Barbados is a fantastic place to scuba dive and has a fascinating monkey preserve as well. The eastern end of the island clocks some of the fastest winds on earth and where they occasionally host surfing X-games. This was a mild day and I assure you the winds where relentless. Millions of years ago this rock was probably part of the cliffs about a thousand feet behind me but was now a lone pock-faced monolith out at the edge of the beach with the whistling wind and crashing waves working it’s underbelly. It was intense.
As you leave the walled city of San Gimignano at the top of the ridge during early sunset, you can work your way down a series of undulating, superimposed, incredible Tuscan views. The perspectives practically stack themselves in front of your eyes at every turn. It’s glorious.
The Andes around Purmamarca are an endless parade of colors and cloud formations covered in shards of slate and giant cactus. A disadvantage of traveling alone when driving at 10,000 feet is feeling like I had just inhaled two martinis! I could see the pass 3,000 feet above leading to the salt flats, my ultimate goal, but this spot was to be the furthest northwest I would reach in Jujuy, Argentina, the province of my birth.
The sunset was spectacular and scrambling up this ridge to capture the scene required some drunken but careful negotiation of loose rocks and imagined? reptile friends. This was a big one off the bucket list.
On the south coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula there is a tiny village called Budir with one of my favorite Icelandic sites, the black Búðakirkja church. Originally built in 1703, but reconstructed in 1987, it is located on some of the most spectacular moss-covered lava fields on the island.
The sense of peace and quiet is as fantastic as was the beautiful afternoon I spent there. The church is surrounded by immense mountain ranges, coastlines, and glaciers, while It’s black finish only adds to the it’s amazing mystique.
I drove through the night to get to the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon right before sunrise.The morning light was just beginning to skim the tops of the rocks and catch the very edge of this overlook.
The drop was extremely high, and I was extremely alone so I stayed back just enough to catch sight of the ridge on the opposite side. A must see in Iceland!
Biking north on the Columbia trail above Califon NJ, there is a stable with many large and beautiful horses. Oftentimes I have to share the path with these guys and it's no contest. Horses 1, cylist 0.
Nothing but lupine flowers all the way to the ridge. During the Icelandic summer, the sun does not move across the sky the way we are used to. Throughout the short, four-hour ‘night’, it stays just below the horizon continually lighting up the sky. Driving east outside Vik, you’ll find the sun and mountains on your left, and moon and sea on your right, rising and falling in an elliptical dance as the full moon illuminates the vibrant purple nootkas.
New 36x24 Photo encaustic of my Icelandic Herd friends. 1. Mounted fine art print, trimmed. 2. First coat of wax, half on 3. Finished and ready to be properly photographed before uploading for sale.
Driving down the southern coast of Iceland, past the horse grasslands, past the volcano, past Vik, and past the alluvial plains, you’ll reach the Jökulsárlón Lagoon where the Vatnajökull glacier mass meets the sea. As huge pieces break off the glacier and fall into the lagoon, they drift towards the narrow opening under the road bridge creating a massive log jam of moaning and creaking ice giants before washing out to sea. Every few minutes a giant piece rolls over in a loud groan submerging the weathered side and exposing it’s glassy, turquoise underbelly, while sending seals and migrating birds in flight. If you make it there by 10pm as the summer sun begins to set, it’s a spectacular site.
I get asked a variety of questions regarding the encaustic process so I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned along the way. Fine art, Hahnemühle prints are a thick paper, almost like light cardboard, that is handled with gloves to avoid finger oil on the prints. When the 3M archival glue used to attach print to the cradleboard has dried overnight, and the print carefully trimmed, then it’s time to start waxing. Applying coats of the wax and damar medium to the print is done using wide Hake brushes, a special goat hair brush that ensures a smooth wax application. I use the term ‘smooth’ loosely as it takes practice to fine-tune the amount of wax that flows onto the print to avoid a mess. While the temperature of the wax affects how liquid it becomes before it is dangerously too hot to work with, brushing too slow applies too much wax, while fast strokes leave bubbles or streaks.
The second image is a good example of the very first coat of wax going onto the print. As you can see, the first coat is critical because the paper cotton fibers adsorb the wax like a towel and leave a very uneven surface. It is this first coat that really envelopes the minute paper fibers and ensures that the ink and image will be ‘entombed’ and last for a very long time.
