Chicken nuggets one pound!
(If you’re not living in the UK you may not understand that…but believe me when I say I made a funny and it was hilaaarious.)
As I have been harping on about quite excitedly, this week I was flown to South West Iceland to work alongside John Clarke (photographer), Patrycja Makles (assistant) and Alexandra Noor Douglas in Reykjavik. And for those of you whom I left behind at home for five days, you may collectively thank me in small change gestures for the sunshine and scorchio temperatures you have been enjoying (whenever I leave the country, fabulous weather is absolutely guaranteed!).
Leaving home at 4:15am I met Pattie and John outside an extremely busy Black Dog Ballroom in Manchester, spilling out its dancing night creatures drunkenly weaving their way home. Squashing three suitcases, three hand luggage bags, three people plus my usual car crap into my tiny Clio, we were off to the airport to begin our adventure.
Having been asked to write an article for FaceOn magazine, I decided to do a little research en route:
Waving goodbye to the morning sunshine I was excited about what to expect from a land I had heard so much about but knew so little. Vikings, trolls, whales, glaciers, black sand and volcanoes…just some of the words spinning around my sleepy egg shaped head. I didn’t know what was coming, making it all the more intriguing.
We landed and within five minutes of finding our shockingly shite rental car, I was an absolute goner….zzz….but not before my bemused face had clocked a giant sperm at Keflavik Airport that greeted us. I’m still not sure why, must be a Nordic thing…
Hello Iceland…and your weird spermy…thing!
We arrived at the homely apartment, pleased to acknowledge the free wifi, flat screen TV and welcome pack noms. We unpacked and explored downtown discovering bustling crowds along the harbour. It was Sjómannadagur…or Seaman’s Day. ‘Hmm’ I thought to myself with flashbacks to the giant airport sperm…’they really are keen to celebrate male fertility here’.
It turns out Sjómannadagur occurs on the first Sunday in June celebrating the return of the sailors of the sea. Walking around the town we were pleasantly surprised at the cultural differences. No police, no on-street-boozers, no rubbish on the floor and no violence. I tried to convince myself that my observations were somewhat of a generalisation based on a very small cross section, but I wasn’t going to pretend it wasn’t there.
The Icelanders had organised a giant playground with the most curious educational activities for their children. There were stilts to race on, human skittles to throw yourself at, wooden ship building with nails to float, zip line gliding over the Atlantic to brave…and pillow fighting balanced on a log to contest your opponent (see examples of all of this on my Flickr). Along with this was whale tasting and fish feeling. Rows upon rows of boxes displaying various frozen ocean creatures stood before us. The children were encouraged by their parents to touch, stroke and poke the dead fish.
My feelings were torn. Although a little saddened to see so many beautifully bizarre monsters of the deep iced up for nothing more than poking, I did think what a clever idea it was. Spending multiple months at sea, the sailors were able to educate their children from a young age about their line of work, perhaps in the hope they may continue the trade themselves one day.
We booked a whale watching tour for the following morning and headed home for a well awaited sleep. With twenty long hours of daylight and only four in half darkness, not going to bed in the dark felt a little strange.
Monday morning….wet, chilly and blowing a blooming gale. This did not bode well for a day at sea. As expected, the phone rang and the tour was cancelled due to ‘adverse weather conditions’. A little disappointed, we rebooked for Wednesday and began scrambling together a Plan B. The indoor Saga Museum seemed a suitable replacement whilst providing a little background knowledge on the local history of the area with frighteningly realistic waxworks.
Freydis Eiriksdottir, sisterof Leifer the lucky, made a solitary stand during battle, taking up her sword to chop off her own bap. Such a strange gesture sent the natives running. Must remember this…clever bird:
After an unpromising start to the day we decided to end it on a high driving to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa….an outdoor pool in the clouds heated by the volcano beneath. Driving higher and higher into the mist and rain we were still unsure if this was going to be a good idea. Still pouring down on arrival and visibility not great, we ventured on for a nosey. After a brief discussion the general consensus was ‘oh sod it, lets just do it‘…and oh my days was it worth it!
