Jim Friesen - Photography

I was not a very good Boy Scout. I was rarely prepared. Things haven't changed much.


The wedding was on August 22nd, Katherine left early on the 23rd and I was supposed to have booked a rental car for that day so I could hit the road and take photos. I didn't. There are reasons for that but none of them are good. Instead, I spent an extra day in Reykjavik, at The Old Bicycle Shop, and my new daughter-in-law, Christel, spent too much time on the phone, on the first day of her honeymoon, arranging for me to get picked up the next day by Avis and delivered to the car that she booked in my name. She is amazing.

So, I got to spend some extra time with Mike and Christel, and some of the other fascinating guests at the shop. I also had a wonderful Italian meal down the street, a good nights sleep and then headed out the next morning to explore Iceland.


As I suggested earlier, I'm not a good planner and was feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of being alone on this adventure. In Japan I had my daughter and whenever I'm not in Vancouver or Manitoba I usually count on Katherine to look after details. I was nervous. It turns out that what I lack in preparation, I make up for in dumb luck.


My first stop was at a gas station on the outskirts of the city. It wasn't to buy gas but just to make sure I was on the right road. The Ring Road is the main highway in Iceland and is the only one to circle it. I was going to drive as far east as I could for two days and then turn around and come back, seeing and photographing as much as I could along the way. The problem was interpreting the maps and making sure I took the right exit off of the many roundabouts along the way.


I went into the gas station, verified that I was headed in the right direction on the right road and asked if I could buy a pen and notepad; you know, just in case. The young man, who seemed to be the manager, told me they didn't sell pens and notepads but asked me to wait for a moment. He slipped into the back office and came out with a beautiful pen and half a dozen sheets of paper that he then gave to me. That was typical of the treatment I recieved during my time there. 


I was getting back into my car when I was approached by a young woman with a large backpack, green hair and a cardboard sign with the word "Vik" written in felt pen. She asked me, in flawless English with a charming eastern European accent, where I was going. I told her I was heading east. She seemed to be struggling with her next sentence. I asked her if she needed a ride.


Yullia turned out to be a television journalist from the Ukraine who was hitch-hiking around Iceland on her holidays. She was more than adept with Google maps and helped me find a number of places on my "must see" list. She also made some suggestions that turned out to be great stops. She was willing to stop whenever I saw something I wanted to photograph and pointed out things I would have missed.

Not only was she a capable navigator but she was willing to take my Sony point-and-shoot and snap a picture every time I pointed at something. She took the initiative of shooting things I would have missed while I was keeping us on the two lane highway.


Yullia was a pleasure to travel with and I will always be grateful for her company. She even provided lunch the first day; a vegan "baloney and cheese" sandwhich on gluten free buns with pickles.  


The landscape and weather were constantly changing and offered me so much in the way of photo opportunities. Iceland has some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet. Much of it you need an all-terrain vehicle, a guide, and maybe a drone to photograph. I just took pictures from on or near the Ring Road. For the sake of photojournalism I will show most of these in colour in my blog posts. After sharing these posts I will be putting images in my website. They will include a series, some of the photos here as well as others, in black and white. I will also include some of my more arty crap.

We sat in the grass on the side of a hill, eating lunch and looking out over the view you see above.

This was a rustic museum and souvenir shop in the middle of nowhere.

Some of the shots might have been taken in Canada's western prairies ...

... and some seemed otherworldly.

And, of course, the wonderful horses.


It wasn't easy figuring out how to tell Katherine I was travelling with a young woman but I sent her an e-mail explaining the situation and she replied that she trusted me completely and was happy I had company. She too is amazing. 


I had made arrangements with the Chalke's to meet them just west of Vik, so Yullia insisted I drop her off and we would meet the next morning in the campground at Vik.  I had a wonderful meal at a fancy burger joint at Skogafoss (foss at the end of a name indicates waterfalls) with Jay, Lou and Simon Chalke and shared a room with Simon for the night. I took a photo of the falls before dinner and another the next morning before leaving to meet my navigator in Vik.

