What is the question?
The land of the lost keeps calling. They have you on speed dial. You’re off to chase the next shooting star. Catch that firefly. Search for the mythical Lochness Monster. Away to Never Neverland.
Then pirates come to wrestle you away in search of treasure beyond your wildest dreams. They stack miles high of the purest gold, so much it could sink a ship…straight to the bottom without a second pause.
The phone continues to ring off the hook.
This time sherpas take you to the highest point on the tallest mountaintop. You wait for the answers to sprinkle down upon you like fairy dust and encapsulate you in absolute happiness and absolute fulfillment.
But the silence is deafening. You cover your ears uncertain as to your surroundings. Where am I? you ask yourself. The ticket proves you boarded the plane but the destination no longer matches the vision. The landscape changes once again and right before your eyes a wrinkle in time reveals a mirage of sorts. With a shake of the head, you’re back on that plane once again.
The search continues.
The warning signs are always there. They sneakily edge their way into conversations. A little inquiring here and there. What about…? What do you think about…? Have you ever…? A sideward glance. A hesitation. Tossing and turning in your mind of sleepless nights of mental unrest. That hamster on the wheel is in serious overdrive. Research. More research. And then a pull of the trigger and like a horse out of the gate, you’re off to the races.
But what is the question?
How do you truly know what you seek if you never stop to ask the right question?
And perhaps, when you finally figure it all out, you might realize the answer was right in front of you.
The entire time.
After kissing all my friends goodbye, Capt Awesome and I set out on our own to discover what more this incredible island had to offer. One of the must sees on my list was this strange piece of basalt rock standing upright in the water, named Hvitserkur. Apparently this word means white shirt in Icelandic. (I tried to pronounce it, but as Awesome explained, anytime I attempted to speak the language, he immediately questioned whether or not I had a speech impediment! It really was rather hysterical.)
We set out late one day traveling the Northern edge of the island out towards the Western Fiords. The weather changed, the winds picked up and before you know it, 10:30pm rolled around. It still amazes me how long the day lasts. It’s easy to lose all track of time in the land of the midnight sun.
A bit treacherous climbing down the side of the cliff to access the beach, but the view was worth it.
We’ve determined this looks like a moose drinking water. A female moose, of course!
A haven for seagulls, the name White Shirt comes from the guano (bird poop) left deposited all over the rocks.
This is what midnight looks like with an approaching storm.
A strong pull with this place there truly is.
Skating Around the Truth
So much of the experience in Iceland felt like another planet. There’s something about being so close to nature that makes all of your other problems and concerns seem quite trivial. Popular culture drives you towards consumerism, competing with the Joneses, get that higher paying job so you can pay for that shiny car…it’s a very easy trap to fall into, I know. It doesn’t help living in such a expensive city which just perpetuates this vicious cycle again and again.
But what the hell is the point?
Do we live to work or do we work to live?
Capt. Awesome came back from that trip with a different perspective. Perhaps with varying degrees of perspective as he wants to move to Iceland….which is out of the question!!! My poor sun-seeking soul would suffer great madness during the all too plenty winter months! So not going to any extremes, but finding a resting place that better suits our lifestyle. Where buckets of nature override the hustle and bustle of the biggest cities. Where you can find your church on top of a mountain.
Nature has a way of staring you in the face like that. It’s that one-on-one with God – sharing with you the truth, your truth, what hides deep under the surface. What’s truly important. Who is truly important and why we do the things we do in this life.
Even Superman had his Fortress of Solitude…
Sometimes you have to fly to Iceland to rediscover it all.
(Or Bali, where it’s warmer.)
Skating Around the Truth almost didn’t happen. We arrived at Jökulsárlón later in the evening. The clouds rolled thick and proceeded to cover everything in sight with a cool mist of precipitation in an already cold place. And I was hangry. (Which is never a good thing.)
Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you don’t. Many of my other beloved Fromagis dared boldness by climbing into waders and braving the frigid waters. Crazy, mad geniuses, I tell you! Others stayed out late or proceeded to get up early. In all honestly, how often does one get the opportunity to photograph in such a place? Almost never. But I prefer the heat to the cold so after failed attempts, I decided I could still achieve my vision without forcing myself. So I waited…took a gander at the landscape and went to bed.
