Iceland – The Land of Fire and Ice

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Our last full day in Iceland and we hooked up again with our guide, Villi Godi, and headed north on the west side of Iceland to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  The Peninsula is very Iceland, with lots of coastline, snow capped mountains, some waterfalls, and some small Icebergs.  We had the most amazing Fish Soup, an Iceland staple, at a guest house on the Peninsula that Villi took us to.  Here are some shots of what we saw today.

Villi

_DSC5567

the crew:

_DSC5637

and the rest:

_DSC5554 _DSC5656 _DSC5647 _DSC5625 _DSC5634 _DSC5603 _DSC5583 _DSC5561

Around Reykjavik 

Today was a crisp blue sky day in Reykjavik with strong winds as the fight between winter and spring continued.  We saw the Voiths off today and so it is just the three of us remaining.  We spent the day strolling in the wind around the capital city before tomorrow’s adventure up the western coastline.  Here are some of the sites of Reykjavik:

you can probably figure this one out, although the Icelandic troll may throw you a bit:

_DSC5518

Our new apartment on the harbor:

_DSC5519

The harbor:_DSC5521

some of the structures of Reykjavik:

_DSC5526 _DSC5527 _DSC5533

Winter and spring:

_DSC5535

The Canadian embassy:

_DSC5538

Scenes from the city lake, looking back, an inhabitant, and with ice on the lake that appears as broken glass:

_DSC5543 _DSC5544 _DSC5546 _DSC5548 _DSC5551

Icelandic Cooking Class Saturday

Sun and bursts of rain and then sun again in Reykjavik as the winter and the spring fight it out for supremacy. They say they only have 2 seasons here, but it seems like there is some spring in the air even as it is periodically cold and windy.

We have developed a tradition of finding a cooking class when we travel and learning about the food of our host.  Today, we headed off to Salt Eldhús and an Icelandic cooking class from Matti.

_DSC5509

On the menu:  A sautéed fennel salad

_DSC5474

with twice smoked lamb carpaccio (smoked over beechwood and sheep poop – no lie – those Vikings were a hardy and innovative bunch)

_DSC5478

with radish sprouts

_DSC5451

and home made mayonnaise seasoned with Arctic thyme.

_DSC5476

The main course was pan seared salmon with more Arctic thyme,

_DSC5483

northern cracked peppers

_DSC5460

and lava salt (salt from the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökul along the south coast of Iceland which brought worldwide air traffic to a halt), barley risotto  (because of the long, cold winter here, they rely on barley as their grain staple, rather than rice, wheat, or corn) with a delicious Icelandic Auður cheese melted into the barley.

_DSC5442

And for desert, an Icelandic dish called Skyrr Mouse similar to Panna Cotta but made with legendary Skyr Yogurt with fresh picked Icelandic blueberries.  Icelandic Yogurt in the Skyr tradition is made in New York by Siggi’s Dairy and can be found in many supermarkets.   The Skyr Mousse was flavored with home made vanilla extract that Matti makes by soaking vanilla bean pods in Icelandic Vodka for 6 months.  Gotta try that when we get back.

_DSC5449

Our class was 2 Shaikens from KC, 1 Shaiken from Washington, 3 Voiths from Philadelphia, a Parisian, and a family also from Philadelphia (small world).

Here are some shots of the action:

_DSC5486

_DSC5465

 

_DSC5458

A really amazing meal!

Golden Circle Day

It is hard to describe the scale and beauty of the sites to see on the Golden Circle to the north of Reykjavik.  The size of the natural wonders in such a small island nation is extraordinary.  Even the pictures do not explain how gigantic the waterfalls are, or just how big the volcanic crater and the geyser are.  The Golden Circle is remarkable and we were treated to a mostly sunny day.  Therefore, I will just post the pics without commentary, except for the first picture.  The left cliff is the edge of the American tectonic plate and the right cliff is the edge of the European tectonic plate.  These two continental geological plates meet in Iceland and are pulling apart at the rate of 4 cm’s per year.  The rest is self explanatory except for the scale.

