Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Secret Garden

Light on Water 7 © Caroline Fraser 2012

If your art work had to represent a literary work what would you choose?

That is the challenge put forward by the Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope gallery .

Having read the brief, I pondered for some days over how I could link my current work to the brief. I wasn't getting far until I considered the project that I am currently working on, 'Light on Water' . These images have been created from a pond that I visit, deep in the woods in the heart of suburbia.

Light on Water 5 © Caroline Fraser 2012

It occurred to me that this pond has become my very own secret garden; a place that nourishes the spirit and gives pleasure, just as the garden in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett does for Mary Lennox.

This story is one of my favourite books from childhood, describing how the discovery of a wild and secret place transforms the fortunes of the sickly, unhappy child, Mary Lennox.

My wild and secret place also lies close to home, just as in the book.

It is a secret place for me.

I have never met anyone there whilst I have been there. Today I spent some time there with my camera, but also I took a notebook and wrote some words..........

The Secret Garden

The pond lies deep.

Unknown to most who pass her by

on the other path

to the top of the hill.

A secret place,

a refuge.

Shared only with my dog who stirs her up

and wallows in her murky bed.

Thirst quenched,

body cooled.

With each passing different patterns emerge

in this, my secret garden.

A place to play. 

Wind and  water  do their part;

transforming surfaces


leaf, branch, tree, bud

rain, drop, 


giving pleasure

giving life.

Light on Water 6 © Caroline Fraser 2012

I will continue to work on this series regardless of the brief, but it may inspire me to work a little harder.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

happiness is a clean floor

sheep ©Caroline Fraser 2009
It is that time of year again; when the house is full of bags containing random gifts for random people. I have a day off, and am delighted to announce that a man has arrived here to scrub my filthy kitchen floor and make it clean and shiny once more.

I was once made ecstatic by a man cleaning my oven...............

Now it seems the same may be made possible  by a clean floor.........

The best thing about the floor man's arrival is the fact that it is going to take him at least 3 hours, and while he scrubs I feel duty bound to be present in the house to protect my jewels, credit cards, bank accounts and Christmas gifts. So I cannot go shopping, or even take dog for a walk.

I will have to make do with updating my website and printing off some prints for an exhibition next year.

Life is hard.

I have managed to add two new pages to the archive section of my website, including some light hearted black and white images made in the Yorkshire dales in 2009 of man and nature interacting together under the title "Human-nature". 

See here for the new page

dog © Caroline Fraser 2009

These were all taken on a Panasonic Lumix LX3, loaned to me for a few days by Light and Land, who were helping me to "find my vision". I had a great few days in Malham with David Ward and Eddie Ephraums, taking pictures and making a book. I came away with some images that were far removed from much of my abstract landscape work, but which still give me pleasure today. I bought a Lumix on my return from that trip, and still use it more than any other camera, as it fits in my coat pocket and can be with me wherever I go. 

Another great excitement today is the purchase of a second hand tilt shift lens for my Canon camera. I have in mind some experimental multiple exposure work, and I need to practice before I return to Iceland. More on this for sure (once it arrives).

Next on the agenda for today is the great supermarket home delivery, carefully timed to coincide with the floor man. I am nothing, if not efficient. Carrots for 16 to be prepared for the big day and driven to my sister's home deep in the countryside along with a delicious chocolate yule log to be carefully assembled by my youngest, and some haggis for the eve of the big day will all be arriving shortly.

And all of this done without leaving my desk..............

As I say, life is hard.

The doorbell has just rung............ it is the man who measures the enormous cracks running through the walls of my house and tells me whether the house is expanding or shrinking this month.........

I had forgotten he was coming as well..........but I am that is fine.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Bananas for Buddha

Temple at Inle Lake

I promised to say a bit more about Burma ( now known as Myanmar), and my photographic efforts whilst travelling there. As a proper tourist, travelling with a large group of professional travellers, by coach, it wasn't my idea of a  photographic expedition. Being in a group one has very little time to stop and explore when the mood takes, having deadlines for getting back on the coach, and always travelling at the wrong time of the day for photography. Most of our companions had been to more countries than I have even heard of. I couldn't attempt to compete with their tales of camping in the Mongolian steppes , climbing at altitude in Nepal or trekking in the desert sun in Africa.

