Ice Cave

Fujifilm x-100t, ISO 4000, FL 23 mm, 1/125 sec @ f/14

Fujifilm x-100t, ISO 4000, FL 23 mm, 1/125 sec @ f/14

I was fortunate enough on my trip to Iceland this winter to spend a few hours in an ice cave, sometimes called a crystal cave.  Ice caves often form at the melting front of glaciers but are only briefly stabilized and accessible in winter when the glacial lagoon is frozen sufficiently for you to walk on it and get to the summer ice/lagoon melting point.  Ice caves can be very dangerous because they are ever-changing and can collapse without warning, so a competent guide is imperative.  I was very glad to have Daniel Bergmann, a knowledgable and trusted guide and a highly skilled photographer and artist, to guide me through the ice cave in southern Iceland, in the region of the Jokulsarlon glacier and lagoon.  It was an incredible experience.  Layers of blue ice sculpted in waves formed the ceiling of the cave.  An ice channel undulated through sculptural forms of ice – black, crystalline, blue – that formed the walls.  If you looked close, you could see layers and layers of ice with different crevices, angles, bubbles throughout so you felt as though you were looking through frozen time itself.  There was enough light from the entrance of the cave to be reflected back and forth and so the air itself seemed to sparkle with light reflections.  But as you walked deeper into the cave, the passage became more narrow and darker so that by the time I got to the point where I could not stand upright, I was next to a glistening dark blue wave of ice and it was cold, dark, ominous.  Crystalline icicles hung from the walls in different patterns and there was black sand and larger black stones on the ground.  In some ways, the experience was very similar to seeing the slot canyons in Arizona.  You drop down a small passageway and into huge tunnels of limestone with different patterns and forms, sculptural waves of color whereas with an ice cave the colors are formed by different layers and forms of ice.  But both are experienced the same way –  it’s like being transported to another reality.

Vik, Iceland

Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 6400, FL 55 mm, 1/8 sec @ f/10

Fujifilm X-T1, ISO 6400, FL 55 mm, 1/8 sec @ f/10

Vík í Mýrdal is located in southern Iceland.  It is most known for the sea stacks located off it’s black volcanic sand beaches.  The legend is that the imposing basalt Reynisdrangar sea stacks located not far from the surf’s edge are trolls that were turned to stone when they attempted to plunder an anchored schooner.  In the early morning dawn hours, I was with a group of photographers who went to the beach to photograph the sea stacks.  But what caught our eye was the village church that was warmly lit beautifully against the craggy mountain cliffs behind it.  The wind was horrific and I was struggling to capture this image.  My travel tripod, while convenient for increasingly restrictive airline travel,  was just not up to the demands of the Icelandic wind.  My only recourse was to shoot with the highest ISO my camera could deliver and so, that is what I did.  I also had to hand hold the camera with a relatively long exposure time of 1/8 second.  As a consequence, my image was not as sharp as I would have liked and it is noisier than I would have liked.  Nonetheless, shortly after this image was taken, the floodlit church went black as the village became bathed in early sunrise light and so I considered myself lucky to have captured the image and to have seen it for myself.

Oia, Santorini, Greece

Fujifilm x1002, ISO 6400, FL 35 mm, 1/30 sec @ f/4.0

Fujifilm x100s, ISO 6400, FL 35 mm, 1/30 sec @ f/4.0

Anne and Roger Urlwin, the little red car, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

anne and roger urlwin and the little red card, edmonton, alberta


This photo is of my New Zealand friends, Anne and Roger Urlwin, as we started our trip together through the Canadian Rockies.

I skyped with them the other  day – the first time in quite awhile – and I realized how much I missed them the moment I saw their lovely faces on my computer monitor.

Anne, Roger, and I have traveled together pretty extensively in the United States and Canada – Oregon, Maine, Colorado, Washington DC, Canadian Rockies.  And one would think, considering how close-knit most travel companions are, that we have had a life long friendship.

But we have not and that is the purpose of this blog posting.

Because in many ways, it is somewhat miraculous in this day and time that we bonded as quickly and easily as we did.  Personally, I think it is a testimony to both Anne and Roger’s expansive, loving, curious, adventurous spirit that we did.

The world is not a safe place.  Even as I write this posting, the Ebola virus has surpassed all previous parameters of infectivity and has killed thousands of people,  with the World Health Organization pleading for more health care workers to help stem the onslaught.  The murdering rampage of the group ISIL has slaughtered innocent men, women, and children in Syria and Iraq,  leaving thousands of people fleeing for their very lives to the borders of Turkey.  There is no shelter, no food, no water for these refugees and surely, a catastrophic event is unfolding right before our eyes.  Journalists and aid workers are beheaded to make political points. A father in South Carolina kills all 5 of his children, puts their bodies in trash bags and dumps them along the interstate in Alabama.  A Florida man kills his daughter, his six grandchildren, then himself.  An 8 year old Alabama child is abducted walking from her home to a relatives home in the same apartment complex.  Her body is found later, dumped alongside a road.

I am sometimes so overwhelmed with all of it that I want to hide.  There does not seem to be a safe haven anywhere in the world.  As a species, we seem to be destroying ourselves.  Without a doubt, one should be cautious, skeptical, hesitant with strangers.  Because even though we share our humanity, humans can be dangerous to other humans.

So, back to Roger and Anne….. the hotel restaurant was very crowded in Portland and I had a conference I needed to get to very shortly so I had about decided that I would have to forego breakfast.  But then Roger and Anne, two people that were strangers to me, beckoned me to share their table.  We discovered that we shared a love of dogs, a love of travel, a love of books and a love of photography.  To my great fortune, Roger and Anne also loved visiting the United States. Within a few hours of meeting them, we both shared tears over the recent loss of their beautiful Maggie, a Golden Retriever who was a member of their family for almost 14 years.  Roger and I had very amicable disagreements about windows versus mac operating systems, which was the best camera systems, and lightroom versus bridge.

Since we were both attending the same conference, we kept bumping into each other throughout the week and our friendship which had launched like a Saturn 5 over a single shared breakfast, strengthened even more.  Thank God for Skype because after they returned to their side of the globe, we managed to stay in visual contact through the internet.

A year later, they allowed me to share a few days with them in their Maine condo when they were again visiting the United States.  The plan was just for a day or two but a heavy fog bank kept me intruding on their vacation for more like 5 or 6 days.  And then, when the only opportunity I had to catch a flight out of Maine to get back home was at an airport several hours away, they cheerfully drove me there.

In another year, we spent almost a month in Colorado – traversed almost the whole state and into Utah, sharing a car, sharing our meals, sharing our hotels.  Roger and I, being I think, both opinionated and strong-willed would sometimes come close to squabbling over philosophies or (often trivial) details.  Anne in her gentle way smoothed out our truculence and reestablished the camaraderie, frequently over a latte.  Roger and I are obsessed with photography and our gear…. and Anne drives the car, helps us look for the perfect composition and puts up with our addictive behavior with extreme fortitude.

So we have continued to travel together.  This photo was taken at the beginning of a trip through the Canadian Rockies – the Icefields Parkway, Jasper, Banff.  Anne called it our little red car because it was monstrously big.  But it worked well for us – carrying 3 people and all their gear, united in an unlikely friendship, on another wonderful memory maker.

So, that’s why I refer to it as a miracle.  Three people, strangers to each other, in a brutal, unforgiving world, managed to forge a relationship when the better advice these days is to keep your head down, keep others at a distance, and be very wary of strangers. And it is a miracle that I treasure and will treasure all the days of my life.

‘The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.’    Napoleon Bonaparte