_DSC5280

_DSC5363

_DSC5305

_DSC5409

 

_DSC5290

 

_DSC5340

_DSC5295

_DSC5430

Last, I made mention in a prior post that the Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik was designed to replicate cliffs on black volcanic beaches in Iceland.  Here is the church again and the cliffs.

iceland31515arrival-459

 

Icelandday2villitour-513

Next Two Days

The past two days, the weather was very unpredictable.  Yesterday, it rained, we had very gray skies, and the wind whipped up to 40 mph (here, they measure their wind in meters per second, and it was a lot of meters per second).  So, we hopped around Reykjavik looking for things to see and for me, things to photograph.  We went back to the Hallgrimskirkja Church to walk up to the clock tower and see the view:

4th-5thdaysiceland-484

and then back down to the church for another view of it.  It is designed to reflect some of the cliffs on the southern Iceland coast that overlook the Atlantic:

4th-5thdaysiceland-489

We also visited the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center on the wharf.  It was quite a walk to get to the building with the wind whipping off of the bay.  The building is made of glass of different colors with a very unusual roof, all geometric, and it was sponsoring a chess match.4th-5thdaysiceland-459

4th-5thdaysiceland-465

4th-5thdaysiceland-464

Today, we headed out to the Blue Lagoon, about 50 kilometers from Reykjavik on the way to the international airport.  It is a geothermal spa and the water gets its hue from silica and other minerals.  It is surrounded by lava fields covered with moss.  It rained 0n us while we bathed in the spa, which was a little weird to be sitting in water over 100 degrees fahrenheit while water barely above freezing fell on us.  But, it was a fun experience and the sun broke through and treated us to a rainbow over a lava field, Iceland style.

4th-5thdaysiceland-525

4th-5thdaysiceland-519

Day Two – Northern Lights

We drove through hail, sleet and snow to get to the international airport at 6:45 a.m. to pick up the Voiths who arrived on their flight from Newark.  And, now we are six.  Despite this morning’s hideous weather, it cleared, and there were solar flares today.  Clear and flares – a great combination for Northern Lights near the Arctic Circle.  So, we decided to go out tonite at 10 p.m. with our guide, Stephan, in search of the Northern Lights and we were not disappointed.  It was quite a show for a couple of hours just outside of Reykjavik.

day3niorthernrlights-510

day3niorthernrlights-474

day3niorthernrlights-503

First Full Day

Today was our first full day in Iceland.  We employed a guide – Villi – to sherpa us along the southern coast of the island.  And, here he is by a glacier he took us to:

Icelandday2villitour-572

Wed rove along Ring Road going east of Reykjavik and came upon a farm owned by a couple whose land sits at the foot of the volcano that erupted twice and caused worldwide airline interruption in 2010.  The family did not abandon the farm and their story of saving their animals and their farm is remarkable.  Here is Villi and the wife who was gracious enough to talk with us extensively about how the eruption affected her family and their lives.

Icelandday2villitour-497

We saw thatched roof dwellings, old churches (at the foot of mountains), walked to a glacier, and a huge waterfall and made friends with some horses, an Iceland breed that is friendly and beautiful as the manes blow in the wind.

Icelandday2villitour-585

Icelandday2villitour-595

Icelandday2villitour-528

Icelandday2villitour-531

 

Icelandday2villitour-577

 

Icelandday2villitour-620

Icelandday2villitour-491

Great day with Villi.  Thanks so much!  Next up – the Voiths arrive at 6:30 a.m.

Fight Over and Arrival

All told, it is about a 7.5 hour journey from Denver north to Eastern Canada, across to Greenland, and then down to Iceland and the airport at Reykjavik near the Arctic Circle.  We arrived in Reykjavik at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday and with wifi in the airport while we waited to clear customs and get bags and rental car, here is what we saw on the laptop:

googleiceland

Just like home.  Then, into the diesel engine manual transmission VW bus with studded tires for the frozen roads, and then the 40 minute trip to Reykjavik.

iceland31515arrival-498

We confined ourselves to a walk around Iceland’s principal city waiting for check-in time at our apartment rental.  It was a gray, wet day in Reykjavik but the temperature was above freezing so not too bad at all.  We visited the Hallgrimskirkja Church and were treated to an organ recital.  Very cool church:

iceland31515arrival-455

iceland31515arrival-461

iceland31515arrival-463

And, we took in some of the city until we ran out of steam.

iceland31515arrival-499

iceland31515arrival-488

iceland31515arrival-478

iceland31515arrival-501

Introduction

A quick update and a note to check back from time to time to follow our adventure to Iceland, the land of fire and ice.  Loren and I meet Zac in Denver and then take off on Icelandic Air non-stop to Reykjavik where we occupy an apartment for 12 days, meeting up with the Voiths of Philadelphia, and traversing the island in a Volkswagen bus.  Like my blog entries of our adventure to New Zealand, I will add to this blog periodically with images of our “near-the-arctic -circle” expedition – posted in reverse chronological order so the most recent posts will always be on top.  Follow us as we seek out glaciers, volcanoes, icebergs, a blue lagoon, geysers, puffins, the people of Iceland, and everything else this northern tiny island country has to offer.  Cheers – Mark

Adventure New Zealand

We find ourselves halfway around the world in a different country, time zone, hemisphere, and day.  Welcome to New Zealand, and my occasional blog of our adventure.  There will likely be no sports images for a couple of weeks as we take in this far away land and meet up with Zac for the first time in over 4 months as soon as he finishes finals at the University of Otago in Dunedin, NZ, on the south island.  The posts will be in reverse order, with the latest one at the top so you will not have to re-read each time I post.  Hope that helps.