Burma is a fascinating country, and the people are very friendly.

But there are a lot of temples.

Every day we visited another gold encrusted temple, saw Buddhas of different shapes and sizes and local people making offerings as a means to a better life.

The activities of 'kuthko' (merit making) are the Myanmar people's approach to a better life, and include

  • offering food to monks
  • donating to temples
  • regular worship at the local 'Paya" (Buddhist monument)

Stuppas at Inn Dain
As we traipsed around with our guide, who knew less about the local history than we could glean from our Lonely Planet guidebook, I became fascinated with the offerings that people were making to Buddha. In all of the temples prayers were being offered, but what surprised me most were the offerings of food and drink to Buddha.

Often the temples were dark, and people were praying, so I didn't want to use my flash.

I decided to try making a series of images in black and white at high ISO inside the temples, as a record of offerings being made to Buddha.

In Myanmar buddhism 'giving' blesses the one who gives as well as the one who receives. As an example, in local tea shops free tea is available on all the tables, however basic the shop, as a means of the proprietors giving something to their customers.

tea free for customers in a local market
Imagine getting free tea in a high street coffee shop in the UK. It just wouldn't happen. We have only recently persuaded restaurants to willingly serve tap water.

Some tea stalls are more appealing than others; a typical roadside cafe 

Apart from tea as a form of offering, other forms of giving to Buddha include

  • saying prayers
  • giving flowers,
  • water
  • fruit and other foods, especially bananas
  • light
  • incense
  • gold leaf placed onto a Buddha image ( only men allowed to do this)
  • cleansing rituals
  • and recitation of Pali texts ( the words of Buddha from his teachings)

Baskets of bananas and flowers on sale outside the temple at the full moon festival in Yangon

offerings inside the temple at Yangon

 a glass of water for Buddha

multiple glasses of water for Buddha

Girls waiting for a procession carry money as gifts

In the temple there are separate glass boxes for locals and for tourists to donate money

cleansing rituals at the temple are common

I was surprised to see food offered in ready meal cartons

biscuits and cake for Buddha

And had to send my other half to get this image of men applying gold leaf to a Buddha.

gold leaf application 

Female monks wear pink in Myanmar; here is one at prayer

Buddhist texts

So where are my black and white images, I hear you say?

Monochrome seems a little serious for a blog article about travel to a colourful place.

So I will leave you with just one, of a light bulb and some money inside a dark temple

light bulb and money at the foot of a Buddha image inside a temple

As you can see, it is quite dark, hence the need for a high ISO and my preference for monochrome.

I'd be interested to know which you prefer?

And you might also like to know that we bumped into Cliff Richard at a local airport, having his "summer holiday".

Or you might not.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

the joys of familiarity

Pond © Caroline Fraser 2012
Familiarity brings joy to dog and I.

We finally made it down to the woods today.

I have been missing them, as has dog. Duties elsewhere meant I didn't get there all week, and I felt frustrated. So did dog.

My other half opted to join me, but had to retreat almost before we got started , due to an unexplained pain in his leg that made wading through thick mud a bigger challenge than he was ready for. I hadn't the heart to admit that walking alone with dog and my camera was what I had hoped for all along. Peace and quiet. Time to think. To get my fix of nature.

Nature is my passion. Other photographer's choose different subject matter for their 'fix'.

A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege to meet Mark Power, Magnum photographer, at an IPSE workshop. Mark is a documentary photographer. He talked eloquently for a couple of hours about his career. I already knew of his work and book The Shipping Forecast, which I greatly admire. He showed prints of his new series of works Mass taken in Polish churches; beautiful large format prints of church interiors during worship. It seems that the influence of the Catholic church on his life has compelled him to make this series, having initially frustrated him and then creating a sense of envy for those who have a faith.  Having a strong feeling about an issue is a great reason to start a project, and his love of Poland is eloquently shown in his book The Sound of Two songs.

