It has been the most unbelievably busy year. I have been working on a project that is about to come to fruition but will keep under my hat for now. I’ve also had two new book covers since I last posted and been shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition as well as Weather Photographer of the Year, a competition organised by the Royal Meteorological Society in associating with the RPS. Both competitions feature photography from around the world.
I’ve been very lucky, anyone who follows this blog will know that I have been able to travel to Iceland a few times, a place where a lot of weather happens so you can guess where my shortlisted photograph was taken. This has all involved a lot of work organsing prints, profiles and narrative to accompany the photographs as well as work on my project.
Though a bit of a ghost in the blogosphere over the last year, I am still here, still dipping into blogs and though not as actively engaged, I have been enjoying all the posts that I’ve been following through my reader. At the end of the project, end of August, I will be away, recuperating for a few weeks and then will be back, I hope, to being a more active member of this amazing community. Thank you for your patience. I wouldn’t be so busy if it wasn’t for all those on WordPress who have been so supportive over the last four years.
For all those suffering the heat of the summer, I hope these pictures can cool you down a little. For my friends in the southern hemisphere, it could be colder.. ;-)
Below is my shortlisted picture for Weather Photographer of the Year, I’ve added a couple of others. Some of you may have seen this image before. Just one of those shots taken when you find yourself in the right place at the right time and you happen to have your camera with you.
You can see all the images shortlisted in this years competition by following this link. Amazing photography. Well worth clicking the link. Not sure what I’m doing there but I am looking forward to the awards ceremony where I’ll get to meet some of these amazing photographers. The winner will be announced at the ceremony.
This picture was taken as a blizzard blew in from the sea on the south coast of Iceland backed by gale force winds. Within minutes of taking this picture we experienced white out conditions and were very grateful for the yellow markers every few meters along the road that let you know you’re still on it.
The wild, raw nature of the winter in Iceland always makes me want to go back. When you’re alone in this wilderness you cannot help but feel alive and connected in a way I’ve certainly never experienced anywhere else. It sounds crazy to some perhaps but when I’m battling the wind, trying to keep my tripod from toppling over let alone steady, trying to keep my lens clear of snow and some kind of circulation in my fingers as the sub-zero temperatures and wicked wind chill get to work on them, I’m really never happier.
52mm f/11 1/80 sec. ISO-100
While I sort through the many pictures from the Azores and try and organise them into some kind of coherant and meaningful order, I thought with the temperatures unusually for this time of year reaching 80°f outside, I’d dip back into some winter pictures from Iceland. This one was taken in February 2015..
Here are a few more snowscapes from my recent visit to Iceland. From complete white out to the scene as the blizzard recedes, these pictures depict the harsh beauty of winter in Iceland.
Here are a couple more pictures from my recent visit to Iceland. These vast empty spaces I find so energising, restorative, beautiful, of course, and the need to photograph them quite profound.
I imagine this is what Europa, Jupiter’s smallest moon, must be like – a keen contender in the search for extra-terrestial life. This picture however was taken in Iceland in February. The stark, raw, wild beauty of it touches me deeply..
Höfn is my spiritual home. Some of my best friends are here. I have been welcomed into homes and into the community and treated with the most incredible hospitality here and when I became ill here a couple of weeks ago, I was treated with care and compassion to the point that phone calls were made way beyond the call of duty to check how I was doing. Yes, Höfn is where my heart is.
Besides the wonderful people and the incredible health and dental care, the scenery is just incredible and a short ride along route 1 and through the tunnel that takes you through a range of mountains you will come to Hvalnes. If you’re from Höfn, which as I’ve mentioned before is pronounced h’up (the h is very breathy) you’ll pronounce Hvalnes with a sort of clearing of the throat k followed by va-ll-n-yes.
Icelandic is not easy but Iceland sure is easy on the eye.
Whilst being blasted once again by winds gusting up to 70 mph that were literally pushing our car sideways on the Ice which when you’re driving along the highway is extremely unsettling, I managed to stop the car every now and then and take pictures that engender such incredible serenity in me but they really do belie the conditions. Taking them, well, that was a real battle on this occasion.
