California: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Author Photographing Sardines at Open Seas. “The sea is as near as we come to another world.”

Sea Pen Display

Chambered Nautilus (cousin of the octopus)

Green Moray Eels

Bigfin Reef Squid

Lookdown Fish

Stone Scorpionfish (looking left)

Orange Cup Coral

Southern Sea Otter

Avocet (at least 26 years old)

Marbled Godwit (at least 21 years old)

Black Oystercatcher ( at least 24 years old)

Semipalmated Sandpiper (at least 20 years old)

Beautiful California Coast South of Monterey

We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the end of February.  It is always a delight – one of the best aquariums we’ve ever seen!  It is extra special because of its beautiful location on the central California coast.  Although temporarily closed now because of the pandemic, you can visit virtually through these live cams:  https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams

Some of the birds at the aquarium are quite old  (https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/stories/the-aviarys-amazing-senior-citizens).  Each one was found injured and unable to be released back into the wild.  They have been happily living their lives in the aviary ever since.  I read that birdwatching and nature is good for the soul and health – agreed!  https://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-health-benefits-of-bird-watching/

California: Pink Beach!

Short Walk to Pfeiffer Beach through Monterey Cypress Trees

Walk North on Beach

Pink Diamond Patterns in Sand

Pink Sand Around Rocks

Seaweed at Water’s Edge

Sea Stack with Keyhole Arch

Pfeiffer Beach is a real gem tucked away at the end of Sycamore Canyon Road at Big Sur, California (south of Monterey).  This spectacular beach is famous for its pink sand, formed by manganese garnet crystals that have washed down from the cliffs above. Look for ever-changing patterns of increasing pink sand as you walk north along the beach.  A bonus to your walk is the rocky sea arch offshore – watch for the waves to come roaring through its keyhole arch.  Don’t miss this hidden secret!  Learn more at:   https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/pfeiffer-beach-big-sur/  

A previous post about Pfeiffer Beach is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/big-sur-stunning-pink-sand-beach/

Scenic Golden Gate Bridge is the Best!

Golden Gate Bridge Approach Looking North

Golden Gate Bridge and Surfer as seen from Fort Point National Historic Site (also location of famous scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Vertigo)

Golden Gate Bridge in Infrared as seen from Fort Point National Historic Site

Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center Viewpoint

Golden Gate Bridge Walkway Looking North

Golden Gate Bridge Panorama of San Francisco Bay Area (click to enlarge)

Golden Gate Bridge Tower’s Art Deco Style

Golden Gate Bridge Art Deco Lightposts

Close-up of Golden Gate Bridge’s Art Deco Lamp

Golden Gate Bridge Historic Plaque

Golden Gate Bridge Span Cable and Wire Statistics

Close-up of Single Golden Gate Bridge Cable

Golden Gate Bridge as Viewed from the Water Looking North (tours from Pier 39)

Golden Gate Bridge Span as seen from Marin Headlands Looking South (at Battery Spencer)

Golden Gate Bridge Tower as seen from Marin Headlands (at Battery Spencer)

Richard and Pam (author) at Marin Headlands by Foggy Golden Gate Bridge

Whimsical Golden Gate Bridge and Dinosaurs Card

In February this year we made a return visit to San Francisco, California.  We left just before the Pandemic and lockdown occurred.  We look forward to the day when life returns to normal.  Meanwhile we’ll enjoy thinking about the good times we had and more to come (note all pictures can be clicked to enlarge).

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge first opened on May 27, 1937.  This suspension bridge is an engineering marvel that is 1.7 miles long and contains 80,000 miles of steel wire – enough to circle the Earth three times!  Painting the bridge is a never-ending job.  Read a fascinating story about it at:  https://www.citylab.com/life/2015/04/the-fascinating-neverending-job-of-painting-the-golden-gate-bridge/390453/

The U.S. Navy originally wanted to paint the bridge black with yellow stripes.  Others wanted to paint it aluminum grey to evoke the beauty of a dirigible airship.  Architect Irving Morrow decided to keep the bridge the same color (International Orange) as the original red primer on the steel.  He thought it blended well with the nearby hills, ocean, and sky throughout the seasons. 

San Francisco is famous for its fog.  It forms most often in summer when warm air flows over the cool Pacific Ocean.  Some visitors never see the bridge because of the dense fog!  Poets have described the fog as “moving art”.  Our time-lapse video of fog streaming past the Golden Gate Bridge can be viewed at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/our-best-video-of-the-golden-gate-bridge-and-fog-time-lapse-10x-speed/

San Francisco is consistently voted one of the top ten cities in the world by travelers. The “City by the Bay” has inspired the following quotes:

Billy Graham: “The Bay Area is so beautiful that I hesitate to preach about Heaven while I am here.”

Walter Cronkite: “Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible.”

Julia Child: “It is simply a very romantic place…you couldn’t be anywhere else.”

Larry King: “The ultimate for me would be one perfect day in San Francisco. There’s no city like it anywhere.”

Rudyard Kipling: “San Francisco has only one drawback…it is hard to leave.”

Frank Sinatra: “I left my heart in San Francisco.”

And on a funny note, a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain is: “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.”

You can read about the history and features of the Golden Gate Bridge at:  https://www.goldengate.org/bridge/history-research/

Huell Howser of California’s Gold has a must-see video about the Golden Gate Bridge and the men who work there – an absolute classic and one of my favorites:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1993/12/10/golden-gate-bridge-californias-gold-407/

Iceland: Stunning Blue Ice!

