Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Day three in Iceland was my first day completely on my own. I decided to start small with a day trip to Snæfellsjökull. Normally the drive is only a couple of hours, but it ended up taking me the entire day to get there. I took a detour off of 1, the main road, so that I wouldn't have to pay a toll for a long tunnel. I marked my route in blue on this map. You can see the detour off to the right that follows the coast instead of going under water. I took the tunnel on the way home since it was getting late.

I really enjoyed taking 47, the detour on the way out to the glacier. I had my first encounter with some Icelandic horses. They are a beautiful breed and they know it. I stopped at quite a few places to take their portraits. Their demeanor almost said "Alright, I know I am beautiful, so I guess I will let you take my picture."

I grew up in Houston, so it doesn't take much ice to get me really excited. The clear day and bright sunlight were deceiving. The wind blows so hard that it flattens and smashes the grass in crazy ways. Combined with a frozen over stream and some mountains, and the result was a landscape that basically blew my Texan mind.

I photographed quite a few waterfalls during my trip to Iceland, but this cute little fall called Fossárett was the most fascinating to me. The mist from this waterfall turned the grass and rocks around it into a frozen wonderland.

I finally made it to Snæfellsjökull around dusk with barely enough time to drive up near the glacier. The road passing through the glacier was marked with intense warning signs, so instead I used my last bits of light to photograph the view. The first image shows the road I chose not to drive, and the second shows the other side of the view from this hill.

On my way home I got really tired, so I pulled over to take a little nap. When I woke up, I noticed some borealis in my rearview mirror. I scrambled to get my gear out of the car. Unfortunately, the place I parked didn't provide the most stunning foreground. I am glad I got the shots when I did though, because when I began scouting new locations, the lights went away. I still felt lucky to have seen an even brighter display than the little bits from my first night.

Even though the borealis didn't come back, I pulled over to do more night shots of the mountains. It was very, VERY cold, so I quickly became skilled at taking photos from my car. I propped the camera up on my car window for this shot.

Fun Fact: The Icelandic language has changed less from it's root language, Old Norse, than any other Nordic language. To create new vocabulary, they use the native root words instead of borrowing from other languages.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vik, Iceland

My second day in Iceland, Lárus Sigurðarson and I went to Vik and back. I highlighted the route on this map in red. The drive was a perfect day trip, and gave me the chance to get more acquainted with Iceland before setting off on my own. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that you can walk behind. It was so cold that the mist froze the grass around the waterfall. The pathways were incredibly slippery, and I actually had my first dorky fall here. My ski pants were so thick that it didn't hurt at all, but I was more careful after that.

I got a quick lesson on how and where to pull over to get photos of things that catch my eye as I drive.

We stopped at Skógarfoss, a waterfall where both Justin and Lárus have managed to capture rainbows. My tiny rainbow was barely visible, but I was happy with the visit.

Vik had some beautiful places to visit, but I found it amusing that it is marked as a city on the map. It basically consists of a bed and breakfast, gas station with a burger joint, and a church. The egg burgers were delicious though!

I took a rock from the beach. It would have been a great location to work with a model.

Lárus showed me how to drive to this great lighthouse at with an incredible view. I used the lesson on how to drive up steep dirt roads many more times throughout my time in Iceland.

Fun Fact: Iceland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Iceland: Velkomin!

When I told friends and family I was going to Iceland, the most common response was, "...why?" My next couple blogs will hopefully defend my answer, "because it's AWESOME!"

I have wanted to go to Iceland since I first saw the work of Lárus Sigurðarson, an incredible photographer whose portraiture inspired a lot of my early work. While searching some blogs, I found out that Justin Black,another photographer I follow, was going to be in Iceland on the day I was planning to arrive. I got in touch with both Justin and Lárus, and we made plans to meet on my first day there. I collected all the addresses, reservations, and phone numbers I needed and hopped on the Iceland Express plane.