The first day had come and gone and I was still alive.



Of the many pleasures that I have received from photography, the most immediately and lastingly satisfying is documenting the journey of my children through this life. Having said that, I know there are many photos I have regretted not taking. So the ones I have are precious. 


There was a professional wedding photographer whose photos will be available at some point but I couldn't not take some myself. These are some of the people and moments from that day. There are many photos that I wish I had taken, people that I wished I had captured in my camera, but I can only hope the photographer got those. 


The two mothers!

I know I didn't say it enough on that day so I will take the opportunity now to say how happy I am to have Christel and her family as part of our family. 


So, from there it was back on the bus and into Reykjavik for a fabulous dinner and dancing.

This is Ange and Sarah's version of "Girls Gone Wild In Iceland". The party started on the bus and rolled on till the wee hours, or so I was told. An appropriate end to a special day.

Michael's Best Man was his long-time friend, Simon Chalke. Simon has always been a great friend to Michael and he turned out to be a perfect Best Man. This was for many reasons but one of the biggest, in my biased opinion, was his inspired idea to organize a round of golf in Iceland. He got a lot of help from his dad, Jay, who did most of the legwork and made all the arrangements. I thank them both for this memorable day.


There were six of us participating. We broke up into two teams, the youngsters against the less than youngsters, and we played eighteen holes of Best Ball. 


The young guns consisted of Simon, Mike and Alex (left to right) while the experienced team consisted of ...


... Ken, myself and Jay. Yes, I am standing in a hole. 


I did not take as many photos as I should have to properly document the event but let me say that the front nine holes were carved out of a field of old volcanic rocks.


Here is Jay scanning the landscape for a patch of green to aim his drive at. Ken had not played a lot of golf before this event and one of the rules in Best Ball is that each team must use et least three drives from every player. A highlight on this day was watching one of Ken's drives on a par three hole hit approximately five rocks before bouncing nicely onto the green. That was one of his three mandatory drives.


Another highlight was Jay and Ken in one electric cart (they made us use them) and me in another driving around a maze of paths, Keystone Cops style, trying to find the ninth tee box. I would like to see a speeded up video version of that. The course Marshal had to eventually round us up and herd us in the right direction. He asked us if we were trying to create our own Golden Circle tour. (See previous post).


You may notice there are not a lot of trees (as in none) on the course. There are not a lot of trees in Iceland. So the back nine holes are basically just laid out in great open expanses with maybe half of them bordered by a little water hazard known affectionately as the North Atlantic. The first picture in this blog is a view of part of the back nine. Below are some more.

And when they say there's a fairway bunker, they mean an actual bunker.

Here is Commadore Ken charting a course to the distant green. He was a great teammate and never let his lack of experience dampen his enthusiasm. By the end he was slamming down some important putts, but even they weren't enough to help us beat the kids. That night the losers bought the beer and pizza. We started the round at four o'clock and the twilight seemed to last forever. 

It was a great experience on a unique golf course. I would recommend it to anyone who loves the game. Thanks again to Simon and Jay for the idea and for organizing it, and to Alex and Ken for being part of it ... and to Mike and Christel for getting married in Iceland.


On our third day in Iceland most of the guests joined together for a bus tour of the Reykjavik peninsula. It was organized by Ange so she got to have the bus named after her.


If I haven't said it yet, Iceland is amazing. The geography never fails to inspire some level of awe and pleasure. The tour must have been close to eight hours long and not once did I look at my watch (so maybe it was only six hours, but that's not the point - the point is it was spectacular). Many of these images were taken through the window of a moving bus so they are not technically great but I hope they give a sense of what we saw that day,


There are a number of options when it comes to where the tour goes but I think all of them include:


the Gullfoss waterfall 

and geysers

and unscheduled beauty.


We stopped for lunch at a giant tomato growing operation. It was in an expansive greenhouse where they also grew basil. Everything is heated with geothermic technology. The tomato and basil soup was delicious. It was served with thick soft slices of freshly baked bread. Everyone had a great time as far as I could tell.