Stripped down to our swimming essentials, running and squealing into the freezing cold climate barely able to see where we were going, we met the steaming hot pool surrounded by mist. The atmospheric sulphur stunk of eggy farts….(hehe farts). Still laughing our heads off at the surrealism of being in a cloud, on a volcano, through the pouring rain in the midnight sun…it turned out to be one of the best experiences we could have hoped for and one I certainly won’t ever forget. We managed to get a few shots before my make up was washed away and replaced by mud…which apparently leaves your skin glowing more youthful. I’m convinced I’ve lost at least 3 months off my appearance. Totes worth it.
As we all know, late nights and early starts do not usually coexist well, however our shoot plans for the day ahead with Alex our MUA were worth getting up for and I was looking forward to the day ahead.
Eight AM arrived with Alex knocking on the door. She was super fast and very good at the hair and make up (highly recommended!), we were ready to leave an hour earlier than expected. The plan was to drive to Vík l Mýrdal for the first look and then to Giljur for the second of the day. We drove east from Reykjavík through Hveragerði, Selfoss, Hella and Hvolsvöllur throughout a perilous two and a half hour journey in strong winds and fog.
When we arrived, the black sand beaches were quite astonishing. The waves crashed against the land defending rocks and beat upon the glistening black sand. I won’t lie. It was cold and breezey. But we didn’t take long to get the shots we needed amongst a few tourists snapping a few of their own, perhaps assuming I was someone they should know. I didn’t care to correct them.
Vík l Mýrdal:
With a quick hair and make up change from bronzed and sleek to smokey with curls, we were onto the valley in the mountainous range for John’s pre-envisioned warrior look. The location was ideal for the costume. Having a local along with us really made all the difference when Alex acquired permission to cross the private land to gain access.
Heading off into the Icelandic mountains:
After a long day of travelling and shooting, by the time we reached home we were really ready to rest. Packed comfortably amongst the gear on the back seat, there was no holding my eyelids open for long.
Thank you Pattie for your sneaky sneakiness…tut tut :P
Wednesday had arrived, our last and final full day in Iceland. What better way to end an exhausting, educational but exciting trip than with whale watching. We bounded aboard the Elding boat donning our schexy fisherman sea suits.
Thanks to John for capturing my super fit look on deck…
…..Three hours later we were back at the harbour and we hadn’t seen a single whale, dolphin or porpoise…only puffins. Having been witness to several humpbacks skip about the Australian seas gleefully three times before…I couldn’t help but think the Icelanders were reaping what they had sown. By harpooning these ocean beauties, they were building fear amongst them and it should come as no shock that they didn’t want to be found. My heart sunk at the realisation and I wondered how long it would be before they had all gone forever.
Puffin and then nuffin:
Disembarking on land again we headed for local fresh fish ‘n’ chips before driving home, collapsing in Z-fest pile all shattered.
Reluctant to leave our adventure on a low, we decided to return to he Blue Lagoon one last time. Without a shadow of a doubt this was an excellent idea and raised our spirits in no time. Happiness was restored.
The last night in Iceland on top of the volcano:
Thursday morning came about fast and it was time to pack up and leave the apartment. Boarding the plane at 9am our Icelandic adventure was over. We hadn’t seen the whales and we hadn’t seen the Northern Lights this time…but we had bathed in a volcano, danced in the wind upon the black sandy beaches, climbed a puffin filled mountain, experienced an Icelandic festival, seen the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that erupted in 2010 forming the disruptive ash cloud over Europe …and mostly importantly discovered marzipan cake. All in all, it was four days I will never forget and I am so thankful to John for inviting me along, as well as Pattie and Alex for making it such an enjoyable experience.
It’s now Thursday and I have two days at home (but working for both, eek!) before I make my way back to the airport bound for Montreal and later Toronto where I will be spending the next nine days with the brilliant Von Wong. We will be doing a commercial shoot for Antoine Laoun as well as a little something for the next part of my Dreamcatcher Project. Phew, who says life is dull?
Apologies for my word heavy blog this time, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anything as this is my open diary to look back on. I hope your survived until the end. Pat on the back if you did. If you’d like to see a few more of my snaps whilst in Iceland you can find them on my Flickr page here.
Oh and the reason we went…well, I can’t wait to show you those pictures…
Wish me luck on my next journey to Canada on Sunday! Until next time bloggies, over and out…