CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - AUGUST 2010 Journal Archives
Cloudland Cabin REMOTE Cam - from Iceland, sunrise at Veidivotn
ONE LAST photo from Iceland before I return to regular programming here. This was one of the last photographs I took during an intense hour of shooting in the predawn-to-sunrise light at Veidivotn. We were there before the fog, as the fog formed right before our eyes, and then as the fog lifted right on through us, then up into the sky - come to think of it this place was a lot like right here at Cloudland, where clouds are born, gather, then rise up and go on to parts unknown to provide shade and dreams for untold folks all across the land. This place was a land of rebirth as well, a new beginning for the world, full of wonder and amazement and just pure great beauty, as beautiful as any spot on earth. It was a humbling experience for me to be standing there right in the middle of it all, with camera in hand, trying my best to record it. A great honor for me. No doubt that very hour was one of the most incredible in all of my life and photographic career - and it was exactly what I went to Iceland to discover and experience. I've had many people ask me over the past few months "Why are you going to Iceland?" There was no answer as grand as this place. And for those who still don't understand, all I can say is come to one of my programs this holiday season and you will be BLOWN AWAY as I was. Wow, that's all I can say...
AUGUST PRINT OF THE MONTH
UPDATED Friday August 31st - autumn is near
08/01/10 Some things in nature are unmistakable - nothing else looks like them. As I was coming home the other day I thought I saw a bear way off down the road, standing in the middle of the freshly-mowed power line right of way. But it was very far away and did not move. I kept on going. Then I saw it again - it did not have the shape of a bear, but there was just something about it - still never moved. When I got closer the object finally moved and it was indeed a bear, a large one, and it was headed right to one of our "neighbor's" house. I don't know if it was the color, or the shape, or the texture of this guy, but even just a quick glance a half mile away told me it was a bear. I called our friend as soon as I got home to warn her that a bear was approaching so that she could bring in all of the things in her yard that might be sweet treats to a bear. We've done a really good job of this at our place this year, and have only had one bear near the cabin - last year was had dozens of them!
I've been seeing a lot of butterflies this year - probably more than the past five years combined. Not sure why. One got in front of me while I was out hiking the other day, and instead of flying the normal crazy patterns that butterflies usually fly, this guy flew pretty straight and true, and continued along the road right in front of me. I followed him for probably 100 yards, which is a LONG ways to follow a butterfly! I guess you could say that I was drafting behind him! Lance Armstrong would have been proud.
I've put myself into another corner time-wise, something I happen to be really good at. TONS of things still on my major to-do list before I leave the country next week and very little time to get them all done. I'm off to town this morning to judge a photography contest at a new fine art gallery - the Oak Leaf Gallery on the Harrison square. Next I'll drive over to the lower Buffalo River are and hike into a couple of new waterfalls that I need to measure - won't be able to take any photos since the water is so low right now, but it will be great to know how tall these guys are that I found last week. Then I've got to buy some supplies at the local hardware store and come back here and do some electrical work. One highlight of my road trip will be lunch - a fruit smoothie at the Sonic in Marshall - I LOVE fruit smoothies (in fact, I have one nearly every day for breakfast).
Got to pack up and hit the road, but I just noticed it is DEAD STILL outside - no air movement at all. But it also LOOKS cool outside, although it wasn't very cool at all when I was out an hour ago - I guess it is the cloud cover above that gives that impression. I'm happy with sun or clouds today since I'll be soaking wet just a few minutes after I hit the trail anyway - I'm hoping for a swim in the river after my hike to cool things down - hope you get to take a dip today too!
08/02/10 It is just now breaking daylight, cooler than the past week, with a slight breeze. Lots of little birds out flying and playing and catching bugs. Since we removed our above-ground pool last week that lived next to the cabin, the nightlife here as grown much quieter - think the difference between living next to a busy airport and out in the country. Many frogs of different shapes and colors loved to play in the pool, and they liked to SCREAM most of the night.
It was already 91 degrees in the woods when I stepped out of the car yesterday to go measure the new waterfalls I had found a couple of weeks ago. Since the hiking trail was brand new and no one knows about it or uses it, the weeds were dense and spider webs thick. And without my trusty bright orange measuring wheel that I pushed ahead of me last time, I was met with the full force of the weeds and spiders, I had to fight my way through at times. Lots of trails get grown up at this time of the year around here unless they are used frequently - this trail will be fine next year after people learn about it from the guidebooks (it will be included in two different guidebook updates - the first coming out in late September).
