So much happened in Cuba with the coronavirus hanging over our heads, even there was very little evidence of it in Cuba but there was the constant concern that we may be delayed coming home. But the week was magical and we made some great photos. I didn’t do a great job editing, so here are a bunch of photos I shot. If you click on one it will bring up a larger version and then you can use the arrows on the extreme right and left to scroll through the images.
Last night was a fun workshop in New York City. All day there was heavy rain and miserable conditions. I had postponed the workshop from the week before due to snow and ice predictions and it turned out to be a wise idea. Yesterday it looked like the rain would stop around 6:00 p.m. so I decided to go ahead with the workshop. I warned everyone to be ready for rain, it is important to keep yourself as dry as your equipment. Once you get wet clothes you are cold until you change into something dry.
I made some adjustments to our schedule so we would start with shooting indoors at Grand Central Terminal and then head right down to Brooklyn. My genius came through and it stopped raining by the time we were done at Grand Central. One of the great things about changing weather is that the light usually becomes much better and yesterday it became absolutely special. We went south of the Brooklyn Bridge to photograph old pilings in the East River with lower Manhattan in the background. It was rather blah when we first got there and then as darkness approached the clouds starting doing cool things, clear skies mixed with clouds and it looked great. Then fog rolled in, making for a different look. As we were finishing there I had my back to the city for 30 seconds and when I turned around the fog had covered all of Manhattan and you couldn’t tell the city existed. Pretty cool.
We went up the Dumbo area to photograph around the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. There was still some fog hanging around so I used part of the Manhattan Bridge to frame in a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan. The light combined with the wet ground and fog to make an eerie image. There are always lots of great photos in that area.
We finished the night at a special spot on 42nd St. in Manhattan where we photographed traffic and car lights streaking past. A beautiful way to end the day that started out dismal.
Many people in Vermont said the foliage this year is the best it has been in years. And it has been a long time since I’ve seen it looking this good. There aren’t a lot of the deep reds that we sometimes get but the lighter reds, oranges and yellows are shining through. I did two fall foliage workshops this year and as usual people came from all over the country. It is fun to host people who live in different places and see their reaction to the changing colors. They have usually seen a few trees change but not whole forests of brilliant foliage.
I created a little group of photos that I shot the last week or so, I hope you enjoy it. Click on a photo to see a larger version and then you can click on the right or left side to scroll through them.
One of the techniques I enjoy doing with my photography is light painting. Much like it sounds, I illuminate subjects in a similar way as painting a wall. But I use a flashlight, sometimes a big one. During my Vermont Fall Foliage Workshop I like to take people to Chittenden Reservoir and light up an island that is about 250 yards from the shore. I have a big 18 million candle power flashlight that does a great job on the island. The best shots come 20-30 minutes after sunset when there is still some light and color in the sky and it is dark enough that the background is dark. We use a 30 second exposure which gives me time to light up the island. Just like painting a wall, I don’t try to cover the whole island in one splash of light, I paint across it so any one area may get only 5-8 seconds of light. When the conditions are right, it can be a fantastic photo.
Today we made the journey back to Reykjavik as my Iceland Photography Workshop is nearly the end. One of the highlights of coming to Iceland in August is photographing puffins, those cute, colorful and rather sad looking cuddly birds. They spend about nine months a year floating on the ocean and come ashore to breed and hatch their eggs then head back to the open sea. I found a spot where they roost on a cliff that is easy for photographers to access. I’ve made some great shots there in the past I was hoping everyone on this trip would be able to get some too. When we got up this morning it was raining and blowing hard. I delayed our departure hoping the weather would clear and it did – somewhat. The rain went away but the wind got even stronger. It was a constant 50-60 mph making walking hard and keeping a camera steady even harder. Iceland is the third windiest place on earth and the other two are uninhabited islands.
The puffins were having a tough time too. The cliff where we get a good close view is a bit of an L shape and we stand at the end of the short part of the L. That is where puffins land about 15-20 feet away on a couple rocks with a good coating of puffin poop. That is where I tell my photographers to watch, when they walk on the rocks you get a great shot. But the wind was too strong for them to land on our side of the cliff. Several tried and could only circle and go elsewhere. They spend the morning flying out and fishing and bringing their catch back to their nests in tall grass. Many were landing on the other side of the cliff but it is too far away to get a nice tight shot. It was fun to watch them navigate the wind and find a way to land. Several of were amazed when one puffin flew toward the cliff and spun around at the last moment and flew backwards into its landing spot. They have dealt with the wind before.
