I felt at home. Not a home I knew, but a home that my bones and blood and heart knew. The very core of my heavily-Scandinavian soul seemed to immediately understand this place--the dark sand, the thundering waves, the bitterly cold air, the biting wind, the sapphire blue skies, the rolling mountains, the very cragginess of everything.
Iceland thoroughly burrowed itself into my heart. Of anywhere overseas I've visited, I felt the most immediately connected and captivated. The delicious spell comes from the very feel of the place--the extraordinarily friendly and hospitable people, the incredible food, the landscape, the horses, the ancientness, the intense blue of glaciers and roofs of ice caves, the history, the ghosts, the artistic graffiti on the streets of Reykjavik, maybe even the fairies... It's all tangled into a song I can't get out of my head.
Another undeniable reason I felt so enchanted with this trip was my two companions. Designed with photography in mind, our itinerary wasn't for the faint-of-heart--we had painstakingly crafted a three-person, self-guided photographers' workshop. Up early, out late if the weather dictated, lots of driving, constant weather monitoring... If Sarah and Gaz hadn't been so flexible, good-natured, humorous, dedicated, and downright badass, the trip could have been a drag. It was anything but.
Flying in, Iceland faded into view out the window, coming slowly out of the darkness in the form of a few twinkling lights--the small bits of a black, twisted landscape just barely beginning to contrast with the water below. Then, bump, wheels down in Reykjavik.
I walked, blearily, through the Keflavik airport, in search of one of my two photography adventure partners, Sarah. We found each other at baggage claim, bleariness suddenly gone, laughing and hugging and hopping a bit as we exclaimed in wonder at our current location. We piled our bags together on a cart and sat at Joe and the Juice for a couple of hours, sipping smoothies and eating yummy breakfast sandwiches, as we awaited our third companion. I felt like travelers at a strange version of Bree, awaiting our final party member before setting out on a grand adventure.
Neither of us had met Gaz before, and we all grinned and hugged when he walked out of baggage claim to meet us. He flew in from England, and had helped us craft our Iceland itinerary based on his two previous trips here. There had been many, many emails about hotels and food and timing and preferences. He brought Leica and Hasselblad film cameras, and a Super 8 movie camera, which enchanted me. Sarah, Gaz and I would make quite the diverse photography posse.
After moving in to our white Dacia Duster, our 4x4 chariot for the week, we began our journey. Reykjavik, the Snaefellsness Peninsula, Selfoss, Vik, Jökulsárlón, Hali, Höfn, Þingvellir, Grindavik… Twelve days flew by in a blur. We found a rhythm and synchronicity between us, punctuated by only a few disasters (mainly Sarah and I discovering just how unconcerned Gaz is with having a low tank of gas in the middle of nowhere Iceland, and Gaz discovering how vocal Sarah and I are when we’re completely freaked out) (and me losing my wallet at dinner in Höfn, only to have one of my I've-never-met-you-but-love-your-photos Flickr friends contact me because the restaurant owner knew her, and have it returned via post two hours before having to fly home). We all sunk into the landscape, photographing it lovingly and differently. We all saw different things. We all learned so much. We became a small pack of chosen siblings, chatting endlessly about photography and life and food and traveling and weddings and how things sound in our different accents. It was largely effortless, and made me incredibly happy. Sarah and I had traveled a bit together before, but for Gaz, the courage of traveling for twelve days with two women he’d never met before? Bravo, sir.
There are so many vivid moments to recount, mostly reflected in the photos below. You'll see some of our family portraits, Sarah knitting, Gaz recording on his Super 8 camera (scroll to the bottom to see a link for the video he made), and various little and big things that made me happy. I used to do such a poor job of recording the human element of my adventures, and given how much Sarah and Gaz were part of my landscape on this trip, you'll see them joyfully woven in.
Below is a blend of postcards made with my Nikon D5, a plastic Holga loaded with Portra 400 film, and a Lumix. Enjoy!
And, finally, something I absolutely adore--Gaz's Super 8 film of our journey: