No sooner had my feet touched the tarmac following a very busy time in Iceland, than they were airborne once more but this time heading south for a bit of R & R and sunshine therapy. With repeat medical tests looming, the results of which I’m more than a little concerned about, getting away and forgetting all of that for a wee while seemed a smart move.
Where better for such a thing than the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura to be exact. It’s currently 24 °c, that’s around 75 °f, not too hot and with a constant cooling breeze, it’s pretty near perfect for me and to be enjoying this in March is a real treat to be sure. Thank heavens for budget airlines.
Traveling on the first day to a near deserted beach on the northwestern side of the Island, I came across this fairly iconic symbol.
Please bear with me while I take this little break. I’ll be visiting all your blogs and catching up once I’m back to a very cold, grey drizzly Cornwall in a few day’s time. Feels like a million miles away just now not just a mere 2, 300 0dd miles. See you soon.. :-)
Ponies are a very special feature of the Icelandic landscape that you’ll see everywhere you go if you visit Iceland. These very placid friendly little guys stay out in all weathers, experiencing the most extreme conditions Iceland can throw at them. I’ve seen them huddled in blizzards with winds so strong it’s been impossible to open the car doors or stand up if one manages to leave the car for a quick photograph, such is the way of photographers – quite mad really. Who else would try to open car door in 30 metres per second winds to take a photograph of the blowing snow.. hmm (see below).
The ponies are a unique breed with a unique gait. They are extremely well adapted to the Icelandic climate and when there was a general call amongst the Iceland community to treat the ponies better, many of them became ill simply because they were unused to the richness of additional food in the way of hay and silage that they were provided with. It’s true that in times past, a good pony was the equivalent of a Porsche for young guys hoping to attract the girls.
One of the ponies I was photographing, and as an ex-teacher I know there is one in every class, took great joy in sticking his tongue out, every time I pressed the shutter..
I had to ask the question why farmers would keep so many ponies on their land. Farmers, not renowned for their sentimentality when it comes to their animals (not that they don’t care for them of course), keep animals only if they can make use of them and in Iceland, the answer is meat.
The boom in the tourist industry however has given many of these ponies a reprieve as they are proving more valuable to farmers if they rent them out for trekking. Some farms, with spare accommodation, are offering all-inclusive riding holidays. This is bringing in huge amounts of revenue to struggling farms.
I mentioned the unique gait of these ponies earlier, they have a way of walking, and trotting, that keeps their backs almost completely level giving the rider a very comfortable and bump free ride. Just perfect for children and those with no riding skills.
In the worst of weather I have seen these ponies galloping, rolling and playing. This tells me these animals, despite their harsh existence, enjoy life tremendously.
On Tuesday I flew to Iceland and yesterday, began a road trip that will take me around the entire island. Iceland is very cold this time of year of course, the clue is in the name of the country I guess. It’s cold and it’s snowy in February/March. I know it’s going to be challenging but ultimately very rewarding.
Travelling from Reykjavik on Wednesday morning, I was stopped by a road authority official who warned of extreme weather ahead, super high winds and blowing snow. He looked at the tyres (winter tyres on a Jeep Grand Cherokee) and decided that I should be OK, but to take it very steady.
A few miles down the road and up ahead all that could be seen was a wall of white. Snow was being blown down the side of a mountain toward the sea. Emboldened by seeing a car emerge from from this cloud, I drove on, and all became white, all that is except the yellow road markers telling me I was still on track. Without those I wouldn’t have had a clue, occasionally even those disappeared but reappeared (thankfully) very quickly.
When in Iceland there is an app you can download for android and iPhone called 122 Iceland. Basically you call up the app and you are then able to send your current location to the road authority. They store your last 5 locations using GPS on your phone to locate you. There is also a red button to press should you encounter an emergency. I was pleased to have the app, lots of warm clothes, flasks of soup, tea and plenty of food.
It was quite intense experience but thankfully one that I emerged from. The rest of the trip north to Hvammstangi was much easier. The roads tend to be built up above the landscape. No fences or hedges to create barriers behind and in front of which, impassable drifts can form. The snow blows straight across the road leaving them surprisingly clear. However, when there’s a lot of snow falling, accumulation is inevitable.
