Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ICELAND SAGA: The Road to Isafjordur

The bus that took us from Breidavik/Latrabjarg (or Puffin Wonderland, as I like to think of it) was actually a 12 passenger van caravaning with a second 12 passenger van and a large commercial tour bus that was not filled to capacity.  I didn't question it.  I was just happy to have a guaranteed ride.  Despite the comfort of having transportation, however, I was very uneasy about the 5 hour drive to Isafjordur.  You see, I tend to get car sick in the backs of vehicles--nothing severe, but certainly uncomfortable--and from what I had seen of the windy mountain roads so far, I felt my chances of nausea were between fair and guaranteed.  I was especially worried because I could not find my Dramamine, my security blanket, which I was sure I would vomit all over the place in a hugely embarrassing fiasco without.  The panic was enough to make my stomach hurt, but after rummaging through my bag for a second time I found the pills ten minutes before we took off.  Sigh of relief.

Here are some words and phrases to describe the roads we drove along: um, let's see, "terrifying" is definitely one of them, "steep," "narrow," "curving," "unpaved," "full of sharp turns that the driver took too quickly in my opinion," "lacking ANY guard rails."  And here are some words and phrases to describe our bus driver: "very, very nice and funny," "a badass," "a real stud," "drives like he used to compete in NASCAR," "overly confident in his driving ability on these roads, perhaps, but hey he does this all the time and he got us to our destination in one piece."

And here's what was smack dab in the middle of the drive and the destination for a fifteen minute break.

Absolutely gorgeous, right?  All the travelers tumbled out of the vehicles and immediately started snapping pictures.  Here's the one I took of Joe:

And the one he took of me:

So far on the trip we had only gotten one picture of the two of us together (Gulfoss) so we decided to be brave and ask someone to snap one here.  The man we asked was very kind, and he took the shot VERY seriously.  We posed, and he suggested that perhaps the picture would look better if we scooted a couple inches to our right.  So we did.  But the kind man was not satisfied.  What would look even better, he said, was if we moved ten feet backwards and three feet to the right.  He placed us exactly where he meant.  Wow, this is going to be a really good picture, I thought, This man really cares.  We posed and waited for him to finalize his composition.  And waited.  And started laughing while we waited some more.  And then he clicked the shutter.  We thanked him for the photo and for taking the job so seriously.  And then we looked at the back of the camera (WARNING: WORST PHOTO OF ME EVER TAKEN!!  DON'T LOOK FOR MORE THAN A COUPLE SECONDS!)

Now, avert your eyes!  Did you see it??  He only photographed the mini waterfall!  The little guy!  Why, oh why, would he do that?  If someone asked me, heck, if someone asked a child to photograph them in front of the waterfall, both the child and I would have included that large, glorious waterfall at the top of the mountain in the background.  Joe and I immediately burst into a laughing fit.  Actually, that picture of me by myself was taken right after this one, and I'm still laughing in it.

We arrived in Isafjordur at 9 p.m., hungry and sleepy.  We checked in to our guesthouse, made a bowl of pasta, and hit the hay.  We were only going to be in the town for that night.  It was really just a stop on our way to the country's second largest city, Akureyri.  We woke up early the next morning to do a little bit of exploring before having to leave for the domestic-flights-only airport.

This picture makes me think of the riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"  Click here to read some theories.

Waiting for yet another bus...

Thanks for getting my head in there, Joe.  Off to Akureyri in a little plane!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Emily and Jason: A Wedding Day of Bipolar Weather

My friend Emily got married this past Saturday, a day of helter skelter St. Louis weather.  Before I met up with her at 1:00 it had already rained early in the morning, then had become sunny in the late morning, and as I drove to the church it was pouring again.  By the time I pulled up to St. Mark's Episcopal the rain had died down enough for me to get my equipment inside without having to sprint.  It had, however, picked up just in time for Emily's brother-in-law and father to arrive with her flowers and dress, which they successfully brought inside with a few tricky umbrella maneuvers.

We adjusted our shooting schedule to work around Mother Nature's, and started out with some inside pics first.  Luckily the church has a back entrance that is all windows, and I was able to shoot with my favorite light of overcast.

Then we moved into the church for some drama lighting.  Oohs and aahs now, please.

