Monday, June 29, 2015

Photo Tour completed, Training Wheels Off and now Rolling on our Own,

As of last Thursday, our Photo Tour with a group of a dozen hardy photography nerds has wrapped up.

The map below depicts the general itinerary for the organized photo trip, we've been sharing. It starting with #1 at the international airport at Keflavik. We then toured a bit of #2 Reykjavik, meeting up with our group, 2 leaders (William and Iurie), and 1 driver (Bjorn), before heading north. See numbered spots where we stopped for the night this past week. Our route was altered a bit between # 5 & # 6, due to persistent snows closing the roads in the Highlands area, between the two stops. After making it out eastward slightly beyond the lagoon at Jokulsarlon, # 8,  we returned westward along the southern coast to Reykjavik. After a final dinner together and farewells, the group members dispersed to return home or to stay for a few more days. Paul and I rented a car and headed north and west to Iceland's second largest city, Akureryi. Our plan is to travel the Ring Road, Route 1, around the perimeter of Iceland, mostly to northern and eastern sites we've not yet sampled.

Leaving Reykjavik, we were blessed with sunny weather so paused to take in some of the scenery and make a few side trips. Below are photos of spectacular Viking era look-outs used to keep watch over the countryside and fjords below or withstand sieges from invaders.

Clear skies and cheerful dandelions create a bucolic setting for a precious stone church on the Vatnsnes peninsula.

Boats in the Hofsos harbor.

Snowclad mountains feed the waterfalls and lush grasses/flowers below on the road to Siglufjordur on the Trollaskagi peninsula.

 Siglufjordur was once the beneficiary of the "Silver from the Sea", and the herring processing capital of the world when the herring industry boomed. When the fish suddenly disappeared, the boats and businesses fell idle, decimating the population. The area has slowly recovered by diversifying into other businesses. Much of the material involved in the herring processing was re-purposed - including the scraps that went into constructing the two gents below and the unusual chairs for outdoor seating.

 This photo shows the light in far northern Iceland at 10 PM. Time for more sunscreen! The sunsets are very prolonged and the sunrise starts around 2 AM. 

So, though our organized photo tour has wrapped up, Paul and I will be driving on Route 1, the "Ring Road" in a clock-wise fashion, around the perimeter of the country during the next few days to taste a bit more of what Iceland has to offer visitors. We'll be sending a few more pics from "Part Deux"

Barbara and Paul

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grassy Graveyards and Bergie Bits

Grassy Graveyards and Bergie Bits

Eastward along the southern coast of Iceland, the volcanoes and their icecaps become more proximal to the sea. There is only a narrow strip of green and vegetation between the lava and the high tide mark. Making the most of Mother Earth's materials, early settlers used the sod to cover and insulate homes. Below is yet another sod covered church and a lovingly preserved graveyard that has become a national historical site. All pics taken with camera phone.

Very Quaint 

 Sweet Remembrance

 Fun with Filters

More Fun with Filters

Near the town of Jokulsaron, tourists are treated to a magical sight. As the Breidamerkurjokull glacier has receded (some years at a rate of over 100 meters/yr) a lagoon has formed at the base. When bits of glacier calve off, they float in a jumble in the placid fresh water. Slowly melting, they slowly shrink, flip over and constantly rearrange themselves. These top two are from the first evening at about 10 pm. They show true shades of "glacier blue".

These below were taken on the morning we left the area in glorious sunshine

At low tide, some of the smaller bergie bits float 200 yards down a stream to the sea. At the next high tide, many of the bits are deposited high on the volcanic sand beach near the mouth of the stream. As the waves crash over them and recede, the patterns formed over the black beach pebbles are most interesting, in the abstract.

Sunny morning at Hali, our overnight accommodation. 

The restaurant/museum at Hali, designed to resemble the volumes of books written by a local storyteller. Iceland boasts the highest literacy rate of any nation and publishes more books per capita than the rest of the world.

Frisky Horses

Black sand dunes and coarse grass as the mountains touch the water's edge.

The coastal populations thins moving eastward, but the beauty does not!

The photo tour part of the trip wraps up tomorrow as we return to Reykjavik.
Barbara and Paul

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Southern Coast, Skogafoss, Sands of Black, and Sea Stacks

Southern Coast, Skogafoss, Sands of Black, and Sea Stacks

Descending southward from the central Highlands, our group continues to traverse parts of the "Golden Circle" of Iceland's most scenic locations. Reaching the coast near Skogar, traveling eastward, we pass beneath Eyjafjallajokull volcano and enormous icecap. Eyjafjallajokull (or the E-volcano as many newscasters chose to say) was the one that exploded in 2010 shutting down all air traffic across the North Atlantic for 2 weeks. It wasn't so much because of the volcanic ash in the atmosphere, but rather because this volcano spewed forth larger and harder particles of what was essentially ground glass. That material was thought to be particularly unfriendly to aircraft engines. Icelanders themselves worried about the enormous amounts of water that would gush down from the flanks of the volcano as the heat of the eruption abruptly melted large areas of the icecap. In fact, locals in the area practice evacuation drills on a regular basis, in the event of such an occurrence.

