Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sticky post: The latest photos will post beneath this message.

Please answer the poll at the bottom of the page. It will help me to decide whether or not to make some changes to the blog I have been considering lately.


For some reason the poll question disappears when I put it at the top of the blog, so I have had to stick it on the bottom where it is not easy to notice (I should have put it in a post, but it's too late for that now). The poll runs to the end of December. 
Thank you.
 

Countdown to New Year's Eve: Tonight's the night!

To end my countdown to New Year's Eve, here are some rather spooky bonfire photos in which you can clearly see why some people used to think fire was a living thing:




Friday, December 30, 2011

Warm winter coats

Icelandic horses in their thick winter coats look almost like plush stuffed toys:



Countdown to New Year's Eve: 1 day to go

We don't live on the family farm any more, but we do use it as as a summer house, and in the winter we store potatoes there. Going to get the potatoes for the Yule dinner, we encountered this:


This very small and localised snowdrift is the result of a whirlwind that forms in the angle between the house and the stables. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Horse

On Christmas Eve after lunch our family (that is to say my parents, my brother and myself) go on two visits. First we visit the graves of my paternal great-grandparents, the only ones of our close relatives buried near where we live. This is to remember and honour their memories at this time when it is important to us for the family to be together. We leave a branch of evergreen on the grave much as we would do with flowers in the summer.

The second visit is to our horses. We go to see them and give them their Christmas feed and some bread, which they really love. This time, one of them needed to have his hooves looked at, so we brought a halter to hold him while my father tended to his hooves. Here he stands patiently on three legs while dad looks at one of his front hooves. At this point it was too dark to take photos without a flash:


It was getting rapidly more light as they worked, and the next photo could be taken without a flash. 
Here he is listening very intently to what is happening behind him as both my father and brother work on one of his rear hooves:

Countdown to New Year's Eve: 2 days to go

... and I give you: More fireworks! 
I have been hearing intermittent explosions since mid-December, but as of tonight they will become more frequent and will reach a high point a few minutes past midnight on New Year's Night, when the din will have become a constant roar that will make sleep impossible.



Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sometimes I could just cry...

...over a missed photo opportunity, or, as in this case, a bungled one. Good light, perfect pose, ears alert, the wind playing just right in his mane. Unfortunately I pressed the button a fraction of a second too soon, so the shot came out slightly unfocused:

Countdown to New Year's Eve: 3 days to go

Before regulations on air pollution restricted what could and could not be put on the New Year's bonfires, we used to burn up not only all the wood scraps and paper we could amass in the month leading up to the bonfire, but also old furniture, tyres, and oil that the mechanics at the local garage had tapped from the cars in the neighbourhood when they were brought in for an oil change. The oil would be brought in in barrels and young men would run between the barrels and the fire with buckets, throwing oil on the flames (see the bottom photo). It was a dangerous job, and therefore one highly sought after by the young daredevils of the district.

The two most memorable bonfires of my childhood and teens, respectively, were when the remains of small wooden houses that had been used as dormitories for workmen but had been partially destroyed in a fire, were the core of the bonfire, and when we put an old decommissioned fishing boat on the fire (bottom photo). These days, the fire consists mostly of scrap lumber, broken wooden pallets and old Christmas trees.

These are old photos, taken on film:





Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fireworks...

I didn't make many attempts to photograph fireworks when I was shooting on film, but I did make a few. These, taken in Sauðárkrókur many years ago, might not be photographically very good, but I love how the fireworks came to resemble living beings:



Countdown to New Year's Eve: 4 days to go

The fireworks-sellers are out in force and flogging their wares. When I buy fireworks, I generally buy them from either the Scouts or from Landsbjörg, the Association for Search and Rescue. Every year they help hundreds of people out of difficulties ranging from pulling cars out of snowdrifts to very difficult rescues from stranded ships, and it is all done by volunteers. They depend on the income they get from selling fireworks and as a recipient of aid from them I feel it is my duty to support them.

The forst two images are from an annual fireworks display held in conjunction with the New Year's Eve bonfire in Garðabær, a neighbouring city of Reykjavík, and the rest are from the bonfire itself:








Monday, December 26, 2011

Austurvöllur by day and night

Austurvöllur is the name of the square in front of the parliament house and the cathedral. Also located on the square are Hótel Borg, one of the city's oldest and most respected hotels, and the nightclub Nasa, along with several pubs, cafés and restaurants. 