Wonderful Zodiac Tour of Fjallsarlon Ice Lagoon

Blue Iceberg at Fjallsarlon Ice Lagoon

Black Marbled Iceberg at Fjallsarlon Ice Lagoon

Blue Iceberg with Glacial Scrapes at Fjallsarlon Ice Lagoon

Towering Iceberg with Holes at Fjallsarlon Ice Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Bridge

Glacial Ice Passing Under Jokulsarlon Bridge

Overview of Jokulsaron Ice Lagoon with Calving Glacier in Distance

Glacial Ice on Black Sand of Diamond Beach at Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon

Glacial Ice with Ocean Wave at Diamond Beach

Long Exposure of Diamond Beach

Close-up of Glacial Ice

Seals at Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon

View of Greenland from Airplane

Greenland’s Snow Covered Mountains

Greenland’s Blue Waterways with Ice

Greenland’s South Coast Mountains

Greenland’s South Coast Near Qaqortoq

The glaciers and ice on the south coast of Iceland are stunning!  Some of the icebergs are an incredible blue.  This area is one of our absolute favorites of anywhere we have ever been! When we flew home, we got super lucky and had a spectacular view of Greenland on the return flight.  Gorgeous!   We will definitely return –  nature photography is the best in Iceland!  Our updated Iceland slideshow / travel guide full of pictures, tips, and a custom google map is located at this link (click once, and then click again; wait a minute for it to load and open): ICELANDIC SLIDESHOW 2020

Iceland: Magical Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Mount Stapafell (Home of Elves). Rocky Point on Top is called Fellskross – a Viking Sign of Holy Powers

Svodufoss Waterfall

Icelandic Sheep in Meadow

Northern Coast of Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Seagulls on Cliff Overlooking Ocean

Arnarstapi Cliff Nesting Birds

Black-Legged Kittiwake Eggshell Dropped on Land

Ondverdarnes Lighthouse at Western Tip of Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Striking Skardsvik Golden Sand Beach in Black Volcanic Landscape

Snaefellsjokull Volcano and Orange Sky at Midnight in June

Snaefellsjokull with Dramatic Clouds

Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula is an enchanting place.  We find more places to go every time we visit.  The birds – the sky – the coast – and the ever-present Snaefellsjokull volcano make for a magical place.

In the Sjominjasafn Maritime Museum we saw a display with a beautiful quote by Halldor Laxness, World Light:

“Where the glacier meets the sky, the land ceases to be earthly, and the earth becomes one with the heavens; no sorrows live there anymore, and therefore joy is not necessary; beauty alone reigns there, beyond all demands”.

 

Iceland: Incredibly Scenic Churches

Hofskirkja in Fairy Tale-like Setting (1 of 6 historic turf churches remaining in Iceland)

Magical Hofskirkja in Back

Hofskirkja in Front

Hofskirkja Burial Mounds

Hofskirkja Cross

Vik i Myrdal (Vikurkirkja or Vik Church) and Purple Lupines in June

Colorful Hvalneskirkja (Stone Church)

Olafsvikurkirkja (Olafsvik Church Hofsos) Shaped Like a Ship near a Fishing Village

Olafsvikurkirkja Bell Tower (triangle theme reflects holy trinity)

Budakirkja (Budir Black Church) by Volcanic Cinder Cone

Ingjadlsholskirkja (Independent Church) at End of Lonely Country Lane

The churches in Iceland are incredibly scenic and beautiful.  They often sit on a hill overlooking the ocean.  You can feel the history of the place as you stand in some of these remote locations.  “Kirkja” means church in Icelandic.  An excellent article about Icelandic churches is at:  https://guidetoiceland.is/best-of-iceland/churches-in-iceland  Previous blog posts about Icelandic churches are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=iceland+church

Return to Beautiful Iceland!

Puffin Statue near Skogafoss

Skogafoss Waterfall

Fjadrargljufur Canyon

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Svartifoss Waterfall with Rainbow

Mount Kirkjufell with Cotton Grass

Heath Orchid

Icelandic Horse Portrait

Icelandic Horse Family

Arnarstapi Lava Cliff

Midnight Sunset

In June we visited Iceland again (our third trip) – the photography opportunities are that good!  The weather was great, and the sights were amazing!  Some of our favorite photos are included with this post (click to enlarge).

Sebastian Inlet State Park Beach Collage

Sebastian Beach Collage

We enjoy going to Sebastian Inlet State Park on Florida’s central Atlantic coast.  It is a spectacular place to visit!  The weather this winter has been especially beautiful.  We made this collage of our favorite scenes at the inlet (click on the picture to enlarge and see details).  Info and live cam links are available at:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/sebastian-inlet-state-park

Bok Tower Gardens at Christmas

Bok Tower and Reflecting Pond

Golden Brass Door at Base of Tower

23K Gold Snake Gnomon Timepiece on Sundial

Pinewood Estate 1940s Sparkly Christmas Tree

Holiday Candles

Poinsettia Courtyard

Orange Bowl with Mr. and Mrs. Claus

Bird-of-Paradise “Red Christmas”

Camellia “Sweetie Pie – Red Stripe”

Red Camellia

Orange/Red Camellia

Pink Azalea

Purple “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

Yellow Celosia

Beehive Ginger

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake, Wales, Florida, is spectacular over the holidays!  The decorations are beautiful at the Pinewood Estate, and the camellias and azaleas are gorgeous too (peak bloom time is January and February).  Plus the weather can’t be beat!  More info is at:  https://boktowergardens.org/christmas/

Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park

Painted Desert Overlook

Teepees Rock Formation at Blue Mesa

Blue Mesa Badlands Trail

Photography from Crystal Forest Trail

Petrified Wood Bark and Knot Hole

Sectioned Petrified Logs in Landscape

Sign Describing Who Cut the Wood (no one)

Colorful Petrified Wood

Postcard: Origin of Colors in Petrified Wood

Sign Describing Time to Petrify Wood

Painted Desert Inn

Inn’s Glass Skylight Ceiling with Pottery Designs

Famous Mountain Lion Petroglyph

Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs

Petrified Forest Visitor Center by Architect Neutra

Rock Shop Outside Park

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona has one of the best concentrations of petrified wood in the world!  One of the largest logs (Old Faithful) is 35 feet long, 10 feet wide, and weighs 44 tons! 