Today, I hit a real blizzard though. I thought Wednesday morning was bad. Visibility was down to a few yards and once again, it was down to the yellow markers keeping me on the road. But every mile I drive, I gain more confidence in driving in heavy snow. I was surprised to see the Icelanders barreling along as if there was no snow there at all. A bit alarming when a vehicle suddenly appears out of the snow going at surprisingly high speed. The roads are fairly narrow with very steep drops on either side at times. It’s just a case of keeping one’s nerve.. :-/
For many of you reading this blog, this is normal winter weather of course. In Cornwall, down in the south-west of the UK, the closest we got to winter this year was a single light frost. I have no experience of these conditions. I’m certainly getting plenty of experience now. Snow is rare in Cornwall and if it does come, it’s gone by lunchtime but the chaos it causes in the meantime is incredible. That said, I guess if it happened more often, people would be prepared, as they are here in Iceland and, no doubt in other snowy parts of the world.
Below are a few pictures I’ve taken since I arrived. Lots more to follow. I’ll be checking in but forgive me if I don’t get to all of your blogs over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be quite busy enjoying this amazing island. Fellow blogger and good friend Poppy (Poppytump@number4) and her husband will be catching us up in Akureyri next Monday and will be joining the road trip. We’ve a lot of photography to pack in over the coming days..
When my friend Marianne was visiting last week from the States, she needed to visit and bank and coinciding with a rainy day, I thought a trip to Truro wouldn’t go amiss as we could visit the cathedral. This isn’t the first time I’ve posted pictures from the cathedral and I don’t suppose it’ll be the last. It truly is a very beautiful building. I just wish I could get them to turn the awful electric lighting off.
I’ve left the pictures fairly large to allow you to zoom in and enjoy the detail. Just click on an image to take a closer look. My apologies to those of you with a slow Internet connections, it’ll take a while to load the pictures but I hope worth the wait..
I used a small aperture in the image above to give me the longest possible exposure allowing me to lose some of the visitors to the cathedral that kept walking through my shot. Shooting at too small an aperture can soften an image but life’s all about compromise, as is photography.. ;-)
I had a very good friend visiting from the USA this week. I met Marianne at university in Stirling, Scotland in 1985 and we have stayed friends ever since. She was on a flight back from India and Nepal and managed to arrange a 4 day stopover. I drove up to Heathrow on Saturday morning (leaving home at 3.30 am :-/) to meet her early flight. We didn’t stop talking on the four-hour drive back to Cornwall and we were both a little nonplussed I think about where those 30 years in between went to. Visiting Wheal Coates on Sunday we had a lunch date with my parents in Porthleven on Monday.
Ever the photographer, this was my first opportunity to test my new Nikon D800e. I recently exchanged my D800 for the D800e. The main difference between the two models is the D800e doesn’t have an anti aliasing filter over the sensor. As a predominantly landscape photographer this shouldn’t cause me too many problems and the removal of the filter does bring about a noticeable difference in the sharpness of the images which was exactly as hoped for.
Following lunch and a walk on the sea wall at Porthleven we stopped by Praa Sands on the drive home. Despite the nip in the air, it was a beautiful spring afternoon. Dog walkers and surfers alike, enjoying the sunshine..
Just a quick reminder, voting will close in the Digital Lightroom ‘Capture the Light’ competition tomorrow night at midnight Pacific Standard Time, so if you haven’t cast your vote yet, you can do so by following this link
Because of the nature of Porthleven Harbour, great surf is created at the entrance to the harbour just as it would be if the swell were coming up on a beach. This is a favourite spot for local surfers who enter the water at the edge of the harbour. In the picture below, if you look very carefully, one guy can be seen with his board on the steps of what I think might be the old lifeboat station. They then paddle out to enjoy some exceptional surf and great wave riding, even on a freezing cold March day like today..
32mm f/11 1/160 sec. ISO-100
Such delicate, elegant beauty..