Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 2

Another stop along the paths of the Snæfellsnes peninsula

One of the things that I cannot overstate about Iceland is that there are great views wherever you go. Even when the weather might not be perfect, you’ll find yourself in awe of the landscape, just about no matter where you are in this gorgeous island nation. And when the weather plays into your hand, you find yourself almost overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounds you.

During our first day on the Snæfellsnes peninsula our tour leader, Loren Fisher, just about blew our mind with the number of great locations and the vistas that we experienced. Even when he took us on a little detour from the main attractions, there appeared a great photographic subject in front of our lenses.

Arnarstapi Vista

In real estate the operative words are “Location, location, location”. That doesn’t begin to describe where we see this house that is near the little harbor in the village of Arnarstapi, also known as Stapi. The house is called Amtmannshúsið in Icelandic, as it was the residence of the Danish Prefect during the time that Iceland still belonged to Denmark. This is now a historical site.

In the background you see the snow-covered peaks of Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000-year old glacier-capped stratovolcano. For the readers who remember Jules Verne’s book ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, you may be interested to know that Stapi was the last stop before climbing Snæfellsjökull, where they enter the interior of the planet through a tunnel.

To the left, we see the slopes of Mount Stapafell, a pyramid shaped palagonite mountain; atop the mountain sits Fellskross, the dwelling of the “hidden people” or elves. It is rumored to have magical powers!

The hill in the right hand side of the image is part of a lavafield, a landscape feature that is ubiquitous in Iceland.

For the photography nerds among you, this image was captured with a Canon EOS R5 using a Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM lens. I shot this at ISO 800 and an aperture of F/11 and 1/640 sec shutter speed.

Processing was done using a combination of Skylum Luminar AI and Adobe Photoshop. In Luminar AI, I created a template for the Snæfellsnes images that was based on ‘City – Cozy Streets’ from the Ultimate Travel Collection of templates by Albert Dros. Starting from this template, I added warmth, structure and strength to the sky, as well as several other adjustments, resulting in what I named ‘Snæfellsnes Drama’. Photoshop was then used for some minor adjustments and a bit of soft light and contrast.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula – part 1

A while back, I presented you with a teaser with some images of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which provides an incredible variety for photography, ranging from stunning landscapes to history and wildlife.

Today, I’ll highlight one of the early encounters on our trip: Búðakirkja in the town of Búðir.

Búðakirkja standing strong under a heavy sky

This is one of a set of so-called ‘black’ churches in Iceland, which stand apart from many other churches due to their exterior being covered with tar pitch, so that they could better withstand the elements.

Búðakirkja was built originally in 1703, when it was a small turf church with a cemetery to provide consecrated grounds; burials have taken place here since 1705. Due to the rough weather and economics, the church fell into disrepair and was abolished by royal letter in 1816 due to its poor condition.

In the mid-19th century, a local widow, Steinunn Sveinsdóttir, applied for permission from Church authorities to rebuild a church at Búðir. Her efforts led and paid for the building of the wooden church that we know today.

Búðakirkja with mountain range in the background

Construction of the church finished in 1848, and it was consecrated in 1851. Steinunn passed away in 1854 at the age of 77 years; she is buried in Búðir cemetery, where a gravestone still stands in her memory.

The church itself is rather small, as it measures approximately 9m x 5m, which is a single space; it seats about 50 people and is still available for ceremonies. Just be aware that there is no heating or running water in the church, so you may have to rough it a bit.

Búðakirkja holds one’s attention

Visiting this location definitely provided me with a sense of mystery and a deep appreciation for the people who made (and make) this area their home. It takes dedication, perseverance and faith to be successful in this rugged land.

More details about the church can be found at its website link.

Brno at Night

A couple of quick images from wonderful Brno

As it’s a week of business travel and the usual all day affair of meetings and meals, I’ve been remiss in posting; so here’s a quick post of a couple of captures while walking back to my hotel here in Brno.