He made me stop and think when he talked about the challenges of going into a foreign landscape and trying to make pictures that are of interest to anyone else. I thought about my recent trip to Burma, and how little emotional attachment I feel to the images that I made there. How much time does one need to spend in a place to fully convey something meaningful to others in one's images?

Mark Power talked about his work in the Black Country, looking at the impact of the recession. I had not realised before that the two industries that are most likely to survive in a recession are beauty and the sex industry. Sales of lipstick used to climb during a recession as people sought to feel better about themselves. Now it is nail polish that indicates how well the country is faring.

Pond 2 © Caroline Fraser 2012
I cannot claim to be a documentary photographer, but I have in mind to make a small book on the offerings that people make in Buddhist temples, only because whilst travelling in Burma one has to think of something to focus on when visiting more temples than one could possibly imagine to be possible in 14 days.

Offerings of money, flowers, bananas and drinks are made to Buddha as a means of merit making in the Buddhist tradition of striving for a better life.

More on this later.........

I will leave you with lipstick and nail polish on a figure in a Buddhist temple, holding offerings of flowers and money.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

what if money didn't matter...........moments with a marmot

I came across this video today.

It made me stop and think.

I shared it with my youngest. It made him stop and think. 

I asked him what he would do if money didn't matter.

He came up with a lovely concoction of activities involving sporting activities, the sea, mountains, photography and being creative . All of which are eminently achievable, but maybe not as one job, unless he becomes a guide for photographers who want to surf, climb mountains and make beautifully illustrated books.

He asked me what I would do.

That really made me stop and think.

I came up with "wilderness photographer"..................... partly triggered by my revisiting John Muir's quote that says  

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Having hiked the John Muir trail into Yosemite some years ago I remember the joy of waking up in the middle of nowhere in my tent with frost on my flip flops outside the tent and a marmot sitting on the rock outside in the sun.

Such moments are never forgotten. 

Wilderness to me means a place of quiet, far from civilisation and where nature really does give strength to body and soul. I can think of many places still to be explored. To do so with my camera would give more pleasure than anything else I can think of right now.

All I have to do now is to make it happen.............

And in case you are wondering, dog has made a miraculous recovery. And the new vitamin pills, despite being a conventional shape and not bone shaped, have gone down a treat, without me even asking.

Monday, 19 November 2012

give a dog a bone

Dog and I didn't get out for a walk today................... dog is not well and can barely walk. She has been lying down all day, and even forgot to ask for her morning treat of a chew, which she never forgets. She couldn't make it across the room to her bed in my study, and collapsed in a heap on the floor, so I left her there as I cannot lift her up.

That has meant that I have had to occupy myself in different ways and have been incredibly useful around the house.

I have......

  • painted a rotting window frame
  • planted some flowers to replace the dead geraniums in the garden
  • sold a camera to a delightful young man in London by email and phone
  • done the ironing ..........something I rarely do
  • taken dirty dog towels to the launderette for a good wash
  • bought some milk so that I could have another two cups of tea
  • ordered a dog ladder for dog to get into the boot of the car as her ageing legs can't manage the jump any more ( and wondered why a satisfied lady customer on the website praised it so very highly or even bought one at all when " her dog doesn't need it yet"?)
  • ordered some vitamins for the dog in the hope of a miracle recovery
  • given the dog slightly overdue worming tablets and flea treatment ( feeling guilty after other half sent me an email this morning saying "look up Lyme disease in dogs"...........)

Which leaves me wondering what I will do and how I will pass the time when the dog is no longer here? I really missed my walk, and got a little frustrated with Colin behind the till at Marks and Spencer, who tried to chat and insisted that it wasn't a very nice day outside. I begged to differ. I had almost hung my washing on the line it had been such a lovely day. However apparently it will rain tomorrow, according to Colin, which pleases me greatly as I shall be at work.