Each individual layer is then carefully scraped of excess wax for even distribution, which improves with each successive layer. The layers are ‘fused’ or gently melted after each application in order to bind with the layer below. I use a torch to fuse all but the very first layer which is done with a heat gun so as not to accidentally incinerate a spot on the print which, of course, I have done. Some encaustic artists build a thick cake by adding dozens of textured and colored layers of wax. I use few layers to achieve a silky but even textured surface with the principal aim to make the image glow!
One of the most photographed sites in all of Iceland is Church Mountain, or Kirkjufell, on the north coast of the Snaefellness Peninsula. It has become the signature, must have photo memory which invariably results in quite the tourist jam during the summer. The traditional image is taken from the southern side of the road to include the relatively small Kirkjuefellfoss falls, making them look unrealistically large with the mountain in the background. In order to capture something different, I took an alternate approach.
The summer 'night' began as I turned east from the tip of the Snefellness Peninsula past Hellissandur and, according to my calculations, I would traverse the northern coast, gas up at the midpoint town of Olafsvik, the only civilization before my destination, and arrive at Kirkjufell at approximately 4am. I was hoping for solitude, good dawn light to shoot, and ultimately to call it a day in Grundarfjur to find a precious shower!
The Witch's Hat shape of the Kirkjufell rising to 463 meters above the sea is unmistakable as you approach the mountain from the west. The Hound's 'arrowhead mountain' vision in Game of Thrones episodes 6 and 7, as the company goes north of the wall to capture a wight, is truly fantastic in person. The episode's film location shows astonishing images of Kirkjufell snow covered in the dead of winter and I was thrilled to be standing at its base completely at peace.
It is a grand site with the isolated peak jutting into the sea like the Icelandic version of Mount Saint-Michel in Normandy. As I hoped, there was not a soul in site as I explored and scouted the various vantage points around the entire basin. Surrounded by a glacial estuary, there are thousands upon thousands of migrating birds perched and feeding on the surrounding rocks or seaweed-covered beach. Ultimately, climbing down onto the beach and walking out towards the sea, I found the image and feeling I was looking for. A low, wide angle perspective from sea level with the mountain in the background backlit by the first rays of the day created the Ying-Yang shape I was fortunate to capture.
Only by chance did I come across these horses. The dead SUV battery on the first day of my Iceland trip almost made it so I would never arrive at the scene. After getting a charge from a taxi driver in town, it was late afternoon local time, but for me, only morning EST. My last stop was the supermarket for food and ice and from there, I decided to push the driving hard and get a lot further east into open space. I had not settled on a distance target because my priority was to take sunset, night, and sunrise shots, at which point it would be early morning the next day, and my internal clock would tell me it was now night, and to pitch a tent and go to sleep.
As I drove, the lush Icelandic farmland turned sparser and windy plains formed below mountains to the north. Then, it was time for a break and an evening walk up a side road off of Rt.1, the base of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano whose eruption paralyzed air travel in Europe in 2010. It was more to me that just sight-seeing because I actually was stranded in Europe that week; it was personal.
Satellite images show a massive, ash-covered lunar landscape in complete contrast to the flowered fields and present moment in which I came across these horses. It was midnight local time but with just enough light to try to get some shots. The tripod would have alerted them, so I left it behind and moved quietly towards the horses with a spectacular sky above and a breeze light enough to cover my footsteps.
Ultimately, my camouflage fooled no one and my new friend decided to get up and inspect the human making a racket. That's when the session started. I eventually got a few images with the mountains in the back as well, but this particular photo really highlighted the horse with sky behind. You never know how it's going to work out; timing is everything.
County fairs are usually loud and wild affairs. There are many rural areas in Western New Jersey, and I love to frequent the events held here because you just never know what photo opportunities you're going to find.
This year's Hunterdon County fair, not far from home, is just an example. And while I learned a tremendous amount about tractor pulls, and enjoyed watching teenagers pummel each other while encased in huge, inflatable combat balls, the main attraction for me is always the animals.
With no shortage of photo opportunities, I went on the lookout for the image that would speak to me. Horses, cows, sheep, and even llamas sometimes participated and posed for me, but often not, and as the day began to wind down, I thought I might go home empty handed. But then until I came across the baby pigs.
