 pm

    Great pictures of the fantastic landscape in and around the Askja! I especially like the first one with the lava stream and coloured caldera rim. Hope to be back there soon.

  • Borkur Hrolfsson - June 10, 2014 - 4:21 pm

    Great photos. Brings back good memories. We need to go there again, this time in late August, to catch the first brush of snow, and twilights.ReplyCancel

  • Thomas Pindelski - June 10, 2014 - 1:56 pm

    A spectacular slide show. I was especially taken with the second and its thoroughgoing surrealism, the composition heightening the sense of disorientation. The later ‘pattern of ice’ commands similar qualities.ReplyCancel

  • Premanand - June 10, 2014 - 12:59 pm

    Barren yet beautiful!ReplyCancel

Uniting babes the world over.

In Lisbon, Portugal

Walking in Lisbon
5D Mark III, 24-105L

In Zurich, Switzerland

Wheeling in Zürich
5D Mark III, 24-105L

  • Premanand - June 3, 2014 - 12:55 pm

    Rajan bhai, how did the “babe” from Lisboa react at being photographed by the Indian paparazzi? :-) No hard feelings please.ReplyCancel

    • Rajan P. Parrikar - June 9, 2014 - 11:51 pm


      There was no reaction. She continued walking. We were both in a public space.ReplyCancel

Patience pays. Sometimes.

I sought out the same locales in Zürich a few days later (see the preceding entry). The light was sweeter, the skies had more character.

Grossmünster at sunset in Zurich, Switzerland

Grossmünster, final light
5D Mark III, 24-105L

St Peter Church, Zurich

St. Peter Church, final light
5D Mark III, 24-105L


Beautiful light near the Swiss Alps.

What a marvellous evening today in Zürich! I felt so inadequate with just one lens on my 5D Mark III and no tripod. We hung around Lindenhof until the sun went down.

These images were processed on an uncalibrated MacBook Pro; I may have to rework all of them upon my return.

Grossmünster in Zurich, near sunset

Grossmünster, final kiss of light
5D Mark III, 24-105L

Local photographer shoots Grossmünster

Local photographer takes in Grossmünster
5D Mark III, 24-105L

St. Peter Church, last light

Last light, St. Peter Church of Zürich
5D Mark III, 24-105L

Old Town Zurich seen across Limmat River

Old Town Zürich on east flank of Limmat River
5D Mark III, 24-105L

Twilight on Rennweg

Twilight on Rennweg, Old Town Zürich
5D Mark III, 24-105L

  • Johnk416 - May 20, 2014 - 9:03 am

    Enjoyed examining this, very good stuff, thankyou. Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. by Euripides. ckdgddddcadeReplyCancel

  • Premanand - May 20, 2014 - 4:06 am

    Lovely compositions Rajan bhai. I think now I understand the difference between un calibrated v/s calibrated monitor. Please do post the images processed on the calibrated Mac. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Edwin D'Souza - May 19, 2014 - 4:32 am

    These pictures are interesting and shot with great love and care. I am wondering that the buildings seen, are built many years ago and still they display very few flaws. Every thing is orderly, neat and worth seeing! Could there be some lessons that an Indian can learn from the effort put in building these cities?ReplyCancel