The trees (mostly conifers) were buried in mud during the late Triassic Period 225 million years ago.  The mud contained volcanic ash.  Silica in the ash was absorbed by the wood and crystallized into quartz over time.  This happened through a process called permineralization – the minerals do not actually replace all the organic material, but instead take on the shape of the cells.  Some petrified wood is so perfectly preserved that you can see individual tree rings, bark, and even knot holes!  Color results from minerals in the ash. In general, iron oxides produce red, yellow, orange, and purple; manganese oxide produces black; and pure quartz produces white.  Since petrified wood is so brittle and splits easily, it looks like someone took a chainsaw and cut up logs across the landscape.

A portion of the Painted Desert is contained within the park – scenic badlands with rocks of every color and hue (blue, lavender, red, and pink).  Vivid layered deposits of clay and sandstone make the scenery particularly dramatic.  You can hike through this landscape at Blue Mesa Badlands Trail.

The Painted Desert Visitor Center (at the entrance to the park off I-40) opened in 1963 and was designed by architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander.  Large windows let the sun in and high walls keep the wind out.  Neutra is famous for his midcentury modern buildings in Palm Springs and Los Angeles.  Nearby, the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark showcases a variety of historic artifacts.  The Rainbow Forest Complex at the south entrance contains the Rainbow Forest Museum, Visitor Center, Bookstore, Gift Shop, and access to the Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House Trails. 

In June 2018 Petrified Forest National Park was designated an official International Dark Sky Park, which means it is one of the top places in the world for star gazing!  If you would like to enjoy the park’s night sky programming or other park activities, more info is at:  https://www.nps.gov/pefo/planyourvisit/index.htm

A kid’s guide to Petrified Forest National Park is at: https://www.nps.gov/pefo/upload/YoungerStudent2006.pdf

Remember, if you want your own piece of petrified wood, please don’t take it from the park.  There are plenty of rock shops outside the park with an amazing selection for your collection.

Arizona: Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater Overview

Visitor Lookout Platform

Meteor Crater Panorama

Shaded Seating

Blasted Rock

Moon Mountain Telescope to View Crater

Apollo Test Capsule

Meteor Crater T-Shirt

Meteor Crater is the “World’s Best Preserved and First Proven” meteor crater on Earth.  It is nearly 1 mile across and 550 feet deep.  About 50,000 years ago an asteroid raced through the atmosphere at 26,000 miles per hour and slammed into the Earth with the force of 20 million tons of TNT.  The iron-nickel meteor is estimated to have weighed several hundred thousand tons and measured 150 feet in diameter.  Since no large core has ever been found at the base of the crater, scientists think the meteor was blasted to bits by the impact.  Since the landscape is so moon-like, NASA trained Apollo astronauts at the site in the 1960s and 1970s, and it continues to be a field trip for astronauts today.

If you would like to visit and see the crater from an overlook, it is an easy stop on your way off I-40 between Petrified Forest National Park and Winslow/Flagstaff, Arizona.  More info is at:  http://meteorcrater.com/

UPDATE April 2020:  Conde Nast Traveller voted Meteor Crater one of the “7 Wonders of the World for 2020”:  https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/seven-wonders-of-the-world

Arizona: Monument Valley

Spectacular Sunrise over the Left and Right Mitten Buttes

Classic Monument Valley View

Rider on Horse at John Ford’s Lookout Point

Three Sisters Spires

Big Hogan Rock Formation

The Thumb Stands Out

Tree Silhouette at Moccasin Arch

Antelope Petroglyphs

Milky Way and Meteor

Sunrise on Another Beautiful Day at Monument Valley

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is a very scenic location in Utah.  It was a place we visited years ago on our first vacation together with our very first camera, and we’ve never forgotten it.  We returned to see it again last April and it was even better the second time around.  Many classic westerns were filmed in the area including John Wayne in The Searchers, plus also Stagecoach, Back to the Future III, Forrest Gump, The Wind Talkers, and Winged Migration among others.  We took a Navajo guided tour by Phillips Photography to see the park and also to photograph the Milky Way and sunrise.  Can’t wait to go back!

We filmed the short timelapse movie below at sunset from our room at “The View” Hotel.

Arizona: Ancient Canyon de Chelly

Canyon View

White House Ruins

Side of Red Clay Pot showing Hogan

Side of Red Clay Pot showing Kokopelli

Description of Red Clay Pot by Navajo Artist Darlene Sam (click to enlarge)

Book “When Clay Sings”

Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the nation and is still home to about 40 Navajo families.  The ancient “White House” ruins in the canyon were built around 1070 AD and abandoned in the 1300s.   Info about the park is at:  https://www.nps.gov/cach/index.htm

We purchased a red clay pot there by an elderly Navajo artist named Darlene Sam.  The images on the pot tell her family’s history in the canyon.  You can see her home on one side of the pot, and on the other side are symbols for water, Kokopelli (flute player – symbol of fertility and joy), and a circle of life.  The colors on the pot represent white for the canyon’s walls, green for the trees, black for the small plants, and blue for the sky. A description of the pot says the following:

“Our Navajo Culture makes us who we are and creates the identities that give us meaning and purpose in our lives. Our grandparents teach us about hope. They also give us the strength to have faith when we are faced with troubles that make our lives difficult. Our culture shows us how to love and care through respect for others, our surroundings and ourselves.”  –  Nice words to live by.