These rough and tough piggies were having a great time playing in the hay, enjoying a good meal, slurping a few water drinks, and having an all-around good time hootin' and hollarin'. And while the melee was an alert photographer's dream, it wasn't until the gang had tired themselves out that I caught this guy smiling good night to me as he tucked in with his brothers and sisters for some well-deserved rest.
The Ingjaldsholl church, on the tip of the Sna¦fellsness peninsula in Iceland, is situated between the towns of Rif and Hellissandur. The views, including the historic church on the hill, the Alaskan Lupine flowers that cover Iceland in July, and the spectacular jagged coastline, are magnificent in every direction.
The Icelandic Vinglundar Saga mentions this prayer chapel as early as 1317 and, according to legend, Christopher Columbus visited in 1477 to study the journeys of Nordic sailors and gain additional information about their travels to North America. The current church is the oldest concrete church in the world, having been built in 1903.
Driving at night because summer sunsets and sunrises are only a few hours apart, I simply could not resist the allure of the church with the spectacular Sna¦fellsjokull glacier behind and the brilliant purple flowers in front. I especially wanted to capture this peaceful and quiet moment of solitude at 2:00am, which was made possible by the wonderful, and surprising, amounts of Icelandic summer light.
The ‘three Icelandic horses’ image has gotten a lot of attention, and many comments and questions from your emails and Facebook posts. I’ve been asked several times to tell their story, especially by those who’ve seen the print at the Hopewell Bistro. I love photographing horses wherever I can, including around my home, because I am always amazed by how massive, powerful and strong they are, but at the same time have such incredibly sweet, gentle, and curious personalities.
Towards the end of my Iceland trip this summer, returning from the Snaefellsness peninsula, the Ring Road must cross the Hvalfjorour fjord by way of the 5,700 meter long Hvalfjorour Tunnel, submerged 165 meters under the sea, before re-emerging south towards Reykjavik. And while the tunnel is considered an engineering marvel, I followed a multitude of recommendations to bypass it, and take routes 47 & 48 the whole, long way around the entire fjord. This amazing scenic road comes complete with incredible mountains, waterfalls, solitude (everyone else is taking the most travelled road), Hvitanes, an abandoned World War II British military base, more sheep, and of course, my Icelandic horse friends.
I intentionally scheduled my trip to coincide with the full moon in July, and the statistically driest month in Iceland. While I had glorious weather all week, on the last day of my trip, on the way back to civilization, the statistical rainfall average caught up with me. But in one lucky moment, negotiating one of the slick bends in the road, I came upon this group of beautiful horses hunkered down together as they must do often with no shelter or barn in site. Icelandic horses are incredibly hardy, live very long, suffer few diseases, and are direct descendants of the original horses the Vikings brought over from Norway. Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported, and exported ones may never return.
Rain can be seriously inconvenient when camping but I’ve learned that inclement weather can make for fantastic photography. Exiting the 4x4 and working my way up the slope in full parka, I found that it was not so much the rain, but the sideways wind and accompanying waves, that made the entire process of holding a camera practically underwater, very problematic. I made the mistake of trying to swap lenses and later found many unusable shots sporting huge water globules on the lens. As they say in Iceland, ‘Bíta á jaxlinn’ sometimes you have to ‘bite the molar’ and just go for it. With thunder clouds above, and watching me as I clumsily approached them, the horses seemed un-phased by the storm, and more concerned for me than for themselves: ‘Hey Mr., are you okay?’. These three, very wet, tough Vikings, showing scars on their noses, approached me calmly, and were beautiful, attentive, and curious; inner peace in a raging storm. Some have commented that the horses look like they are flying or running towards the camera, but in fact it was the wind wildly blowing their manes while they posed as calm as the Buddha.
The first day of my Icelandic road trip got off to a late start due to a dead car battery and the Friday night Reykjavik summer rush hour traffic. When I finally got moving, I pushed hard eastward along the southern coastal road seeking the beauty and desolate landscape I had come to experience.
The topography in Iceland changes dramatically right before your eyes. From the farmlands east of Reykjavik, to the flower covered hills by the black beaches of Cape Dyrholaey, and on to the fairy tale greenery of the Fjaorargigijufur canyon, to the edges of the Vatnajukull glacier, you feel as if you’ve traversed Kansas, Hawaii, Ireland, and the Canadian Rockies in the course of five hours.
