In spite of our initial plans to not travel too far in 2015 here we are in the arctic north. Starting in Copenhagen (Denmark) the main purpose of our trip is a 11 day photo workshop in Iceland with some of Australia's best photographers (Christian Fletcher, Tony Hewitt, Peter Eastway) and English photographer Antony Spencer. We will finish off with a few days each in Norway's fiord country and Stockholm (Sweden)
Dodging some rain and grey skies initially we eventually had some sun during our 3 and a half days in Copenhagen. Here we played tourist, including royal tourism, canal rides and the delights of the Tivoli Gardens and Nyhaven. We are totally thankful that the Danes are bi-lingual as to attempt translation would prove difficult with time to study Danish, let alone pick it up in three days. One more thing about Danish (and the other scandinavian languages) is that any typos in this and other reports to follow can be excused as locval tirmnolggi.
We were very quickly introduced into the high price of food and drink in Scandinavia - up to double Australian prices. A basic bottle of red wine (Chile or Italy) at a restaurant starts at $A80, a main course at a reasonable but not top shelf cafe/restaurant starts at $A50-60. On the other hand several items are comparatively cheap, including beer and street food. Coffee in Copenhagen was good and also not too expensive. Our duty free supplies certainly saved considerable expense in the liquid stakes.
As a tourist city Copenhagen is easy to get around, so we walked everywhere except for our visit to the Carlsberg factory (more later). Our hotel was located just next to the railway station which, apart from the occasional plumbing problem, proved comfortable and convenient to the attractions we planned to visit. Copenhagen has a reputation as a cyclist friendly city, and certainly there are thousands of bicycles everywhere. Two things help this that do not apply to Adelaide's continual cycle lanes debates are that the city is flat and that tax on cars is 180% (ie. a standard family car costs nearly $200,000). Electric car recharging stations are also apparent on the streets (see below).
We structured a lot of our visit around our proximity to the Tivoli Gardens - said to be a major inspiration for Walt Disney in establishing Disneyland. Consider a mix of public entertainment venues including concert halls, restaurant strip, park & gardens, rides and sideshow alley and you will only have part of the picture. The highlight - our ride on a 101 year old roller coaster. We really played tourist here and left our cameras behind to just enjoy the atmosphere.
We also devoted a day to royal museums and were only disappointed that whilst Mary and Frederick were home (the flag was up), the invitation for a cuppa was not forthcoming.
Royal Museum and Treasury loot
The royal treasury and palaces are very accessible and the square between the four royal palaces is an open public space and roadway.
Having got the royal tourism bug out of the way the other features were the two canal boat tours (even though we got drenched on the first), a visit to Carlsberg brewery and an afternoon at the zoo.
Carlsberg is a brewery started by one man over 100 years ago - who so disliked his son that he put the whole company ownership into a benevolent trust for the arts and sciences in Denmark so that his son could not inherit the business. The son had to start his own brewery (new Carlsberg) which also was passed to a benevolent trust. Long story made short - over time the companies (and trusts) merged and are still a major benevolent force within Denmark. Oh, the beer at the end of the tour was rather good as well! This was a well presented factory tour that included lots of information on the history of beer in Scandinavia (from Viking times) and the history of the breweries that have formed the modern Carlsberg conglomerate.
The other highlight of Copenhagen was the canal tours and the canal side area of Nyhaven - just a hint of Venice here (even an Aperol Spritz to be had with dinner). Canal side in the sunshine in Europe is as good as it gets. Plenty of atmosphere, fishing boats and old buildings converted into a lovely tourist and restaurant district.
The city has an impressive mix of old and modern architecture and a comfortable safe feel to walk around. Our time in Copenhagen left us wanting more - now that has to be a good thing.
Next Time we will be in Iceland.
Part 2 - ICELAND
The main purpose of our trip was the visit to Iceland was to attend a 10 day photography workshop featuring three of Australia's best professional landscape photographers and one of England's finest.
Iceland was knocked about badly by the GFC and has since been reinvented as one of the world's hottest tourist destinations based on its incredible variety of unspoiled natural scenery.
As such we had high expectations as to how good it would be to photograph and how good the workshop would be with Christian Fletcher, Tony Hewitt, Peter Eastway and Antony Spencer.
Our expectations were easily surpassed - ICELAND IS BRILLIANT! What's not brilliant is the weather and the coffee.
Located in the north Atlantic inside the arctic circle Iceland is subject to extremes of weather and we saw some of that from the moment we arrived. An atlantic storm on our first night dumped heavy rain with strong winds on the capital Reykjavik on our first night and this carried over for the next couple of days.
The changeability of the weather is such that souvenir T shirts advising "if you don't like the weather just wait 5 minutes" are a fair indication of our experience. Our time in Iceland was book-ended by heavy rain and winds.