Realizing the wind wasn’t going to let up we had to leave and start our journey back north. We had a couple of stops to make along the way, one being at Gullfoss, a very large waterfall that is very impressive. It is one of the main tourist spots in Iceland and there is always a crowd. It is hard to photograph the whole thing, so I concentrated on a small part. We also went nearby to Geysir, where Icelanders claim the original geyser was seen. Geysir itself is now dormant but one a couple hundred feet away spurts every nine minutes at most. It creates a blue bubble seconds before it blows, which is a challenge to catch with a camera. On to Reykavik for one more full day!
Iceland is known for waterfalls and glaciers, yesterday I took my workshop to the waterfalls, today it was glacier time. I know this little spot where a tongue of Vatnajökull glacier comes down into a lagoon. There is a little dirt road back to it off the highway, it isn’t marked and too small for most people to take a chance to see what is there. Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe and covers 8% of Iceland. It is big.
Driving over from Vic we encountered some rain and wind but all of that stopped when we got out of the van. There were a couple of other people for a while but we mainly had the place to ourselves, which is always fun. In the summer the glacier melts and leaves a layer of dirt in the ice. It is cool to see but not pristine. This is one place that looks better in the winter but it is still fun to see how big this little part of the glacier is and it makes some great photos.
After leaving my little glacial hideaway we drove down to Jökulsárlón where another tongue of the glacier meets the ocean. A large lagoon is there and a short river has formed to drain the lagoon into the ocean. At high tide ocean water surges back into the lagoon and the salty water breaks off large chunks of the glacier. Year round you’ll see large icebergs floating in the lagoon and out the river. When they get to the ocean they break up more and float back onto the black sand beach. As the ice gets smaller it looks like diamonds on the beach when light shins through it. The weather had turned bad and it was raining pretty hard when we arrived. I drove to a couple of spots hoping the rain would ease and it finally did so we went over to Diamond Beach. The light was pretty bad, it was windy and it was spitting rain so shooting wasn’t easy. We still made some fun shots and went back over to the lagoon. Huge pieces of blue ice were floating and breaking apart. It was fun to see and to shoot. The rain came back so we started back toward the hotel.
As we were driving the rain was falling and then the sun came out. It made of one the biggest and brightest rainbows I have ever seen. I pulled the van off the road and we jumped out and shot some pictures while trying to stay dry. It was a lot of fun and great way to end another fabulous day in Iceland.
Toady we made the long drive from Grundarfjörður down to Vic, our Summer Iceland Photography Workshop home for the next two nights. One the way we stopped at three tremendous but different waterfalls. Two of them are well known, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. They are too well known, all the tour buses stop there and there is always a huge crowd unless you go extremely early or late in the day. Since they were on our way to Vic, we went at the same time as everyone else. Seljalandsfoss is a very long drop and you can walk behind it, which make for great photos. If you work it right you can eliminate a lot of people from your photos, but it is tricky.
Skogafoss is much wider but you can’t go behind it without drowning. You can get out in the river below the falls and keep some of the people out of the shot but you need to be prepared. I bought some cheap plastic boot covers and gave them to some of our photographers to try but they fell apart about as fast as it took to put them on. When you get close enough to be in front of most of the people you get a good deal of spray hitting you. So I also brought bright yellow micro fiber towels for each person and showed them how to play peek-a-boo with the towel over the camera lens to keep the front dry.
But the highlight for me and the other photographers is a smaller waterfall that most people don’t know about and that is a good thing so I won’t mention the name. You have to climb over a fence and hike about a 1/2 mile back to it. There are a couple of rather tricky spots where you have to climb up and over rocky humps, which also keeps some people out. But once back there the scene is serene and magical. It may be my favorite place in Iceland, I could spend hours there surrounded by the lush green gorge, flowing river and the only sound being falling water. You can also go behind the falls and look out through the gorge and see only the people you came with. Before you get to the falls you are up on a hill looking down on the stream going through the valley. There isn’t a more peaceful place to be.
