Iceland, Post #1

I just returned from my first ever visit to Iceland, a trip I’ve been wanting to take for many years. I had a mixed mission to photograph and run up as many mountains & volcanoes as possible. But, alas, the weather conspired to make real running problematic at best. A day or two prior to my arrival, a blizzard deposited a snow all over the mountains and backroads of southern Iceland, making travel to trailheads via ordinary 4wd not possible.

Of course, if you had one of these, you’d be all set:

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

This is the vehicle you need to get around the backcountry in Iceland.

As it was, I had to drive 25 km on supposed main roads to get to the cottage I rented, and the wind had already begun drifting over sections of the road. When I took the side “road” to the cottage, I got stuck off the road, and had to dig out the snow from under the truck with my mittened hands. Finally I made it to the “R50″ cottage (just a name, not an insulation value)—it had a nice view of Hekla:

This is the little cottage "R50" that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It's super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

This is the little cottage “R50″ that I rented. Cheaper than the car rental, and a great view of Hekla about 20 km away. It’s super hard to gauge distance without trees as a reference. (Note the two trees attempting to grow in the from of the cottage.)

The hill on the left looks to be the same height as Hekla, but it’s not; as you can see in the view from a different vantage point:

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)---it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn't even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

Hekla is a famous volcano in Iceland (due to erupt soon supposedly)—it the 1500 m peak in the center. Since I couldn’t even hope to make it to the trailhead via car, and because I did not bring skis, it was too far given the snow to do in one day. As it was, I was post-holing through thigh high snow just to summit the hill on the left.

My first day, I went for a nice 12km run to explore the first hill; it was obvious that running shoes would be iffy at best due to the ice, snow and steepness as one approached the summit, so I resolved to come back in a day or two with my crampons and ice axe. More about that in another post.

On my second day, I ended up having the good fortune to have picked up two hitchhikers from Reykjavik University—they were headed to Seljavallalaug — a small pool built into the mountainside of the mountains by Eyjafjallajökull (that’s the volcano that erupted in 2010), a fifteen-minute walk (over rocky streams and under basalt turrets) off the end of road 242. I’d have not found this pool if they had not been hitching a ride when I drove by. Here’s the pool:

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920's. I gave a couple of hitchhiking  students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

Nice thermal-fed pool built in the 1920’s. I gave a couple of hitchhiking students from Reykjavik a ride here, and they told me that when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, this pool was filled with volcanic ash, and it was dug out (by hand?) in order to restore it to use.

and here’s a picture of steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside:

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

You can see steaming hot water emerging from the mountainside, and the colorful green slime that grown in the scalding hot water.

On the way back to the “ring road” (rt. 1), I came by this house, and made my favorite image of my trip (click any image to view it larger):

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

House placed at a somewhat precarious location at the base of a steep slope.

A few things I’ve learned about traveling to Iceland: (1) if you come in March or April, bring SkiMo gear (this is an awesome place to ski tour, and sometimes, the only way to cover the distances over snow needed to reach trailheads, (2) don’t even think about seeing the whole island in a week. You need time, and the weather may not always cooperate, (3) Iceland’s weather is like that in the mountains of New Hampshire or Maine, it can be very windy and significantly colder than at the lower elevations.

More in my next post.

Ice, Sun dogs and Parhelic Circle

It’s been cold this February in Maine—by local accounts, we’ve had more ice in Portland Harbor than has been seen in decades, and the Coast Guard has been using it’s ice breaking ship to keep the harbor navigable. However, “navigable” is relative; smaller boats have not been able to escape the harbor due to the ice buildup, which has now even reached Peaks Island:

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View looking north along western edge of Peaks Island.

 

The cold weather means that small animals (such as a recently sighted mink) can even make the trek from Peaks Island to neighboring House Island (mink not in this photo):

 

 

View from Peaks Island to House Island at -20 C.

View from Peaks Island to House Island at -20 C.

 

Just the other day (Feb 16, 2015), on a frigid walk around the island with my daughter, we spotted a beautiful sun dog—an optical phenomenon caused by reflection & refraction through ice crystals in the atmosphere. The two opposite rainbow arcs are formed when the light refracts through a minimum deviation of 22 degrees:

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Sundog from back shore of Peaks Island, ME.