We had one more stop before going back to Reykjavik ... for home made ice cream and a visit with some of the famous Icelandic ponies.

Then it was back on the bus and more scenery and home.

A memorable day. Good work Ange!





If you are planning on visiting Iceland I want to recommend a guest house.You might consider staying in The Old Bicycle Shop. The above photo was taken in the main house where most of the party stayed. 


The main house was jumping and felt almost like a frat house, only one that was full of really smart sociable young adults as opposed to John Belushi (all respect to Animal House). The pancake olympics (won by Sweden - only because Michael's bottle of maple syrup exploded in his suitcase somewhere over the Atlantic) was a highlight. 


The photos below were taken at the smaller satellite house where Katherine, her brother Paul, his partner Heather, Dan and Kerstin (Christel's parents) and I were staying. Both guest houses were warm and comfortable in every sense. They were also very reasonably priced. The two houses are within blocks of each other and are in the heart of Reykjavik.

Here Kerstin (on the left) and Heather demonstrate the difference between a typical Swedish breakfast (Kerstin) and the North American breakfast (Heather).


Below are a couple of still lifes and some shots taken from the windows of the small house over the duration of our stay.


Gudrun and Fergus, who run The Old Bicycle Shop, made us feel welcome and kept everything tidy. I spent an extra day at the big house after Katherine left and another after my road trip. It gave me a chance to get to know some very nice people from all around the world who were also staying there. I also got to meet two of Fergus and Gudrun's children, who help keep the place clean, and their two wonderful pets.




We arrived in Reykjavik on the morning of Iceland's annual cultural festival. The weather was sunny and comfortable, even if it was a little cooler than back home, and the streets were full of locals and tourists enjoying the sun.


Over the next two or three days we would find the city easy to walk around and full of small pleasures and surprises. Its architectural centre would be the beautiful Hallgrimskirkja church, seen in the above shot. It is one of the tallest buildings in Iceland and turned out to be an easily visible landmark that helped me navigate the city. The place we stayed at (more about that later) was a short block from the church so I got to see it from various angles and in different lights. But, as I said, there were many small pleasures to be had in the streets of Reykjavik.


We took a walking tour of the historical heart of the city and got a sense of the personal scale that envelopes the country's history and present identity. They are a well educated, literate and friendly population and almost everyone we encountered spoke very good English. 

Here is Katherine, Sally and Heather with our guide (can you spot the Icelander?). Some of the interesting facts we learned were: that Iceland had the first Parliament; that the man who wrote the first letter to the Danish Government requesting autonamy for Iceland was called President, because he was the president of a local book club; and my favorite, every year, one tree in Iceland is named 'Tree of the Year'. They don't have a lot of trees in Iceland.






One of the other features of the city is a small body of water that is known simply as 'The Pond'.


As I said, I got to see the church many times. I even went into it once with Dan, Christel's father. We watched, and listened to, two young musicians perform an atmospheric jam. The pipe organ was really impressive and beautiful.

Along with the various events we saw, and slept through (the jet lag finally caught up to us), Reykjavik was a very comfortable city to land in. It was quite different from the overwhelming size and bustle of Tokyo from several years ago.



... to the beautiful, charming and talented Christel. Everything went perfectly and I expect it will remain one of the happiest memories of my life.


A young woman from Toronto, whose pictures you will see eventually, was the official photographer but I snuck this shot in just after the cermony, which took place on the shore of a lake outside of Reykjavik. There will be more pictures to come. I know I will not be able to do justice, either to the wonderful people who were there, the great times we shared together or the amazing country that is Iceland, but I will do my best. I will sort my way through the hundreds of photos I took to try and find a few that might give you an idea of those few unforgettable days in Iceland. It just might take a bit.

Neighborhood walks when I only had my iphone.


The post processing in photoshop creates the same enthusiasm in me, when I like a picture, as a darkroom would for traditional photographers. But I often wish I could watch the image emerge in a bath. Somehow that process is like seeing your own soul appear slowly before you. Digital editing is more like an archeologist brushing away dust, a sculptor chipping away marble or a carpenter building a desk. 

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