Click on an image to see a larger version, then you can scroll through them.
We started my latest Iceland Photo Workshop by heading north to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, a beautiful area that doesn’t get the big bus loads of tourists. It is well known for a cute little church in Budir that is painted black and for Kurkjufellsfoss a scenic waterfall beside the iconic Kirkjufell mountain. We were based near the little town of Grundarfjörður just across a small bay from Kirkjufell. There is an artist in town who goes by the name of Liston and I have visited him with groups several times. He can usually be found outside his studio carving stone and his artwork is all over town. He greets me with a big smile and firm hand shake and is always willing to talk with everyone. I’d love to have one of his large carvings but getting it back home would be a major event. He did offer one of our folks to come stay with her for a couple of months and carve anything she wants! In the winter when it too cold to be outside carving he is in his studio painting. I bought one of his larger acrylic paintings on paper and can’t wait to hang it.
During our two days around Snæfellsnes we journeyed to Bjarnarhöfn, home to a shark musuem but rather than go inside we photographed another black church and the beautiful country side. We also went up to the little harbor town of Stykkishólmur, which is a classic quaint Icelandic village. We made the fairly easy climb up a small mountain that has a great overview of boats in the harbor and the town built on the hills. It is a great view.
Back in Grundarfjörður we wandered out through fields to a pretty waterfalls. It was more than a mile round trip and the last section to get close to the falls was pretty tricky so only a couple of people made the final hike. On the way out an Icelandic horse wandered over to see what we were up to. Before getting too close she stopped and did some posing for all the photographers. And she was a great poser, striking the right moves with a scenic mountain behind her. When she had enough of that she came over to check the camera of one of our people. She sniffed around but didn’t lick the lens!
Click on an image to see a larger version, then you can scroll through them.
This Chile adventure keeps getting better. Today we made the journey along the coast from Valparaiso to La Serena. It is more than a five hour drive on the Pan American Highway, I thought about flying but seeing the country from the ground seemed more fun. We didn’t stop a lot, I wanted to get to La Serena, get settled in and go out do some night photography.
We stopped at a little fishing village that was pretty fun. Chile is a modern country, you won’t find carts pulled by mules through dusty villages. Cell phone coverage is better than in the U.S. and although there is some poverty, Chile is one the most affluent in South America. This town had a marina and nice park along the ocean. There was a helipad with horses roaming around it. They weren’t really fenced in, they just kinda stayed along the ocean. A couple of them wandered over into some cactus and found something to eat. They were pretty good at not getting their noses pricked.
After settling into our apartment we headed out to a lighthouse I had found. It was on a beautiful beach lined with hotels and restaurants. The lighthouse is being renovated so it made for tough photography but the sunset was spectacular and there were plenty of people on the beach even though it is winter in Chile, although the temperature was in the upper 60’s.
We had dinner near the beach then went into the countryside to find a dark area to shoot the Milky Way. This area is one of the darkest places on earth but La Serena is a city of 200,000 and the area has 400,000 and getting away from the light pollution isn’t easy. I took a dirt road east of the city for about 30 minutes. I had done some research on Google maps and found an intersection with another dirt road that looked interesting. Even that far away from the city there was plenty of light on the horizon but it was dark enough. There happened to be an old stuffed chair where I pulled off the road. It was a perfect place to sit and do some stargazing but we weren’t going to touch the old thing. It did make for a great foreground under the Milky Way.
This is the first official day of a photo adventure in Chile as we went from Santiago to the artsy town of Valparaiso. I had read plenty about Valparaiso and saw many photos but I wasn’t prepared for what was there. Most of the old part of the city is painted with murals by amazingly talented artists. Walking from our hotel, we took a funicular up a steep hill and everywhere we looked was street art. It looked like much of it was authorized but there was a good deal that looked like it was done when there wasn’t anyone official looking.
There is also plenty of graffiti and tagging but it seemed like there a respect of most murals and they didn’t get tagged. We walked and photographed for several hours but didn’t see nearly all of it. For blocks and blocks every inch of wall had something painted on it. There were some that were political or social in nature but much of it was beautiful art that could be hung in a gallery if it was painted on canvas. Several places long sets of steps had been painted on the front of each step so when you were at the bottom you could look back and see the mural.