An award-winning children’s book “When Clay Sings” by Byrd Baylor is a favorite of ours.  The beautifully illustrated book says that in the Southwest: “Every piece of clay is a piece of someone’s life.  It has its own small voice and sings in its own way.  Even now the wind sometimes finds one of those songs still in the clay and lifts it out and carries it down the canyon and across the hills.  It is a small sound and always far away, but they say sometimes they hear it.”

Arizona: Spectacular Slot Canyon! Wow!

Approach to Antelope Slot Canyon X

Entrance to Canyon X

Doorway to More

Slot Canyon Curves

Kissing Rocks

Narrowed Walkway

Triangle Window Crawlway

Sculpted Walls

Crack to Sky

Sky Glow

Author in Awe

Glowing Chamber Beyond

Antelope Slot Canyon X is a photographer’s dream!  It exceeded expectations!  The colors and lighting are an ever-changing panorama.  The canyon is named after the pronghorn antelope that roamed the area years ago.  It was sculpted by rainwater that eroded the sandstone over time.  At times thunderstorms and flash flooding close the canyon.  This beautiful and spiritual place must be seen to be believed!  Info about this Taadidiin Navajo photography tour near Page, Arizona is at:  https://www.antelopecanyon-x.com/?fh-u=b9e5dd6e-70a2-456d-b8be-4fb3f0d00ba7

Arizona: Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano

Bonito Lava Flow

Yellow-Orange Juniper Mistletoe

Beautiful Weathered Juniper Wood

Tiny White Spider on Lava Flow

Yellow Newberry Twinpod Growing on Cinders

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a beautiful place to visit just north of Flagstaff, Arizona.  The sunset colors reflect the volcano’s composition of silica, iron oxide, and gypsum.  The volcano erupted about 1040-1100 AD .  It is amazing how life returns and survives on the tough conditions of the lava flow!  Information about visiting is at:  https://www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm  and https://www.livescience.com/50237-sunset-crater-photos.html

Tetons: Beautiful Historic Church

Historic Chapel of the Transfiguration

Interior of Log Cabin Chapel

Chapel’s Altar View

Winter Stained Glass

Close-up of Winter Stained Glass

Summer Stained Glass

Close-up of Summer Stained Glass

Solar Eclipse Church Service

Watercolor of Chapel in Winter

 

Grand Tetons on a Summer Day

Trumpeter Swan in Park

While we were in Jackson, Wyoming for the solar eclipse, we stopped at Grand Teton National Park and saw the Chapel of the Transfiguration (built in 1925).  This historic church’s spectacular location is a popular place for weddings in summer.  A special service was held there in the morning before the solar eclipse featuring a reading from Genesis (“Let there be light…..and God made two great lights – the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night and stars – and it was good”).   Perfect reading for the day!

There are two beautiful stained glass windows by Jessie van Brunt inside the log cabin church featuring both winter and summer.  Behind the altar is a window looking out at the Cathedral Group of the Teton Mountains.  What an inspiring place to visit!  More info is at:  https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/index.htm

 

Palm Springs: Top 10 U.S. Places to Travel

Greater Palm Springs Area

Desert Oasis

Looking Up at Oasis Fan Palms

Golden Barrel Cacti

Roadrunner in Desert

Close-up of Roadrunner Face

Anna’s Hummingbird at Mexican Honeysuckle in Desert Garden

Greater Palm Springs was voted one of the top ten places to travel in the United States by Lonely Planet in 2017.  We visited in early spring and loved it as usual!

Desert Art: Mirror House

Mirage House of Polished Steel

Kaleidoscopic Mirrored Interior

View of Palm Springs from Inside the House

Outside of House Reflecting Wind Turbines in Distance

Mirrored House Angles

Mirrored Corner Angles

Recently we enjoyed seeing some of the Desert X art installations on view throughout the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, California (https://www.desertx.org/).  Overall the exhibition runs February 25 – April 20, 2017, but this exhibit will remain open until October 31st.

Artist Doug Aitken created this mirrored home of polished steel called “Mirage”.  Environment and home are blended together in this unique kaleidoscopic structure.  The view is said to be especially stunning at sunset and in moonlight.  This was a favorite and a real treat to see on the last day of our trip!

Desert Art: Mirrored Pillars

Curve of Mirrored Pillars

Pillar Row

Pillars Reflecting Sky

Authors’ Portraits in Pillars

When we visited Palm Springs recently, we were happy to see some of the Desert X art installations on view throughout the Coachella Valley (https://www.desertx.org/).  The exhibition runs February 25 – April 20, 2017. 

These pictures show a ring of mirrored pillars called “The Circle of Land and Sky” by artist Phillip K. Smith III.  I think it would be fun to have a couple of mirrored pillars at home in the flower garden!

Iceland: Stunning Snaefellsjokull Glacier and Goodbye

Pink Midnight Sunset over Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Pink Midnight Sunset over Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Strawberry Moonrise over Ocean

Strawberry Moonrise over Ocean

Close-up of Strawberry Moon

Close-up of Strawberry Moon

Snaefellsjokull Glacier and Lupines

Snaefellsjokull Glacier and Lupines

Close-up of Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Close-up of Snaefellsjokull Glacier

Icelandic Mountain in Rear-View Mirror

Icelandic Mountain in Rear-View Mirror

The scenery on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is stunning!  The Snaefellsjokull Glacier there dominates the landscape and was the entrance point for scientists in the Jules Verne classic “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.  Jokull in Icelandic means glacier.  

