New Zealand – Day 2

jaycyn

We woke up around 4 am due to the jet lag. Hopefully by tomorrow we will have our sleep cycles under control.

On this day we were scheduled to spend it in Auckland City. Frankly, Auckland is not all that exciting. It’s much like any other big city and we’ve seen plenty of big cities. As we pondered our options Cynthia found a brochure in our literature that talked about Waiheke Island which is only a 40 minute ferry ride from the harbor here in Auckland. We thought we would give it a go and off we went.

waiheke

Buying tickets for the ferry we spotted (and Cynthia photographed) this sign.

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They are very protective of the island and don’t want any pests carried over. Cynthia pointed out that if she had any skinks hidden in her bag they came from New Zealand and not from home.

We boarded the ferry, skink free, and before we knew it, we were at Waiheke.

The sky was overcast but we didn’t let that stop us from renting a car and heading off to explore.

Right off the bat, we were overjoyed with our decision. The island is relatively small and filled with twisty, turny roads. Each turn brought us to something amazing. Beaches, hidden coves, hills and valleys…

Waiheke

Man O War Bay - Waiheke

Cynthia was happy to see her first sheep of the journey and she captured this wonderful image of two lambs.

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We had a great time exploring the island. Though small, it was sometimes confusing and we did get a little lost…

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(photo by Cynthia)

But we didn’t mind because we knew it was a small island and we’d eventually get back on track.

We wrapped up the journey at a lovely little restaurant with a deck that looked out over one of the many bays on the island. And toward the end the sun even peeked out and gave us a glimpse of the the true beauty of the island

Waiheke

The restaurant also featured some rather fearless seagulls which swarmed the table as soon as we got up to leave and devoured all of our scraps.

Seagull Want My Food

While waiting on the ferry to go back to the mainland I did manage to drop and smash my iPhone. Fortunately there was a repair shop near the hotel and I was back up and running in less than an hour after returning back to base.

We took some time and got some rest before heading out to dinner and going to the top of the Sky Tower which towers some 1076 feet over the city and offers some amazing views of Auckland.

Sky Tower - Auckland

View From The Sky Tower

It was pretty cool to see, but we didn’t stay long as we are pretty tired and have a big day tomorrow as we head off to the Bay Of Islands in the north.

London – Day 4

Christmas Carols In Victoria Station

Christmas is in the air in London, that’s for sure. Carolers in various places as we move about the city. It’s quite festive and fun.

Today we made our way to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It’s cheesy, as you might expect, but you can’t go to London and NOT visit 221B Baker Street.

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Even William The Sheepie got in on the fun.

Sherlock Holmes Museum

We walked around the neighborhood and found our way to The Windsor Castle Pub which is the meeting place of the London Handlebar Club.

Handlebar Club - The Windsor Castle Pub

From there we found our way to the Victoria Albert Museum to make up for missing it yesterday.

It is a fantastic place but as usual, not my cup of tea for photography. But I did enjoy seeing it. And I made my best effort to get an interesting photo of the ‘Rotunda Chandelier’ sculpture using my circular fisheye.

Rotunda Chandelier in Victoria and Albert Museum

After running around town during the day we made our way back to the neighborhood near our hotel for a late lunch/early dinner. From there it was back to the hotel to freshen up and then we made our way back to the Tower Bridge and had a nice photo walk down the Thames to the Millennium Bridge.

Tower Bridge

The Shard

Millennium Bridge

A great, but tiring day.

London – Day 3

A BEAR!

Today was the end of our glorious sunshine. Clouds have rolled in, but fortunately no rain to speak of. We took The Tube to South Kensington to visit the Natural History Museum with the intention of also visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Natural History Museum, London

The Natural History Museum is a fantastic building with an amazing collection of animal specimens ranging from insects to dinosaurs. I think the dinosaur exhibit is the most popular, especially with the kids.