It was one of the hottest hikes I'd been on in a while, but it was great to get to measure those waterfalls - and two of the falls were even FLOWING! They measured out to be 45, 53, and 67 feet tall - very nice indeed! The hike back out was mostly uphill and even hotter, but my reward was a while later when I got to go for a "swim" in the Buffalo River, which helped wash all the weeds and spiders away. The river was quite shallow - only about two feet deep - but a hundred yards wide. The bottom was covered with colorful polished sandstone and limestone pebbles, and the clear water magnified their size and brightness. I lay down in the swift current with my head down and just let the river take me where it wanted to, the continuous scene of polished stones passing beneath me like I was flying over a beautiful landscape, and I was!
It was great to judge the photo contest in Harrison yesterday. There were more than 90 prints that included some really great photos in both color and black and white. It was a tough decision to pick the best of show and first place in the color division, but I kept coming back to these two prints over and over again so I figured the awards had to go to those - just which would be which? I disqualified myself from one other print since I had actually processed the RAW digital file for the photographer (a service that I offer to customers). One of the winning photos was his anyway (I had no clue about who took any of the rest of the photos in the contest). In the end I awarded 17 different prizes in three categories. The prints will be on display at the Oak Leaf Gallery on the square in Harrison throughout August (by the way, a display of my own canvas prints will hang in this gallery in December).
Looks like the sky is turning from pink to blue outside now and the sun can't be far behind, so I had better suit up and hit the road for a quick 11-mile hike before breakfast. I hope you have a GRAND MONDAY, the very best day of the week!
08/05/10 We have very YELLOW light all around this evening just before sunset. The landscape always looks so odd when bathed in yellow, yet at the same time it is all quite beautiful. There was just a hint of coolness in the air as I stepped outside into the shower beneath the big dogwood tree. By the time I was finished the sky had turned pink and the sun, which never actually appeared, disappeared into the horizon. Darkness came quickly, and now I'm sitting at the computer listening to a delightful chorus of nighttime bugs and a few tree frogs.
We've been in the same oven that many of you have this past week, but there were other times today when a shot of coolness swept across the landscape. I guess the humidity went down quite a bit along with the temp. Dry as a bone is where we are right now, although there were a few red areas on the weather radar - glad to see some of you got a good downpour! Our here the roads have turned into fine dust power, the sort that when a little critter scampers across it there is a cloud of dust trailing behind.
Butterflies must love the dry and hot - I've seen more of them around here this week then at any other time, ever. Man oh man they are everywhere! The chickens used to chase them, but now there are so many that they simply let them be.
Speaking of the chickens, they have finally discovered the little waterfall and creek in the front yard and spend a good bit of their day just standing in the shallow water, or up on a log that is across the creek. I bet if we still had a little pond that they would take off swimming and turn into ducks! A fourth hen came online yesterday, and one of the hens produces at least a couple of double-yokers each week.
The bear has not been back to Benny and Mildred's cabin since he torn down part of the big peach tree, but that tree is LOADED with fruit and I suspect the old bear will be back soon to eat his fill. Benny and I tried to harvest some of the peaches yesterday evening but they were not quite ripe yet - something the bear no doubt knows. The plan is to harvest the peaches before the bear can, hopefully saving the tree from being broken down further. I remember with great fondness the long hot days of August that I used to spend on my grandpa's farm in Minnesota. One of the highlights each year would be when we young ins' got to be hoisted up in the bucket of the tractor to pick apples, and then the apples were fed into a big press and fresh apple juice came streaming out - oh man that stuff was GOOD!
I have not put in any fitness miles this week due to some physical issues, but I'm sure in a lot better condition than I was to begin the summer. This has given me some time to rest up and repair and get ready for my upcoming trip into the cold land where I'll be packing a heavy camera backpack for as much as 20 hours a day. I think I'm up to it, and look forward to the challenge. But for now I think I'll crawl on up into the loft and curl up next to my lovely bride - and of course my faithful dog who takes up about half of the bed - and drift off to sleep to the music of the night bugs...
08/08/10 I'm on the road/plane to Iceland for a couple of weeks - the next update here will be on August 24th..
08/23/10 A couple of nights ago I was sitting in a restaurant looking out the window at a beautiful sunset behind a line of multi-colored buildings. Seated next to me were new friends and fellow photographers from Canada, Turkey, Finland, England, Australia, Iceland, and even one guy from the good old USA - a total of nine photographers from seven countries - quite a remarkable mix of wonderful people and great talent. Two weird things about the final night's gathering from my two week epic journey to Iceland - first, everyone spoke very good English, so there was never any communication problem; and secondly, the music on the stereo of this little restaurant in a quaint village in the country was I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND, plus other favorites from the Beatles - both English and the music of the Beatles are indeed universal languages!
