Day four in Iceland is coming to a close.
Today I visited one of the country's famous black sand beaches, Reynisfjara.
I'm not really sure that there is a proper way to fully describe just how surreal this environment is. As I stepped onto the beach, I immediately thought of the moon. The footprint made with my shoe looked exactly like the famous photo of Neil Armstrong's boot print.
To the left of me stood what looked like the world's most intricate staircase. This was Gardar, a set of basalt columns. Two basalt sea stacks called Reynisdrangar could be spotted just offshore.
I have honestly never been more amazed by nature.
Here's just a glimpse of what I saw:
I am still in disbelief that I get to experience a place like this.
Earlier today, I broke away from the group I was with. For a few minutes, I sat alone, right in front of a mountain that was covered with the most brilliant shade of green that I have ever seen.
To my right was a glacier.
I was in the middle of nowhere in Iceland, by myself, staring at one of the most vast and breathtaking landscapes in the world.
I never thought I would experience that.
I've been in Iceland for only two days and there is already a multitude of stories to tell. Despite a long day of travel and a few problems getting into my room, my time in Iceland, while short, has been nothing but spectacular.
While my first day consisted of wandering around Reykjavík (I may or may not have gotten lost at one point), today I toured the countryside and made my way around the Golden Cirle. The circle consists of three different destinations, Þingvellir National Park, Haukadalur Valley, and Gullfoss.
While all three were breathtaking, today I want to share with you what I saw (and filmed) at Gullfoss.
Gullfoss is Icelandic for "Golden Falls" and it's easy to see why:
Getting to film and photograph the Icelandic countryside has been a dream of mine for eight years. Now it's a reality.
I'm going to hold back on most of the things I have captured. However, when I get back home, I'm going to have a field day editing all of the footage I've shot (there's going to be a lot of it!). I still have four full days left in the country and I'm eager to capture and share as much as I can with you.
Let's get to it!
The year is about halfway over. Hard to believe, isn't it? Winter turned into Spring and Spring into Summer. Weeks seem to move faster than ever before and the months have come and gone in the blink of an eye.
As I sit here writing this at 1 AM, half asleep in a dark room in front of a bright computer monitor with music blasting through my headphones, I can't help but reflect on the things I have experienced so far this year. They are far from what I expected to happen and that's exactly what makes this year so special.
December 31, 2015 was a day where I looked back with regret and looked forward with uncertainty. I wasn't exactly in the most positive state of mind that night when midnight rolled around. Honestly, 2016 was something I was not looking forward to whatsoever. However, we're six months in and I'm pretty sure my mind has been changed.
There were events that I expected to happen and there were moments that I dreaded happening. I won't get into specifics, but many of those things have come and gone. I got through, I survived, and some of those things didn't even happen at all. It's funny how expectations work. In my experience, reality always ends up being different than anything my mind can think up.
Looking ahead, I still feel, at most times, uncertain. I don't know how everything will turn out. However, that's exactly why I should be excited. As hard as that can be to maintain that mentality, I just have to remember that I will never will be able to know for sure what's coming next, and that's okay.
The photo above was one that I captured a little over a week ago, not too far from where I live. I don't know who the two small silhouettes standing towards the bottom are, but there's something I found interesting about them, especially the figure to the left. He's gazing forward to the horizon with his hand shading his eyes. There's a beauty that lies ahead of him beyond the shadowy line of trees. Something much bigger than himself. Something that caught his attention, even if it was for a split second. Something that looked amazing despite a small amount of darkness in front of it.
I have no idea what he was thinking in that moment but my hope is that it was something optimistic.
And the best part about him gazing at the sky, looking forward?
He's not alone.
Next week, I will be going to a place I have wanted to visit for over 8 years.
I'm going to Iceland.
I was on the phone with my grandfather a few days ago. I was updating him on everything going on in my life. Work, music, family, friends, and the thing I was most excited about, my trip. I told him I was leaving for an exciting adventure in Iceland in a couple of weeks. His response? "Why would you want to go to Iceland!?"
Two things stem from that country: my love of landscape photography and my esoteric taste in music.
