Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Yep, you guessed it: More Iceland!

As the title implies, this blog post is going to be about Iceland again woo!

I got back to the U.S. late on Saturday and have really had more of a chance to go through my images with more time, which has been helpful.

So I spent two weeks in Iceland, and I shared very few snippets of my first couple of days there, and I had written the blog post after having experienced a very scary couple of days of driving. So i'm going to go in to a little bit more detail about the stay in Myvatn before I move on to the rest of our trip with my next post.

Myvatn is a lake in the northern part of Iceland. Sometimes "Myvatn" could refer to the entire region that the lake is in. The lake is a protected site and one of the best places in Iceland for bird watching. The Laxa river can be found at Myvatn. The river has one of the largest colonies of Harlequin ducks in the world residing on it and I was pretty interested in searching these ducks out. I've been looking for them on the coast of North Carolina for several years and had never seen one, so I was pretty excited to find about ten Harlequin ducks bright and early one morning.

Myvatn is also home to geothermal activity and several volcanos, craters and pseudo craters. One of these craters, Hverfjall, resulted in a steep hike with beautiful views overlooking the lava fields of Dimmuborgir. These fields can also be hiked through, and the formations are said to be trolls who turned to stone when the sun came up. If you've ever seen or read Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, this is where J.R.R. Tolkien got his inspiration for the trolls in the stories. I'm happy to say that I did find a formation that looked creepily like Gollum, so that was pretty cool.

That night, the sky put on the best light show I have ever seen. I've dreamt of seeing the northern lights basically my whole life. I've been staring at the sky for as long as I can remember, memorizing stars, constellations, planets, the movements of the moon. I've seen the lights as a misty cloud on the horizon in my hometown in Montana, but this was something entirely different. The night before, we had gotten a phone call at 3 am saying the lights were visible, and I had thought that those were spectacular. Those Northern Lights were dim compared to these ones.

They started in the early evening, before the sun had even fully set. I was photographing Godafoss, a waterfall not too far from Myvatn, hoping to get a nice long exposure of the waterfall at sunset. As the sun was setting, a cloud started moving a bit. It looked kind of weird, and that's when I realized that the Northern Lights were doing their thing. For four hours, I followed the lights from Godafoss to the far north side of Myvatn, taking photos, gazing at the sky, and dancing with my husband (we may have also taken a fairly cheesy photograph under the lights). You can see my other Godafoss photo that I love from my post last week, this week I included one from earlier in the evening.

I had three extremely memorable moments in Iceland, and seeing the Northern Lights like this was one of them. It was simply magical.
Harlequin Duck at the Laxa River
Majestic Myvatn sheep
Fall colors in Dimmuborgir
Gollum in Dimmuborgir

Godafoss at sunset
Cheesy NL photo. I'm a little see through because I kept moving during the exposure

Probably my favorite Northern Lights photo. I'm very excited by how this one turned out.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Still traipsing through Iceland

I'm still wandering around Iceland and will be for a couple more days. It has been a bit of a roller coaster of a trip. The first five days were some of the best five days of my life. I got to go back to Akureyri. Myvatn was AMAZING. We hiked into a large crater, did another large hike in the area, photographed Harlequin ducks, and saw the Northern Lights three nights in a row. We had dinner one evneing in the Cowshed, a restaurant on a dairy farm where you watch the cows while you eat. Afterwards you can go meet the cows (which I absolutely did, because why not?). It was a dream.

Then we drove from Myvatn in the North to Eskifjordur in the East Fjords.

I had rented a Suzuki Jimmy (nicknamed James Thorsson) for the trip. James feels like he is going to tip over at the slightest gust of wind, and after we left the protected shelter of Myvatn, we encountered wind that decided it no longer wanted us on the road. The drive from Myvatn to Eskifjodur isn't terribly long; I had planned it so that none of our drives would be longer than three hours. This one really didn't take us any longer than it should have, but we were tense the whole time, my husband had white knuckled the drive and was exhausted. We stayed the night in a guest house that I had been so looking forward to staying in. It was on a peninsula in the middle of a fjord and just looked spectacular. However, with a foot of rain in a day and hurricane worthy wind gusts, the little peninsula was rocked all night and the weather never did clear up.

The drive from Eskifjordur to Hofn was worse. The road hugged fjords and cliffs for most of the way and the wind gusts were still pushing above the 60 mph range. It was absolutely terrifying, but we saw a small respite by helping a farmer herd his sheep off the road. The wind began to die down a bit, the rain mostly eased up, and the rest of the drive was great.

I'll write several more detailed posts over the coming week or so, I really should have been writing one every night, but with hiking all day and chasing the northern lights well past midnight for at least five of the days here, I've been just exhausted with everything.

So for now I'll leave you with a few of my favorite photos from Myvatn and the drive to Eskifjordur that I was able to photograph.

Godafoss at sunset, Myvatn Region. If you look in the upper right corner, you'll see the start of the Northern Lights

Harlequin ducks on the Laxa River, Myvatn region

Me, meeting cows :D
First night of seeing the Northern Lights over Myvatn

Our Eskifjordur guesthouse

Our Eskifjordur guesthouse

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Iceland, I'm back!!

I first came to Iceland five years ago. It was the kick off of my around the world (sort of) tour. It was in November and I made the trip alone. I landed in the middle of one of the worst snow storms Iceland had seen in a decade, and I was snowed in my hotel room for the first three days or so of my visit.

This go around, I'm not alone. My husband is venturing around the country with me. It is late September, so the temperatures aren't freezing. Iceland is still largely green in a lot of areas, fall colors are taking hold in other places.