This southern coastal area, located at the base of Eyjafjallajokull and larger Myrdalsjokull volcanic icecaps boasts a number of especially beautiful waterfalls.

 William, one of our group leaders, photographing Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Watching the sunset through the falls, from a passage behind it.

A pair of elves discovered beneath the falls 

Hope you can see this video of our group waiting for better color, getting sprayed and trying to protect camera gear from a soaking.

Pano of a black sand beach near the town of Vik.

Set of sea stacks, called Reynisdrangur - traditionally believed to be trolls which solidified after staying out too long and being caught in the sun.

Glad we have our cold weather gear, because it doesn't feel like summer here!

Barbara and Paul

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sod, Snyrting, Sagas and Sayings

Sod, Snyrting, Sagas and Sayings

We have moved on down the into the south central area of Iceland and having intermittent clear vs cloudy skies. 

After leaving the Geysir area, the itinerary called for driving through the Highlands area across flanks of the Hetla volcano. However, due to heavy snows this past winter, the roads are not yet open. Therefore, we diverted around the mountains onto vast plains strewn with volcanic "tefra" (material ejected from volcanoes during eruptions), broken up by rivers and verdant valleys.

Enlarge if you can - Pano of lovely waterfall at sunset 

Traditional Iceland sod chapel with falls in background

 Icelandic home constructed with stacked layers of sod, like a layer cake. Tough to mow the lawn!
Triple cascade

Self Explanatory

Likely our only way to see Arctic Fox in winter coat

Wool and handicrafts are an important item in Iceland with a multitude of shaggy sheep and lots of winter darkness to work on crafts

 Icelandic stories or the Sagas are a very important cultural heritage here and serve to pass along heritage and life lessons. Looks like James Michener helped write the book!
 The saying under the cows' heads translates to a belief that all cows are inhabited by a spirit on New Year's Eve that enables them to speak, which may drive the farmer mad!

 Lovely Lupines are everywhere and help stabilize the volcanic ash and soil.
A schooner with Russian students at anchor in "Whalers' Fjord"

Needless to say, the scenery is wonderful and the photography group is quite congenial. We are out until midnight or later every evening photographic the sights with long exposures and different techniques. We are learning a great deal from each other and our group leaders.

Barbara and Paul

Monday, June 22, 2015

Journey FROM the Center of the Earth

Journey FROM the Center of the Earth

If you've ever wondered about what makes Iceland one of the "greenest" countries on earth, energy-wise, the answer is in the geology beneath the island-nation.

Iceland sits astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which crosses the country diagonally from NE to SW. As a result, Iceland boasts 22 active volcanoes, 250 geothermal areas and 780 hot springs. All of the homes and businesses are double-plumbed. The hot water comes from geothermal sources and the cold water is drawn directly from deep springs and piped, without chlorination or purification to the outlet. Thus much of the surface of Iceland; lava, ash, waterfalls, springs originated from deep inside the earth

Being astride the Ridge also means that Iceland has "one foot on the dock and the other on the boat" as the North American and European tectonic plates slowly slide as much as 2 cm per year. The best location to see this effect is displayed below and is pronounced "Thingvellir".

Map of Thingvellir valley where the continental division is most visible, and Iceland's first National Park.

Panorama of the subsidence and fissures

This area is where the Vikings established the world's first democratic parliament, the "Althing", around 930 AD. The Logberg or "Law Rock" was where the parliament convened annually and the law speaker recited the law, and decisions were made by the Logretta, a sub-council.

Cold rivers and hot springs abound, providing an important resting spot for migratory birds, such as the great northern diver and harlequin duck.

Just down the road is the "Geysir" region, marked by many vents, mud pots and gushers. This area is Iceland's #1 tourist attraction, is part of the "Golden Circle" and makes a nice day trip for those traveling from Reykjavik.

The Strokker Geysir, the world's most reliable, erupting every 5-10 minutes, reaching heights of up to 30m. Great way to get a downwind shower!

The mighty Gullfoss (Golden waterfall) nearby is a double cascade and the country's most famous and heavily visited attraction. The thunder, roar and rising spray are most impressive.

Panorama of the double cascade which pours 100 cubic meters/sec in the driest years and 20 times that in flood stage.

Upper Cascade
The lower cascade, right angle turn and canyon below with rising mist.

A short video of the boiling, frothing, torrent.


Barbara and Paul