In 2008, I went on a ski trip with my church's youth group. Every morning and every night, we would all gather together in a large gym. About 200 or so kids would listen to someone speak. I don't recall what day on the trip it was or the topic that was being spoken about. However, I distinctly remember a video that was shown during one of the sessions.
The video was in fact a music video.
The song was called Glósóli and the band was called Sigur Rós. They were obviously not American.
Not only was I enamored by the music but I was amazed at the visual of the landscapes. One of the final shots of the video is one I will never forget:
I knew I had to find out where that was.
I returned home from the ski trip and did a bit of research until I arrived at the answer. The place I was so captivated by was Iceland. My only knowledge of the country was that it was where the "bad guys" from D2: The Mighty Ducks came from.
I kept reading and reading about the small isolated country. I researched its viking-rich history and viewed what must have been thousands of photos of its landscapes. I got into a handful of really wonderful and strange Icelandic bands and artists. I even continued to listen to Sigur Rós. They quickly became my favorite band and they still are to this day. The vocals are weird, the songs can sometimes clock in at 10 minutes in length, and the instrumentation is strikingly beautiful.
Then I saw one of their concert films. The film was Heima:
If the landscape shots in that trailer don't make you want to go there then I don't know what will.
Over the years, visiting Iceland has always been a dream. I had always assumed that I would visit the country some day far in the future. Perhaps when I was retired and had enough money and time. Little did I know that I would have the opportunity to visit much sooner.
My trip to Iceland has come in the form of a gift. A gift from two loving parents that I am constantly perplexed by. Honestly, I wake up some mornings and don't understand why I am the one who has been blessed to have them. They're pretty amazing.
So with all that being said, I will be in Iceland very soon. During my trip, I will be documenting as much as I can. I'm planning on generating a lot of creative work during my time spent there. Photography, music, and a documentary are all being mapped out in my head. I couldn't be more excited to go on this unique adventure.
So why go to Iceland? The answer isn't because I am so infatuated with the country itself. The short answer:
The world is a very big place and I have seen very little of it.
Unfortunately, I had another strange day today (see previous post). However, I had time to reflect, and that was an unexpected blessing.
I've been thinking about the things that I find interesting. Really thinking about them. I often find that I am a bit of a black sheep when it comes to sharing interests with others. The things I find compelling are - for lack of a better term - esoteric. It's rare that I come across someone who shares in a similar way that I enjoy and view things. It happens, but it is rare.
Sure, I love music, I have yet to meet someone who hasn't. But I find that there are so many elements of music that most completely ignore. Theory, composition, emotional resonance, its purpose in the way we live out our lives. These are all things running through my mind when I listen to a piece. And unfortunately, I find that a focus on these elements is rare, even amongst those who play music. I can talk to other musicians about gear to a point, but at the end of the day, your guitar doesn't mean anything unless you are creating something meaningful with it.
The same goes with filmmaking. I don't enjoy an action movie because of the amount of explosions nor do I enjoy a comedy because of the amount of laughs. Editing, screenwriting, cinematography and shot composition, character development. These are all things I take into account when watching a film. Movies are a big complicated art form and I don't understand those who merely decide whether one is "good" or "bad" when they don't dig into the many aspects of what goes on in a film.
And then there is nature. I find that even this is something I approach differently.
When I'm outside and "away from it all", time seems to slow down.
A second seems like a minute, a minute seems like an hour, and an hour seems like a day.
Viewing nature is a special thing. And it's an opportunity that most don't take advantage of. It's as if we have access to the world's largest art gallery and God has put some of his best works on display for us to enjoy. When was the last time you were still and just observed the natural world that's been untouched by man? A sunset happens once a day. How many times do you actually pause and pay attention to it? I bet it's less than you would like. I find that even I don't enjoy them enough!
I wanted to to try to craft something that communicates that slow element I experience when viewing nature. This is what I created:
The next time you can, I suggest you slow down, be still, and take in the wonderful creation that surrounds you.
I feel like a broken record, but as I have said in posts before, we are blessed to live in such an incredible place.
Don't pass up the opportunity to experience the beauty we have around us.