All of these were photographed sometime in the 11 ‘o’clock hour in the evening.
When I realized I didn’t want to photography myself in this landscape, I asked Lieke. Her almost white hair cried for an image surrounded by ice. In fact, she modeled for just about everyone in this place. Our own Fromagi Ice Princess!
The next day, the clouds chose to stay close and hover, the natural light box in the sky which deemed the perfect light for my intentions.
Photographed on an endless black beach.
I realized, perhaps sadly, that I often get so caught up in photographing for art that I forget those magical behind the scenes moments…you know, the ones that remind you of the why? Friendships. Memories. Smiles.
So here’s a few on our first day with Lieke and Mia, laughing at the absurdity of the wind as it whipped through their hair relentlessly.
Where the World Bleeds White
I’ve been drifting through this last week in a haze, my feet hovering a couple of inches off the ground coming off of an epic trip with some of my favorite people.
Even the name sounds like some mythical place only imagined under the most creative minds in fairy tales.
It didn’t disappoint.
Every bend in the road revealed a new and fantastical scene of eye candy to feast upon. One moment my gaze is met by spectacular snow-capped mountains only then to be greeted by black sand beaches stretching out to infinity. The next turn finds me indulging in a glacial lagoon and then wrapping myself in the lichen covered landscape of the lava fields, letting the earth fold me in her arms. Another curve exposes the most surrealistic rock formations… I could swear I was trapped inside a Salvador Dali painting. Maybe Dali dreamed of this far off land before picking up his paint brush. Canyons cutting deep into the land displaying mossy fingers and grooves… and HORSES! (The 8 year old inside of me couldn’t get enough!)
Mother Nature certainly had her way when she created this island. I eagerly awaited every new change in direction in anticipation of her next unveiling. What new magic trick did she have up her sleeve?
And the waterfalls a plenty…they cascaded down curtains of rock everywhere. Plenty of Icelanders so strategically built their house with this in mind. Nothing quite like a waterfall in your very own backyard in the summer time. And the purest water at that. We filled our bottles right from the source, no fear of repercussions and better than any water out of the tap back home.
Far and few are the places untouched by man. And boy are they grand.
I’ve always said that my church was on top of a mountain. It’s also beside a waterfall. Or perched atop the edge of a cliff overlooking majesty. Finding those moments when you realize how small we really are. A tiny piece of the bigger puzzle. Comprised of the same.
Words really cannot express how blessed I feel to have been a part of this whirlwind of excitement. It was a love affair of friendships and inspiration as 18 people, just strangers a year prior, embarked upon the RV Caravan Express! I have to admit I was fearful that time would erode the magic from the previous adventure. As time tugs at the years, my natural inclination is to limit the close friendships in my life. So this new tethering felt elusive and precious. Any and all concerns immediately flew right out the window as soon as Bonnie and I arrived, the last two in from the States, we were greeted with gusto. The door to the taxi flew open, bags taken quickly from our grasps only to find ourselves lost in a sea of arms…like a hug from a thousand bears. We were home. And my heart will forever beat like a jungle drum.
Many more stories will emerge as each new piece unfolds.
I don’t often say this, but I’m kind of in love with this piece. We are all our own worse critics and I am no different when it comes to my art. I was hesitant to begin this concept, not really knowing if I had the skill to pull off what I intended. I often thought of waterfalls as the long flowing hair of the earth. Maybe they displayed Mother Earth herself or perhaps a nymph rooted to the land, bathing in the landscape. This particular waterfall, named Svartifoss, of the thousands we experienced up close and afar, resided approximately 3 miles into Skaftafell National Park. Surrounded by very geometric rock cuts, it carved out a theatrical stage for proper attendance.
A very popular place, most of the seats were already occupied for the show as many photographers lined up with their tripods to capture the power of Svartifoss. All those red dots in the photograph to the left are people!
So I moved to a different vantage point. Let’s call it stage right.
Detail of the rocks in their geometric patterns.
This was the original shot on a rather gloomy and overcast day. Spring had not quite graced us with her presence yet. Many of the Icelanders exclaimed that summwe was a month off and the current weather was more of May than June. The flowers were just beginning to bud.