I could easily talk about my journey non-stop for a year, and provide many long hours and days of reading here, but I will try to simply give a recap of the trip now and then fill in more as time goes on - plus there will be lots of info at my programs this fall, which will include a special slide program on Iceland. I also hope to post a new picture from Iceland each day this week as the "remote" Cloudland Cabin Cam at the top of this page, along with a story to go with each.
My journey began with a 12-hour drive up to Minneapolis to catch an overnight flight to Iceland. I had over 100 pounds of camera and other gear - much of that could not be checked and had to be carried on with me - and with the restrictive weight limits on domestic flights these days, and also the fact that I did not want to risk a late or missed connection to the trip of a lifetime, it was an easy decision to drive to Minnesota to catch a direct flight. Actually it was a lot cheaper for me to do it this way, and the drive time was only slightly longer than Pam having to drive me to Tulsa or Springfield or Little Rock and return again to get me at the end of the trip.
During the overnight flight I got to see the Northern Lights shining brightly over Nova Scotia, along with the Big Dipper just above. I arrived at 6:30am local time, then took a bus into the capitol city of Reykjavik, where I checked into my hotel room early (they gave me the best room in the hotel with a nice balcony that overlooked the town). I walked around for several hours exploring the tiny shops and homes and churches, then spent another hour or two reorganizing my four bags of luggage for the 11-day photo trip that would begin the next day.
At 4pm I was picked up by a small tour company and driven an hour to a national park for what would turn out to be one of the most incredible moments of my entire life - getting to dive down into the clearest water on the planet (officially measured as this by some agency somewhere), at a point where the tectonic plates of North America and Europe come together - I actually could reach out underwater and touch both continents at the same time! This was a surreal experience that I had only decided to make while on the flight over, and was lucky enough to get a spot in the evening tour. Wow, it was beyond belief!
Backing up a moment, my first impression of the people of Iceland while walking around the city were that they all stepped directly out of a magazine - all were beautiful, slim, healthy and fit, with chiseled features from top to bottom. The city and countryside were all trimmed and well kept - no pollution of any kind in site, nor trash, and everything seemed in order and just so neat and tidy. Later on, as our group of eight divers from four countries stripped to almost the bare bone (our "changing room" was simply the side of the road next to our vehicle), I realized the three ladies from Iceland were not quite as fit and trim as everyone else I had seen! The water was just above the freezing point so we had to wear not one but two special "dry" suits for the dive, and even with all that insulation on most of my body was completely numb by the end of the hour-long dive. Holy cow that water was COLD, but spectacular!
I hesitated to pay $17 for the buffet breakfast at the hotel the next morning, but I really didn't have much choice and decided to splurge this one time. This price would turn out to be about the cheapest meal of the entire trip - things are very expensive in Iceland. The food was quite wonderful, and I had at least three plate fulls - oops, so much for my diet! But since I had not eaten anything the day before I guess I was entitled.
A little while later the best nature photographer in Iceland picked me up and we were on our way, driving around the city picking up the rest of our crew. A few hours later we were standing at the foot of a spectacular and powerful, tall, THUNDERING waterfall - the first of many that we would visit on our trip. We set up camp a few hours later and then headed out along the southern coast and wound up spending the last few hours of daylight photographing a lagoon filled with icebergs that had come from a nearby glacier and were just floating around in the evening light - nothing short of amazing! We did not get back to the campsite until close to midnight.
My alarm went off at 2:45am and we all piled into the van and were off again for another photo adventure - this time to capture blue icebergs that were washing up on the black-sand beach at sunrise - holy cow! Since most photo tours of this type stay in hotels which are many hours of driving away, few photographers ever get to see this sight - we camped nearby and so did not have to drive great distances to be at wonderful places in the best light. This was one of the main reasons why I choose this particular photo trip - not so much to visit the popular tourist sites during the harsh light of midday, but rather to camp and live with the great scenic areas in the country when the light was best. Oh yes, and also to spend time with one of the greatest landscape and wildlife photographers in the planet, Daniel Bergman, who just happened to also be an Iceland native and knows more about Iceland than anyone else (i.e., he would be able to get us to the best shooting spots at the right times, and also be able to adjust our schedule as needed due to weather conditions, which happened frequently).
OK, so I have already started off rambling here and writing much too much, so I will get back into summarize mode. We spent our days traveling from one area to the next, and mornings and evenings photographing the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. We camped most of the time, but many of our campsites had support facilities like water and showers. A couple of times the group stayed in remote huts, but I almost always set up my tent and slept outside.
Temps were normally in the 50's and 60's during the day, dropping down to 30's and 40's at night. We had a lot of sunshine, but also several days of light rains - we tried to avoid the rains by moving to different areas, which worked well. We visited lots of waterfalls, thermal areas, lakes, and volcanic landscapes - heck, I guess the entire country was a volcanic landscape! One thing that surprised me though was the fact that even though much of the landscape was black, equal amounts were bright GREEN and lush and covered with mosses. Lots of hills were green and yellow and black. Lots of water too, both muddy glacier rivers and pristine clear fresh water rivers and lakes - especially the lakes - there were many of those.