My flight was late, so I hurried to get my rental car so I could make it into Reykjavik in time to meet Justin. I felt like I had just landed on Mars. I stood in front of my adorable little rental in the freezing wind with a million thoughts racing through my mind. "What if I crash this car? What if I run out of gas? What if I get lost? What am I doing in ICELAND?!" My google map instructions proved to be completely useless, and thus began my first adventure. I followed the signs to Reykjavik, and after about 40 minutes driving with white knuckles I found my hostel. I had no money, so I couldn't pay for a parking meter! I parked illegally outside the hostel and ran inside to ask what I should do. They pointed me to an atm, and I pulled out 1000 kronur (about $10.) Side note: to use an American credit card in European atms, you need to assign a pin number to the card. Make sure to do this before you leave for Europe, because calling your card company from overseas is a hassle. Better yet, just take your debit card with you. I left mine at home because I was afraid of what would happen if it got lost or stolen, but it would have been really convenient to have. The receptionists gave me change for my 1000 Kronur so I could pay the parking meter and run inside to email Justin. By this point I was over an hour late. Justin and I had about an hour to sprint around Reykjavik, talking an mile a minute and taking a couple of quick pictures.

Justin had to go to a viking dinner, so he left and Lárus showed me around Reykjavik. We were bummed that Justin couldn't be there, so when Lárus offered to go aurora borealis hunting with me we refused to let Justin miss it. We surprised Justin at the restaurant and took him with us. I can't even begin to express how fortunate I was to have Lárus as a guide. He showed us some great places that I would never had found by myself at night. I adore waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, so I was thrilled that Öxaráfoss was our first stop.

At our next stop I saw my first borealis! It was so faint that it looked more like a cloud to the naked eye, but the camera picked up the color beautifully.

In long underwear, jeans, ski paints, two shirts, a down coat, three pairs of gloves, an enormous scarf and three pairs of socks I felt pretty comfortable! It was cumbersome handling my equipment with the gloves, but the warmth was worth it. We drove to a higher point with a beautiful view of the location we just visited and took some photos from there. The orange glows in the picture come from the lights in Reykjavik. The light from the full moon lit the landscape so much that it photographed almost like daytime.

As we headed back, Lárus offered to show me around the next day as well! I was SO lucky Lárus was so generous with his time, because I would have been a chicken with my head cut off without his help on my first two days.

Fun fact: The total population of Iceland is a little over 300,000 people.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I didn't do any research before arriving in Florence, so most of what I knew about Florence came from the musical "The Light in the Piazza." In fact, every second I was in Florence I was either singing the music, humming it, or had it stuck in my head. Our hostel offered free walking tours, so we got caught up on the history of Florence and the location of important monuments. Mom was particularly excited about seeing the Ponte Vecchio bridge. I was jealous of whoever owned the private lawn in this picture.

In every city I visit, I try to find the highest point to take pictures from. Normally, my favorite views come from the tops of churches and towers. Mom and I visited the top of the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore, but we found my favorite views of Florence on a visit to the other side of the river. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio and proceeded uphill on foot. The sun was setting at this point, creating a stunning backdrop for the city. You can see the Duomo in right hand side of this image.

I took this photo from the very top of the Duomo, where I also found a cute set of locks.

Romance, art, theatrics, fashion, Florence had it all. Since I don't have room to bring many souvenirs home with me, I enjoy photographing the shops instead.

Italian gelato absolutely shames what American shops try to call "gelato." I tried so many different flavors, and each one was more delicious than the last. The presentation is also quite a bit more exciting than similar ice cream shops in the states.

You can't go to Italy without having pasta.

Finally, I have to introduce you to my favorite treat in Italy. I have always loved hot chocolate, but what Italy offers in that department left me speechless. Cioccolata Calda. It's essentially melted chocolate that you drink. It's so thick you have to use a spoon to scoop out the last few sips from the cup. The best cioccolata calda we had was from a Gilly, a beautiful upscale sweet shop and bar. You can hardly capture how delicious this stuff is in a photograph, but I had to snap one anyway.

You are probably wondering about the lack of statues in this blog so far. After all, the opening number of "Light in the Piazza" is called "Statues and Stories." Statues are EVERYWHERE in Florence, and it's also home of the famous statue of David. Unfortunately, the lines were way too long for us to see the statue in person. However, I did enjoy visiting the Piazza della Signoria which houses an outdoor sculpture gallery. My favorite statue was this fierce portrayal of the slaying of Medusa.

My last morning in Florence we woke up at 4:30am, mom walked me to the bus stop, and that's where we said goodbye. Excited, terrified, READY, I hopped onto a 5am bus to the airport. Coming up next, SOLO IN ICELAND!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Locks of Love

I first came across this tradition on a bridge in Seville, Spain. Young couples write or scratch their names into locks, put them on old bridges and throw the keys into the water, preserving their love forever. I found groups of locks all over Italy. Adorable.