A new edition to our Fromagi family, this is Mia Hutchinson, a beautiful 18 year old along on the ride to model our concepts. Luckily enough, also a dancer, she had the flexibility to contort herself to my vision. And her long wavy hair matched the flowing tendrils of water cascading down the rocks perfectly. Despite her youth and the tendency toward electronic forms of communication, she has the most wonderful personality. Engaging. Spunky. Humble. Able to talk easily with people twice her age (uh, yeah, that’s me!) Thank you, Mia, for being a part of our experience. :-)
Did I mention the horses? Aside from sheep, these fuzzy horses with their rock star hair could be found at every turn. Brazen, they had no problem coming closer to investigate me while my curiosity and desire to touch anything fuzzy brought me closer to them.
Did you miss those beautiful creatures in the original image? You can find them resting bottom right at the base of the waterfall/hair, quietly watching you as you watch them. Perhaps we all have a little voyeur inside…
The Fall of Sovereignty
This past week the organization I work for part time announced its new CEO to the masses. Month’s since the last one kindly retired to the quiet life of family time and endless games of golf, we were due for new leadership. A long, arduous process of vetting, narrowing the pool, interviewing, thoroughly examining the inner workings of core values and character to make sure all aligned properly for such a crucial role at the head of this table…naturally, this process is not to be handled without care and finesse, especially when it affects so many.
I’ve never worked for a company that believed so strongly in their core values that it runs through the veins of everyone it touches. Not just another saying for the wall for all to read when they pass through the front door, these words have clout. They stand not only for the ideal member but as a symbol of belonging. A place governed by recognition of common principles, goals, risks, decisions and attitude. Every action is for the betterment of the whole. For alignment with the core values. For the legacy of tomorrow.
I felt excitement in the moment! I’ve never been one for exuding school spirit. Us art school girls walk to our own beat where individuality is king. But I have to admit, the Kool Aid went down nice and smooth. I smile for the future of this organization.
But a cloud hovered as I pondered whether the process of electing our next President, or any for that matter, follows such intention as we come upon the next election season. The current list for those attempting to put their hat in the ring trails on forever. So much in fact I’ve lost count. Everyone is lining up for the Hunger Games. Its do or die in a game of “I can do anything you can do better.”
Trust me, I’m not here to waive my flag over politics. Quite frankly, I despise it even more than school spirit, but living so close to center it’s hard not to feel the palpable pulse ringing in the air from across the river. So brace yourself…
While Captain Awesome’s family stopped in for a visit we had a chance to tour Lincoln’s Cottage. It was an unconventional tour of an empty house with several stories of Lincoln and Mary’s time spent during a troubling moment in American history. A place of deep contemplation where such hard decisions shaped our world, our country for today. There’s a certain truth and resolution resonating throughout Lincoln’s presidency. He did what he believed in his heart to be right. Regardless of what anyone else thought, judged, said, or offered to fund. He lead by example.
I wish I could look at our current government, and by current I mean this century, and feel that strength in resolve for purpose. Feel the love for this country, for all the men and women who have shed blood for the sake of our freedoms, for the safety and security of our future so that we may all march forward in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Instead, the news displays a dismal view of….a long list of derogatory adjectives that’s bound to incite drama and heated conversations which I would write if I really felt like engaging in such exchanges. Fill in your own blanks.
What can I say, that’s the news. Sensationalism at it’s best. Where massive thunderstorms prove to focus more attention than those bright sunny days. I’m sure not all apples are rotten but there’s bound to be one, or 5, that spoil the barrel.
I wish I had the answers. I wish for a lot of things. I’ll leave it at that.
I made the acquaintance of some lovely ladies the other day. They welcomed me into their group with open arms, words of encouragement and nuggets of information. One of them was the existence of the Capitol Ruins at Rock Creek Park. Unbeknownst to most, the park holds remnants of the past, stacked up precariously like a game of Jenga. Upon doing a little research, otherwise known as googling, I discovered that these stones were likely placed here during the renovation of the Capitol Building that began in 1958. The fun fact, beside the mere sight of this treasure trove, states that these marble and sandstone pieces likely mark the East Front Facade which originated all the way back to the War of 1812…back when the Capitol was nearly burned down!