One evening at midnight in June the sunset turned the mountain pink, while a strawberry moon rose over the ocean.  The view from our beachfront cabin was magic!  Making it even better was when three wild horses galloped by on the beach.  Some people think the mountain has high magnetic energy.  Belief is strong in the area that elves and hidden people live in the lava.  Plans are currently underway to draw a map detailing the area’s enchanted and magical places: http://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/news/2016/06/06/belief_in_elves_very_strong_in_west_iceland/

Iceland is an amazing and must-see destination for any naturalist or photographer.  Although it is now in our rear-view window as I plan our next adventure, I am sure we will visit again someday.  I have prepared a custom Google map of places of interest to us in Iceland:   https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?hl=en&authuser=0&mid=1skvfqsNlWpCilCOaJc2tjreDGnc&ll=64.70735820733395%2C-19.523818050000045&z=7  Although we didn’t manage to see everything due to time or weather constraints, we did manage to see a majority of places.  Feel free to ask any questions you may have if you are planning your own trip.  I put together an Iceland travel guidebook illustrated with our best pictures here (PDF – click twice): ICELAND SLIDESHOW updated July 2019

Iceland: Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain and Budakirkja (Church at Budir)

Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain Water Flow to Sea

Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain Water Flow to Sea

Close-up of Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain and Waterfalls

Close-up of Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain and Waterfalls

View from Kirkjufell toward Waterfalls

View from Kirkjufell toward Waterfalls

Close-up of Waterfalls

Close-up of Waterfalls

Kirkjufell and Field of Buttercups along the Sea

Kirkjufell and Field of Buttercups along the Sea

Geological Diagram of Kirkjufell

Geological Diagram of Kirkjufell

Budakirkja (Church at Budir)

Budakirkja (Church at Budir)

Trail from Budakirkja to Coast

Trail from Budakirkja to Coast

Trail from Budakirkja Leads to Volcanic Caldera Nearby

Trail from Budakirkja Leads to Volcanic Caldera Nearby

On the north side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is famous Kirkjufell “Church” Mountain – the most photographed mountain in Iceland!  The mountain’s peak rises up like a steeple.  A diagram of its geological sediments looks like a layer cake.  The lowest part of the mountain contains 1 million-year-old ice age fossils.  This area is especially scenic with its mountain, fjord, and waterfalls. 

An actual church of historic interest is Budakirkja on the south side of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  This painted black church in the wild lava landscape was built in 1848. 

Iceland: Arnarstapi Bird Cliffs and Dramatic Lava

Mountainous Landscape

Mountainous Landscape

Pebbly Beach with Whale Bone and Driftwood

Pebbly Beach with Whale Bone and Driftwood

Arnarstapi Bird Cliffs on Old Volcano

Arnarstapi Bird Cliffs on Old Volcano

Kittiwakes with Newly Hatched Chick

Kittiwakes with Newly Hatched Chick

Cliff Walk over Lava Cave

Cliff Walk over Lava Cave

Columnar Lava at Ocean's Edge

Columnar Lava at Ocean’s Edge

Seaweed Covered Rocks at Low Tide

Seaweed Covered Rocks at Low Tide

Guardian Spirit of Mount Snaefell

Guardian Spirit of Mount Snaefell

Mount Stapefell ("Home of Elves")

Mount Stapefell (“Home of Elves”)

Beautiful Home by Harbor with Snaefellsjokull Glacier in Background

Beautiful Home by Harbor with Snaefellsjokull Glacier in Background

Arnarstapi Harbor

Arnarstapi Harbor

Birds Nesting on Rock Offshore

Birds Nesting on Rock Offshore

Cafe with Turf Roof

Cafe with Turf Roof

Path through Lava to Djupalonssandur Beach

Path through Lava to Djupalonssandur Beach

Siberian Driftwood Log on Beach

Siberian Driftwood Log on Beach

Heavy Lifting Stones to Determine Strength

Heavy Lifting Stones to Determine Strength

Lifting Stones Descriptive Sign

Lifting Stones Descriptive Sign

"Elf Church" Rock Formation Nearby

“Elf Church” Rock Formation Nearby

Longrangar Lighthouse on Coast

Longrangar Lighthouse on Coast

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula northwest of Reykjavik is one of our favorite places in Iceland.  The landscape is spectacular!  Gorgeous mountains and glaciers sit next to beaches where we saw driftwood, polished stones, and even old whale bones washed ashore.  In June the Arnarstapi bird cliffs have an amazing amount of nesting activity and cacophony of sound (turn up the volume and listen to video below).  Lava flows in some places there are condensed into dramatic pillars and columns.  Nearby stands a statue of stone that commemorates the Guardian Spirit of Mount Snaefell.  The town sits at the base of Mount Stapefell (known as the “Home of Elves”, composed of pillow lava and green olivine) and in the shadow of Snaefellsjokull Glacier.  The Arnarstapi harbor is particularly scenic, and the town café serves the best hot chocolate!

A bit further west is Djupalonssandur Beach, which is famous for its protected black pebbles and remains of a British trawler shipwrecked there in 1948.  Iceland has very few trees, so driftwood there floats all the way from Siberia!  Four large stones on the beach were used in the past to test the strength of fishermen.  If you couldn’t pick up the largest stone, you weren’t allowed on the boat!  Just picking up the smallest stone is quite an effort for the average person.  Nearby are Longrangar Lighthouse and a lava rock formation known as the “Elf Church”. 

