Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Have a Stamp

At last! With the help of Claire Thomas, I have a couple stamps (ode to Weegee). I am excited to use the vertical one as Claire designed it specifically for me to use for the Postcard Collective. Maybe I should sign up for the next round of submissions....

Monday, September 28, 2015

Iceland Day 13: Reykjavik

The last day walking the streets of Reykjavik included a trip to the Museum of Photography and Hafnarhús. It was very difficult to reconcile the city experience versus the Ring Road and I failed miserably in my desire to see contemporary art. Next time, I would start with Reykjavik, returning to the US fresh from the road. I valued the landscape over the city and wanted to appreciate Europe's northernmost capital more than I did.

The water, however, continued to taste delicious and I filled a plastic bottle from this restaurant, packed it in my bag and drank it two months later on the first day of school.

The light continued to creep through the blinds while we slept. Two weeks in Iceland and the thought of the night sky turning black was suddenly a strange phenomenon. I had grown used to this and could not imagine what the world would look like dark.

There are circumstances in my life where I refuse to conform and visiting the most popular tourist destination in the country proved to be one. I had no interest in spending my time in a pool filled with a geothermal plant's waste water (especially after visiting Mývatn) even though I was in Iceland to collect documentation for a project with the central theme of water. I bought a postcard and photographed it in the hotel room while packing. This is the closest I got to the Blue Lagoon and I left the country on good terms with that decision.

 [Photograph by Hannah Barnes upon the arrival of the postcard in her mailbox.]

In the months since my return, I have delved into the subject of the Drowning Pool (producing a submission for the Postcard Collective as a "thinking piece" as seen above and below).

I have visited numerous hardware stores where I spend time "reading paint samples", collecting the names that coincide with Scandinavia and will soon produce my own. I have nearly finalized the meltwater diptych featuring a comparison study between Lake Louise and the glacial lagoons.

Iceland will remain a vivid memory for quite some time and the moment it starts to fade will be marked with the return trip purchase of an airline ticket. I will not be so quick to let it go.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Iceland Day 12: Gullfoss to Reykjavik

We return to Þingvellir in the morning to rephotograph the Drowning Pool on the "real" camera. The sun was in an awkward position (not a new story there) and the best photographs are, unfortunately on my iPhone. More on that eventually.

We arrived in Reykjavik in the early afternoon with plenty of time to walk around the city. We found all the Americans! After visiting one of the oldest swimming pools (we were unable to photograph it because we were not paying customers), we traveled to Hallgrímskirkja. Here is the view from the national monument/Lutheran Church.

Many people agreed that this was one of the best views in town as witnessed by the shoe marks (little ghosts) worn into the viewing stands.

The Harpa concert hall and cultural center opened in 2011 and it was high on my list of recent architectural structures to see. It was designed by Henning Larsen Architects and the artist Olafur Eliasson, whose work I have long admired. Aspects of the exterior reminded me of a kaleidoscope but it was the interior that stole the show.

The colored window panes were reminiscent of a toy I had as a child (and were perhaps the same hue).

We could have looked at the harbor this way for hours but we were hungry and there was still more to see before it turned "dark."

During our brief stints in the hotel room, I documented the solstice through the window with a view of the courtyard. I have a love/hate relationship with this day as summer is the month I long for and cannot wait for it to arrive. Since moving to the Midwest, I grow despondent because all days grow shorter from then onward. It was the first year this did not matter and I secretly hoped to spend all summer solstices near the Arctic Circle. The last photograph was the darkest the sky turned before we fell asleep well past 1 AM.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Iceland Day 11: Hella to Gullfoss

I inserted the above photograph of another 4x4 truck in Iceland from the Hella hotel parking lot (because I want to learn how to ford a river ... as a passenger). Then I watched a video (partially) and discovered that these vehicles can drive on top of the snow. The true definition of off roading. Until next time....

We searched long and hard for the most complicated Icelandic road sign where I was not pointing into the sun to photograph it. This one in between Hella and Gullfoss was a winner. There is a gravel turn out in front, if you see it quick enough to pull over, where one can read the map because that surely isn't going to happen when driving by at "90 kph".

Yet another remarkable waterfall in the middle of little vegetation and a seemingly flat landscape ... Gullfoss. This one had two tiers and produced enough mist to cause cameras to rust instantaneously.

Lower tier

The view of the upper tier was my favorite because it felt as if I could have been swept away into the current (not that I long for that to happen like some people who feel the pull of Niagara Falls, but there was a certain rush being that close to it).

