between mountain and
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June 2016 — After years of dreaming about it, I finally got the chance to visit the volcanic island. Although idealized in my head as being this pristine, unaltered natural sanctuary, in reality Iceland has very much become a sought-after touristic destination. And while popular sightseeing spots, like Geysir or Gullfoss, are worth seeing, its is really when one leaves the main road that one finds the most spectacular views.
Mid-trip, while the rest of my family was enjoying a well deserved break, my father and I set out to explore the backyard of our small farm-turned-hotel, the Smyrlabjorg, one of many similar family run hotels in Iceland. After climbing a steep hill and finding our way through large volcanic rocks, we stumbled upon a immense valley, punctured by a large, silver hued lake. The sight was breathtaking; it felt like discovering a hidden treasure, long forgotten by people and time. Thick, short grass and small patches of blooming flowers covered every corner of the steppe, like a sea of verdure that contrasted with the imposing, dark mountains in the distance. The only sound we could hear was the gentle whisper of a waterfall on the other side of the lake. We walked for a while, then stopped atop a long rock formation to enjoy the view and the quietness of this peculiar, bucolic world
we had set foot into.
March 2018 — I have a very fond memory of this stroll, wandering in the empty streets of Flateyri and exploring the little harbor bathed in the golden light. The day after, we would leave for a remote fjord in the Hornstrandir reserve to photograph the Arctic fox, or Melrakki in Icelandic, and hopefully see the aurora. But the fox is elusive and so is the aurora, so on the eve of leaving I toned down my expectations. Instead, I focused on the moment, walking around the charming fishing village, lulled by the breeze, the waves on the shore, the birds zigzagging between the boats, the blue waters reflecting the gentle slopes of the mountains about. I think it's best sometimes, even if I know something good's coming, to focus on the now, not get too excited. It's hard for me, I'm a dreamer, always making plans, thinking too much about the prefect scenario, the prefect this, that. But moments like this evening stroll teach me otherwise, teach me to be patient.
The night had come. It had been cloudy all day, so even though the KP (the intensity of the aurora) was high, we weren't hoping for much. We decided to take advantage of the exterior sauna to relax after a day of shooting. Right before we entered the steaming cabin, we could see a faint greenish glow over the horizon, and the clouds were beginning to clear out. 10 minutes later, we got out of the sauna to cool down in the snow, and that's when it started. Streams of lights, green, yellow, purple and blue, dancing over our heads, reaching all the way to the other side of the fjord. I'm naked, my feet deep in the snow, and freezing winds hiss all around me. Yet I feel warm, and I can't stop smiling as the greatest spectacle Earth has to offer unfolds right before my eyes.