The end – Our Return

After Milford, we stayed for one evening in Queenstown, and then back to the Claremont in Dunedin before heading home.  Queenstown is adrenaline-town to me — jump off a bridge; jump out of a plane; fly off a mountain.  I must confess to being just old enough to feel that I am not jumping off or out, or flying except in a plane.  It is beautiful and our B&B – the Queenstown House – was exceptional, but I think I am several decades too old for the true Queenstown experience.  We dropped Zac at the bus station for his last two weeks in NZ, a trek with his mates on the Kepler Track, a swim with Dolphins, and then his flight back to the states.

Loren and I made it up the coast south of Dunedin to the Claremont and our last night with Gunn.  A fabulous victorian B&B that she runs.  We are in the tower – three floors up and high atop Dunedin.  Beautiful.  We ate at a little neighborhood Italian restaurant on the beach in Dunedin tonight watching surfers brave large storm waves in the Pacific, with only South America as the next land mass to the east.

Tomorrow, we do our 28 hour trip back to KC.  I should be quite the sight to see on Monday morning at my desk as we arrive late in the evening on Sunday night in KC.

So, goodbye New Zealand and all of the Kiwi people we have met.  What a wonderful adventure and to our new Kiwi friends, thanks for the great experience.  you are all wonderful.  Goodbye furry friends . . .

otagoday7-577-2

and coastlines like no other.

 

otagoday7-516-2

otagoday7-528-2

Kia Ora!

floatplaneday7-554

Day 9- Milford Sound

We headed off through Fiordland (or Fjordland) National Park over a small windy road, through breathtaking valleys, past mirror lakes, and soaring snow capped mountains, with our destination Milford Sound, which is misnamed a “sound” we are told as it is really a large series of fjords.  It was all quite breathtaking.  Here is what some of it looked like:

milfordsoundteanau-468

milfordsoundteanau-468-2

 

milfordsoundteanau-466

milfordsoundteanau-551

milfordsoundteanau-555

milfordsoundteanau-509

Then, while Zac and Loren hiked for a bit, I had a spot of tea with our guide Albert of Trips and Tramps,

milfordsoundteanau-474-2

and then back to Te Anau for our last night with Janice and Lindsay of the Cats Whisker and a wonderful dinner at the Redcliff cafe – rabbit, venison, NZ Salmon, and of course, lamb and Sauvignon Blanc and Emerson’s Pilsner.  Ahh, life is good.

Day 7-8 – Fjordland | Te Anau

We drove 3 hours south west of Dunedin to Te Anau in the Fjordland region of the South Island of New Zealand.  We are staying at the Cats Whisker B & B; no cat – it died sadly.  Now the cat is a cute little Maltese mix dog.  Very friendly.  Our hosts are great.  Te Anau sits on Lake Te Anau, reported to be the largest fresh water lake in this part of the world.  It has snow capped mountains that frame it on each side.

floatplaneday7-450

On Day 8, we are headed over those mountains for the fjords and the coast — Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound – discovered and charted by Captain Cook in the late 1700s.  To get there, you can backpack for 7 days, boat, or fly.  We chose to get there by float plane.

floatplaneday7-452

Our trip is touch and go due to weather but the rain and hail break for a couple of hours, the sun peaks out, and our pilot Alan decides to make a go of it.  And off we go.  We flew across the fjords to the sounds, often at what appeared to be eye level with snow capped mountains – the Southern Alps – dusted by cold weather and snow last night.  Again, the best way to describe what we saw is by images:

floatplaneday7-541

floatplaneday7-539

floatplaneday7-512

floatplaneday7-479

floatplaneday7-463

We touched down in the bay at Dusky Sound in search of dolphins and found some, playful around the plane as we floated in the water, although I was unable to get a great shot:

floatplaneday7-524

 

then back to Te Anau before the rains hit again.

floatplaneday7-549

Tomorrow, Milford Sound.