24mm f/11 1/125 sec. ISO-100
The reindeer in the picture below were not at all bothered by the weather, settling down on top of the black sand spit, that separates the ocean from the frozen fresh water lake, to ensure they benefitted from the very best of the wind and its numbing windchill. The ambient temperature was around – 12 °C making this feel more like, I’m reliably informed, -50 °C. This was not the weather you’d want to spend too much time out of the car taking photographs. Thankfully, having visited the location many times, I knew where I wanted to be and I got my pictures on this rather wild Sunday afternoon but they really were hard-won on this occasion! Nevertheless, I enjoyed taking these photographs and I very much hope that you enjoy viewing them. :-)
A visit to the beach in Iceland in winter is a wonderful thing. The black sand, the snow and ice, the wonderful light, it really is something to be savoured. I’ve put together some pictures here of one particular visit to the beach where during the course of the day, the wind rose from about 3 m/s that’s about 6 miles per hour to about 30 m/s, that’s getting on for 70 miles per hour. This was one of those occasions, and I mentioned it in my last post, where getting out of the car can be extremely difficult unless you position the car carefully. Damage to doors on hire cars is extremely common in Iceland when unsuspecting tourists park up, open the door with the car facing downwind and the door is subsequently wrenched off its hinges. Extreme wind speeds are commonplace and even more so in winter. I just needed to get out to take a picture, standing was difficult, I had to hang on to the tripod and to the car and somehow get a composition and press the shutter but I think it was worth it. I’ll be posting some more pictures from a little further down the coast in due course.. :-D
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.
I was on the beach at Reynisfjara at the very southern-most tip of Iceland in a blizzard back in February. I was taking pictures despite the snow when a figure seemed to materialise out of nowhere, way up the beach, walking towards me. As he came close I saw that he was a fellow photographer. As he passed we exchanged greetings, surreptitiously checking out each other’s equipment (like you do) while we talked. Satisfied and content in that camera brand camaraderie one finds amongst Nikon and Canon shooters alike, we said goodbye and he moved off.
A piece of music came unbidden to mind, a lovely piece of music by the great Joe Harnell, The lonely Man. The piece of music, one I used to play myself, accompanied the closing credits to the Incredible Hulk TV series as David Bannerman, still afflicted by the hulk curse after another adventure, set off once more in his lonely search for a cure.
This is a link to the music if you’re unfamiliar with it. It was used in the recent Hulk movie too – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4_5c1OJXc4 It just seemed to just fit the image somehow.. Enjoy!
Chillbrook has taken flight again.. Spring is turning out to be a very busy time for me. Lots of interesting places visited and more to come. I’m back in Iceland for a couple of weeks pursuing a couple of projects. Landing at Keflavik Airport, it looked like spring might finally have arrived in Iceland. It’s very late this year apparently.
Here’s a few pictures from my first couple of days. As you can see by my hire car dwarfed by drifted snow on a mountain pass, there’s plenty of winter conditions still to be found but spring does seem to be slowly getting the upper hand.
There is a palpable excitement amongst the wildlife here. The noise at dawn is deafening as the birds get ready to take on the day. Spring and summer are short in Iceland and nature has a lot to pack in to the next couple of months. I’ve a lot to pack in to the next couple of weeks so bear with me, I’ll catch up with you all when I can.. :-)
About a year ago, I donated a framed photograph to a charity raffle. After the raffle had been drawn, a lady approached me saying how much she liked the photograph and how disappointed she was that she hadn’t won it. She was so nice, I endeavoured to find out who she was which I did. I then framed another copy of the photo and sent it to her. You can see the photo that the lady liked so much here.
We exchanged emails and I was made to promise that if I were ever to visit Iceland, I must get in touch. Visiting Iceland at the time was not something I had considered but I guess the seed was sown and when I finally decided to make the journey, I did get in touch. What followed were lots of suggestions of where to visit and several introductions to people, one of whom was a university friend who lived in Höfn.
I was delighted when I, along with Poppy, Poppy’s BB and my friend Chris were invited to dinner with Hulda and her partner Róbert. We had a traditional Sunday roast, a meal that Hulda explained she’d enjoyed every Sunday since she was a child; roast lamb with rosemary, roast potatoes and vegetables. There was one additional condiment from the UK that Hulda explained she bought from a specialist shop in Reykjavik and who can argue with how well mint jelly goes with lamb. I was surprised how similar the meal was to the Sunday roast that I’d grown up with. We had a wonderful evening and it was such a pleasure to make new friends.
During the course of the evening I asked Hulda where she would recommend we visit while we were in Höfn. Horn was the answer and these are the photographs that followed. It was a very wild day, the wind was roaring in our ears and bringing tears to our eyes but we had some sunshine as you can see along with some very heavy snow. Thank you Hulda and Róbert once again for a fabulous evening. This post is dedicated you.