Father Martin Streda statue

This statue of the revered Father Martin Streda struck me with the interesting lighting, as it stands next to the Jesuit Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Father Martin Streda’s reverence comes from the time of the siege of the city of Brno by Swedish troops during 1645; according to the stories told, the Virgin Mary appeared to him during his prayers and told him that the city of Brno would not be conquered, if everyone obeyed God. After this apparition, Martin proceeded to be uncannily accurate in his predictions of attacks by the Swedish and the last cannonball fired at the city landed at his feet and remained motionless.

Little Mozart

This statue produces another interesting shadow due to the way it is lighted. It is known as ‘Little Mozart’ and stands in front of the Reduta Theatre on the square known as the Cabbage Market (still in operation 6 days a week). In 1767, the then 11 year old Mozart performed at the theater along with his sister Maria Anna. The statue is unusual in that it has the head of a mature Mozart on an child’s body with a single wing; the latter is likely included to mark the tragic death of the composer.

If you get the chance, Brno is a fabulous city to visit with lots of sights, great restaurants and hospitable people. I always enjoy coming back here.

And yes, the meetings and trip have been extremely productive!

Visit to a Volcano (part 2)

Part 2 of a trek to Fagradalsfjall volcano and the experience of witnessing Earth’s tremendous power

In yesterday’s post (Visit to a Volcano – (part 1)), I documented the journey to the August eruption of Fagradalsfjall, which took us about 2-1/2 hours to reap the reward of the sound and fury of Mother Earth.

After overcoming the first sensations of the sound and vision produced by Nature at its finest, I found a spot from where I could set up my tripod and camera; with a Canon RF 100-500mm telephoto lens mounted, I wanted to get to the capturing of this amazing spectacle…

Volcanic Action #1

In the first couple of images, I attempted to get a sense of the scene in front of me. Under the spell of Nature’s prowess, these were feeble trials of basic photographic work.

Part of what I had to come to grips with was that I needed to connect with what was happening in front of me; having never experienced a volcanic eruption in person before, I was overwhelmed…

Volcanic Action #2

As I tightened my shot and reduced the field of view, I started the process of building a connection with Earth’s power. Heat was palpable and even the bright day could only diminish some of the glow of the lava flowing away from the cones.

As I slowly started to make a connection, there were aspects of the eruption that I could sense: rhythm, magnitude, under-worldly sounds…

Volcanic Action #3

Lines started forming in from of my lens, as the feel of the volcano’s machinations could be felt in every fiber of my body. Between the low register sounds emitted by build up and compression of air in the underground chambers, and the semi-explosive emissions of lava into the air, one cannot help but be inspired.

Slowly but surely, I attempted to build a series of images…

Volcanic Action #4

There is a sort of fiery dance, as the lava is thrown up into the air with the grace of a ballerina, where it solidifies into shards that glow in their descent. It reminds me of a hot spring, where the mud releases streams of water into the air, but significantly hotter!

The visions kept dancing…

Volcanic Action #5

The glow of the lava stream with the multitude of fiery shards in the air really gave me the sense of witnessing something beyond humanity’s capability to fully harness. The immense power coupled with such beauty left me staring in amazement.

And the best part is that this spectacle kept on performing in front of my eyes…

Volcanic Action #6

Capturing protuberances gave me a sense of what it might be to look at our Sun from a closer vantage point. We’re given a taste of our home star’s power on our own planet.

The unfortunate part is that our visit had to end, as we were on a timetable. I could have spent many more hours at this amazing site, and would have loved to capture this brilliance under darker conditions. However, I will cherish that time that I had at Fagradalsfjall volcano, knowing that I was lucky enough to experience something that lasted for only 19 days. Sometimes, it’s good to be lucky in getting to a place!

The 4.5 mile hike each way was well worth it, and I feel privileged to share this experience with you!

Visit to a Volcano (part 1)

First of a two-part series about my visit to Fagradalsfjall

On August 13 2022, I was fortunate enough to view something that might be a once in a lifetime opportunity: an active volcano! On August 3 2022, Fagradalsfjall volcano on Reykjanes peninsula erupted, which would last for 19 days.

