Monday, April 30, 2012

Columbines in bloom

Aquilegia vulgaris, the European columbine (I like the alternative name: Granny's Nightcap). 
This is a common variety seen in many Icelandic gardens:



The columbine is called Vatnsberi in Icelandic, which means "water carrier". You can see why in this photo:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Look west, look east

Actually it's north-west and south-east, but it's close enough.

Standing in almost the same spot, you can get very different types of photos. This is taken on the beach in Kjalarnes, just north of Reykjavík and south of the small suburb of the same name.

First we have seaweed-covered boulders:


And then we have my car, looking as if it were standing guard in the middle of a hayfield:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Black-headed gull having its say

These small gulls should actually be called brown-headed gulls, as their heads are chocolate brown and not black. This one was begging for breadcrumbs down by the pond in Reykjavík:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Crying

Close-up of one of a pair of statues comprising a work of art named Rætur (Roots), by sculptor Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir.

Rætur stands in Bankastræti in the heart of Reykjavík. Steinunn has made many sculptures of human figures, which, for some reason, usually look like they are either really sad, depressed, or in pain, so the drop of water on the tip of this one's nose and the streaks of water on the face made it look like it had taken the leap from sadness to full-on crying.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sleeping fox

This was taken ages ago at the domestic zoo in Reykjavík. The little white spots in the photo are probably specks of dust that got on the photo before I scanned it and I didn't notice when I was resizing it in Photoshop.

This is the Icelandic subspecies of Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus fuliginosus), the rarer variety whose fur colour changes seasonally. In the summer they have brown fur and are indistinguishable from the variety that stays brown all year round.

I think the strange bokeh in the background is a scanning problem - I certainly can't see it in the print.

Scanned photo. Nikon F-301.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ready to sail



This galleon is part of a small amusement park in Reykjavík that I pass often on my way to and from a friend's house. One night I had my camera with me and captured this mystical sunset photo of it. You can almost imagine it as a real pirate ship, waiting to set sail.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Horfur


Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir, Horfur, 2000 (Prospect, 2000)
There are several statues in this style to be found in Reykjavík, all of them by the same artist. While they are undeniably well sculpted, I find them depressing because they all seem to have the blues quite badly. The feeling here is heightened by the rain and the wet bundle of newspapers on the pavement. All that's missing is a depressing headline.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Viðey

Two of the most common subjects for living room paintings in the homes of older generations of Reykjavikians are Þingvellir and the island of Viðey with the Esja in the background (or the Esja vith Viðey in the foreground, depending on who you are talking to). My great aunt has both. 

Viðey, seen from the point of land nearest the island:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Towering, soaring, climbing

Hallgrímskirkja is the biggest church in Iceland and its shape and design make it a fascinating subject for photography. The façade seems to change colour according to the time of day. Here it is bathed in the warm glow of late afternoon light.







Saturday, April 21, 2012

Swimming gull

A lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus) keeps one eye on the camera as it swims lazily by.
These large gulls are scavengers and also prey on the eggs and chicks of other birds and have often nearly decimated entire generations of duck chicks on the pond in Reykjavík.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

Blesi is a beautiful hot spring in Haukadalur, not far from the geyser Strokkur.
Don't let the tranquil look fool you: dip your hand in it and you will get burned.




As far as I know, this mud pool in the ever-changing geothermal area in Seltún, near lake Kleifarvatn, does not have a name.
The mud in it will burn you quite as badly as the tempting blue water in the hot spring.
While it can't be called conventionally beautiful, it is fascinating:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Reflections of an economic boom

During the economic boom (the naughties up to 2008), wherever you looked in Reykjavík you could see building cranes. There are two cranes in this reflection but the vertical part of one lines up with the area between two windows so you only see the horizontal part and a tiny glimpse of the rest of it.