No wildlife. In fact, there is only one native mammal in Iceland - the arctic fox, which we just happened to see on day two of the trip. There were a few birds around, but most of the 300+ species were beyond my sight. There were LOTS of sheep, although they were all in tiny family units of two or three - never in a flock as in other countries. And they were allowed free range everywhere - none were fenced in or penned up. But they were everywhere, from the highest mountaintops to the beaches. And they were really FAT too!
Very few dogs, and in fact I never saw a single dog out on any trail, and only a couple in one campsite, probably three or four total in towns. Lots of horses though - they only have one breed in the country - the pure bread Iceland Horse - no other horses are allowed in the country.
Speaking of being fat, while this was the very first time in my entire life that I was the OLDEST person in a group, I was also one of the fastest hikers, and soon earned the rep of being the first to reach any given landmark - something that was not by accident, but rather by design - if I got there first, I would have an open view! So I hiked fast and hard and kept up that pace the entire trip. Some of our hikes were many miles in steep and difficult terrain; sometimes the hikes to beautiful locations were short. We were on our own all of the time - we would park and everyone was free to wander and photograph as they pleased, a great feature of this photo trip.
Daniel prepared most of our food (along with his photo assistant, another great Iceland photographer, Christopher Lund), and it was quite tasty and there was always plenty of it. One issue I had though was the fact that we always had delicious CHOCOLATE treats around all the time - in camp or in the van - not good for this former-fat boy on a diet!
Nearly everyone that I met - either in the towns or out on the trails - was speaking a foreign language. However all of them also spoke English! And even though this was ICELAND, there was NO ICE! I'm talking about in restaurants - no ice for drinks, other than at a single restaurant - they had a bowl with ice cubes that was the most popular spot in the place and always a line. I wondered why no ice. Odd.
And even though the country was on hard economic times, the most popular specific car model that I saw was a Toyota Land Cruiser - about $100,000 cost in Iceland. We were sitting in a restaurant in a small town on day for lunch and I counted eight of them in the parking lot. Other vehicles that we saw in the back country were really interesting - lots of Russian vehicles and others that were all decked out for backcountry roads (VERY ROUGH) and deep river crossings (many had snorkels so the engine could breathe while under water). And we did indeed make many long miles and hours of drives through the heart of the highlands of the interior of Iceland - and saw some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth - WOW! I suspect that for every gorgeous location that Daniel took us to, we passed by a hundred impressive scenes along the way - no way to stop and photograph them all.
Oh yes, and NO FOUR-WHEELERS, yippie!!!!!! And I only saw a handful of motorcycles. Both types of machines tend to increase the noise pollution a great deal and it was so refreshing to not have to listen to them. No trash or pollution anywhere - I don't know how they do this other than to have a population that simply cares about their land, something that can't be said for Americans.
Hotel rooms were very expensive and TINY, with only slim single beds - nothing larger.
Breakfast was always granola or muesli with "thick" milk (thin yogurt), hard-boiled eggs, cheese, bread, lunch meat, and sliced veggies. And lots of coffee. They drink a lot of coffee, but I was really surprised that the coffee cups were TINY - probably only 3-4 ounces each - and cost about $4 per serving. Most meals were $15-$50 for normal servings (all the food was included in the trip cost, but it was interesting to see the menu descriptions and prices - always in both Icelandic and English). I've heard that the coffee in Iceland is really terrific, however I never had a cup that I liked, no matter how much sugar and cream I added. The very first cup that I had back here at home yesterday (laced with CoffeeMate French Vanilla creamer) was far and away better than anything I had in Iceland.
Well, I could go on for hours and days, but I'll post this now and add more later with the photo each day. Bottom line - it was indeed the trip of a lifetime for me, which included some of the most spectacular landscapes and light on the planet (I shot about 5,000 photos). The food and company were first rate, and the country was very impressive - from the people to the sheep to the clean, environmental ways. Would I ever return? Not only do I plan to return again soon and often, but I'm considering learning the language! Iceland is now on the very top of the list of places (outside the USA) I would like to go to - even though I just returned! It is going to take me many days to catch up with e-mails and other business here - would have taken me months if not for my lovely bride taking care of business while I was away. In fact on top of all her other chores, plus all of my chores she had to cover for, she somehow managed to direct construction of several wonderful items here at the cabin - she was a busy bee while I was gone! OK, time to find a photo out of the 5,000 to post here....Thank GOODNESS it is Monday!!!