Iceland: Colorful Lighthouses and Coastal Scenery

Twin Gardskagaviti Lighthouses

Twin Gardskagaviti Lighthouses

Statue of Fisherman’s Lady Looking out to Sea

Statue of Fisherman’s Lady Looking out to Sea

Orange Stafnesviti Lighthouse in Field of Buttercups

Orange Stafnesviti Lighthouse in Field of Buttercups

Reflection of Stafnesviti Lighthouse in Tidepool Nearby

Reflection of Stafnesviti Lighthouse in Tidepool Nearby

Unusual Sandgerdi Lighthouse

Unusual Sandgerdi Lighthouse

Fish Themed Murals on Warehouse attached to Sandgerdi Lighthouse

Fish Themed Murals on Warehouse attached to Sandgerdi Lighthouse

Fisherman with Fish Mural

Fisherman with Fish Mural

Fisherman with Eider Duck Mural

Fisherman with Eider Duck Mural

Fishermen in Boat Mural

Fishermen in Boat Mural

Ladies Processing Fish Mural

Ladies Processing Fish Mural

Lighthouse Theme on Vitinn Seafood Restaurant Sign

Lighthouse Theme on Vitinn Seafood Restaurant Sign

Longrangar Lighthouse

Longrangar Lighthouse

Reykjanes Lighthouse on Hill

Reykjanes Lighthouse on Hill

Gunnuhver Fumerole at Reykjanes “Smokey Point” Geothermal Area

Gunnuhver Fumerole at Reykjanes “Smokey Point” Geothermal Area

Richard by Life-Size Great Auk Statue

Richard by Life-Size Great Auk Statue

Akranes Lighthouse

Elves at Entrance

Photography Exhibit Inside

Steps to the Top

Lantern Room at Top

View from Top

Akranes: Poster on Display of Lighthouses of Iceland

We love lighthouses, and we enjoyed seeing a variety of them in Iceland.  Some lighthouses have bright colors for best contrast with the landscape.  All sit in beautiful locations by the sea.  The Reykjanes Lighthouse is particularly scenic because it sits in a geothermal area known as “Smokey Point”.  The Gunnuhver fumerole there produces a surprising amount of steam.  A life-size great auk statue stands nearby, marking the location where the last great auk lived in 1844.  A recent article discusses the possibility of using DNA to bring the great auk back from extinction:  http://www.earthtouchnews.com/all-articles/2016/september/01/can-the-great-auk-return-from-extinction/.

The Akranes lighthouse is fun because we think it looks like a rocket ship (we may be biased because we live on the Space Coast of Florida and see launches all the time).  There is a wonderful photography/poetry exhibition inside by Mak Jurgen called “I Miss the Days Chasing Lights”.  He also plans to publish a book called “Vitar” (lighthouse in Icelandic) by 2020. The view from the top is spectacular!

Mr. Ingvar Hreinsson has repaired all of Iceland’s 104 lighthouses spread out over 3,000 miles of coastline.  A recent article about him is at:  http://grapevine.is/mag/feature/2016/08/26/shine-a-light-the-icelander-who-repaired-every-single-lighthouse-in-the-country/

All of our posts about Iceland’s lighthouses are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=iceland+lighthouse.  “Viti” in Icelandic means lighthouse.

Iceland: Beautiful Historic Churches on Reykjanes Peninsula

Kalfatjarnarkirkja is Iceland’s largest rural church (built 1891)

Kalfatjarnarkirkja is Iceland’s largest rural church (built 1891)

Cherub covered with orange lichens in Kalfatjarnarkirkja cemetery

Cherub covered with orange lichens in Kalfatjarnarkirkja cemetery

Beautiful Geologic Gravestone with Agates in Cemetery at Kalfatjarnarkirkja Church

Utskalakirkja sits by the sea (built 1863)

Utskalakirkja sits by the sea (built 1863)

Colorful painted design on traditional house beside Utskalakirkja

Colorful painted design on traditional house beside Utskalakirkja

Hvalneskirkja was built with locally collected lava rock (outside) and salvaged driftwood (inside)

Hvalneskirkja was built with locally collected lava rock (outside) and salvaged driftwood (inside)

Entrance to Hvalneskirkja cemetery

Entrance to Hvalneskirkja cemetery

Kirkjuvogskirkja is one of three Icelandic churches painted black (built 1860)

Kirkjuvogskirkja is one of three Icelandic churches painted black (built 1860)

Anchor from shipwrecked American schooner Jamestown beside Kirkjuvogskirkja

Anchor from shipwrecked American schooner Jamestown beside Kirkjuvogskirkja

There are several historic churches you can visit on the scenic Reykjanes Peninsula (home of Keflavik International Airport and the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, Iceland).  Each church is unique and has a beautiful simplicity and history of its own.  “Kirkja” at the end of a word means “church” in Icelandic.   