The photo turned out strangely grainy considering it was taken on a bright sunny day, with a low ISO-setting. When I went back there to take more photos I took a closer look and discovered that the "grain" was actually dirt. Those windows really needed washing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Earth colours

The Seltún geothermal area near lake Kleifarvatn doesn't have as many spectacularly beautiful hot springs as the Haukadalur area, but it is a great place to visit and experience boiling hot springs and bubbling mud pools in a landscape that looks primeval if you ignore the wooden walkways. The walkways are there to make sure no-one gets burned, as the area is geologically very active and springs and pools constantly appear and disappear and shift locations, and the hot stream that runs through it shifts its course occasionally.



Dry clay deposit flaking off the sand underneath looks reminiscent of paint flaking off a wooden surface:

The minerals deposited by the water make the ground look very colourful:

A hole left by a tiny fumarole adjacent to a sulphur deposit:


A mud pool looks almost as if it is inviting you in for a mud bath, but it is given away by the bubbles. 
It is actually scalding hot and dangerous.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Calico cats

Calico cats (also known as tortoiseshell-and-white) are special, not only for their distinctive tri-colour fur, but for the fact that they are almost always female. When a rare male is born with calico markings, he will generally be sterile.

Here are two lovely examples of calico cats. The first belongs to a good friend of mine. The other I spotted while out walking and felt I needed to take a photo, as the markings were really unusual.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lovely graffiti

This has to be my favourite piece of graffiti ever. I discovered it many years ago, half-hidden on the back wall of a warehouse in Reykjavík, and while the graffiti on the wall of either side of it has changed several times since I first saw it, this one always remains. I haven't checked recently, but it was still there a couple of years ago.

Monday, April 09, 2012

A photo and a crop: boat reflections

You can't make some people happy. I posted this in a flickr group for critique and got complaints that it was too busy (which it admittedly is).



In reply to the comments I cropped it down to this - and got told people wanted to see the whole boats - which was what made the original busy to begin with.

Digital photo, Canon PowerShot A430

Had the commenters tried to articulate what was really wrong, they could have pointed out that I should have used selective focusing to keep the reflections and row of boats nearest to me sharp while throwing the ships and building in the background out of focus. It's too much work to do it in Photoshop, but the photo can be replicated photographically with little effort. (It is't possible using the point and shoot camera it was taken on, but is easy using an SLR). I might also I am try applying a tilt-shift effect to it in GIMP.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter blossom

To Icelanders the daffodil is the one and only Easter flower.
Its Icelandic name, páskalilja, even means Easter lily.

From my scanned photos

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Sheltering from the rain

A cross spider (Araneus diadematus) shelters from the rain in a niche under a metal handrail. At this magnification, the painted metal looks like rock:


Friday, April 06, 2012

Hobbit house?

I have always imagined Hobbit houses (not the hollowed out hillocks the rich Hobbits prefer, but houses built from the ground up) as being similar to Icelandic turf houses, except with round doors and windows. Although this window is rectangular, one can almost imagine an eccentric Hobbit, who likes to do things differently, peeping out of it.

The window belongs to Víðimýrarkirkja in Skagafjörður, which is one of the oldest turf churches in Iceland that is still in use.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Sólfar panorama I

You can't help noticing the Sólfar when driving along the Sæbraut towards downtown Reykjavík. Whether you think it's a lovely "bare bones" representation of a Viking ship or think it looks like an ugly steel insect (as someone described it), you can't deny it is striking.

5 digital photos, Canon PowerShot A430, combined in PhotoStitch

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Sale! Everything must go!

I thought these clothes dummies stacked in a shop window made an interesting image. The text reads SALE.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Dynjandi

Dynjandi is a spectacular and justly famous waterfall in the West Fjords. The name can be translated as The Boomer, which is apt, as it is very loud. I arrived at the site late at night and had no energy left to pitch my tent in the campsite, so I slept in the car.

I awoke the next morning stiff and cranky and in a hurry to get home and therefore I didn't give myself time to properly explore all the possible angles for photographing it. In any case the lighting conditions weren't at all good. I may go back there next summer and I hope I get better light then.If I do, the plan is to hike as close to the falls as possible and bring the big camera, a tripod and some patience.