I was standing behind a barrier when taking his photograph...

... he, however, was not.

We drove through the Golden Circle visiting the tourist destinations of Geysir and Laugarvatn Lake briefly (because they barely competed with the rest of the country in terms of magnificence) before reaching Þingvellir National Park (AKA Field of the Parliament or Parliament Plains). I enjoyed it here immensely. History dominates (and does not rely on fairies or trolls to tell it). It is not that difficult to imagine laws enacted, marriage licenses obtained, and people from all over the country traveling here in 1100 AD to camp and trade on the plains surrounding the Öxará River.

I was enamored with the boardwalk at Öxaráfoss. The precise cuts enabled rocks to jut out freely replicating the landscape in the distance or were zoomorphic in appearance.

I could not stop thinking about the Drowning Pool in the Öxará (Ax River). I have experience with water and accidental demise but not via execution. Between 1618 and 1749, eighteen women guilty of adultery and perjury, were known to have been placed into a sack, held down and drowned here. There was no way to adequately depict the history or emotion of this in photographs, but I would try on two separate occasions.

The falls below the Drowning Pool.

Ending on an upbeat note, I have a new goal before my next voyage to the Land of Fire and Ice: obtain my scuba certification and visit the Silfra fissure, known to have the "clearest water on earth." I too want my photograph taken touching both the Eurasian and North-American plates because this is the most unimaginable activity I could accomplish and never even knew it was a possibility.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Iceland Day 10: The Southcoast to Hella

Here is yet another unsuccessful attempt to keep the omnipresent light out of the hotel room in Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

The neat old telephone made up for it though.

Today was our last day on the coast and I was willing puffins to appear at each stop. People I had consulted before visiting Iceland said they were everywhere and ten days in, not one had materialized. First stop after crossing the black lava sand flats of Mýrdalssandur was Vík. In a country so new (geologically speaking) with unexpected volcanic activity, standing near rocks like this continued the theme of human vulnerability.

Scale reference. We even saw an insect that wasn't a midge crawling on the rocks. Every living thing felt out of place.

It was in Vík that I realized I have unintentionally collected black sand from all the beaches I have ever visited and this proved no exception.

In reality, they were black pebbles.

Reynisfjall lay around the corner but first a binocular photograph of the Reynisdrangar stacks, pillars of rock rising out of the sea (a less eroded version of the formations that surround Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon). Only Arctic terns were spotted but I kept hoping.

Reynisfjall (straight out of a Bon Iver music video) also reminded me of the Oregon Coast. The basalt formations resembled church organs above the cave named Hálsanefshellir.

Dyrhólaey, once called Cape Portland (now that is a name I can remember and pronounce) was closed due to nesting but we were able to get very close (no surprise there!). First up: a binocular photograph from Reynisfjall.

Once arriving at the rock formation, we saw a crowded Icelandic beach in June.

Donna found two puffins nesting before we rounded the corner for the full view of Dyrhólaey. We were so happy to see this after they had remained elusive for nearly the duration of the journey. We stared at them for quite awhile in the cold wind.

Thew view of Dyrhólaey was spectacular and even more so when we saw that the predominant white area in the rock formation above featured a line of nesting puffins among the Arctic terns....

It was the perfect way to end our trek along the coast before we headed inland to see more foss. The fact that it was a place once named Portland was not lost upon me either.

Next up, the very famous (I can't even count how many works of art where this foss is featured): Skógafoss. We would climb the stairs on the right, legs burning in our new waterproof pants.

Skógafoss was more dramatic of a location than my previous water sample collected at Svartifoss so I dumped it out and collected a new specimen. [Photograph by Donna Goedhart]

Here lies the point where I would never be seen standing in all of Iceland. Fortunately, no one broke past the minuscule barrier (read non existent) to pose for a photograph or take a selfie while we were admiring the view.

Eyjafjallajökull was nearby but it was enshrouded in clouds. We opted to not walk on a glacier since last year's memory of the Columbia Icefield Parkway was very fresh. Sadly, I was not fully prepared with the right shoes (left in Stan, the rental SUV) to swim in Seljavallalaug. It is a must on the next visit as it is the only outdoor geothermal pool where I still feel inclined to swim in the entire country (not waste water from a treatment plant).

The sun shone briefly at Seljalandsfoss and a tiny rainbow appeared at the base of the falls.

It was too slick to walk behind but this photograph that Donna took of me blinded without my sunglasses will serve as a reminder of how much I loved this foss.

A hotel on a horse ranch near Hella was our final destination. Here is a still life from the common area.