Iceland, Part 1: Reykjavik


D-17-06-04-2412_16-Pano (Iceland)

Overview of Reykjavik, from the observation deck of the Hallgrímskirkja Church

Virtually everyone who travels to Iceland begins and ends their visit in Reykjavik, the northernmost capital city in the world. Despite its location just below the Arctic Circle, Iceland’s climate is milder than one would expect due to the influence of ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream.  At the same time, summers are quite cool, with lows in the 40s and sometimes below.

D-17-06-04-1418 Sony (Iceland)

A typical side street in Reykjavik, with a decidely non-urban backdrop featuring Iceland’s dramatic landscape.

The name Reykjavik translates roughly as “Smoky Bay,”  a reference to the steam rising from geothermal vents observed by early Viking settlers in the 9th Century.  The island currently has a population of about 330,000 persons, yet more than 2/3 of them reside in the capital region.  By comparison Fairfax County, Virginia where I live, has over 1 million inhabitants.

D-17-06-12-8076 (Iceland)

A view up the the hill toward the Hallgrímskirkja Church around midnight in early June.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Iceland’s history is that it has the oldest parliament in the world. The “Alþingi”  was established as an outdoor assembly around 930 AD and was moved to Reykjavik in 1844.  Its survival during a long and often turbulent history enabled the country to maintain a semblance of control over its political destiny even as it became part of the kingdom of Norway in the 15th century and eventually under Danish control.  World War II severed the link with Denmark and Iceland became an independent Republic on June 17, 1944.

D-17-06-12-8059 Ver 2 (Iceland)

The Hallgrímskirkja Church with a statue of Leif Eriksson in the foreground.  The vertical columns evoke the balsaltic columns which characterize the geology of Iceland’s landscape.

Despite its small size, Reykjavik is a “happening” place anchored by an impressive concert hall, the Harpa, with its colored glass façade evoking the country’s volcanic geology.   Additionally, there are upscale restaurants, art galleries, vibrant street art, and a lively nightlife scene.

D-17-06-04-2329_31-Pano (rdy2size)

The Harpa Concert Hall which held its opening concert on May 4, 2011. It houses the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the offices of the Icelandic Opera. The interior architecture is equally dramatic.


D-17-06-04-2317 (Iceland)

Example of Street Art, a 40-foot mural by Li-Hill, a Canadian artist currently based in Brooklyn.  Entitled “Deacon of Dark River,” it was completed in 2015.


D-17-06-12-8074 (Iceland)

Prikid, a casual cafe by day, jammin’ hip-hop joint at night (according to folks who have been inside)


D-17-06-12-8075 (Iceland)

Reykjavik boasts a good number of stylish boutiques such as this specialty store, Ofeigur, which carries Icelandic jewelry, dresses by Hildur Bolladittir and hats by Liivia Leskin

But for many who visit here, the most dramatic location is found along the shore of the bay where the stainless steel “Sun Voyager” points its prow out to the sea. Often mistaken as a Viking ship, the artist described it in more general terms of the human experience: calling it “a dreamboat, an ode to the sun, symbolizing light and hope.”

D-17-06-12-8135 (Iceland)

The “Sun Voyager” by Jón Gunnar Árnason

This was my second trip to Iceland, an expedition over the island’s  storied landscape which, like most visits here, began and ended with a day in Reykjavik. I was accompanied by two fellow photographers, Rick and Michele and, as we prepared to lave the capital, our intent was to find some places that were off the beaten track.  We even hoped we might find one or two special places that were off any track, beaten or otherwise.


Next:  The road trip begins……

Scenes of Quito, Ecuador

Even during a short visit to Quito, the capital city of Ecuador,  there is plenty to see and photograph.  Here are a few more selections from a two-day visit.

Ecuador 08 Traffic Ramp

Like any major city traffic congestion can be a problem during rush hour, but as our bus slowly worked its way up this access ramp the presence of a delightful water sculpture provided some major visual interest.  Quite a difference from the storm water pits we have in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Ecuador 09 Think Big

An evocation to “Think Big” by a small mercado

Small businesses were everywhere, most often falling into the categories of eateries or convenience stores.


Ecuador 19 Cevicheria

Abigail & Michael’s Restaurante Cevcheria

(The origins of ceviche, raw fish cured in citrus juices, dates back some 2,000 years in the Andean region, with recipes likely updated with the arrival of the Spanish.)

Ecuador 10 Toy Store

Slow Business at the Toy Store

(The flashy red cycle belongs to Tevcol, a large private security firm with operations all over Ecuador.  The rider was apparently making his rounds while I took this picture.)

Churches are also found everywhere and some of the major cathedrals boast opulent interiors lavishly decorated with gold leaf, gilded plaster, and wood carvings.  Unfortunately, photographs of the interior were not allowed in any of those we visited.