After a well-earned wilderness campsite rest in the moss covered lava fields, and a short drive further east, it was time for breakfast at the edge of the Skeidararsandur alluvial plane. Astonishingly long and suspended one-way bridges cross this 1300 square kilometers of black sand and gravel with finger-like water streams moving south to the sea. The area is fed by a constant flow of ice melt, and a volcanic eruption under the glacier in 1996 caused many ‘glacial bursts’, and massive flooding of the area.
This image was taken close to the edge of the glacier where the last hills of vegetation and grazing sheep can actually get a foothold. I shot wide to capture the delicate powder black sand at my feet, the artic lichens dunes, and the foothills behind. You can just make out the two sheep across the river keeping a watchful eye. And even though the wind was howling, my bad coffee, hard boiled eggs, and can of cold ham never tasted better. A truly magnificent spot.
On the Island of Barbados, the beauty and character of Saint Joseph’s church is matched only by its amazing history. I was lucky to shoot from Hackleton’s Cliff above the church grounds on a magnificently sunny, but brutally windy day. Looking closely, you can see how slanted the building is with several enormous, crippling cracks across the front of the facade. The church faces the Eastern side of the island, with the intense blue haze of the Atlantic Ocean behind, and storms clouds threatening above.
The initial church was built before 1641, damaged by a hurricane in 1789, mostly destroyed by another in 1831, partially rebuilt in 1839, structurally damaged by land slippage and earth tremors in 2007, and battered once again during Tropical Storm Thomas in October of 2010. Taken in December of 2013, this image might have been among some of the last since the 300-year old Anglican church was recently deconsecrated in preparation for demolition. Seeing the church bathed in sunlight from above, the beautiful Caribbean, and feeling the full intensity of the ocean, I am amazed by the history, character, and resilience of purpose of this old church that will soon be no more.
At Jokulsarlon Lake, on the south shores of Iceland east of Vik, chunks of ice from the Breioamerkurjokull glacier break off, drift across the lake towards the ocean, and create a magnificent spectacle at the mouth of the lagoon on this cool, 45 degree summer dusk. The log jam of other-worldly shapes and sizes groan, twist, crack, and periodically rotate onto their side sending all the perched birds into a panicked flight. The ice masses have a snow white covering with traces of a delicate blue, but when the icebergs rotate, the previously submerged, jagged portions are now exposed, and emerge with sparkling clear and greenish hues in one slow, massive thrust upwards.
On the edge of the Vatnajokull National Park, the glacier has been steadily melting and the lake has increased to four times its original size. I approached the lake by crossing the bridge that spans over the little creek of ice melt heading towards the Atlantic Ocean only 1500 yards away. The thousands of migratory birds, the fine powder black lava beaches, and the ice lagoon are not only stunningly beautiful, but, in a way, render an incredibly peaceful and serene scene. After the sun sets, bathing the crystal giants in a golden glow, and most of the tourists have left, is when the real spectacle begins. The entire area becomes an even deeper blue with the ice emanating a kind of soft florescence. Truly one of the most magnificent landscapes I have visited.
I land in Reykjavik on Thursday, July 7th. With the 4x4 and camping gear, the plan is to load up on fuel and provisions, and head east to shoot the ice lagoons in Jokulsarlon. I’ll head around to the lava beaches at Vik, traverse the hordes of tourists at Gullfoss and the Golden Circle, and break out east to the northern and southern shores of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Summer tundra camping, limited facilities, and a carload of camera gear. By shifting waking hours forward to 9am -1am EST, I hope to catch sunset, and sunrise lighting conditions between 1pm-5am GMT. I’m grateful for the opportunity to photograph some incredible landscapes. Look for posts.
Landscapes and cityscapes photos depict beautiful rolling hills or striking, angular patterns. Shooting with a macro lens, you can see similar forms replicated on a very small scale. The close up of this flower reveals mini landscapes of pink hills and yellow trees, like the fractal relationships between the ocean waves and the ripples in a pond. This flower is the size of a coin, containing what looks like a tiny oasis landscape at its center. Maybe that’s how insects view it. I’m always amazed.