Getting dog to take her tablets was as amusing as ever. The worming tablets are now "bone shaped". Being about 1cm long, they bear very little resemblance to a proper bone. They also come with a major design fault; they are not bone flavoured, something which might have been a little more useful than making them look like bones suitable for a small mouse to enjoy. 

I tried feeding them to her straight; she spat them out in disdain

I tried hiding them in her evening meal; she left them at the bottom of the bowl

I wrapped them in butter ( this usually works) but she knew what I was up to

I wrapped the butter blob in a piece of bread; she spat that out

I covered the bread and butter with some gravy left in the fridge ....................  SHE ATE IT ALL UP!

She is improving now, and has managed to get to the kitchen twice this evening to check that I haven't dropped any food on the floor whilst cooking. 

Hopefully by Wednesday we will be able to get out for our fix of leaves and good smells, otherwise I may have to go without her.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Greeting cards of Camber Sands on my new website

Greeting cards of Camber Sands © Caroline Fraser 2012
I am delighted to announce my new look website courtesy of isendyouthis who have been great in helping me to transfer my existing domain name to a new site, saving me the trouble of updating my business cards and other web links.

It is much easier to manage than my old one, and will allow me to promote my photographic prints and greeting cards more easily.

See the new site here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Michael Kenna versus Taylor-Wessing ............ no contest on the emotional front

Lake Bridge, Hongkun, Anhui, China by Michael Kenna 2008

Dog got a raw deal today. I trundled up to London to talk money with some finance people, and then took in two galleries with a good friend by means of compensation. Dog stayed at home in her bed, having had a brief sojourn in the woods to see the autumn colours and clear blue sky this morning.

Financial meeting was long and frustrating; I wanted to fill my stomach with the tasty sandwiches and fruits on the table, but have you tried talking, listening and trying to look vaguely intelligent whilst wrestling with a prawn sandwich? It just doesn't work, hence the chocolate brownie later.

I have been determined to see Michael Kenna at Chris Beetles gallery for a while. My friend wanted to see the 2012 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery. So we did both, with tea in the middle, and chocolate brownie; all very nice for a Wednesday afternoon.

Two exhibitions, one day. One left me completely cold, and the other filled me with awe and respect.

4th prize
This image won 4th prize in the Taylor Wessing. I cannot see anything particularly special or moving about it. The subject looks sad, but that is all that I can say.

 This one of Mo Farah lacks any relation to the joy and triumph of this summer's olympic games.

I have never been a portrait photographer, but enjoy capturing images when travelling, and it seems to me that unless you know the subject, it is difficult to convey any true feeling to the viewer unless there is something particularly poignant, tender or disturbing about the image.

Child, Myanmar  © Caroline Fraser 2012
My favourite portrait from a recent trip to Myanmar is of this child in a small hillside village. It means a lot to me, but probably leaves other viewers cold. Portraits are a lot about memories and emotions experienced at the time. They are very personal things.

Time to move on then ............ to the Chris Beetles Gallery; a nice space in a nice part of town.

And what treats we found there.......... 50 black and white photos by Michael Kenna, landscape photographer. he works exclusively with a medium format Hasselblad, printing the works himself in the darkroom from film. A craftsman at work.

The prints are all small...........7 3/4 inches by 7 3/4 inches, and hand printed in limited editions of 45 by Kenna. The price of prints goes up as the editions sells; those on view in the gallery varying form £1350 to £5150. A lot of money for such small prints..........but of such beauty that I would willingly part with large sums to have one hanging on my wall. They convey tranquillity, stillness, beauty and a sense of calm. That to me is worth so much more than a portrait. I have never experienced all of those emotions from one portrait.

He even gets away with blurred foregrounds in his image of the pyramids, a fact that fills me with joy.

Michael Kenna said of his own work in 2009.....