There was so much art that the novelty wore off but the amazement didn’t.
I could spend days here.
I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time, almost two years. I’m in Chile leading a workshop that will climax in photographing the total solar eclipse on Tuesday. We are meeting today in Santiago, going to the cool town of Valparaiso tomorrow and then driving up the coast to our base in La Serena for the eclipse.
I had flown through Santiago when I came to Chile in December to scout next year’s eclipse in the southern part of the country but this one is in the north and I haven’t been there. It will be a true adventure.
My plane arrived around 7:00 a.m. and I met one of the participants, Jane from New York, at the airport. We got the rental van, checked in to the hotel and I took a nap. Overnight flights are tough and even though I slept a good deal I wanted to make sure I didn’t start the trip sleep deprived. Jane joined me a little after noon and we went into Santiago. I had done research on places to go but it always hard. I read about a park on a mountain overlooking the city. It was cool but didn’t make for great photos. On the way down there was a Japanese garden that looked interesting, so we stopped. It was pretty but it is winter in Chile so the plants were very vibrant.
We went over to a neighborhood where there is a lot of street art. There happened to be a street market but it was shutting down by the time we got there. There were a series of multi-story apartment buildings with windowless walls on the end facing the street. A local art museum paid artists to paint murals on the walls and they were spectacular. It was a great place to make some fun photos. The locals were extremely friendly, many hamming for photos when they saw our cameras. It was a great experience.
We then went to the heart of old Santiago to a tourist area around a large open square surrounded by a cathedral and old government buildings. Street parking is different in Chile. Rather than have meters they have people come around as you park on the street and print out a ticket. When you leave you pay the street attendant. I had experienced it once in December but didn’t quite remember that was the way it is done. The attendant didn’t speak much English and I didn’t pay enough attention in my high school Spanish class to really get by. I finally understood what was going on and we were off to see the sights.
There is a large street closed off to traffic and lined with vendors. A large number of the vendors were in wheel chairs, to the extent that both Jane and I wondered if it was a marketing tool more than a necessity. I wanted to stick around long enough to see if they walked away when they were done selling. A couple were obviously in need of the chair.
We were there as the sun went down and the sky took on some wonderful colors. New, modern buildings had sprung up next to the old ones and made for a striking contrast. After the sun went down the lights came on and the colorful sky made for some nice photos. We were meeting the other participants back at the hotel for dinner and it was a great start to a new photographic adventure.
Tuscany is famous amongst photographers for the great light, especially the way it falls across the hills and mountains early in the morning and late in the day. It is a beautiful sight to see and I can’t think of anyplace where it is nicer. As long as it doesn’t rain. During my workshop there the past few days we had lots of great light but we also ran into some rather rainy days, although they weren’t the slate gray skies that we get in New Jersey. It would rain hard for a while and then the clouds would break up and let some sunlight sneak through. This was my second Tuscany workshop and the last one was in the dry heat of early July when it just doesn’t rain. While I knew there would be a chance and I made sure everyone was prepared, it was still a bit of a shock.
We had planned on going to Florence last Friday but Thursday night the forecast said clear skies Friday and rain on Saturday, so we made a quick change and took advantage of a beautiful day to shoot small ancient towns and incredible countrysides. It rained a bit while we were in Florence but only enough to be a nuisance. We were taunted by the possibility of a great sunset from a hill overlooking the city but the sun and clouds just didn’t make it happen. It just meant a late dinner at another tremendous Italian restaurant.
The rest of the week we would get an occasional downpour followed by great clouds. The group was great and didn’t let the little bit of rain slow us down. We did pick up plenty of mud while trudging out in fields for the bright red poppies or the fields of yellow or purple wildflowers. The floors of our vans were caked with mud and the rental company did charge us extra to clean them but it was worth it. We made wonderful photos and I had a great time with a fun bunch of people.
Enjoy some of my photos below.
One of the island in the Venice lagoon is Burano and it is one of the most colorful places you will see anywhere. All the buildings are painted bright colors and most of them look like they were freshly done. Everywhere you look there are bright colors. Just like Venice, there are canals throughout the island and the reflections add to the colorful scenery. Also like Venice, the houses are built right up against each other but the individual units of each building are painted a different color. About 3,000 people live there and they all must love color! Interestingly, the main product of the island is lace, which is not colorful at all.