On that day, my traveling companion, George Fellner, and I, accompanied by two other photographers in our tour group, took on the hike to the active volcano. The initial trek in was pretty smooth, as there was a reasonable path in; volunteers had worked tirelessly to improve access to this amazing attraction. Soon the landscape became more dramatic…

Path to Fagradalsfjall

Boulder fields, such as in this image, were common place and required a bit more careful traversal. As we picked our path through this terrain, we encountered evidence of great lava flows…

Lava Flows

The lava flows were still a significant distance from the volcano, but they helped keep us inspired to keep moving forward to our goal. As we crossed more ridges, our hope kept rising with each of them…

Approach to a volcano

With each cresting of a ridge, we expected to be treated to the view that we were after! In the above location, we were still about 25 minutes away from our target, but we were getting closer…

Getting close!

At last, we can see smoke rising in the distance: the volcano is near (about 15 more minutes). More immense lava flows are encountered in our path…

Lava Immensity

These older lava flows give a good sense of the awesome volume of lava that was spewed forth by the volcano. This field is truly immense. And then, one last ridge…

The final ridge

It was a truly inspiring moment to crest the final ridge and reach the crater; after 2-1/2 hours of hiking, we had reached out goal!

The first part that struck me was the sound of the lava: it reminded me of heavy waves crashing on the shore with much more of a bass note; I could feel the impact of the lava waves throughout my entire body, and was awestruck by the sense of earthly power in that moment.

In the next post, I will share more of the photos of the volcano, which were shot with my EOS R5. These trekking photos were all captured with an iPhone 13 Pro Max, as the rather heavy backpack had all the serious gear stowed in it.

And, of course, I had to take a selfie…

Feeling the Heat

A Walk through Reykjavik (part 3)

Mirrors and reflections abound in Harpa

In this conclusion of this 3-part post (cf. part 1 and part 2), we visit one of the most interesting architectural constructs in Vesturbær: Harpa.

Harpa is a concert hall and conference center. Its construction started in 2007 as part of the redevelopment of the Austurhöfn area; due to the financial crisis work was put on hold until the Icelandic government decided to fund the rest of the costs to finish the half-built concert hall in 2008.

Harpa reflects the Harbor

Positioned on the harbor and facing the Atlantic Ocean, Harpa is built as a steel frame that is clad with glass of various colors to give a sense of the basalt landscape of Iceland.

Harpa Facade

The facade is intriguing, as it allows one to look through parts of the hall, and invites the viewer to look for reflections and color patterns; there’s even a particular pane that is appreciated by selfie takers for its reflection of the views!

The facade and overall structure are very appealing, but there’s one feature that really caught my attention: the ceiling!

Harpa Ceiling View

The ceiling had a wonderful pattern of mirrors, lights and angles that are just wondrous to behold. Every turn of the head gives the eyes another set of inputs that intrigue and amazement to entertain the brain!

One literally could spend hours exploring the reflections in the ceiling and the patterns that appear; while not spending that much time, I did take a good number of photographs. Here’s another view:

Q*bert in Harpa

If you are familiar with the Q*bert game of the 1980s, you may also see the geometry that was the hallmark of that game’s 3-dimensional look and feel. The ceiling provides countless views like these, as we keep our eyes open and minds receptive to the varied views.

I look forward to the possibility of one day experiencing a concert in this wonderful space and having more time to explore all its views and angles.

A Walk through Reykjavik (part 2)

More impressions from walking through Vesturbær

In this second installment (cf. part 1) of our walk around one of the neighborhoods in Reykjavik, I’d like to share a couple of impressions of the mixture of architecture in the small area that we explored. The area where we wandered around is the Old West Side, Vesturbær.

This section is the earliest area of Reykjavik to be settled, starting around 1800. When walking through the area, one of the things that stands out is that the older structures are slowly being surrounded by newer architecture that rises up around these houses and looms over them.

Hlíðarhús

Hlíðarhús (sign on the structure) were small farms in the Reykjavik area, which stood near the current Vesturbær; Vesturbær used to take its name from them, when it was called Hlíðarhústastigur. This particular house stands surrounded by concrete edifices, and an inspiring mural art work.

The Vesturbær area is definitely upscale, and sought-after in the real estate market. There are several foreign missions sprinkled across the neighborhood, which still has its regular feel as well.

Bicycle Storage

With real estate at a premium, space utilization should be optimized. The people that live here understand how to do that, as a balcony is a good spot to put the bicycle.