'I prefer suggestion over description. The world is pretty chaotic , seemingly always speeding up and getting louder and more visually dense. I am interested in finding and/or creating calm shelters from the storm, places where quiet solitude is encouraged and inner contemplation possible. i think we could all use a break from time to time........'

I am with him all the way.

Landscape wins, hands down, every time.

Monday, 5 November 2012

passion and photography.............a lesson from John Blakemore

from his tulip series ©John Blakemore 2005
I am back from my travels, and contemplating what to do with the thousand or so images made from two recent trips. I read in the paper yesterday a comment that gave food for thought....... that we should not try to emulate photographers who have gone before us; it is not possible to be Diane Arbus, for her time is past, and the subject matter that she felt so passionately about no longer exists. Her images were successful because of her passion for the subject matter and her ability to express her feelings through her work.

I was surprised to have one of my recent  images of grass likened to a work by John Blakemore. Surprised, because of all the photographers that I admire, he is one of my favourites, and it would never have occurred to me that another photographer would consider my work in any way to be of a similar style. His tulip series exemplify the effect of true passion and/or obsession. He describes his tulip journey in an audio interview at Lensculture , the most significant paragraph in my view being shown below.

"The tulip journey, then was ultimately a visual journey, an investigation and discovery of visual possibilities. The tulip became an object of attention and fascination. It became both text and pretext for an activity of picture-making. The photographs are not finally, or not primarily, about tulips: they contain tulips. To say this is not to diminish the role of the tulip. Had the vase of flowers on the table when I made the first tentative exposures exploring the space of my kitchen been, let’s say daffodils, then the journey, if it had ever begun, would in all probability have been shorter."

What we should do, suggested the newspaper article, rather than try to recreate work similar to that of our heroes, is to keep making images of those subjects that we feel passionate about, until our personal style develops and becomes clear. 

All of which got me thinking about where my passion lies........

Certainly I am crazy about grasses, sand and water, but what about those episodes when I cannot resist taking a photograph of stranger subjects such as the hazard warning tape that I came across whilst walking dog this morning in the autumn sunshine? 

 I find a fascination with the fact that this flimsy tape is used to prevent people walking in certain areas of the wood, and a delight in going on the wrong side of it in an act of defiance.

The tape here was stopping people from walking too near to a bonfire; somewhat ironic given that today is bonfire night. This fire was long dead and soaked with rain into a damp pile of ash. Not much of a hazard in the grand scheme of things. The worst that could happen was that I trip climbing over it.

So I stepped inside the circle, and had a few happy minutes with my phone taking pictures, despite the fact that I had promised myself that I would not take any photos today, there being hundreds back at home waiting to be dealt with. 

My passion lies in nature, but a little bit of me needs to express my view of how man interacts with nature, so my landscapes are not always fit for the purist, and may have a telegraph pole, fence or other evidence of man in the picture........... something that the true 'landscape photographer' frowns upon. 

Which could lead me onto the subject "what is landscape photography?".................

But that would be far too deep a subject for bonfire night, and I need to go and look after the dog, who is cowering under the table hiding from fireworks, and my other half, who is hoping to be fed..........

Thursday, 1 November 2012

something fishy at theprintspace

SoShowMeIII exhibition
Many months ago I won the 'food' competition run by theprintspace on Facebook.

Next week sees the opening of  SoShowMe III exhibition, featuring selected works from theprintspace's social media interactions.

How delighted I am to see that they have chosen my fishy picture for the flyer.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

breathing lessons..............

My other half was dragged along to the NFT on Friday night to see the results of the Valtari mystery film experiment ; my obsession with all things Icelandic not having yet ended.

To sit in the theatre and listen to music from the album Valtari whilst watching some beautiful and incredibly imaginative films created in response to tracks from the album was a real treat.