Sometimes, but apparently much more rarely, one can see a parhelic circle extending from either sundog part way around the sky. On this morning, the arc extended more than half  way around the sky, and I took this panoramic image before my iphone6+ battery totally tanked in the -18 C temperatures:

Parhelic Circle extending from a sun dog on Feb 16, 2015 on Peaks Island, ME

Parhelic Circle extending from a sun dog on Feb 16, 2015 on Peaks Island, ME

 

Blueberry Barren, Franklin, ME

BlueberryBarrensFranklinME

At the top of the dead-end road is a blueberry field owned by my neighbor. The field is rented out to some (presumably) local blueberry farmer. I run by this field almost every day on my trail run up Schoodic Mountain. This morning I took our dog out for a few full-on sprints up to the top of the field, and was treated to a simply wonderful crisp, clear, vibrant spring morning.

As I walked along the top of the field, I just basked in the gorgeous views and of next thing I new I was composing photographs and thinking visually about the compositions I was mentally composing. So, I ran back home grabbed my camera, 40mm pancacke and a 70-200mm and spend some time making photographs.
BlueberryBarrensFranklinME01

BlueberryBarrensFranklinME02

Peaks Island, ME

My family is beginning to search for a house on Peaks Island, ME so we can all be in one place, and I will be able to stop the insane amount of “commuting” I have been doing between DownEast Maine and Portland, being away from home for 4 days per week. Here are two snapshots in the evening before taking the ferry back to Portland after looking at a potential house.

In the image below, the posts are illuminated by the dock light (iso 1600, click on the image for a larger version)

Dock Posts, Peaks Island, ME

Dock Posts, Peaks Island, ME

And eventually, the ferry arrives (iso 1600); I just love the late evening and dock light combination in these two images.

Waiting for the Ferry, Peaks Island, ME

Waiting for the Ferry, Peaks Island, ME

As the last house didn’t pan out, the search continues. Meanwhile, I’m concertedly rehabbing some posterior tibial tendonitis and ankle pain that has totally stopped my trail running for 3 weeks now. But, I’m now regaining my normal flexibility, and am able to walk almost normally, so I am hopeful to be up running by the end of the week if things keep progressing along.

Tunk Mountain Trail, Maine

Tunk Mountain Trail, T10 SD


It’s been an unusually warm fall and winter in Maine, as evidenced by above freezing temperatures on January 1, 2012 when I went on a short 7.5km hike (round trip) with my 6 and 10 year old daughters. We hiked up Tunk Mountain, which has a fabulous view of the surrounding terrain. Tunk Mountain is just outside Franklin, ME, but is in T10 SD (I think that’s Maine speak for Township 10 South Division). There are few enough people living here that it’s apparently not worth forming a proper town.

Click on the image for a full size view.

Black Mountain, Maine

Tunk Lake from Black Mountain

Tunk Lake, ME from slope of Black Mountain

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted due to having moved the family and set up a new house, but I’ve still managed to shoot a fair amount—however, blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. I’m starting to get caught up with work and now that we’re all just about settled in, and I hope to post more regularly.

So, in the spirit of getting started again, here’s an image from my new favorite hike in downeast Maine—Black Mountain. Most people that hike in the area (just north of Ellsworth) go to Schoodic Mountain, and I’ve hiked it many times. But, it’s a little disappointing to have radio towers on the summit. Black Mountain doesn’t have this problem, and I rarely see many people hiking on in. It has an extended region with sweeping views extending from Mount Desert Island to the mountains of Western Maine. The photograph above is from an overlook toward Tunk Lake, and the photograph below, of the granite close to the summit of Black Mountain.

Granite and Lichens, Black Mountain, ME

Storm Cloud and Snow, Brooklin, ME

A gorgeous landscape in Brooklin, MaineOne of the great things about the ocean in Maine is that in the thick of winter, no matter how many meters of snow might be on the ground, you can walk at low tide along a beach as if it were summer (provided you can ignore the obvious temperature difference). A walk along the beach in Brooklin, Maine brought a view of this amazing house situated with a sweeping view of the ocean. The house, outbuildings and their careful placement in the landscape left me with the definite impression that I had left Maine and been transported to Norway or Sweden. A gorgeous spot with pretty nice lighting.

Single exposure 24mm f/13 at 1/80 sec; processed in Lightroom 3.3 and Silver Efex Pro 2.0.