Kalfatjarnarkirkja Church is Iceland’s largest rural church and is picture-postcard perfect.  Utskalakirkja Church sits by the sea and is near the twin Gardskagaviti lighthouses.  Many shipwrecks occurred in the area, so its cemetery contains gravestones dedicated to mariners and fishermen.  Earthen walls marked property boundaries there in the past, so the town’s name is Gardur (which means garden or earth). Beautiful Hvalneskirkja Church was built with locally collected lava rock (outside) and salvaged driftwood (inside).  It sits near the bright orange Stafnes Lighthouse.   Kirkjuvogskirkja Church is one of three Icelandic churches painted black.  Next to it is an anchor from an 1881 shipwreck of the American schooner Jamestown.  The wood and cargo of lumber salvaged from the abandoned “ghost ship” were of great value to this treeless community.  Info about the interesting sights that can be seen on a day trip from Reykjavik to the Reykjanes Peninsula is at:  http://www.visitreykjanes.is.   All of our posts about Icelandic churches are at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/?s=iceland+church

Iceland: Fragile Moss Fields and Tiny Wildflowers

Moss Covered Lava Field

Moss Covered Lava Field

Moss Covered Lava Ridge

Moss Covered Lava Ridge

Alpine Mouse Ears in Moss

Alpine Mouse Ears in Moss

Sea Campion

Sea Campion

Purple Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage Close-up

Moss Campion (cushion pink; lambagras)

Moss Campion (cushion pink; lambagras)

Angelica Flowers

Angelica Flowers

Fragrant Lupines

Sea Pink (Thrift)

Close-up of Sea Pink

Meadow Buttercups

Sea Mayweed (Icelandic Chamomile)

Wood Crane’s Bill

In Iceland there are vast areas of pillow-like moss covering the black lava landscape.  This unique moss is rare outside Iceland and extremely fragile.  It grows less than an inch per year, so you must never step on it.  Walking on it would be hazardous anyway, because the moss covers up lava with unseen crevices and jagged edges. 

Wildflower peak is in June and July.  Many of the flowers are tiny and grow close to the ground in response to the arctic climate.  Fields of lupines in early summer are spectacular! 

Iceland: Rainbow Colors of Seltun Volcanic Area and Graenavatn Lake

Seltun Volcanic Area Basin

Seltun Volcanic Area Basin

Seltun Volcanic Area Colors

Seltun Volcanic Area Colors

Seltun Volcanic Area Trail

Seltun Volcanic Area Trail

Seltun Volcanic Area Steaming Creek with Cotton Grass

Seltun Volcanic Area Steaming Creek with Cotton Grass

Graenavatn Lake

Graenavatn Lake

Drive to Seltun Volcanic Area by Kleifarvatn Lake

Drive to Seltun Volcanic Area by Kleifarvatn Lake

Field of Purple Lupines in Volcanic Landscape

Field of Purple Lupines in Volcanic Landscape

Outdoor Fish Drying Racks

Outdoor Fish Drying Racks

South of Reykjavik you can walk on the Seltun Hot Springs Boardwalk through an active geothermal field of hissing steam vents, bubbling mud pots, and boiling hot springs.  This colorful volcanic landscape sits on a fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  Nearby is unusual blue-green Graenavatn Lake, which formed in a crater left by an explosion of overheated ground water over 6,000 years ago.  Its beautiful color is the result of minerals and warmth-loving algae in the water.  Also nearby is Kleifarvatn Lake, which is one of the deepest lakes in Iceland.  Legend says it is the home of a giant serpent. In June the road to this area near Krysuvik passes by fields of purple lupines – it is a gorgeous drive! 

Close to Reykjavik the road passes by huge outdoor fish drying racks  – you can both see and smell it!  Dried fish (hardfiskur) is a favorite snack of Icelanders.

Iceland: Golden Circle Fun

Blue Bubble of Strokkur Geyser Eruption

Blue Bubble of Strokkur Geyser Eruption

Birthplace of Icelandic Parliament in 930 AD

Birthplace of Icelandic Parliament in 930 AD

Outside of Historic Thingvellir Church

Outside of Historic Thingvellir Church

Inside of Thingvellir Church (1683 Pulpit)

Inside of Thingvellir Church (1683 Pulpit)

Silfra Fissure at Junction of Tectonic Plates (popular diving spot in crystal clear water)

Silfra Fissure at Junction of Tectonic Plates (popular diving spot in crystal clear water)

Close-up of Gullfoss Waterfall Gorge

Close-up of Gullfoss Waterfall Gorge

Trio of Beautiful Icelandic Horses

Trio of Beautiful Icelandic Horses

Although we toured Reykjavik’s Golden Circle when we visited Iceland previously in 2014, we decided to revisit the area again to see old favorites and things we missed the last time around.  First stop was the geyser Strokkur, which erupts about every 10 minutes.  Our slow-motion video below shows how it swells into a churning blue bubble before erupting skyward (the first few seconds are amazing!).  Rain or shine it never disappoints. 

We also stopped at Thingvellir National Park.  Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best place in the world to see the junction of tectonic plates.  This location is the birthplace of the Althing, the world’s oldest existing parliament where Icelanders first assembled in 930 AD. 

Within view is beautiful Thingvellir Church.  It was built in 1859 and its pulpit dates to 1683. 

A popular activity in the area is to dive in the Silfra fissure, which straddles the North American and Eurasian continents.  The water is pristine and exceptionally clear (https://www.dive.is/dive-sites/silfra/).

After walking the trail at spectacular Gulfoss waterfall, we stopped for a picnic lunch along the road.  A friendly herd of Icelandic horses kept us company in this scenic landscape.

Iceland: Gorgeous Waterfalls

Seljalandsfoss  Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss Flow into Basin

Seljalandsfoss Flow into Basin

Skogafoss Waterfall with Angelica Flowers

Skogafoss Waterfall with Angelica Flowers

Mighty Skogafoss Waterfall

Mighty Skogafoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall with Dandelions and Buttercups

Gullfoss Waterfall with Dandelions and Buttercups

Gullfoss Waterfall: Tourists on Rock Ledge

Gullfoss Waterfall: Tourists on Rock Ledge

Close-up of Gullfoss First Tier Waterfall

Close-up of Gullfoss First Tier Waterfall

Iceland is filled with gorgeous waterfalls – the variety and beauty are amazing!  Our favorite waterfall is Seljalandsfoss (on the south coast).  You can walk behind its curtain of water.  Another favorite nearby is Skogafoss.  A short stroll there leads up to the base of this mighty waterfall.  The most powerful waterfall of all is Gullfoss (along Reykjavik’s Golden Circle Tour).  This waterfall generates more power than Niagara and features a double tier of falls.  Many other beautiful waterfalls can be seen by simply driving around the Icelandic countryside.

