Slow Down Southern Roads

It's a little funny how in a place where you aren't necessarily "doing anything", how quickly time can pass. The days blend together, never really knowing what the actual date is because it kind of becomes irrelevant. Waking up early or late, having lunch at 3pm, staying up until 3am. A "normal" or fixed schedule basically has zero relevance right now, and it's a really interesting and liberating feeling. There aren't many times in life I can remember this actually happening, and it's a bit strange. Honestly I don't know if I have ever had a schedule like this before, other than when I was a kid and too young and naive to really appreciate it. That's a cruel trick of life. Being granted all the time in the world, but being too ignorant to realize it. 

Anyway, this is basically a long-winded way of me saying I have ended up being surprisingly busy lately and haven't written anything in much longer than I had hoped. 

Being in Iceland is a funny thing. It's an incredibly remote and isolated area, but since it's Iceland it is constantly filled with people and photographers that I know. I could easily spend every day I am here meeting up with different friends, travellers and photographers and never actually be alone. I'm not complaining about that, it's a great thing. But I like being alone, too. 

I had only been in the country for about a week, and got to go on a road trip down the Southern coast with friends that live an hour away from me in Canada, and I never see them. An hour from each other's doorsteps, and the only time we can find to hangout is in Iceland.  

How weird is that? Well, it's not actually that weird - more disappointing if anything. 

I'm kind of a slow person, I think. I don't know if I have always been this way or not, but I have a feeling it's a quality my wife really brought out in me. I don't necessarily mean slow in the literal sense (although if you have ever made plans to hangout with me, there is a pretty good chance I'm going to be late) but moreso slow in the sense of taking in an experience. I really need time to myself in an area for it to soak in, and allow myself to fully appreciate it. I have a tendency to forget a lot of things, to let moments or experiences pass me by, and unless given the time to really focus and take something in, this happens way too often. I never really realized that before I started traveling with Ginni 6 years ago, and now being conscious of that fact is something that I'm really grateful for. However in the literal sense of slow, she can be really slow. Sometimes I'll just lie about what time a movie starts so there is a slight chance we might actually make it on time. 

How does this pertain to going on a road trip with friends? Well, I'll tell you.    

Being on the road with friends (especially on a photo trip) looks a lot like this. Wake up before sunrise, get out as soon as possible and rush to the spot for the good light, shoot for a bit, rush to the next spot, then the next, coffee, next, gas station food, next, next, work on photos until late, and repeat. These trips are super fun, productive, exciting, tiring yet energizing, but one thing they are certainly not, is slow. No real time can be allotted for hanging out in a single area, taking it in as you please. It's just the nature of the work. Had those few days been my only time in Iceland, not being able to take my dear sweet time at every location to sit and stare, it would have felt like I wasn't even there. A complete blur. 

Right now I am incredibly fortunate to actually have the time to sit and stare. To travel around at my own leisure, and not worry about time or holding others back. So I am taking full advantage of that. But for the times where I don't have that luxury, photography has been a huge help. Cliché as it is, photography forces me to appreciate things under time restraints or pressure, and gives me a nice tangible image to actually remember an experience by. It's a nice companion to have, when time is not.   

While I jokingly say I'm "doing nothing" here, I've actually been a lot busier than I imagined I would have been. Our first month has come and gone and while that is a bit scary to realize, it's also comforting to know I have been focusing on time, or at least conscious of it anyway. Plus, now I have some pretty pictures of the South coast. 

Photographers that I joined on this trip: Callum Snape, Taylor Burk, and Alex Martin

Animal Farm

I always find it pretty interesting to see where things come from. Food, clothes, a hat, whatever it is, it always gives me a different form of appreciation after seeing the process behind the final product. Especially when the final product comes from, or is, an animal. Often times I don't necessarily enjoy the process because it seems cruel, looks harsh, or is a lot to take in visually and mentally, but I almost prefer for it to make me uncomfortable. It's too easy to take things for granted and I think it's important to get a bit of a reality check sometimes. To see the other side to remember what exactly goes into the food I eat, or the clothes I wear. It's a good thing to think about. 

Today we visited a traditional Icelandic farm to watch them shear sheep. 