Ecuador 12 Church TowersDome of La Compania de Jesus

(A Jesuit Church, one of the best known in Quito, dating back to 1605)

General elections (President and National Assembly) were to be held in a few days and the campaign was reaching its climax. There were about 8 candidates running for President and if the winner did not exceed 40% with 10% or higher gap over the total of the person finishing second there would be a run-off in early April. There was also a referendum on whether office holders or public servants should be restricted from having assets held in tax havens.

Ecuador 15 Political Rally

Political Rally for the Alianza Pais

 All eligible voters are required to cast a ballot; Those who do not must pay a fine.  As it turned out, the leading candidate of the incumbent party (Alianza Pais) did not quite secure the necessary totals so there will be a runoff.  The Alianza also suffered a loss of seats in the National Assembly but still holds a dominant position.  The referendum passed easily.

Ecuador 14 Political Activist

Rally Participant Strikes a Pose

The Parque del Ejido, one of the largest parks in the city, is a popular gathering place for artisans, food vendors, street performers, and sporting activities.  The Volleyball court was surrounded by spectators but a gentle persistence allowed me to squeeze through about three rows of the SRO crowd to get a good look.  There were 3 players on a side and their net is about 2 feet higher.  So there is no spiking; instead the net player executes what is much closer to a catch and throw, a maneuver that would bring an immediate whistle everywhere else I have seen the game played.

Ecuador 21 Food CartFood Vendor, Ejido Park

Ecuador 16 Volleyball

Volleyball Match, Ejido Park

Ecuador 20 Street Art

Street Art in Quito

And, of course, Examples of Street Art, tagging, and Graffiti could be seen everywhere.

Coming up…Ecuador’s famed Galapagos Islands

After-Before Friday Forum

Kent ABFriday After Pan (Week 19)

The Final Image (After)

For the past four months-plus Stacy Fischer of VisualVenturing has sponsored the After-Before Friday Forum where photographers can display examples of how they process their images to accomplish their creative vision.  Sometimes the changes are substantial; other times they can be minimal.   My submission for this week’s Forum is an example of minimal change (if you don’t count the photomerge steps).   The “After” version shown above has undergone a few adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw and the only actions taken in Photoshop were a simple Photomerge, a cropping, and some sharpening.  The scene is the city of Pittsburgh taken from the sidewalk across the street from a restaurant where we had stopped for dinner (Details on location are at the end of the post)

Kent ABFriday Before (Week 19)

Original Raw Image (left side)

 The image above is one of the two photographs that were merged.  Both had the same exposure (Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 70mm; 1/6th sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 1600).  The reason for the high ISO and wide-open aperture is the moving boat in the river.

Kent ABFriday Before 02 Week 19

Adjustments Made in ACR Dialog Window

Opening the images in Adobe Camera RAW, I made only four adjustments, the same for both images.  The screen capture above shows the changes (red arrows).  The specific settings were:

Highlights: Decrease to -39; Shadows: Increase to +45; Clarity: Increase to +18 Vibrance: Increase to +14.

Kent ABFriday Before 03 Week 19

File > Automate > Photomerge

The two images were then opened in Photoshop and processed through the Photomerge routine.  The screen capture above shows the command sequence which is under “File” on the main command line of Photoshop.  After clicking on “Photomerge” (red arrow), the Photomerge Dialog window appears as shown below.

Kent ABFriday Before 04 Week 19

Photomerge Display Window

The screen capture above shows the dialog window for the Photomerge routine.  If the images are open, click on “Add Open Files” (red arrow) and the image files will be listed (other red arrow).  Usually, the default selections of “Auto” and “Blend Images Together” (yellow arrows) will do the job.  Click “OK” and the system will chug away for a little while and then display the results.

Kent ABFriday Before 05 Week 19

The screen capture above shows a small portion of the merged image and the layers palette (red arrow) showing a separate layer for each image.  The white areas in the mask icons represent the section of the image that was used. The blue arrow shows a section of the irregular border created during the routine.

Kent ABFriday Before 06 Week 19

Merged Panorama Before Cropping

The image above shows the full panorama immediately after the merging is completed.  The borders are always irregular (red arrows), often much more than shown here.  The next step, before any further actions are taken, is to flatten the image.  The only remaining step in this example is a crop to eliminate the uneven edges, producing the final image shown below.  Sharpening should not be applied until the image is sized for printing.

Kent ABFriday After Pan (Week 19)

 Final Panorama

The location for capturing this image is across the street from the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto located at 1411 Grandview Avenue #2 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It is one of the better restaurants in the city and the window seats boast a view pretty close to this image.   Because the vista is pretty spectacular at twilight, it’s unlikely you will have the sidewalk all to yourself.  But if you are visiting Pittsburgh, this is a location you may want to check out.But before you go there, you should check out the other submissions to Week 19 at Visual Venturing.