You can see more of the creations here, but the one that stuck in my mind for it's sheer cleverness and power to save lives was the one shown above. I have been to many workshops on cardiopulmonary resuscitation ( CPR), but never have I felt able to remember in such graphic detail the requirements for the Heimlich manoevre to save the life of someone who is choking on a foreign body, be it a juicy piece of steak or a child's toy. The film starts quietly, and the change of tack mid way through comes a a real surprise, making it all the more powerful.

Watch the video above and you too might gain the tools to save a life. Then go to the Sigur Ros website and wallow in the beauty of the other movies and soundtracks. I particularly enjoyed

the surreal animal /city/carwash one set to the same track as the unexpected life saving one above.

If anyone can tell me what it all means I will be most interested. I am aware that eg anda means to breathe, and whilst the fish is clearly struggling to breathe, all the other creatures appear relaxed and quite serene in the beautifully photographed film. Each animal portrait is worthy of a photographic portrait competition in itself, being subtly lit and poignant.

I also admired  Rembihnútur by Arni & Kinski (above) for its meditative feel and beautiful ending.

The band have succeeded in creating worldwide interest through this project that allows self expression and individuality to thrive. 

still taken from 
Sigur Rós 'Valtari' Mystery Film Experiment: Ég anda by Ramin Bahrani

bigger is better..............going Tokyo

Hebridean series by Caroline Fraser on show in Tokyo
It is somewhat exciting to be able to show the image above; my Hebridean series of impressionistic seascapes on show in a smart gallery in Tokyo courtesy of Subject Matter who promote my work on permalure . Seeing these works printed to such a scale confirms my already held view that bigger is usually better when it comes to looking at photographic landscapes.

If you are wondering which one in the picture is me, the answer is neither...............I  am sadly not in Tokyo but trucking on with my 'ordinary'  life in south east London. Still..... this event feels far from ordinary, so big thanks to Jon and Liezel at Subject Matter for putting on such a good show.

I must now return to the ironing................  joy of my life whilst I ponder why this blog suddenly got hundreds of hits yesterday for no clear reason.

Friday, 5 October 2012

you can take a horse to water................

but you can't make it drink.........................

I am physically unable to take a photo of a waterfall and gain pleasure from the experience. I can only think of calendars, and supersaturated images with long exposures that leave me cold.

Iceland has many very spectacular waterfalls, but I will never be able to do them justice. Instead you will find me turning my back, looking at the ground, and seeing what I can find.

At the site above ( see if you can spot the photographer up at the top) there was a little mass hysteria from some of the fairer sex on our Icelandic adventure, who had reached their saturation point where waterfalls were concerned. We wandered around, and admired the concrete bridge that made this particular waterfall a little less attractive than some others ; the intended perfect photo being in the other direction with a mountain in the background..........

I really don't like being told how other people do it, just as I don't like reading about places before I get there, in order not to have preconceived ideas about what a place will be like. I had a mini rebellion, taking out my smallest camera , a tiny Lumix, and making some double exposures of the colourful plants beneath my feet. I didn't compose, just snapped away, more concerned with the colour than the forms.

The rebellious girls  mused on the idea of a girls only photo tour that allowed stops whenever someone requested one, be it for a flower, mountain, sheep, cat, dog, house or just to go shopping. It seems that someone has already taken up this idea , offering a tour  for women only with tuition and hiking, but no shopping. But what fun we had with a balance of sexes. I am not sure I could manage without some male entertainment; we had yoga demonstrations, ice-cream eating and endless logging into phones, laptops and iPads to amuse us. It transpires that some groups of male photographers don't feel the need to talk to each other at meals, preferring to interact with their apple devices at the table.

There was so much that we saw that we would like to return to capture. The waterfalls were impressive but not what I came for. Men with massive back-packs dutifully composed the "standard" shot which I didn't attempt,  and went home happy...............

Iceland is a photographer's dream. Whether you like the bigger or the smaller picture you cannot fail to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape.  The mosses and lichens are worthy of a tour in themselves. Dawn at the glacial lagoon is to die for, with low light on the fragments of glacial ice.