I described in my post before last, the drive from Hvammstangi to Blönduós in the north of Iceland. In this post I continue the journey on to Akureyri.
I’d been watching the road conditions on the Hringvegur (Route 1) between Blönduós and Akureyri for some weeks. The reason being that I’d driven the road across the mountains to Akureyri on my previous visit to Iceland. I remembered the road as being challenging, and with snow and ice on the road along with the threat of blizzards, I was a little nervous to say the least. It was along this road that we encountered a truck surrounded by debris, clearly from a collision, and a pick-up truck off the road down a steep ravine. The man’s screams are still with me. Thankfully there were many people on hand and as we picked our way through the broken glass, a bumper and a few other bits and pieces, I could see blue flashing lights in my rearview mirror indicating a dose of morphine was on its way to hopefully relieve the man of his pain. We’d driven on in silence for many miles..
Talking to the owner of the cabins we were staying in at Hvammstangi, she suggested we take the road around the fjord and through the tunnels rather than across the mountains. I was quite happy to take her advice besides, I’d wanted to revisit Siglufjordur which would now be on route. This was where we saw the northern lights on our previous visit to Iceland.
As we set off from Blönduós it was getting on for lunchtime and we were both in need of a break so we took a detour. One of the beauties of going your own way is that well, you can go your own way. We saw a sign for a place called Hólar, the mountains in that direction looked inviting and with a hint of sunshine here and there, we took the turn.
Finding ourselves in the small village of Hólar we were surprised to see such a large church and even more surprised to find the village had a university. Hólar University College specialises in aquaculture and fish biology, equine studies and rural tourism.. Figuring any university worth it’s salt would have a refectory offering reasonably priced wholesome fayre, we wandered in.
There was absolutely nobody to be seen, it was the university equivalent of the Marie Celeste. There was plenty of evidence of people being there at some point but they’d simply vanished. We could smell food however so we pressed on down the highly polished corridors, following our noses, literally, we soon found the refectory. We were greeted by a chef in whites, clearly enjoying a break and a cup of coffee at one of the empty tables. She explained in broken English that we could help ourselves to the buffet lunch for 1000 kr. This is about a fiver or 7 bucks which by Icelandic standards, makes for a cheap lunch. She didn’t explain the empty dining room..
There were various salads and a big cauldron full of a meatball type casserole/stew with chunks of potato and various vegetables. It was indeed wholesome fair and despite the fact that we seemed to be the only ones in the entire university, bar the chef, with this lovely buffet laid on for, well, us I assume given there wasn’t anyone else about, it was a memorable lunch, with an even more memorable view from the windows of the refectory.
Setting off once more, bellies full and happy, the sun deserted us and all I could see ahead of us on the road was a wall of white that was all too familiar from our drive to Hvammstangi.. there were blizzards ahead. It was going to be an interesting afternoon. The road as it turned out was as challenging as the one I remember going the other way only more so with the icy surface and snow.
The snow showers were sweeping in from the sea and as we wound our way around the fjord, the showers were coming thicker and faster all the time. It wasn’t long before all photography became impossible. All that could be seen was few metres of road ahead. We were in our own little snow cocoon. We had no option but to press on, we checked in with 122, the Icelandic emergency services who would log our position each time we pressed a button on my mobile phone. Our five most recent positions would be logged giving a direction of travel. It was so reassuring to know that if something should happen, we would be located easily. I knew I wasn’t going to be seeing Siglufjordur or anything much else again for the rest of the day.
The road between Hvammstangi, where we stayed in a small cabin, to Blönduós took us over a mountain pass (the first of many) that presented interesting driving challenges and beautiful views. Snow was an ever-present threat but I just loved the bleak winter landscape, the cool blues, greys and golden tones of the grasses, visible through the snow.
Making way for one of the many snow ploughs that work constantly to keep the roads clear, we stopped for a break; soup, sandwhiches and photographs.
We were heading for Akureyri and given the forecast, we didn’t want to waste any time in getting over the mountains but, I take photographs therefore stopping every few miles is obligatory.
Here’s a selection of photographs from this leg of our journey around Iceland. It still amazes me that I can stand in the middle of the Hringvegur (Route 1 Ring Road), the main road around Iceland, and take pictures without fear of being run down. :-)
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..