Seville, Spain

Rome, Italy

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy: In a window in the duomo of the The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Assisi: Plucked from a Dream

We arrived in Assisi in the early afternoon, before our hostel opened at 4pm. We waited outside in a light rain. Relief washed over me as I realized that the only sounds were the breeze and my own footsteps. It felt incredible to finally be out of the big city. An older Italian man waited at the door with us. We can't speak Italian, and he couldn't speak English, but somehow we managed communicate enough to find out that he had walked several hundred kilometers to get there. He showed us a map that marked the pilgrimage he was on. Somehow, the one and a half mile walk to the train station didn't look so exhausting after talking to him.

When we finally checked in to the hostel, we spoke to the receptionist about catching a bus into the city center. "Why? It's right THERE, just WALK!" So, we walked.

It was at least a mile uphill to the city. As we trekked up dirt roads lined with olive trees and stone farmhouses, I seriously felt like I had been transported back in time. Even the occasional passing car couldn't shake the thought that I was living in a dream. Mom complained about the weather, and hoped it would clear up. I hoped the rain would stay! I have seen paintings of sun bursting through clouds, but I didn't realize that it could REALLY happen with this much drama. No need for extensive photoshopping, the landscape did everything for me.

We explored some churches, and soaked in the city for a while. The architecture complimented the land in the most adorable ways.

I found this dog in front of one of the smaller churches. He wasn't actually tied to anything. The leash rested on a ledge, so every 10 minutes or so he sauntered happily into the church to find his owner. She scolded him, and took him back outside.

My mom noticed this litter on the steps of the church of St. Clare of Assisi. Litter is everywhere, but on the steps of a church?! There were trash cans only a few feet away.

Window shopping in Italy has proven to be a frustratingly mouth watering experience. All the food looks so delicious, but tastes even better than it looks.

Of course, we eventually ended up at the highest point in the city, Rocca Maggiore. Many of the castles in Europe boast a "panoramic view" and don't deliver, so I was skeptical when the man at the ticket window told me to look for the tower with the panoramic view. I wandered about for a while, and eventually saw a small tower that looked promising. I had a heck of a time figuring out how to get to it. I saw a tiny staircase leading to a pathway that seemed to face the right direction. In photos, the pathway looks plenty big enough for an adult, even expansive. Looks can be deceiving...

At the end of the tunnel I met another tiny staircase. When I finally got to the top of the tower I was not disappointed. It was the first castle that actually had a true, 360 degree, unobstructed view of the city. The cold wind and the excitement of it all actually made me cry, no kidding. It took me forever to put together the panoramic. My computer didn't have enough memory to run photoshop long enough to put all the photos together! I had to make them much smaller, less than half their original size. I want to clear my drive and try again when I get back to the states to use the full resolution images. Still, I am happy with how the smaller one turned out.

The time came to catch our train to Florence, so we braved the rain and walked to the station. We looked goofy, but didn't care.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Alone in the Colosseum

At the Barcelona airport my dad said goodbye and took his flight home. My mom and I caught a flight from Barcelona to Rome, beginning our adventures in Italy. I wasn't too enthusiastic about Rome. Words like "tourist trap" floated in my mind, and rumors of robbers prepared me to cling to my belongings for dear life. I quickly learned to love Italians and Italy. So many Italians can either speak english or understand spanish, so communicating wasn't very hard.

On our first day we went to the Colosseum, mostly just to get it out of the way. We payed the insane fee to get in, and began to wander. At first, I was unenthused. The sun began going down, and I enjoyed the sky above the ruins. Suddenly, I realized it was unusually quiet. I looked around, and realized that my mom and I were ALONE in the Colosseum. The quiet majesty of the ruins began to sink in, and I scrambled to get my camera out. Being alone in such an ancient place brought on feelings I cannot even begin to describe. Eventually, a woman approached us and told us it was closing time. We left reluctantly, but thrilled.

The Arch of Constantine at sunset:

Night fell, and so we explored some beautiful fountains. Amazingly, I missed out on the Trevi Fountain, but this one was beautiful.

We spent the next day across the river. I managed to get us lost, so we came across an adorable park. The quiet provided relief from the hustle and bustle of the city.

We found a great view of the city.

Looking down over the ledge was a good view as well.

We made another pass by the Colosseum, and walked around the entire Roman Forum. It took forever, but the view was worth it.

Our last day we decided to visit the Vatican. Unfortunately, the 2 hour wait and line and overcrowding made it a more unpleasant experience than we expected. Still, everything was beautiful.