As someone who used to fly small airplanes – I have over 500 hours as a pilot – it is similar but unique to fly a small drone and use it to photograph the landscape. My drone has a nice five inch screen on the controller that lets me see what the onboard camera sees. But you are pretty busy flying to follow the screen in detail, and five inches isn’t very much for detail anyway. So when I get home and load the files on my computer and begin viewing them on a 27 inch screen, it is almost like flying with the drone myself. This is especially true with high resolution video. And the ability to slow things down or speed things up or zoom in close adds more. So the editing is a lot about discovery, and the following is some of the results.
I spent the first two weeks of September 2019 traveling in Iceland and flying my drone. I flew at every opportunity, accumulating many hours of footage. Iceland is a great place for drone photography, partly because it is so scenic and also because you can fly almost anywhere except in the national parks. My drone is a DJI Mavic 2 Pro with Hasselblad camera, shooting 4k video. I hope you will enjoy flying with me!
We made our third trip to Iceland the first two weeks of September, 2019. This time we drove all the way around the island and more. This time I took my new camera drone and flew many times each day. I learned a lot on these flights, and even more in editing the video footage after returning. I will be posting portions of this video as I have them ready, about 8-10 minutes worth at a time. These represent selected highlights from literally hours and hours of source footage. I still get absorbed in the wonder of this strange land. A land where every turn of the road presents something new and different.
I live in Montgomery County, Maryland. Over a million people live in our county, distributed around in just over 500 square miles. By contrast, the island nation of Iceland covers some 40,000 square miles but has a population one third the size of Montgomery County – some 360,000. Our county averages about 2,000 people per square mile, but Iceland averages one person for every 10 square miles.
Then there’s the matter of sheep. There are 2,280 sheep farms in Iceland. That means there is a sheep farm for every 150 people in the country. There are more sheep than people in Iceland by a long shot.
The sheep population jumps up every year in May when the new lambs are born. Soon afterward, most sheep are released to roam the wild hills and valleys and high mountains. All summer they feed and fatten and grow their wool. The lands they roam are public, so the grazing is free food for all.
In the summertime, the farmers work their fields gathering up hay for the coming winter. Then in September, all the farmers in various communities work to gather the sheep into one place where they have a sorting facility built. This process is called Réttir (corral) and can take up to a week, since the sheep are scattered all over. The sheep are fast on their feet and widely disbursed. They are rounded up by people riding horses and assisted by sheepdogs, with others on foot where the terrain doesn’t allow riding.
Finally gathered down from the hills, you have them all in one place: fat happy lambs, ewes and rams. In the sorting corral, they’re identified by their earmarks and sorted to their owners’ pens off to the side. The owner then decides, which sheep are going to be sold and which are going back to the stables for the winter.
It’s a hard but happy time in Iceland. A time of meeting and kidding and dogs and music and drinking and children playing and young men competing and young women working hard but looking good at the same time. It’s a community event, everyone helping, no one slacking or cheating.
I was fortunate enough to witness one of these events in one small Icelandic community in 2019. The following are some of the sights and sounds I recorded.
In May of 2019 I met with eleven other swimmers in Hurghada, Egypt. We boarded a yacht which would be our home for the next seven days. I have done such swims in Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Spain, and other places. But the Red Sea was different. The waves and currents and challenges of swimming were the same, but the sea life was beyond my experience. The five minute video which follows provides an in-water look.
There are many Scandinavian festivals that include wife carrying contests. The one I have attended is the New Jersey festival, held annually in Budd Lake on Labor Day weekend. The video shown here is mostly from the recent 2018 festival, with a few clips included from 2015. Wife carrying is said to date to the days of the Vikings and to their practice of selecting a wife and then carrying her off. Several types of carrying are practiced, which you will see. The principal ones include 1) piggyback, 2) fireman’s over-the-shoulder, and 3) Estonian style – where the wife hangs upside down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist. You will also see variations.
The wife carrying course is rectangular and about 250 meters in length. It has 4 obstacles, consisting of car tires, hay bales, a wooden staircase, and pools of water. The winning man receives the woman’s weight in beer. The couple does not have to be married, thus any willing woman will do for the carry.
The Wife Carrying World Championships have been held annually in Sonkajarvi, Finland, since 1992.
Please enjoy! (You may wish to view full screen. Make sure your sound is turned on.)
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My father and I had in common a pair of physical disabilities: his right hand and my right foot. Both were handicaps beyond our control, and both were a part of our self-consciousness around others. Although he was right-handed, Dad shook hands with others using his good left hand turned thumb downward. Around others, I instinctively hid my bad right foot behind my good left one. This created something of a bond between us.