Oops, one last note. I had some trouble getting through customs when re-entering the USA. The agent held up my passport next to my face and kept looking at me and then back at the passport photo with a very puzzled look on his face. It was a brand new passport that I just got this year so it was a recent photo. The guy kept asking me questions about my trip, and especially about the newest volcano, which we did see and spent quite a bit of time near, but did not get any good photos of. Anyway, finally the guy asked me if I had lost any WEIGHT - I told him I had lost 20 pounds just for the trip (which I'm really glad that I did since I needed to be in the best of shape for this grueling photo trip) and that seemed to click in his mind since he too had just been to Iceland with a camera and understood how tough some of the hiking was! Whew, that was a close one...
Sunrise at Veidivotn. We left camp at 4am and drove silently through the night, past miles and miles and miles of darkness on very rough roads. It wasn't until later on that I realized the darkness was really just the BLACK SOIL all around us! Actually the "soil" was simply volcanic material. As the sky all around us began to glow pink and red I realized we had entered another world - a world of many craters and lakes and rounded black hills everywhere that had been created in the year 871 when Iceland was alive with volcanic activity. I could hardly contain myself with all the spectacular scenery we were passing - if I had not been strapped down in the back of the van I probably would have jumped out many times! We drove to the far end of the area just as things were really beginning to get going color-wise, and parked on a ridgetop. I stepped out of the van and looked around - there were lakes and black hills in all directions, all beginning to light up with the brilliant and colorful glow of pre-dawn. This would turn out to be one of the most difficult locations for me to photograph since there was SO MUCH great beauty in every direction! So many shapes and colors, and the shapes and colors changed with each step that I took. An hour later I was totally exhausted from the emotional experience of it all. WOW, what a place!
08/24/10 It is quite cool here this morning and the air is sweet and clean. I can feel just a touch of the wonderful fall weather that will be soon upon us. And in fact we have some really nice fall color already - young black gum trees were blazing along Hwy. 16 yesterday when I made a quick run into town to pick up the first sample copies of our new books and calendar (by the way, the books and calendar look as good as ANY we've ever produced before!!!). Since we had so much wet weather early this summer, the trees are very healthy and there is no sign of distress (I think some folks got used to the rains and forgot that we are normally very dry in August - we are not in any sort of "drought" conditions right now, just perfectly normal, or in fact wetter than normal). The healthy trees means we'll most likely have a splendid fall color season.
Back to Iceland. Speaking of trees, generally speaking there are NONE in Iceland. A few areas have small clumps of trees, but these were obviously planted recently - only in one location did I ever see what I would call a forest of trees, and what a stark contrast that area was in relation to the rest of the country. But still the landscape seemed LUSH to me with so many hills being covered with thick green and yellow mosses. And lots of grass too, which helped feed the sheep population, - wild grass, not cultivated, although much of the country side had been "bailed" and there were large hay bales all over the place - each carefully wrapped in a bright white wrapper, and many neatly stacked for later feeding during the winter.
Cell phone coverage. Pretty much the entire country had cell phone coverage, and very good coverage at that, not the pathetic excuse for spotty coverage that we have in this country. I don't understand this at all - I mean, really, even in the most remote areas of Iceland the cell signal was STRONG. Yet there were hardly any cell towers at all, and they were very small and hardly noticeable. In the US, probably 90% of the country remains without good cell phone coverage, and even in cities here you can lose your call at any moment, even within sight of a cell tower - I never lost signal, ever, in Iceland, except for one location when the cell tower or "antenna" had been knocked out for a few hours. I just don't understand. I guess this is just another example of the fact that we Americans seem to accept very poor quality from of our companies - it is obvious that we CAN have terrific cell service everywhere here in the US, yet the cell phone companies refuse to provide this for some weird reason, and we as consumers continue to pay for service that we do not get - as long as the cell companies continue to get our money they will not change..
Today's photo was taken near the top of a tall mountain peak (Mt. Brennisteinsalda) that I visited several times while in the Landmannalauger park - in fact made a long hike up before sunrise two days in a row, plus a third time during the day. It was during the daytime trip that I made this picture of the colorful hills just below me. I had photographed this scene a couple of times before in different light but was never satisfied. Most folks went on farther up the trail to the very top of the mountain, but I preferred to veer off the trail and wander on over to this view, which was hidden from the main trail. The colors are different minerals that were spewed out by a volcano (including the blue), with only the green being vegetation. Later I was down on that little creek and followed it way on up and out of sight in this photo, finding still more hills like this. I consider this one of the most spectacular views that I saw, and I have a feeling there will be a very large canvas print of it in our gallery during our holiday open houses - you really need to see this image LARGE to see all of the detail!