Natural History Museum, London

Natural History Museum, London

I was struck by the beauty of the building itself. No tripods allowed, but I found a railing where I could perch my camera and shoot some longer exposure shots which yielded some good results.

Natural History Museum, London

When we left the Natural History Museum it was out intention to go to the Victoria Albert Museum, but we noticed that the Science Museum was right next door so we popped in there for a visit. I was curious to see the newly opened information age exhibit.

There were some very cool displays featuring technology that I was happy to see.

1959 Pegasus Computer

IBM System 360

I will say it is odd going to a museum and seeing technology like the Tandy TRS-80 that I used when it was new as a museum exhibit behind protective glass.

After we were done with the Science Museum we determined that we were a little too beat to try and tackle the Victoria Albert Museum so we headed back to the hotel to rest after having a late lunch. After we rested up a bit we caught The Tube out to Westminster to get some long exposure night shots.

Big Ben and Parliament

London Eye Up close

We walked around and took in the sites and then made our way back to the hotel for some snacks and now for some sleep.

Iceland – Day 14

drivingday14

The Golden Circle

After the somewhat disappointing rain and gloominess of yesterday we were quite happy to see blue skies punctuated with fluffy white clouds. We’ve had more sun than rain on this trip and today was just tipping the weather scales that much more in our favor.

Today we made our way back to Reykjavik as we wind down our Icelandic adventure. On the way we drove what is referred to as the “Golden Circle” to see the sites.

Included on the Golden Circle is Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. I would have shot this from the top of the back, but it was a bit too windy for me. I opted for this lower angle.

Kerið

From there we made our way to Geysir The Great Geyser to see the original Geyser for which all Geysers are named.

Geysir - The Great Geyser

Sadly, Geysir is not very active. However, it’s little brother Strokkur will go off every few minutes.

Srokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

Strokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

From there we drive to Gullfoss which is one of the most striking and beautiful waterfalls in all of Iceland. And if the sun is shining you get treated to a rainbow along with the majestic waterfall. Fortunately for us, it was a beautiful sunny day.

Gullfoss With Rainbow

After visiting Gullfoss we made our way to Þingvellir National Park. The dramatic Þingvellir landscape was formed as a result of sitting along the border between the North American and European tectonic plates. It’s really something to see.

Þingvellir

Þingvellir is where the parliament of Iceland was first founded around the year 930 and where it continued to meet until 1798.

Þingvellir

A flag marks the spot where the speaker of parliament stood. The speaker of parliament would stand atop the Logberg, or Law Rock, to read the law to the members of parliament in the valley below. It really is a magical place.

By the time we finished exploring the park it was getting pretty late so we set our GPS for our hotel in Reykjavik. We drove in to town just as the Icelandic gay pride festivities were breaking up. The streets were a bit crowded with rainbow wearing/waiving revellers so it was slow going to get to the hotel.

Now we are checked in and resting up for a day at the Blue Lagoon tomorrow. I think it will be very relaxing and just what we need before we wrap this Iceland trip up.

Steam Vent

Iceland – Day 8 – Part 1

DrivingDay7

Lake Mývatn´s Amazing Landscape

Today we left Akureyri to go see the Goðafoss Waterfall and then make our way to the Lake Mývatn area.

Goðafoss is not the largest or most powerful waterfall in Iceland, but it is impressive. I took the time to setup my filters to allow me to take longer exposures and blur the water for a more appealing effect.

Goðafoss

Goðafoss

Goðafoss

We got there early and beat most of the tourists, but they arrived in bulk pretty quickly and soon the whole area was overrun. We got out of there and continued on to the Lake Mývatn.

Lake Mývatn literally translates to Midge Lake and let me tell you, there are a LOT of midges. Fortunately we brought insect repellant.

Lake Mývatn is gorgeous. We drove all the way around it before making our way to the Námaskarð geothermal area. This area is volcanic and features some of the most alien landscapes we have encountered during our trip to Iceland so far. Steam is just venting to the sky everywhere you look.