Dad had mangled his right hand as a poor North Carolina mountain boy feeding sugar cane into a sorghum molasses mill. The mill took his index and middle fingers, and did damage to the rest of the hand as well. Despite this, Dad went on to college and played football, baseball, basketball, and track. The lack of fingers never kept him from writing or gardening or typing or fishing or anything else. But he was always conscious of it and spoke little about it.
Now and then, when they give us our feet, someone gets a defective one. My right foot was given me defective, being abnormally large and equipped with tiny useless toes. Doctors removed the toes and over the years whittled down the size as much as possible. The lack of toes never kept me from football, running, golf, hiking and mountain climbing, tennis, and swimming. But I am always conscious of the foot, especially around the curious.
One day I had finished swimming at a community pool and was showering in an open area in the men’s dressing room. In from the pool came a young boy, and I saw him see my foot. After an excited, wide-eyed look, he turned and ran back the way he’d come in. He returned with his little sister to show it to her. Then he went to the door and called for his mother to come in and see. The mother called them both back out and that was the last of it. Over the years I have had many wide-eyed children staring, and occasionally some adults.
When he was old, my father took me to the area where he had lived as a boy and lost his fingers. Out from Asheville is the town of Marshall, and out from Marshall was Brush Creek. Dad and his family lived in a cabin in a valley there, close beside the French Broad River. The valley was all grown up and void of homes or dwellings, but Dad took me where he said the cabin had been located, and where the cane mill had been. He explained that after the accident they took him across the mountain to a doctor, and the doctor removed what was left of the two fingers by lantern light. His older brother George kept the fingers in his pocket and the next day the boys buried them on hill behind the house. Dad told me he could show me the burial spot “within ten feet” and did, I can only assume.
Yes, I have been to VA hospitals and seen the war-injured. And, yes, I know that a bad hand and a bad foot are not to be compared with the wounds of those service men and women. And I know I could never fully appreciate the mental trials they endure. But I do have some idea about it.
I remember forming my first impression of Harbin, China. We were watching an engaging documentary about this part of Northern China. It is up near the border with Russia and actually north of Vladivostok where the Trans Siberian railway ends. Harbin is known for its cold temperatures and its wintertime ice sculptures. The ice sculptures draw tourists from all over the world. They are all over the city and lit up at night.
Then I met my young Chinese co-worker. “Where are you from?” I asked, expecting Beijing or Hong Kong. But instead, she was from Harbin. Harbin. I remembered the documentary. “That’s in the north of China and it’s cold there, right?” “Yes, very cold,” she said. “And that’s where they have the wonderful ice sculptures in the wintertime?” “Yes, we have them every winter and lots of people come to see them.”
I still thought of Harbin in a pristine kind of way. It was much later that I was talking with my friend and mentioned the recent news about air pollution in Beijing. And to my surprise, she told me that the air is also bad in Harbin. There is a lot of coal-burning heavy industry, she said. She said that now when she goes home to visit, she is usually sick for several days because of the bad air.
So I began to notice any news about Harbin. And then, the other day, I saw this:
|In the industrial city of Harbin, home to more than 10 million people, the PM 2.5 level of fine particulate matter in the air reached 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in parts of the city Monday, 50 times above what the World Health Organization considers safe. It is the first major pollution emergency of the coming winter Vehicles crawled through the smog with fog lights on or emergency lights flashing. Buses were canceled and a major highway was closed, while hospital admissions soared by 30 percent, local media reported. Visibility was so low in the city, about 780 miles northeast of Beijing, that two city buses got lost while plying their regular routes. Pedestrians wore masks or clutched their hands in front of their faces in an effort to breathe more easily. “I did not even dare to cross the street,” said Zhang Xiaofeng, a 24-year-old bulldozer driver who said his eyes hurt and he was coughing as a result of the smog. “I waited and waited at the intersection and looked again and again, but I couldn’t see if any cars were coming. Even the traffic lights were invisible.” While the air quality had improved by lunchtime, the fog descended again in the afternoon; primary and middle schools and the airport remained closed. “I can’t even see the next apartment building next to mine, which is only 10 or 20 meters away,” said 42-year-old housewife Li Li. “I’m not going out, and I won’t let my child go out.”|
What does this matter? Obviously it matters if you live in Harbin, China. You might argue that it doesn’t matter much if Harbin is an isolated case. But the story is the same, or heading in the same direction, around the globe. People breathing dirty air and drinking polluted water. Lands spoiled by industrial wastes. And larger changes in our climates brought on by the burning of coal and oil and other fossil fuels.
People in Harbin who would rather not be sick and would like something done about the situation must hear the familiar arguments.
We can’t afford major upgrades. We have to stay competitive with other industries. People will lose their jobs if we have to spend that kind of money. Let the industries that know about these problems handle it themselves. The government should stay out of this; the last thing we need is more government regulation.
And so it goes. And so it goes. And meanwhile I’m rethinking about the visit to Harbin.