The landscape is far more variable than we expected - it is a young and primal landscape - volcanic and glacial, vivid green vegetation and harsh dry bare alpine deserts that looked more like moonscapes. Waterfalls and lava flows abound and after a couple of days our threshold for a photogenic waterfall certainly shifted. Black sand beaches lie beneath vertical cliffs, glaciers coming off large ice caps over volcanic mountain ranges eventually crumble and melt into massive glacial river deltas. Agricultural land on the coastal flats was unbelievably picturesque, with farm buildings tucked in under the mountains (for weather protection we presume) with large stockpiles of PVC-clad hay/silage for winter feed for the cattle, sheep and the iconic Icelandic horses.
Our visit to Iceland started with an overnight stay in the capital Reykjavik, about 45 minutes from the airport at Keflavik that has been developed on a former US air force base. Reykjavik is an attractive city with a beautiful quaint centre that we could just about see through the rain. It's massive cathedral towers over the city and it is an easy city to move about on foot. Good coffee here (but not elsewhere) and great food.
After Reykjavik good coffee was hard to find, there were few espresso machines and mainly push button machines or drip filter (Americano) coffee that was generally to be avoided other that at hotel breakfasts where the coffee was almost palatable. Hot chocolate from the push button machines became the safe option. As with Copenhagen wine prices were exorbitant and paying $60+ for Chilean red paint stripper meant that the local Viking Gull beer generally won the day when alcoholic drinks were required along with the duty free Tullamore Dew.
What Iceland does well is food - it is pricey in $A terms - but the quality of fish and meat was consistently high. Lamb was prominent with the smoked lamb sensational (used where we would have corned beef). Keith as usual got a bit adventurous and tried horse steak (very tender and tasty) and a reindeer and lobster burger (stunning!). All the fish - atlantic salmon, cod, char (a local freshwater fish somewhat between atlantic salmon and trout in size and taste) - were beautiful and the lamb was as tender and tasty as we have tasted anywhere. We did baulk at trying Minke Whale though - despite curiosity that was one step too far. Equally the breads here are sensational as well, so we leave Iceland well-fed.
Four quality photographic leaders and twenty participants - mainly Australian but including a couple of Kiwis and Americans and a Canadian. 10 days of amazing photography. We were excited and so fortunate to be in such company in such a wonderful environment.
It is impossible to do justice to Iceland with the camera - the sheer beauty and breadth of the landscapes in front of us often called for panoramic stitching of several frames to capture the vastness of the landscapes purely for the memories. Some of the locations, especially early on, were just overwhelming and our photographs of them would benefit with a return visit.
The workshop was conducted in the way that the team works together (especially Christian, Tony and Peter) and could best be described as organised chaos with a strong dose of flexibility. It was not a place for those who need to keep to specific tight and planned schedules. Within the constraints of the accommodation bookings (4 areas) our daily locations and itineraries were juggled to suit the weather and the light as we traversed the south west and south coast. Changes were often at very short notice as the weather conditions do change quickly and can vary over very short distances. Added to this was the constant lookout for suitable night time conditions for the northern lights, requiring clear skies and the aurora to be active.
The itinerary as it eventuated is included below, but the broad highlights of the ten days were as follows:
- waterfalls everywhere - imaging photographing in the spray of a large curtain waterfall, that spray catching the sun (yes, we did have some!) and producing a rainbow that frames the waterfall and curves back to your feet
- winds so strong that waterfalls were being blown backwards (uphill) by the force of the winds
- glacial icebergs drifting seawards or beached on the black sands with seals casually passing by
- seeing the sky light up with the aurora and watching the colours literally exploding and dancing across the sky
- aerial photography of the mountains, glaciers and river deltas
- the icelandic horses
- gaining in so many ways from the advice from four exceptional professional photographers who are all open to sharing their knowledge, skills and philosophies of photography; whose strengths and differences combine so well; and, who had the greatest sense of fun to make this workshop truly memorable.
We will provide a few further thoughts on this amazing experience in the next update. Our thanks to Christian, Tony, Peter, Antony.
Finally, a few more photos from our workshop experience:
- Day 1 - Snaefellsnes, transfer to hotel Hellnar sunset shoot at Kirkjufell.
- Day 2 - Snaefellsnes, arch and basalt in the rain at Arnastapi, black church at Budir, finishing up at Kirkjufell.
- Day 3 - transfer to Hotel Geysir. En route photographing Hraunfossar and a few stops in the back country around Langsjokull.
- Day 4 - haifoss, landmannalaugar and aurora at Geysir.
- Day 5 - gulfoss and bruarfoss, aurora at Geysir.
- Day 6 - transfer to Vik. Photograph Seljalandsfoss and Skogarfoss en route.
- Day 7 - coastline around Vik including a couple of locations overlooking and on the beach at Reynisdrangur. Sunrise shoot at dyrholaey.
- Day 8 - transfer to Hali. Half the group photographed fjaðrárgljúfur canyon near Kirkjubaerklauster enroute to the airport at Skaftafell for the river delta flight over
- Day 9 - Stokksnes and the area to the north east of Hofn. Back to jokulsarlon for most of us for sunset.
- Day 10 - a wet day mostly with a short shoot at Fjallsarlon before heading back.
- Day 11 - home/Reykjavik/Keflavik