Today's photo - I slept in until nearly 4am one morning - it was already getting light as I got dressed inside my tent and had a bite to eat. Some of the other photographers had left an hour before to climb a really tall mountain to photograph the first rays of sunshine. As I left the camping area the eastern horizon was glowing red and pink and orange, and I ran ahead to find a spot along a creek where I could get some color and shape and movement against the brilliant rising sun. I got some good photos of it all, but it kind of put me behind schedule - my goal for the morning was to hike up a canyon trail and eventually made my way up near another mountain top, and then down into a small ravine where I had seen some small ponds the day before - I wanted to see about getting some quiet reflections as the first rays of sunshine illuminated the surrounding hills. As I hiked higher and higher the sun lit up peak after peak after peak, and I was forced to stop and take pictures, putting me more behind. It was obvious I had missed the best light, but perhaps I could make the trip again the following morning to get the reflections that I wanted.
I completed my trek anyway and dropped down to the little ponds just to have a look, and when I arrived I discovered that I was actually right on time and the scene was quite spectacular! The other American in our group (from Baltimore), had the same idea as me, and had already arrived at the little pond - no doubt he had been getting some amazing photos already. I ran down the steep hillside to the edge of the little pond, set up my camera gear, and spent the next few minutes in total euphoria - these are the types of scenes that you life for as a nature photographer, and even though sometimes you put in a great deal of work to get there, and must have a lot of luck going for you to get the right conditions, it often seems surreal, and I kept looking around and wondering if it was indeed real - me, standing near the top of a mountain at sunrise in Iceland, with this incredible view stretched out right in front of me. It was well worth the trip!
08/26/10 BIG NEWS FROM CLOUDLAND! My lovely bride entered a dozen of her "blue" chicken eggs in the county fair and she won RESERVE GRAND CHAMPION! This is SO funny to me since that is one of the things Pam has always joked about moving out here into the woods - entering something in the county fair. Now she has, and now she had a big fat ribbon to boot!
Speaking of my lovely bride, in her quest to surprise me with a ton of things (including cleaning up a horrible mess in one of our buildings), she injured her back again, and at one point while on a quick trip to take our girls to a concert in Kansas City got stuck in the front seat of her car in so much pain that she was unable to drive, or unable to even get out of the seat. She has pretty much been flat on her back most of the time since, other than to get up and exercise for a few minutes each day. She is gradually getting better and better. It has not helped that my stuff is now strewn all over the cabin. Thank goodness that Pam's dad has come to the rescue once again and has been over here nearly every day doing chores.
And while this is not funny "ha, ha" but rather funny "odd" - I came home with a really bad case of something and have mostly been in bed trying to recover since my arrival home too. In fact about the only thing I've been able to do is to get up and write this post each day and process a photo to go along with it - I've not even downloaded all of my photos from the trip yet! I think the fever broke yesterday though and I am on the way to getting better - I got a few hours of sleep last night. Perhaps we'll have a proper home coming next week.
The temp was kind of like Iceland here this morning - down into the upper 40s - and certainly a sign of cooler fall weather to come. Since I've been mostly in bed since my return I have not been outside to feel the heat, but I'm sure this cool front is great for everyone who does.
This was one of the most unreal moments of my entire trip to Iceland. It had been nearly midnight when I got to bed the night before, and the alarm went off at 2:45am for a trip down the southern coast and out to the beach. We could see the warm glow of predawn as the black sands of the beach appeared. Then our leader yelled out "ICE ON THE BEACH!" That is what we were hoping for, although I had no idea it would be as incredible as we were soon to discover.
The beach really was BLACK sand, and beautiful. The surf was pounding, and bringing along with it several large icebergs - several were already stranded on the beach, with more out in the surf on their way in. We all scrambled to find a position and composition that would capture the ice, black sand, surf, and the color of the sky behind - a scene you simply don't get on normal photo tours in Iceland since this area is so far away from the hotels were most photo tourists stay (we were much closer since we were camping out, exactly as planned).
The next hour was magical to say the least, as I worked many different ice sculptures individually, and also in groups. Sometimes the ice would move when a big wave surged in, but sometimes the moving was just painted its own picture as it pounded, leaving the ice still and sharp in the photo. The colors of the sky were great, but so were the black sand and churning ocean. Long exposures of up to 20 seconds made the suft soft, and the colors even more surreal.
Several times during our stay SEALS would surface and play in the moving ice, and in face one time a seal jumped completely out of the water right there in front of me, in between two chunks of ice that I was photographing - no way for me to have got a photo of the seal since my exposures were so long, but it just added to the mystique and quite incredible experience. Have I said WOW! enough yet? Once we all finished shooting we gathered at the back of our van farther up on the beach and Daniel fixed coffee and passed out chocolate-covered "biscuits" (cookies), and we all sipped and munched and stood there in quiet disbelief of the great beauty we had just been a part of. I was emotional drained and hyped up at the same time, and it was only 5:45am! Time to head back to camp for breakfast, and then onto our next Iceland adventure.