Iceland: Dramatic Viking Movie Set and Black Sand Dune Beach

Viking Cafe

Viking Cafe

Viking Village Panorama

Viking Village Panorama

Approach to Viking Movie Set

Approach to Viking Movie Set

Viking Long House

Viking Long House

Viking Turf Houses

Viking Turf Houses

Viking Catapult

Viking Catapult

Viking Hut with Horns

Viking Hut with Horns

Black Sand Dunes and Misty Vestrahorn Mountain

Black Sand Dunes and Misty Vestrahorn Mountain

Richard and Dunes for Scale

Richard and Dunes for Scale

Dune Covered with Green Grass

Dune Covered with Green Grass

Sideswept Dune

Sideswept Dune

Windswept Dunes

Windswept Dunes

Single Blade of Grass in Black Volcanic Sand

Single Blade of Grass in Black Volcanic Sand

Departure on Stokksnes Exit Road

Departure on Stokksnes Exit Road

Mist Flowing Down Mountain

Mist Flowing Down Mountain

Mist Flowing Over Mountain

Mist Flowing Over Mountain

Descriptive Map of Vestrahorn and Stokksnes Area

Descriptive Map of Vestrahorn and Stokksnes Area

Viking Cafe Map of Area

Viking Cafe Map of Area

An especially great place for photography in southeastern Iceland is Vestrahorn Mountain.  The 8-10 million year old gabbro and granophyre rocks are the remains of an ancient magma chamber of an extinct volcano.  To get to it, drive on Ring Road 1 about one hour east of Jokulsarlon and exit to Stokksnes (an old World War II NATO radar base).  The exit is just before the tunnel entrance east of Hofn.  Drive about 3 miles on the dirt road until you reach the remote family-owned Viking Café and pay a small entrance fee. 

A short hike through this stunning landscape leads to a former Viking movie set.  This Viking village was initially planned to be revived in 2017 to film the movie “Vikingr” by Universal Studios.  The movie is about epic Viking sagas by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur.   An initial article about the movie in October 2014 is at:  http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-iceland-viking-movie-baltasar-kormakur-20141008-story.html   In a follow-up article dated September 2016 Kormakur says that he expected to start work and filming of the Viking movie in 2017:  http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/baltasar-kormakur-returning-iceland-oath-926795   An update in 2019 said that Vikingr is still under development by Universal Pictures.  

UPDATE:  In October 2019 it was announced that Baltasar Kormakur will begin production in 2020 on the supernatural volcano drama “Katla” for Netflix.  This eight part series “begins one year after the violent eruption of the subglacial volcano Katla….Mysterious elements that have been deeply frozen into the glacier from prehistoric times start to emerge from the melting ice and cause consequences that no one could have ever foreseen.”  Exciting!  Read more at:  https://grapevine.is/news/2019/10/10/baltasar-kormakur-making-supernatural-volcano-drama-series-for-netflix/

NEW UPDATE April/May 2020:  Filming for Katla will begin as soon as possible in Vik, Iceland.  The town is already being prepped for filiming by shoveling ash around buildings to similate fallout from the eruption.  Read more at:  https://www.vulture.com/2020/04/how-icelandic-director-baltasar-kormakur-lives-in-quarantine.html  and https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/culture_and_living/2020/04/24/vik_i_myrdal_covered_in_volcanic_ash/  Filming in progress:  https://www.icelandreview.com/culture/baltasar-resumes-filming-of-supernatural-volcano-drama/

Continuing your exploration, drive a very short distance in the other direction from the Viking Village to the sea to photograph the black volcanic sand dunes and mist-covered mountains.  The dunes are shaped by the wind and topography.  This place is stunning and embodies the wildness and drama of the Icelandic landscape – the owners consider it “Heaven on Earth”

Iceland: Stunning Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon!

Stunning Jokulsarlon Ice Beach

Stunning Jokulsarlon Ice Beach

Wave Crashing onto Ice

Wave Crashing onto Ice

Blue Iceberg

Blue Iceberg

Stunning Blue Ice

Stunning Blue Ice

Close-up of Blue Ice

Close-up of Blue Ice

Iceberg on Black Volcanic Sand

Iceberg on Black Volcanic Sand

Rippled Ice

Rippled Ice

Ice with Fish-like Shape

Ice with Fish-like Shape

 

Ice with Cat-like Shape

Ice with Cat-like Shape

Ice Completely Full of Frozen Bubbles

Ice Completely Full of Frozen Bubbles

Close-up of Ice with Volcanic Sand and Pebbles

Close-up of Ice with Volcanic Sand and Pebbles

Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon

Striated Glacial Icebergs

Striated Glacial Icebergs

Long Exposure of Ice #1

Long Exposure of Ice #1

Long Exposure of Ice #2

Long Exposure of Ice #2

Long Exposure of Ice #3

Long Exposure of Ice #3

Long Exposure of Ice #4

Long Exposure of Ice #4

Jokulsarlon is one of those places you never forget.  The glaciers, icebergs, and crystalline ice on the volcanic black sand beach are stunning!  If the weather turns rainy, it only serves to make the blue ice even bluer (click on any of the images to enlarge).  If you visit Iceland, don’t miss this incredible place!   More info is at:  http://icelagoon.is/

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