Here you can see it in the day-time, with the statue of national hero Jón Sigurðsson to the left:


At this time of the year the trees in Austurvöllur twinkle with fairy lights:



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Icebound waterfall in Þingvellir

Happy Holidays everyone!

Icebound waterfalls can make magnificent photo opportunities. I have yet to get a photo of Gullfoss in that condition, but some years ago I was lucky enough to capture some icy shots of Öxarárfoss, the waterfall in the river that flows into the Almannagjá rift in Þingvellir. As you can see, it was completely covered over with ice:

The river was still flowing underneath the ice, and as a matter of fact the people in the photo were standing right on top of it:


Some of the "sculptures" were amazing:



There were several foreign tourists there and all were excited to see and take photos of the phenomenon:

Gleðileg jól!

Happy Yule! Merry Christmas! Glædelig Jul! Joyeaux noël!

Thanks for the visits and comments in 2011

The Reykjavík cathedral

Friday, December 23, 2011

Snow buntings


Snow buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis, subspecies insulae) are welcome and delightful winter visitors in many towns and villages in Iceland. They nest in the highlands but in the winter they form flocks, often quite large, and seek the shelter of wooded and inhabited areas. Many people feed them through the snowy months.

After the first snow of the winter my parents buy a sack of wheatberries and feed the birds daily while there is snow on the ground. They have come to be quite fearless of us, although not as fearless as of the old man who used to live next door. The birds would come and actually sit on him when he went out to feed them.

I took these photos on my father's Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera last winter. All of them are crops from larger photos with more birds - thankfully the photos one can get with DSLRs are very large so  it is possible to get decent sized crops out of them. The first one is my favourite.




Yule calendar: 1 day to go

One year I crocheted two angels that could be used as table decorations or as tree toppers and gave one to my mother and the other to my aunt. My aunt has hers up all year round, but my mother uses hers as a Yule tree topper. I didn't use a recipe for either, making them up as I went along, but I did note down how I made them and one day I when I find the notebook again, I plan to type them up and see if I can sell them to a crochet magazine. Here my mom's angel looks very regal on top of the tree:




Then Ljúfur decided the angel would make a perfect perch:


"Stoppit! Ouch! Show some respect!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yule calendar: 2 days to go

Happy Solstice!
Today is the shortest day of the year, and tomorrow the days begin to lengthen.

The Reykjavík cathedral at night. One tends to think of cathedrals as big, soaring stone buildings with spires that seem to be trying to spear the clouds, but the Reykjavík cathedral is small and squat. The oldest part of the church was consecrated in 1796. It has been added to and enlarged twice since then.



Seen in the day time, from Austurvöllur:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yule calendar: 3 days to go

The daylight doesn't last long at this time of the year, and as a matter of fact the year's shortest day is tomorrow. The lights on the Yule trees and in the windows and on the houses brighten up the darkness, but nothing beats a little sunlight at this time of the year. Unfortunately it has been mostly cloudy for the last couple of weeks, and for the last week or so it has snowed and rained by turns. I did see a glimpse of blue sky on Saturday, but no sun.

This tree stands in the middle of Ingólfstorg, in the centre of Reykjavík. There is a charming little Christmas market in the square.



This is what it looks like at night, when all the stalls are closed:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Yule calendar: 4 days to go

Yesterday you saw the tree outside, now I give you the whole building. See the face? 
This is not a Photoshop trick, and neither is it a projected image, but merely a coincidence of light and shadow.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Þingvellir in winter, part 3

The Þingvellir house belongs to the government and is used for public receptions and as a summer house by the Prime Minister. It is not open to the public except on rare special occasions. Designed by Guðjón Samúelsson and built in 1930, it is built in a style imitative of the wood-gabled turf houses of the 18th and 19th centuries. The rightmost two section were added onto the house in the 1970s. Here seen in winter:



On the left you can see part of the roof of Hotel Valhöll, which burned down in 2009:

Here is the view towards the lake.
All three photos are taken from the same spot in the rim of the Almannagjá rift.


And here is an interesting rock formation in the Almannagjá. How many trolls can you see?