Now all of that sounds a bit dramatic, and I am in no way stating that the visit to the farm was a negative experience. In fact, for me it was a very positive experience (I also got free coffee, and free testicles to snack on). I love seeing people live off of the land, and make a life for themselves that is so different from my own. I mean, I take photos and sit at a desk drinking coffee and animating for a living, so pretty much anything that requires some physical labour is pretty different from that. Giving haircuts to 240 heavy sheep looks like pretty hard work. 

I also find the relationship between people and animals very interesting. I know a lot of bad stuff and unethical treatment goes on out there and I'm not really going to speak to that right now, but thinking back on history and how animals have helped people survive and get to this exact moment in time, is honestly really fascinating. Everything from early settlers relying on the meat and pelts to survive, to Lassie telling us Timmy fell down the well. We wouldn't have made it this far without their help, and even though that all feels pretty distant from my own life, I still don't want to forget that. 

Whether or not we still need to be doing certain things now is up for debate I suppose, but I for one am very thankful that in my own life I have never had to climb inside of a dead horse to survive a single winters night. I have very little to complain about.  

This was by far the warmest (and least windy, which makes a huge difference) day we have had in Iceland so far, and it was good to spend some time outside with everyone from the residency. I'm going to be out traveling around Iceland for a few of the other group trips, so it was nice to be able to make it to the first activity everyone was doing this month.

Post shearing, we went in the farm house for a coffee, listened to the owners tell us stories of living in Iceland, snacked on some blood sausage, pickled liver and sheep testicles, and called it a day.

The rest of the week will be spent on the road visiting Reykjavík and the Southern coast of Iceland. I expect less snow, more wind, waterfalls, and a lot of gas station hotdogs (hopefully testicle-less, but probably not).   

Three Months in Iceland

When my wife first told me about the town we would be living at in Iceland, I had somewhat mixed feelings. First, because I had to Google it because it sounded like a place no one had ever heard of before, and second because after I Googled it, it actually was a place no one had ever heard of before. I like small towns, but I always have my apprehensions towards them too. I like the quiet, slower pace to life, but the thought of living in them gives me an odd sense of urgency and panic, and that I am going to feel too alone, too bored or too secluded. This town was so small, our Iceland information book gave it the rating: "while you are driving the ring road, there is no need to stop here. Keep going."

We were going to be living in Blönduós. (Feel free to Google it.) 

I can't really remember the last time I was so tired. I don't know if I have ever been that tired to be honest. It is only a 7 hour time difference between Alberta and Iceland, which isn't really that bad, but after we landed and started our drive up North, I was delusional. I felt sick and I couldn't see straight. To give myself some credit, I had just gotten back from a week long photography conference in California the day prior to leaving, it was my 12th flight in the month of February, I had only been home for about 6 days in total all month and was scrambling to pack up our apartment for this 3 month journey. Or maybe I'm just a big baby with jet lag, that could very well be it. I felt like I missed a lot on our drive here, Ginni was taking photos out the window the entire way up, but I was just staring blankly 10 feet in front of the vehicle, trying to keep us straight on the ice covered roads.

We did make it here, late into the night. After arriving at the residency (which I'll talk more about later), and a quick tour we threw our bags down and fell onto the bed.      

Less than a minute after we laid down and were almost asleep (at least I was anyway) we looked out the window and the Northern Lights were going like crazy just steps outside of our room. Since Iceland is so well known for Northern Lights we debated on just going to sleep and seeing them next time. But you don't travel halfway across the world and drive on pure ice in a blizzard to just sleep through the Northern Lights. That's a bad idea, don't do it.

We quickly unpacked all of our warm clothes, and stumbled outside in the dark. The kind of energy and excitement you get from seeing something like that always surprises me. Almost 30 hours of no sleep and feeling like death, to feeling like you just woke up from a 30 hour nap in a warm blanket in a matter of seconds. Honestly, it was hard to actually get to sleep after that. 

But then I did, and slept for 13 hours. In a warm blanket. 

The days following our arrival have been good. Relaxing, somewhat slow, and getting to know the other people we are living with at the residency. I used to take a long time to settle in to places and adjust, but the last 6 months of almost constant travel (I quit my job a while ago, I'll get into that more later too) have really helped me feel comfortable in spaces a lot sooner.

Days have been spent napping, reading, going on short-ish drives around the area, making good snacks and looking out the window. I'm fine with all of that, and is honestly what I like most about small towns, and slower living. 

Sometimes it just takes me actually getting here to remember that.