Mark

Day 6 – Otago

Day 6 was all about nature on the wild coastline of the Otago Peninsula just a short drive from the center of Dunedin.  Nature on the Pacific coast is all about birds, seals and sea lions.  Here are some of the wildlife we saw today during our 8 hours on the shoreline, the journey courtesy of our guide, John.  He knew all the places to find wildlife and give me (and Zac) a chance to shoot images of the birds.  It was quite a remarkable day discovering exotic looking birds including the rare Yellow Eyed Penguin as they finished their day at sea and came out of the water, walked across the beach where we sat, and made their way to their nests on the hillsides.  I am afraid I don’t remember the names of all the birds that follow, but they all have personality.

Yellow Eyed Penguin:

otagoday7-687

otagoday7-624

Albatross:

otagoday7-470-2

Seals and Sea Lions:

otagoday7-548-2

otagoday7-577-2

otagoday7-855

Assorted other birds:

otagoday7-476

otagoday7-508-2

otagoday7-488

otagoday7-471

otagoday7-483-2

otagoday7-489-2

Travel day tomorrow to the Southwest portion of the South Island – Te Anau.

Mark

Day 5 Kia Ora in Rotorua

A full day of geothermal wonders followed by an evening with the Maori, the native people of New Zealand.  Kia Ora means hello, good health and several other sentiments.

The geothermal activity here is substantial with geysers and active volcanoes about, boiling mud pits, hot springs of all colors reflecting the interaction of elements at the surface and below the earth, and craters from an 1880s eruption that turned a small lake into a huge lake.  The best way to describe what we saw is in pictures (no photoshopping of the colors).thermalday5-476

thermalday5-545

thermalday5-611

thermalday5-516

thermalday5-500

thermalday5-543

And, the distant hole in this next shot is one of 5 craters from the 1880s eruption.  Under the lake that now sits below the mountain was another:

thermalday5-582

We then spent our evening with the Maori, learned about their culture, dined on food they cooked for hours in a pit in the ground on white hot rocks.  Here are some of our hosts:

maoriday5-468

maoriday5-455

On our drive back from their village, the bus had representatives of the US, New Zealand, Australia, China, Taiwan, Korea, the UK, French, German, and one or two other countries.  We had all spent our evening with the Maori.  Each country was asked to sing a song — kind of corny, harkening back to summer camp and  The Wheels on the Bus.  The US contingent sang She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.  The Australians sang Waltzing Matilda, etc.  Somehow it worked.  Maori magic I guess.  For that short bus ride, the world and its many conflicts seemed to melt away and everything made sense and was balanced.

November 9 NZ (November 8 US) is a travel today to Dunedin, the South Island and the meet up with Zac for the next part of the adventure.

Day 4

Long drive today as we leave the Bay of Islands behind

NZ day 1-476

and drive through the countryside for 6 1/2 hours (actually, Loren has mastered the left side of the road thing, so she did all the driving)

day4roto-453

south, past Auckland to Rotorua.  Outside Rotorua, Loren met a friend – may have practiced some medicine without a New Zealand license – sheep in the background wanted no part of her but the horse was looking for love.

day4roto-459

We ended the day at the Blue Lake in Rotorua, a spiritual place we are told.

day4roto-469

Tomorrow, some geothermal activity and a dinner with the Maoris.

Day 2-3 Bay of Islands

Day 2 had us helicoptering our way around the bay for 45 minutes.  We tried to get on the copter in between rain squalls but failed in our quest.  Nevertheless, the sun broke through at times to reveal a series of rocks and islands with almost a golden glow to them.  Some are privately owned, such as by Tom Cruise, we are told.

day2NZD800-563

As well, we headed for a rock called the “Hole in the Rock” and the copter landed on the top (the furthest right dash of rock on the top of the island).  The landing was not as scary as I expected.

day2NZD800-531

We had great views from there even as squalls were coming past.

Today (day 3), we ferried our way from Paihia across the bay to Russell.  Russell from the air:

day2NZD800-496

In the 1800s, Russell was a hotbed of brothels and liquor and earned the name the Hell Hole.  Not so any more.  Now it is older homes, gardens, beaches, and shops.

day3nzd600-495

It has a church where the pews are lined with embroidered pillows – wonderful idea:

day3nzd600-482

The wind was quite substantial so we just toured on foot and did not take a boat trip around the bay (other than the ferry).

day3nzd600-491

We also toured a glow worm cave.  The insects adhere to the cave ceiling and glow to attract their prey – it is like looking at the milky way – but no cameras allowed. Travel day tomorrow.