So nothing like a little piece of history tucked under the forested blanket not far from the hustle and bustle of the DC Metro. For those of you that need to see this for yourself, make your way to the horse stables at Rock Creek Park. There’s parking close by. Go through the red stables and pick up a trail on the back end. Hang a right. Less than half a mile you’ll come across a pile of rocks that don’t quite look like they belong. You have arrived. Pay your respects to these old stones and leave everything just the way you left it for the next visitor to make his way upon this unsuspecting piece of history.
This piece originally had every intention of showing the land surrounding this stone graveyard. Clearly they’d marked this spot for some time as evidence by the shrubs and trees growing around, sometimes through the rocks. But I have minimalistic tendencies on occasion and those trees distracted my gaze. So after hours of playing, I decided to eliminate them altogether to give the appearance of a more recent ruins. Not ruins that the land tried to reclaim. But this is what it looked like before, blue dress and all.
I’m not completely convinced that this piece is complete. But sometimes you have to know when to stop…come back later and pick up the pieces.
Taste the Sweet of Spring
I awoke this morning to a sharp pain in my lower back and tenderness in both hands. One step onto the floor elicited a shooting sensation that brought the tinglies straight down to my toes.
Welcome to middle age!
For the previous day proved to be a gorgeous one. The air filtered through with a crisp coolness that beckoned for everyone to enjoy their time outdoors. And that we did. Captain Awesome and I set forth with the goal to tend to the yard. The first time this season. My first home. My first plot of land. My first set (of many, I’m sure) contributing aches and pains of home ownership! Literally!
The early signs of spring resulted in the cropping of these beautiful little yellow flowers. They stretched out, blanketing the earth in a smile of sunshine. Yellow is such a friendly color. But upon closer inspection, those flowers masked themselves with a veil of deceit. Not flowers at all, but weeds. Big ugly, pointy leafed weeds that built a tap root right down to Hades! Oh my, and they were e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e!
Why did we wait so long!
The grass couldn’t even grow in some places as the weeds spread out like wildfire. But we were determined. Now is the time. The time is now. (And the in-laws are due to arrive in a week!)
5 hours, 2 sore lower backs and a handful of dirty garden tools later, we sat on the back porch admiring our work. [Insert fine alcoholic beverage here.]
The pride of our day’s accomplishments outweighed the aches and pains of the activities. We sat and smiled at each other.
Tasting the sweet of spring never felt so good!
I have to admit that I’m rather proud of this piece. Honestly didn’t think it would make it out of my head as many obstacles presented itself during shooting.
One, it was a race against the setting sun. Yes, I said setting sun. Behind us displayed a beautiful scene of colors as the sun made way for the mountains before cloaking the landscape in darkness. Time was not on our side. But I was on a mission to portray Chantal as Persephone amongst the igneous rock that strangely sprouted across this particular valley.
Two, those rocks jutted out with sharp edges and deep crevasses. Not suitable for bare feet, especially ones that planned on hiking up Angel’s Landing in Zion the next day.
Three, a mouse made an appearance. At least we think it was a mouse. It could’ve been a chupacabra for all we knew!
So to battle problemo numero uno, I jacked the ISO up to 800. I don’t like to deal with too much noise, but at this stage in the game, it was inevitable. And as it stood, my shutter sat slowly at 1/20th with my f-stop set at 4.2. A recipe for disaster. No light. High noise. No room for subtle movement. I probably could’ve opened up a bit more, but with my 50mm in place, I didn’t want to risk blurring my subject anymore than what was already highly likely. So I just went with it!
Even with the exposure set, I opened this up another stop in post.
Yes, that flower is real. It stands out proudly alongside Chantal’s rockin’ neon sneakers!
Two minutes separated the top image from these two which equated to another stop of light.
Dawn does not rise to darkness. So I turned night to day.
Side note: While tending to the garden of this image, Ben’s Fold Five’s song, Kate, shuffled through my playlist and spoke to “you can see daisies in her footsteps” – out of the blue. It made me smile, those little serendipitous moments that I choose to believe tell me I’m in the right place. So If you want to smile too click here – Ben’s Fold Five – Kate.