We vowed to come back. I would have returned already if I had any annual leave left from my day job.

I have started having nightmares in which I am on my way back, but the plane is overbooked, and I am offered a flight to Vienna or Paris instead.

 It seems that I have been hooked by this beautiful landscape, and I know that I will be back next year.

 I am well and truly smitten.

We had a great time, thanks to Daniel Bergmann, author of Iceland Landscapes our expert local guide and lover of nature.

The colours are extraordinary,  and I hardly know where to begin in creating something meaningful from the 1000 images that sit on my laptop waiting for the editing process to begin.

I will have to make do with listening to the music of Sigur Ros which transports me back there, and working on my images during the long winter evenings that lie ahead. In writing this I find that I can see the results of their Valtari mystery film experiment at the NFT next week; something to really look forward to as I have fallen in love with their music.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sleepless in Iceland..........a photographic adventure

glacial fragment on the beach © caroline fraser 2012

I am finally on my long awaited photographic tour in Iceland led by Daniel Bergmann,  ( Daniel Bergmann ) a nature photographer. Four days in and I am not disappointed; far from it. The country is even more beautiful than I realised from my short stay 10 years ago, and the group of 10 participants are running out of superlatives to express our awe and wonder at what we are experiencing. Being a mixed bunch from Canada, the US, Australia and England, we are using phrases such as 'awesome' with new meaning, and in a variety of accents.

We are a mixed bunch with a wide age range. The amount of kit being lugged around is huge in some cases, and I am wishing I had not left my canon 100-400 zoom lens behind for reasons of weight. Trying to balance what one can practically carry, with what one would like to have in one's bag is a challenge. The men have bags that weigh at least 4 times the weight of mine, containing more cameras and accessories than I would know what to do with. Lugging up a steep hill yesterday to a waterfall I pondered the likelihood of collapsing under the strain. If I died, I would die happy! A fellow companion wisely took out several lenses from her bag before she set off up the hill. The only problem was that she forgot to put her camera back in the bag after re-organising the contents, and so had to make do with taking photos on her iPhone.

We have been regaled with tales of cameras disappearing beneath the waves on the beach, being dropped into the sea and down mountains..........  and of rolls of film being eaten by baboons in Africa. So much can go wrong when least expected.

glacial fragments on the beach at sunrise, with power lines just because I like them.......

The biggest challenge on the trip is a lack of sleep. We are hoping to see the northern lights. Daniel got up hourly through the night two nights ago to check for their presence. I went to bed, half hoping not to get a knock on the door to announce that I should be up and out in 5 minutes as instructed before going off to bed. So far we have not been lucky. We have been up at 04.30 or 05.30 every morning, and the group is catching up on sleep at odd times such as after breakfast and in the bus. The light on the beach above is golden at sunrise, quickly changing to blue after the initial glow or if the sun goes behind a cloud.

golden light at sunrise

blue light a few minutes later

I enjoy both effects, but was interested to see most of my fellow photographers pack up their gear the moment the 'sunrise' was over; it seems that they are more concerned to catch the bigger picture than I am. I could happily spend hours pondering over pieces of ice against the black sand, something I have not seen anywhere else on my travels. Daniel informs me that the 'cool' thing to do is to capture the blocks of ice with long exposures in the water. What he didn't say is that most of the ice fragments move around in the waves, so that by the time I had set up a shot with the 'big stopper' the block would have moved, and the stopper has to be removed to re-focus.

moving target; ice fragment in the waves © caroline fraser 2012
As you can see in the image above, the ice top left has moved during the exposure; even the largest blocks of ice roll and break as you try to capture their beauty.

They have been carried down river onto the beach from the place I was most excited to visit; Jokulsarlon, at the foot of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier on the South-east coast.

view of the glacier from Jokulsarlon
The lagoon in this image is 6km long, far larger than it appears to the  eye. The scale of the country is something I was not prepared for. It has to be seen to appreciated. I am already planning when to return, and I still have another 5 days to go.