08/27/10 Folks have asked about the fellow photographers on my Iceland trip, so here are a few bits about each. First off, this was a "photo tour" and not a workshop - everyone on the trip was an accomplished photographer in their own right. And it was an "extreme" tour, which meant we were not staying hotels, but rather camped most of the time, choosing locations that were close to scenic spots so that we did not have to drive too far in the dark to get to them for the best light. Daniel Bergmann is considered the premiere nature photographer in Iceland and was the leader of our trip - in fact it was HIS trip. He is indeed quite a terrific landscape photographer, but he is one the very best bird photographers in the world. What he did best on this trip (besides doing EVERYthing else for us), was knowing the best places to go in the best light at the best time of the day, and when dull weather approached he drove us to another area where we could find beautiful light - he knows Iceland better than anyone. While most of the time Daniel got us to the trailhead and headed us off in the best directions to photograph on our own, every now and then the light and dramatic landscape spread out before us was so spectacular that he could be seen diving for his own camera gear and running off like the rest of us to photograph. He was easy to get along with and seemed to go out of his way to make everyone get the most out of their special photo trip to Iceland. I would highly recommend Daniel's trips to anyone (not all of them are hard-core like this one, in fact most are hotel-based with a much easier schedule, but still great photo locations). AND I would return for another trip with him in a second, and probably will in the near future. Daniel's only fault - he never was able to master the hillbilly language, even though he kept trying!
Christopher Lund was Daniel's assistant, himself an accomplished Icelandic photographer who will probably be leading his own photo tours in the near future. A great guy to be around and always helpful. The only other American on the trip was Chuck from Baltimore (see some of the amazing photos he got here), who not only put up with all of us without complaining, he brought along an underwater camera that I thought was silly, but he ended up using it quite a bit - which left me wishing I had one too! Some of his photos with the camera half-submerged in shallow streams were just amazing!
When I first met the jolly gentleman from Turkey (Fatih, a doctor), he shook my hand with a big grin on his face and said "You really did lose 20 pounds for this trip didn't you!" What? How in the world did he know? He had read all about my quest to get in shape online and wanted to make sure I made good on the deal. It was always great fun to work around him, not only because he was a great and funny guy, but also because he had the biggest and most expensive one in the group - and so everyone had camera envy! He also gave me some medical advice about the nagging left arm of mine that refuses to heal, and now I am several days into a new treatment that I'm hopeful will finally cure me - if so, three cheers for Turkey!
The guy from Canada was the youngest in the group, but was the most knowledgeable about Iceland (of the tour group). He had spent 42 days last year touring the country on a bicycle - that must have been really fun! Our gent from England (Per - his first images are here), had been to Iceland before also, on one of Daniel's other photo tours a couple of years ago. He was tall and a strong hiker and tough to keep in sight. He was still shooting FILM, and in fact only brought enough film for 54 pictures per day - and I bet he got some really terrific stuff on that film!
The guy from Finland (Mikael) was also tall and a strong hiker (his main web site, and some photos from our trip here) - he had to be since his camera bag was overstuffed with two cameras and many lenses that weighted a ton! He ranged far and wide and often was the last to return to the van after hours of shooting, or when we were camped at a scenic location he would get up early and climb to the tallest peak in the area. At times he reminded me of a KGB agent, but he also was warm and friendly and I bet he got some terrific photos to add to his impressive collection.
And finally our good friend from down under, who was on the very first leg of an epic journey. On his "way home" from the Iceland trip he is going to stop off in America and GET MARRIED! Then he plans to spend some time touring the US before heading back to Australia. He always wore shorts - even when it was 3 degrees Celsius with a howling wind, and he ALWAYS had a video camera in one hand, and it was usually running. He photographed EVERYTHING with the video camera, only putting it down long enough to shoot with his normal digital camera. And even though he had spent his share of time in hospitals for numerous serious injuries in his young adventurous life, he was perhaps the strongest hiker of all and would disappear for hours at a time and show up miles away, always with a big grin on his face. I believe he might have enjoyed this trip the most of all, if it would have been possible for anyone to beat the rest of us - I think everyone had a grand old time, and I could not think of a better group of folks from around the world to spend eleven days and nights with. Did I mention that I was the OLDEST of all these guys - and by a long shot.
Some of the guys working at sunrise at Veidivotn.
