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.



the crew:


and the rest:

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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:


Our new apartment on the harbor:


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some of the structures of Reykjavik:

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Winter and spring:


The Canadian embassy:


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

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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.


On the menu:  A sautéed fennel salad


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


with radish sprouts


and home made mayonnaise seasoned with Arctic thyme.


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


northern cracked peppers


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.


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.


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:





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.











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.




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:


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:


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



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.



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.




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:


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.


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.










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:


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.


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:




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






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 . . .


and coastlines like no other.




Kia Ora!


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:








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


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.


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.


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:






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:



then back to Te Anau before the rains hit again.


Tomorrow, Milford Sound.


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:





Seals and Sea Lions:




Assorted other birds:







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


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






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:


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:



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

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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)


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.


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


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.


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.


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:


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.


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


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).


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.


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.

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It is the beginnings of spring here.



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.



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.



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




from our room at the Allegra Bed and Breakfast:


Off for more green lips.  Check back!



diversions from sports photography – Tokyo at New Years 2014

The wonderful thing about making images is that I can decide to shoot sports and I can decide not to. When I decide not to, I call those moments temporary diversions. A diversion might be a trip or an idea or a model or an assignment. Fulfilling a dream, my family and I spent 11 days, including New Years, in Japan. By day and night we walked and road the trains, soaking in the city, the culture and the people.  I found the people there fascinating and returned with many images of the Japanese people living their lives. In particular, New Years (this year the year of the Horse) is a time of great celebration. I shot no sports, but came away from the trip with the belief that in Tokyo, people compete for space,  love to shop, and during the holiday time, they dress up, hit the streets, and thoroughly enjoy seeing and being seen. Mostly, I did the street photography “shoot and scoot” thing, as we tried to see as much as possible.  Here are a selection of Tokyo folks on New Years day and January 2 browsing, keeping order, shopping, touring, interacting, and relishing life.  And now, back to sports!

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Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Mark