Mark

Day 1 and 2

We started our adventure on the north island. After a 12 hour flight from LA, we landed in Auckland, went through customs and drove north the the Bay of Islands and Paihia.  As we drove north, we  inched closer to the equator as NZ is in the southern hemisphere.

The trip out of Auckland quickly turned from big city to very rural.

NZ day 1-488

It is the beginnings of spring here.

day2NZD800-470-2

 

Once in the Bay of Islands, we of course had mussels for dinner.  NZ is home to the world famous Green Lipped Mussel, a giant among mussels, with a wonderful sweet taste like no other in the world.

day2NZD800-450-2

 

We visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the British and the native Maori signed a treaty of equality that governed their relationship, not perfectly at times, but it seems to mostly work.  The grounds are not only historical but show a bit of the Maori culture and art.  We have more Maori exploration in the coming days.

day2NZD800-467

 

We have been above NZ in a helicopter (more later) and oh by the way, this is truly a beautiful land.

 

day2NZD800-474-2

 

from our room at the Allegra Bed and Breakfast:

NZdayD600-458

Off for more green lips.  Check back!

Mark

 

four more months

do :: or :: diso is officially 8 months old. I am very proud of the reception the online magazine has gotten from photographers and others and the subscription rate has remained constant. True, Sports Illustrated has not yet called to inquire about an acquisition of my publication, but maybe,  I am not selling just yet!  In any case, here are the most recent four covers of do :: or :: diso. Visit, read the articles, catch up on the archives, and subscribe at: disports.com.

untitled-450

jSept 2014 Flex cover-450

oct 2014 muscle cover-450

DisoSportsCoverHomeFinal

read the magazine, and thanks for visiting my blog — Mark

Jose Canseco and the T-Bones

August 3, the Kansas City T-Bones sponsored a home run derby featuring Jose Canseco, formerly one of the two bash brothers of the Oakland A’s, author of Juiced (a tell all book about steroids in baseball and his personal use).  The T-Bones are Kansas City’s independent minor league baseball team playing out of Kansas City, Kansas, with a slogan – “Fun … Well Done,” apt for the land of beef.  Jose appeared just after a celebrity softball game and just before the T-Bones game began.

He strolled onto the field, bigger than life and almost as buff as when he played big league ball

Tbones8314-519

 

He talked to the media,

Tbones8314-545

warmed up a bit,

Tbones8314-570

and then got serious – hitting a softball some 450 feet over the left field wall and into the nearby parking lot.  Are you serious – a 450 foot softball blast?

Tbones8314-660-2

He mingled with some dignitaries:

Former major league pitcher Diego Segui, who, like Jose, is of Cuban descent, and Frank White, former Kansas City Royal and currently the first base coach for the T-Bones:

Tbones8314-514

Tbones8314-515

Then, after the T-Bones game ended, Jose came back for his home run derby for charity – Harvesters.  He took his swings as well as a group of guys who volunteered to take their shots as it got dark.

tbones8314-2-713

tbones8314-2-864

 

tbones8314-2-825

tbones8314-2-725

Afterward, he checked the scoreboard.

tbones8314-2-732

For me, a great chance to sit 7 feet from Jose with my D4 and a 70-200mm lens and capture some of the man.  After all, he was a 40 home run, 40 stolen bases champ, a slugger for the A’s, who loved and still loves baseball and still sounds like a kid playing stick ball in the street when he talks about the game; a guy who can still hit the ball, hard or soft, a mile, a guy who is still a physical specimen and as a result, fields legitimate questions about continued juicing; a grown up big kid who is funny, warm, engaging, and who also did things and promoted a lifestyle that came to dominate baseball for more than a decade in ways that still challenge the veracity and propriety of our national past time.

And then, he strolled off into the night, and off to the next barnstorming stop on the minor league circuit.  The dichotomy that is Jose.

tbones8314-2-882

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Mark

 

do : : or : : diso — the first 4 months

do : : or : : diso, my monthly sports photography ezine is now 4 months old.  It has been a labor of love . . . mostly love.  Thanks to Jason Lillie for all the help in making the ezine so simple to create each month that even I can do it without too many hitches.  True, I had to re-learn some basic html code and master ftp for the covers each month, but it is live, and hopefully interesting.  Next month, I will cover the process of shooting the 2 Rs of summer – Rugby and Roller Derby.  In the meantime, here are the covers for the first 4 months:

Diso Cover Template final

May 2014 cover

June 2014 cover

july 2014 baseball cover-450

Visit the site at http://disosports.com, subscribe for free, enjoy, and get out and shoot some sports shots.

Mark