About 45 minutes before the ceremony was supposed to start, the clouds opened up to reveal sunny sun sunshine!!  It was just gorgeous, and Emily went from happy-to-be-getting-married to ecstatic-that-the-weather-was-cooperating-AND-she-was-getting-married!  Needless to say, we took full advantage of the weather and went out to the courtyard for more pictures, careful, of course, not to let Emily's dress rest on the still wet ground for too long.

Emily and her nephew, Oscar, in his little oversized jacket!

I like the decor of the church. Very simple, but isn't simple always the most attractive?

Congratulations, Emily and Jason!  Thanks for asking me to be a part of your special day!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gretel: The Cutest Boxer/Lab Mix You'll Ever Meet

I just HAD to interrupt the Iceland posts to share pictures from a shoot I did a little over a week ago with a 9-year-old boxer/lab named Gretel.  Gretel's mom, Jenny, contacted me about a month ago after seeing some of my other dog portraits on the beloved interwebs, saying she wanted portraits of Gretel taken as a surprise for her husband for their upcoming second wedding anniversary.  I love, love, love this idea!  It immediately gave me a fuzzy feeling inside because it's so obvious what an important part of the family this sweet companion animal is.  No new watch, engraved money clip or even weekend getaway:  portraits of their favorite four-legged friend.  Makes me happy!

Of course I was excited about the shoot--I love animal portraits--but imagine how my heart swelled as soon as I saw Gretel in person.  I mean, just LOOK at that under bite!  I couldn't get enough of it.  The girl had such a personality--sweet as pie and happy as a clam.  Ok, so she couldn't sit still in one spot for very long and her dinner was surely ruined by all the treats her mom had to bribe her with, but what a mug!  She was so much fun to photograph, and I have to say that Jenny is one of the nicest people to talk to.  We talked the entire shoot with ease, and I'm so glad our paths have crossed.

I received word that Jenny's husband was indeed surprised by the portraits.  I'm so glad a could be a part of this wonderful occasion!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

ICELAND SAGA: Even More Puffins!!

Even more amazing than the beach at sunset was the beach at sunrise the next morning.  We strolled along the coast at 7 a.m., seeing only one other person--and she was at the other end of the beach.

A view of the farm from the beach:

The sheep that roamed the farm.  Those ladies have the life.

This was the view from our room.

In order to leave Breidavik, we had to take a bus that only comes once on Monday, once on Wednesday, and once on Saturday (this was a Wednesday).  We were relying on the owners of the farm to call the bus driver and have him pick us up from the guesthouse.  Upon checking with the woman at the front desk the day before, we were told the bus driver had not yet answered his phone.  If he didn't pick us up we were basically stuck, so this was a bit nerve racking.  By morning the bus driver had apparently been reached, as we were told he was coming to pick us up later that day.  We waiting in the eating area, finishing up post cards and reading books over coffee and tea.  Really good coffee.

There was a refrigerator of drinks to buy, like this orange drink.

Joe hopes the bus comes.  Joe sees the bus.  Joe is relieved to be on the bus.

To our delight, the bus route involved going back to the bird cliffs so everyone could walk around for 90 minutes and look at the puffins before moving on to the next town.  The SEVERAL pictures are all about the puffins.  They are just cute as the dickens!

Oh, hello!  Have you been here this whole time?

Aw, nuzzling.  The third puffin looks on with approval.

Be seeing you!

Hey, wait for me!

Feeding.  Mmmm, regurgitated food...

I know this is totally gross, but I just HAD to show this.  So, to reiterate, we were on a cliff in remote Iceland.  Tourists were around, but we saw only a couple dogs, and they were small.  And there were poops this large EVERYWHERE!!  Everywhere.  WHERE did they come from??  I can't imagine it all being from dogs.  Who would bring large dogs to the top of a cliff around hundreds of adorable and vulnerable puffins?  I have no explanation.

Ok, back to the puffins.

This is my Why did I did I have the camera turned vertical?! picture.  Aaargh!!

I brought you a flower.

I brought you several flowers.

I brought YOU a bunch of flowers!

It started to rain, but this little guy decided to tough it out.

This one was not happy about the rain.  Sir, it was just sprinkling!

So, those are the puffins!  I hope it was worth the wait.  I can easily say that our two days in Breidavik spent on the farm, the beach, and with puffins were my two favorite days of the trip.  On to Isafjodur!