“Landscape doesn't have to be significant to matter. The emptiness matters. Everything between yourself and the emptiness matters.” Georg Guðni Hauksson, Icelandic Artist
It was our last night together. The Northern Lights made a grand appearance. Well we drove all day from the north coast of Iceland to the south coast in hopes of finding clear skies and better weather. Something that is never promised in Iceland.
Heading to a second site to shoot the northern lights, an abandoned barn, spirits were waning. It had been a long busy week. We had lots of early mornings and late nights. Being a photographer is not for the faint of heart.
Stepping over or under the wire fence, we walked towards the abandoned barn. Under our feet the ground felt like a muddy sponge, with each step the unavoidable mud puddles became more squishy. I am moaning to myself, because I am cold and now muddy, but trying to avoid water in my boots.
Might be a good time to mention another obstacle I was trying to steer clear of was frozen horse shit.
All of a sudden I see somebody sink down. From where I was standing it looked like the swampy mud became a sinking hole. I realized Dale is at his knees in the mud. His heavy camera pack on his back. Time feels like it froze, just like that horse shit.
I think oh no, who is going to tell Cindy, his lovely wife who stayed back in the warm and dry van? I didn’t even know how bad Dale was hurt yet. In the dark standing paralyzed with our head lamps, Thor, our fearless Icelandic leader comes to Dale’s aide. His camera pack and he are lifted out. You can feel the huge sigh of relief from everyone and the unified moment of retreat. It was an epic end, muddy and defeated, or maybe just exhausted the majority of us decided to call it a night.
In processing during the last few days my time in Iceland, which by the way it is hard to process when I am still in the midst of traveling (I know personal dilemma), what I have come to relish in was the family we formed in those 9 days together. (Altogether I was there for 12 days) Some folks were a part of that family already and had traveled together before, but they received each of us as though we also belong to that family. Maybe it was because most of the group was from Texas and they have that southern hospitality thing going for them, or maybe it was just the magic of our group.
I don’t usually take tours. I am a lone traveler or enjoy one or so travel buddies. I decided to take a photography tour in Iceland because: 1) I wanted to learn more about photography and challenge myself; and 2) I wanted to be with someone who knew the country, all the best spots to photograph and such. And in the end I am also glad I didn’t have to drive in the snow. Taking the tour with Thor and Mike (their websites linked to their names) was the best decision ever.
(Here is a link to the video of such everyday road trip fun.)
I mean, yes, they did give me crap for having a Leica Q, and not the ever common super professional Nikon or Canon with excessive lenses. And when I overtook the Van’s Bluetooth with my iPod Thor vetoed Jackson 5’s ABC before the first word. But I wouldn’t have voted anyone out of our family. We all had our sibling moments, with Papa and Mama bear at the head of our pack of sheeps, don’t ask, it is an inside joke.
I even celebrated my 36th birthday with the bunch and was thrilled when my outspoken dream of chocolate cake for my day came true. A perfect start to my new year. I felt vulnerable and humbled every time we set up our cameras. I am not used to the over the shoulder professional eye peering into my shot. I experienced being frozen to death on more than one occasion, but also feeling like it was worth it each time I was witnessing the beauty of Iceland.
The big massive tour buses are one way of seeing Iceland. Renting a car and driving around on your own or with your selected crew is another. Being adopted into this beautiful photography family, well I wouldn’t change one unexpected thing about my time in Iceland. I could tell you all the places we saw and when, but I would have to be able to pronounce them, and to be honest, Icelandic and I don’t get along well. Something about all those awkward consonants strung together. For me the beauty of Iceland was enhanced due to the family with whom I shared it!
P.S. There are still more photos from Iceland, but will have to wait for another time.