We also decided to rent a car this go around and drive the Ring Road around the island. Last time I flew straight from Reykjavik to Akureyri after landing. In fact, I spent less than 12 hours in Reykjavik and spent the majority of my Iceland time bumming around Akureyri. It became one of my absolute most favorite places, and it was our first stop on our Iceland tour.

The drive from Reykjavik to Akureyri is about 5.5 hours, but since I feel the need to stop every time the landscape changes (i.e. ALL THE TIME), it probably took us closer to seven hours. I've read that this part of the Ring Road is the most boring, but I thought it was beautiful. After living in an area that is highly populated for the last three years, being alone in total isolation was LOVELY.

We saw waterfall after waterfall, thousands of fluffy sheep, and several of the famous Icelandic horses.

After arriving to Akureyri, we walked around a bit. A lot of the town has changed and a lot has stayed the same. Since I was last here, Akureyri has experienced a tourist boom and new guesthouses and hotels have popped up. I'm writing this from our flat that overlooks Eyjafjordur and construction on what looks like a new hotel on the water is happening below our balcony. I'm honestly not sure how I really feel about that, but I guess it's not really my place to have feelings about it. I wonder what the people who live in Akureyri think about it.

Anyway, enough introspection for the morning. After my coffee is finished, we will be heading out to a bakery and onward to Myvatn. I'm sad we are spending so little time in one of my favorite towns, but I'm also excited to experience more of Iceland that I didn't get to see last time.

So I leave you with my favorites from yesterday!


"Downtown" Akureyri

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Working for the News

As many of you know, I've been working for a newspaper on Fort Bragg for the last year and a half (incidentally, it's a very large reason why my blog has been on hold for what feels like forever).

I spend most of my time doing graphic design, laying out the paper. But of course, my love and my life is photography, so whenever I get the chance to get out from behind my dual screens, I take it.

I've gotten to do some pretty cool things over the last year. I got to go up in an airplane with Golden Knights, the Army parachute demonstration team with the then Undersecretary of the Army, Patrick Murphy. The first ever professional sports game on an Army instillation was played here in July 2016, and I was lucky enough to spend 20 hours photographing members of the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball teams as they toured Fort Bragg before squaring off against each other.

Air Force One has landed once since I've been working here, and I photographed President Obama making his way off the giant airplane. Last week I got to photograph members of 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) while they demonstrated various weapons on a range.

I've gotten to photograph soldiers doing soldiers things, and I've had a great time doing it. And finally, FINALLY, after a year and a half, I have put my portfolio up on my website of what I've been doing with my time. You can find it all here.

Here are some of my favorites from my photojournalism journey:

The Golden Knights exiting an aircraft.

Patrick Murphy, center, with members of the Golden Knights.

An example of one of the layouts I've done for the paper. Cutting out parts of images and wrapping text is one of my favorite things to do, and this particular page turned out pretty well.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Update on life and Portraits of the Planet

Hello all!
Well it's been a hot minute since I've blogged, and quite a lot has happened.
I started working at a newspaper about a year and a half ago, and I'm also coaching figure skating at my local rink. Both endeavors have opened up some pretty cool doors for me, but it has left me with very little time to blog about and post photos.


Welcome to Blog Post Wednesdays, my new push to attempt to blog more frequently. I don't always get to go photograph what I want to, working for a newspaper. But I do get to cover some pretty cool events and see some interesting things. And on my free time, I do travel around the East Coast to explore and take more portraits of the planet.

So this week's blog post is going to be about Boone, North Carolina. I headed that direction this past weekend in an attempt to get away from people and experience nature a bit. I was thwarted a little in my efforts to get away from people, but I had a good time nonetheless.

On Saturday, I loaded up my Old English Sheepdog and my husband and drove the three hours to the "mountains." (I say mountains loosely here because I'm a mountain snob, being from the western United States).

We drove around the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiked up Linville Gorge to see waterfalls. I was mostly excited to try out my new camera, a Canon 5DS R and my new neutral density filter. We ordered pizza and took it to a lookout on the Blue Ridge Parkway and watched the sunset while eating our dinner. It was a peaceful evening full of the sounds of birds and bugs and my camera shutter.

The tests were a success. The 5DS R (named KiKi) performed admirably during low light tests, and the ND filter will be super awesome for my next adventure to Iceland.

An after dark test, testing the noise of my camera and low light performance. Overall, pretty impressed. This was a three second exposure.

Elke, the Old English Sheepdog adventure pup

Blue Ridge Parkway at sunset

Blue Ridge Parkway at Sunset

Messing around with the ND filter. It adds two stops to my lens so I can get motion blur during the day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Grant Project: The Paint Part IIII

Rembrandt Lamp Black is another paint that I feel I had really great results with. I only selectively bleached three of the prints, which is a really great feeling! I only had one paper out of the eight that I feel didn't offer usable results. This paint and the Charvin Mars Black have been my two favorite so far.

I may have covered this previously, but if you noticed a different tonal color to the prints, it has to do with bleaching. A bleached print will be more cooler toned, while a non bleached print will have a very warm color to it. You'll notice that these two that I picked for this blog post are very warm toned. They were not bleached at all.

Fabriano Acquarello Cold Press

Fabriano Acquarello Hot Press 

Grant Project: The Paint part III

I'm a bit behind in posting on my paint experiments, but they have been in progress over the last couple of months.
This round of paint is Gamblin's Ivory Black. I really liked this paint, and had some pretty awesome results. I had four out of 8 prints work great, and two sort of work. All of the smoother papers seemed to like this paint.
I have completely removed bleach baths from my work flow. If I feel that a print may need a bit of bleach, I'll selectively brush it on and then use a soft spray nozzle on my spray bottle. It's been a good thing, because I really don't like using bleach!!

Fabriano Acquarello Cold Press 

Fabriano Acquarello Hot Press

Fabriano Artistico, hot press, selective bleaching