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

When we drove up Cynthia and I simply ooh’d and ahhh’d at the fantastic site. When we got out of the car the oohs and ahhs quickly turned to “oh my god, the smell!” – There’s a lot of sulfur in these geothermal areas and it stinks to high heaven. Cynthia says it’s the smell of troll farts.

Along with the the steam vents are the very creepy mud pots. The mud of a mudpot takes the form of a viscous, often bubbling, slurry. And it it burbles and pops like a living thing.

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

Námaskarð geothermal area

This place is truly alien. It has been said before and I have to agree that sometimes being in Iceland is like being on another planet.

Ireland – Giant’s Causeway Long Exposures

Shooting Giant's Causeway

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was experiment with long, daytime exposures using ND filters. These photos of The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland were taken during the day and each exposure is approximately 30 seconds. The NDX 400 filter allows for this without overexposing the shot. The long exposure causes the crashing waves to appear as fog or smoke while the rock formations remain clear and detailed. I would have preferred a more sunny day, but the overcast skies actually aided in the final look and feel of these images.

Giant's Causeway - 1

Giant's Causeway - 2

Giant's Causeway - 3

Giant's Causeway - 4

Giant's Causeway - 5

Ireland – Day 8

Today we set off to drive the Dingle Loop around Slea Head. We knew it was going to be a good day when we spotted a double rainbow over the Dingle Whiskey Distillery.

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

This drive was, hands down, the most beautiful and scenic drive of the entire visit to Ireland. The sun was shining brightly and the skies we blue with few clouds. The sea surrounding the peninsula was sparkling with waves crashing on the rocks. The road was quite narrow most of the drive and became exceedingly so at various points along the way.

road2

road

We drove for hours and hours, stopping frequently at many scenic overlooks just to take in the view. Cynthia was a little worried about some of the more adventurous photo opportunities I was taking.

risk

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

Every turn, around every narrow corner brought us to another fantastic site. Fortunately, there were plenty of places to pull over and park so that we could enjoy the view and take some pictures.

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

We wrapped up around 5:30 back at the B&B and took a short nap before heading out in the evening for some food and to listen to some live music. We ended up having dinner at Murphy’s Pub and got to see a local Irish band called Tintean.

Tintean - Kerry based Irish band

They were quite good. They played many of the songs you would expect, but also several we had never heard before.

Tomorrow looks a bit cloudy and rainy, but we hope to make the best of our last day in Dingle before making the trek back to Dublin

jayandcynthia

Ireland – Day 2

Today was a good day. The morning started off with thick fog. But as the sun came up, it burned off and we were treated to some very nice sunny skies.

Shooting Ginat's Causeway

Our first stop of the day was the World Heritage Site known as The Giant’s Causeway. There was still some fog around so it was a moody visit in terms of weather. We were quite happy that we remembered to bring our hiking boots. The terrain is quite rocky and treacherous. Though I suspect it would have been far worse had it been raining.

It is a fantastic site to see and we had some fun climbing around the site.

Meself On The Giant's Causeway

Cynthia On The Giant's Causeway

After hiking around The Giant’s Causeway we headed over to the Carrick-a-Rede, a rocky island connected to the cliffs by a rope bridge.

Getting to the bridge is a hilly climb, up and down the hillside. But the reward is a frightening opportunity to cross a bridge made of rope that spans 20 metres (66 ft) and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below.

Cynthia on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Cynthia was petrified and said that she waited 55 years to cross this bridge and once was enough. When pressed, she said if she lives to be 110 she would repeat the experience. Must remember to set a calendar reminder 🙂

A Terrified Cynthia on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Meself on The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Seriously, though. This WAS her idea. And it was actually a lot of fun.

From here we made our way over to Dunluce Castle to see the ruined structure before it completely collapses into the sea.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

All in all, it was a fantastic day. When the sun was shining, short sleeves were just fine. But when the clouds began to return in the evening we were once again glad we had our heavy coats.

Tomorrow we check out of our lovely hotel and make our way to Derry and on to dear old Donegal Town.