Today I drove from southern Chile’s lake region over to the Pacific coast. I had seen some pretty cool photo of the unique coastline and thought it might be a good day trip during my workshop here in 2020. Where I wanted to go was a little over two hours from Pucon and the drive was pretty easy. The land was fairly flat and this is cattle country. We had steak for dinner one night in Pucon and it was great and this was where it came from.
Bob’s research turned up a little island of Maiquillahue that looked pretty cool and we made that our destination. We pulled into a little fishing village with a small harbor filled with boats. These obviously weren’t for recreation, they were working boats but there were colorfully painted. One boat had a couple of men working on their nets but the rest were just floating. The road went right along the ocean and just across the street were 25-30 picnic tables with small roofs over each one. It being about noon on Sunday they were filled with families picnic, laughing and some kids were kicking around a soccer ball on the not too level ground. I wished my Spanish was good enough to talk with them and make some pictures but I didn’t want to intrude.
Interestingly, the town’s name is Mississippi. I have to do some research and see what that is all about and I saw a couple of signs that didn’t have enough s’s and p’s but most of them did.
The beach was gravel and stones and there was one little boy playing around several ropes tied to boats. He was cute and didn’t pay any attention to me with my large tripod, the boats were much more interesting. His mother was back up by the road in a stand selling fresh fish and vegetables. Several woman were working cleaning fish and cutting the veggies, I guess they didn’t get Sunday as a rest day.
We could see the island from the beach and it was much small than we thought. The map showed a road that would up a mountain and back down to another beach near the island so of course I had to take it. It quickly turned to dirt and we started climbing. There were several vantage points to look back down on the Mississippi beach. We got to the top of mountain and started heading back down. Google Maps said it was only 1/4 mile down and we had driven several miles up some pretty steep inclines. I knew this would be pretty steep but what the hell. As we were driving down the very steep dirt road I had flashbacks to the rental car’s tires spinning in the dirt a couple of days ago. There wasn’t any turning back now and when we got to the bottom there were a couple of four wheel drive SUVs and a boat. We had thought we could go out on the island but there wasn’t any way. It didn’t have any beaches we could see, only rocky ledges. We shot some pictures but it wasn’t anything great. I figured I better try getting the rental car out of there while there were still a couple of vehicles that could help. The dirt was tightly packed and the little Peugeot climbed right up. We got to a sharp turn and I could see the gravel was loose there from other vehicles spinning their wheels. I told Bob to hang on and got as much speed up as I could. The front wheels spun a couple of times but we had enough traction to make it out.
We went farther north along to the coast toward some other places we had scouted. We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks that were pretty nice. We were getting pretty hungry and fine eating establishments weren’t plentiful. As we were driving along a nice looking restaurant popped up. It didn’t seem to be near anything but looked nice from the outside. We went in and it was empty, but it was around 3 p.m. and we were famished. The sweet young woman gave us a nice Hola! and we took a seat. Once again she spoke no English, which is what I expected. The menu was on the wall and I could read enough to know a little what they had. I thought salmon would be good since I had seen some fresh back at the little roadside stand. The waitress starting talking fast, smiled when we didn’t understand each other and asked us several questions which I always answered Si! I asked Bob if he would like some empanadas, so I ordered some, which thought were salmon. She asked a few more questions and it seemed like our order was complete. In a while she brought out a large plate of empanadas, which didn’t seem like salmon but were pretty good. Bob and I thought a meal of empanadas wasn’t bad and as we nearly finished the waitress brought out a large salad. Ok, that’s good. We started into the salad and then came plates with large portions of salmon and french fries for each us. I guess I did order salmon after all! Now we were getting stuffed and then came the dessert. It turns out the waitress upsold me on a five course meal! But it was good and only cost about $20 for the whole thing.
We went to the coast where there was rocky ledges and black sand. Some men were fishing on the rocks and kids were playing in the surf. It was a lovely scene and we made pictures there for a while. As we were leaving I saw a lone tree that was wind blown along the beach. We stopped and made some photos and I could see more unique trees in the distance near the water. The map showed a road being there and I put the rental car through a little more than I would my own car. It was a long day and time to head back to Pucon.