The overall layout of Vesturbær is somewhat haphazard, as the turn of the 20th century didn’t include a lot of city planning, as Reykjavik was expanding. It does make for a cozy neighborhood feeling, as houses might be tucked in great spots and you get to know your neighbors!

Modern life in Vesturbær

This more modern-looking house had found a perfect spot in the Vesturbær neighborhood. Even here it is evident that much thought was given to how to best fit in the space afforded.

As we walked up and down streets throughout the area, I couldn’t help but get a sense of the old town charm that exists here.

Vesturbær street view

It’s amazing to think that streets like this one are a mere 5 minutes’ walk away from hyper-modern structures, such as the Harpa Concert Hall and Meeting Space…

More about that in the next installment!

A Walk through Reykjavik (part 1)

A brief walk through part of Reykjavik and impressions gathered.

Traveling across Iceland provides a wonderful opportunity to capture its great variety of landscape, which definitely is the star of any photography tour.

Despite all this wonder, it’s worthwhile to take a walk through Reykjavik, as it features great architecture, inspiring art and a connection to its history. On the final day of the photography trip, we took such a walk.

One of the locations that stood out for me is the Hólavallagarður cemetery. It is rather different from many other graveyards in both its layout and its landscaping…

Hólavallagarður Cemetery

As you can see in this image, there are many trees planted, which gives the light a filtered quality that lends a sense of mystery to the graveyard. Walking through the cemetery, one gets a sense of the overall mood and can’t help but feel a connection with the people who lived (and died) here.

Hólavallagarður cemetery was established in 1838, and, as such, is the new graveyard, replacing one that had been used since Viking times. Some of the headstones have been sculpted by well-known Icelandic artists, such as Einar Jónsson.

Lighting the Way for the Soul

Many details can be seen in the graveyard, such as lanterns and other small objects, which one can imagine were placed to assist the souls of the departed along their continuing journey. This graveyard has the feel of connecting one to past generations through its intimate details; it’s a great place for a quiet visit.

Walking along the streets of Reykjavik, one also finds a connection with modern life…

Street Art by Deih

This mural is done by the Spanish artist Deih, and brings a very strong sense of comic book art and wonder about the nature of the character. It’s stunning and intriguing!

In another post, I will spend some time to feature some of the architecture, including Harpa!

iPhone Friday

Sometimes, it’s not the camera, but the moment!

I’m confident that many of us have heard the statement ‘That must be a great camera’ when someone sees one of our images. And yes, my Canon EOS R5 is a fantastic camera, but I have a backup camera that is equally fantastic!

On a really rainy day in Iceland, it’s kind of interesting to take a quick shot with your mobile phone and see how it looks. Plus, the reason I take at least one shot wherever I do a shoot is that it provides location data, which can come in handy when you’re trying to remember the spelling of an Icelandic location.

Vatnajökull Glacier

After doing a shoot (see Vatnajökull and Jökulsárlón – part 1) to get some interesting images,I noticed a slightly different angle to take this shot with my iPhone. One of the cool features is that the logic in the camera app is very smart about balancing exposure and making clouds appear dramatic. To be honest, I really like this shot, as it presents a mood that fit the scene.

Jökulsárlón Lagoon

This shot was an impromptu capture, as it was raining pretty hard, making it a bit cumbersome to do another tripod-mounted camera setup (despite rain gear for the camera, it’s always a bit of struggle to deal with fogging, those pesky rain drops on a filter, etc.) . So I pulled my iPhone out of my dry pocket and took this low angle shot. The blue of the ice, drama of the clouds and rain drops on the water came across rather nicely.

Both images were processed using Luminar AI and touched up in Photoshop.

I look forward to hearing about the opportunities that your mobile phone has provided you to capture that special image.

Glacial Enigma

Nature’s code lies in front of us; can we understand her?

As I was going through the significant numbers of my Iceland photos, something caught my eye, so I thought that I’d share it with you:

Structure: pressure and time.

The reason that this stood out to me might just be that my brain started finding additional, hidden images in this field created by time and pressure. Nature put additional information for us to interpret, giving us the challenge of reaching an understanding of the many mysteries that surround us.

What is the message that you receive from this glacial enigma?

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