Ireland – First Full Day

cynthiabandb

We got up bright and early and had ourselves the full Irish breakfast. Mmmmmm, blood pudding! Cynthia’s feeling much better after the whole incident with breaking my glasses.

irishbreakfast

We only chose to stay in Dundalk because it wasn’t far from the airport and made for a good jumping off point to head north.

After breakfast we packed up our gear, loaded the car and headed off to drive to Belfast and then link up with the Causeway Coastal Route.

The first place we wanted to see was Carrickfergus. We stopped to see the castle and take in the view of the sea. It was a pleasant stop.

jayshipwreck

The coastal route takes you along the upper north coast of Northern Ireland and is something to see. Beautiful landscapes along a winding, twisty road that sometimes gets down to a single lane for two way traffic. This can be quite intense as you drive along, having to yield to oncoming traffic with practically nowhere to go. To make matters even worse, there was a bike rally of some kind going on and we had to carefully and frequently pass cyclists along the way.

We made our way to Ballygally Castle around lunchtime and stopped to get some food.

cynbally

We also paused to take a few photos.

jaylandscape

Head of Ballygally Bay

Coastal Road Rest Stop

From there we continued to wind our way to Portballintrae where we had a hotel reservation for a few nights. We got checked in and cleaned some of the road from our weary bodies and went for dinner at the Porthole Restaurant. The food was fantastic. We both had locally caught salmon and shared a bottle of wine to toast our success.

cynthiawine

For now we say goodnight to Portballintrae

Ballintrae Bay

Tomorrow we visit Giant’s Causeway, The Rope Bridge, Dunlace Castle and The Bushmill’s Distillery.

Madrid – Day 3

jaycynreina

Today, to our surprise, the sun came out again. There was still enough cloud cover to indicate that rain was still a possibility, but we ventured out without our raincoats or an umbrella anyway.

We decided to go to the Reina Sofia to see Picasso’s “Guernica” painting. This was our second opportunity to see this painting and it always moves me. Sadly, no photos allowed.

From the Reina Sofia we made our way to The Prado to see even more masterpieces.

Museo Prado Ceiling

This museum contains the definitive Goya collection. It is also home to Las Meninas by Velázquez which is always worth seeing in person. Sadly, no photos allowed in this museum.

We walked down Paseo del Prado taking in the sites. We stopped and had some lunch and the went off in search of the Caixa Forum to see the living art wall which is an outdoor vertical garden green designed by French botanist Patrick Blanc. This wall of green has 15,000 plants of 250 species covering a 460 meter square wall.

Caixa Forum

While we were admiring the wall it started to rain a bit so we made our way to the subway to go back to the hotel and have a siesta. I have to say, the siesta is now my favorite Spanish tradition.

After sleeping for a few hours we made our way to the Metropolis for some night photography.

jaymet

(thanks to Cynthia for this photo!)

It was cold, but we had a great time shooting the Metropolis and the Plaza de Cibeles

Metropolis

Plaza de Cibeles

After the photo session Cynthia and I found our way to a lovely tapas restaurant and had a fantastic dinner and a bottle of wine. We sat down around 9:30 and left around 11:30. Dinner comes late in Madrid.

Sun Halo – May 4, 2011

Spotted a halo around the sun on May 4th. I’ve seen them around a full moon before, but not around the sun. By obscuring the sun with my hand or my index finger I was able to shoot some reasonably good photos of the phenomenon.

22° halo is a halo, one type of optical phenomenon, forming a circle 22° around the sun, or occasionally the moon. It forms as sunlight is refracted in hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. As the light beam passes through two sides of the prism forming a 60° angle, the angle of minimum deviation is almost 22° (namely, 21.84° on average; 21.54° for red and 22.37° for blue). This wavelength-dependent variation in refraction causes the inner edge of the circle to be reddish while the outer edge is bluish.

Sun Halo 3

Sun Halo

Sun Halo 4