Namafjall geothermal area near Myvatn. Oops, I have included not one, but three photos today of the same subject. Much of the Iceland landscape appears lunar-like, including many active geothermal areas scattered all across the country. These areas help provide power and hot water to the larger cities, but also wonderful scenic landscapes for photographers too! We visited a couple of specific geothermal areas at sunrise and sunset, but also worked in and around many others - sometimes just a single smoking vent. Most were colorful, many stunk like rotten eggs, all were quite dangerous if you got too close.
08/28/10 Water, water, WATER everywhere! And that meant a lot of waterfalls, yippie!!! Who would have thought I could be happy shooting waterfalls - in fact Iceland has some of the most spectacular waterfalls on earth, including the most powerful one on the planet. But after several days of photographing waterfalls our fearless leader feared we might be growing tired of them, so as we drove near the access road to the waterfall pictured above he asked if we even wanted to bother and go see if - naturally I shouted out ABSOLUTELY! It wasn't until we drove into the parking lot that the rainbow began to appear. I was out the door and running down the trail like a madman in an instant, as the intensity of the rainbow grew with each step. Having never been to this location before I had no idea where a good vantage point would be, but at the first point where I could see the falls and the rainbow together I left the trail and cut across the rocky hillside to a point overlooking the waterfall and hastily set up my camera gear. The wind was blowing pretty hard and driving rain, and so my typical umbrella setup to protect the camera was useless. The rainbow continued to grow more and more intense and I scrambled to get my act together and shoot some photos. Out of the corner of my eye I realized there was another photographer right next to me on the hillside doing the same - it was our fearless leader, flushed out of the van with his camera gear - I knew it must be a pretty darn nice scene for Daniel to be working it. Like many light events in Iceland, this one lasted a long time, and after I was satisfied with my photo, I ran on down the hillside to join the others who were closer to the waterfall. I eventually climbed up onto a small hillside just as the full rainbow began to show itself, and then spent the next five minutes composing the scene that you see above. There were actually three rainbows at one point, although none were quite as intense as the original one I photographed, but I kind of like this composition. It was a stunning highlight of the trip - one of many.
08/29/10 It is warmer here this morning at first light with a nice breeze. We've had a couple days of really cool weather early, but warming up by noon. Lots of clouds today so the temps may not get as warm. I've been slowly coming back to life and have been able to get out and walk a little bit - man the roads are POWDER DUST and we could use a bit of rain just to pack it down a little bit. Otherwise this is pretty typical heat and weather for August in the Ozarks, although I know a lot of folks complain about it and say how hot and dry it is. Actually I think the ground is much less dry than normal - we often have large cracks in the earth's crust around here in July and August and I have not seen anything like that yet. Only two more days of Iceland photos left for you to endure, then I'll get back to the normal deck cam photo each morning..
We did not spend too much time along the coast since this was an interior/highlands trip, but when we were along the coast it was pretty darn nice. This is one spot where Daniel just "happened" to pull off for a rest, and naturally I went flying out of the van and headed to the black-sand beach. While I was in Iceland I sent "Find Me Spot" notifications back to home base and Pam was able to click on the e-mail link and it would show her my location on Google Earth, along with photos of the area - including this sea stack. I've used those e-mail links (sent from me to her via satellite) to retrace our trip - one of these days I'll even add some names to these places. I used a very long exposure (about a minute) for this exposure to smooth out the ocean waves...
Sorry, another waterfall - this one is called Dettifoss ("foss" means "waterfall" in Iceland). This one happens to be the "most powerful" one in all of Europe, rated by the cubic miles of sediment that flows over it in a day (or hour, or minute) - it is some gigantic amount of suspended stone (see the tiny people at the upper left and right of the falls for scale). There are two kinds of waterfalls in Iceland - "fresh" water ones like we are used to here in Arkansas, and "glacial" flow ones like this giant one and the one I posted with the rainbow. They have some giant rivers draining giant glaciers, and the rivers and waterfalls they produce remind me of thin concrete - same slate-gray color and even the same texture at times. All that muck is ground up volcanic debris from the hills above that the glaciers have churned up as they reshape the landscape.
08/31/10 So very nice and cool early this morning in the wilderness! It is mostly clouds with a spot or two of soft sunshine filtering through here and there. We also are beginning to see a few bits of yellow out in the landscape, and even a bit of red - trees that perhaps have tired of summer and long to begin the fall color season.
I have posted the last of the daily photos from Iceland - I suspect everyone is tired of them by now, and that is OK. I'll get back to Arkansas photos starting tomorrow. Sometime in the next week or two I will dig into the 5,000 or so images from Iceland and select the 100 that will go into the new holiday slide program series. Once that is done I will post an online gallery of that batch. In the meantime, I suspect that the September Prints Of The Month will have an Icelandic theme - stay tuned...
A small maple at the edge of Mom's meadow this morning - autumn is coming to Cloudland, yippie!