After a short stop there, we were on our way to our next viewpoint at The Gullfoss waterfall (Golden Waterfall). After a nice lunch of Icelandic lamb stew, followed by chocolate cake, we made our way down to view the waterfall. Again, this was an impressive sight and well worth the trip. The force of the water was slowly enlarging the valley into which it flowed. Unfortunately, the sun wasn't in the right place on this occasion and so the reflections from the waterfall were a little subdued.
Our final destination was at the Þingvellir National Park rift valley. The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North America and Eurasian tectonic plates. We admired the view and setting sun before walking down the rift valley between the two plates.
A superb day out and still the Blue Lagoon to visit.
We decided to visit the Lagoon on Saturday morning which meant an early 7am start and a cold wait for the coach, but we were soon on our way. We were full of expectation, not knowing what to expect and as we arrived and made our way in the dark to the entrance, the first feelings of excitement filtered through our thoughts.
After a thorough shower, Sue and I met and descended into the water, which was shrouded in darkness and mist. Low lighting lit up the area and shapes slowly emerged; some with white faces looking like zombies! Fortunately for us, they were wearing silicone face masks, which were full of minerals and designed to cleanse and purify the skin. We made our way around in the hot water looking for the drink area and after a drink, we decided on a face mask ourselves and set off in the mist.
We were a little disorientated in the dark but managed to find other people wearing masks and so asked for general directions. After applying the masks, we set off to explore further.
Eventually we found the therapeutic waterfall and let that massage us for a while, before exploring further. Finally, our time was up and we had to find our way to the exit, which was still shrouded in the mist and dark. After changing, we had time for a quick look round before leaving.
In our minds, this was an experience not to be missed. Sue managed to find all the hottest areas and didn't want to move, I found these a little too hot for comfort. The darkness and mist added to the surreal experience and because of this we would recommend going in the dark.
On reflection, we may have preferred the 7pm slot, as when we arrived back at the hotel, we were really relaxed and could have slept straight away!
Also, talking to people who went on the evening trip, they also had the added bonus of seeing the Northern Lights on the way back to the hotel.
This year, instead of buying presents for each other, we decided to take a trip to try and see the Northern Lights. When we looked at ways of doing this, we were surprised to find that TUI did a tour in Iceland, with two trips included in the price.
On arriving in Reykjavik, we were pleased to find that our hotel was in the centre of the town. Being too early to book in, we set off to explore the area and get something to eat. We were looking forward to the evening coach trip into the countryside to see the Lights.
After unpacking we started to add a number of layers of clothing but were surprised that it wasn't as cold as expected. Although our hotel was central, it did mean that we had to be picked up a short distance away. As we set off to see the Lights, the guide informed us that the chance of seeing them was a Level 3 on a scale of 1-9.
It didn't sound too promising. However, we just had to wait and hope that this level was good enough. As we approached the look out area, we were informed that those with an iPhone wouldn't be able to take pictures of the Lights, unless they had downloaded a special app, and anyone with a Samsung S7 or above needed special settings to take pictures. Anything less than a Samsung 7 had no hope of taking a photograph! Unfortunately, Sue was unable to do this on her phone.This seemed to be a piece of information that we should have been provided before we set off.
On arriving, the guide informed us that from the top of the hill we could see an arc of light grey, stretching across the sky; this was our first sighting. To our surprise this just looked like a grey cloud. I tried to take a photograph but wasn't successful. Fortunately, I happened to glance to my side where another young man had taken photographs with the shape showing it's green glow. I was lucky that he showed me how to change the settings on my phone. Looking at my photographs in my gallery, I could at last see the green and blues in the sky; something that wasn't visible with the naked eye.
After about an hour stood outside, we didn't think that anything else was going to happen, and we were due to leave, so we made our way back to the coach. As we sat waiting to leave, the driver suddenly cried out, " Get out of the coach! Quickly; look at the sky!" There was a rush to the doors. and once outside we were treated to two Light shows from two directions.
Again, we couldn't really see the colours, but it was impressive watching the grey shapes dance in the sky. Here I manged to get a few photographs but not of the quality that a few people with better cameras achieved.
A fantastic end to the night and talking to several people, later in the week, we had been very lucky. The Northern Light Hunt had been cancelled on the following nights and were not as impressive on others.
Talking to the guide, who had lived there for many years, she had only ever seen one category nine Light show and said that she had just lay in the ground for an hour totally awestruck. Maybe, if we go again to look for them, we will see such a show.
As an artist, I wouldn't try to capture the images in a painting because I find that with sights such as this; nature can't be beaten!
Having watched all the previous programmes in this series I was interested to see who would be chosen this year. I had looked into sending off myself but I was going to be away on some of the dates they were filming; also I would probably have chickened out anyway!
Watching the series I was surprised to see that my youngest brother, Barry, was on one of contestants on the second episode at the seaside resort of Broadstairs. Talking to him afterwards proved quite enlightening.
The two previous winners had been quite traditional painters and this made me feel that landscape painting was again being recognised as a worthwhile subject to paint. Would it be the same this year?
As usual, every episode featured a range of artists and styles. As I have written in a previous blog, it seems silly to me that someone sends in a picture that took several hours or weeks to produce. On the day you only have, in theory, four hours, so if you can't produce the same quality in that time you are really not doing yourself justice. Particular instances of this were artists who collage or sew their pictures. In some cases their submissions were excellent but their final pieces were often unfinished.
At times, the conditions for painting were difficult because of the weather conditions; with changes from heavy rain and wind to bright sunshine and on one instance, the scene being covered by mist for most of the day. Still all the artists produced a wide range of work.
Watching each program. I always like to try and pick the finalists and the winner. I have been correct a few times but often the judges surprised me with their choices. Obviously, they have different criteria by which to judge the pieces, especially with a £10.000 commission prize on offer!
It was interesting as the series progressed, to see how the artists adapted to the scene. Some of these seemed more challenging as they weren't traditional landscapes. There were a couple of seaside scenes, a dockyard and in one case a virtually completely green landscape.
The semi final produced the three finalists and I thought that these three were a fair representation of style and technique. I was interested to see what they would have to paint in the final. At this stage any of the three could have won it!
The final scene, overlooking Greenwich Park, was one that wouldn't have appealed to me. Everything was too symmetrical and although the distant skyline was impressive, the building at the front loomed large.
The artist Allan Martin, who had produced the superb dark, moody, tonal painting for his submission, decided to face the other way and paint the observatory. His superb handling of tones seemed a little lost when colour was added and his piece completed in the studio, of the lighthouse, although an excellent painting, was, I feel, a little too romantic for the judges.
The second artist Greg Mason, who I felt produced one of the best paintings of the series in the semi final at the docks, did a more traditional composition looking down at the scene. This again, I think, was not what the judges were looking for.
Finally, the winner. To me she had been the dark horse of the competition. I was never really sure whether I liked her work, but she continued to produce her interpretation of the scenes in her own style. Where she was really successful, was finding an angle that others missed.
The final scene was quite difficult but she captured the essence of it and whether you like the picture or not, it was true to her way of thinking and painting. However, I think what really swung it for her, was her picture of the pier at Brighton, which again, in my opinion, was one of the better pictures of the series.
What I hadn't factored into my choices, was the landscape for the commission painting. When I heard the criteria for this painting I understood more clearly why the judges chose Jen's style of painting.
The winner of the competition had to go to Greece and Macedonia to create an artwork to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. I felt that the commission didn't want a traditional painting of the landscape but one that linked the modern scene with the past. It needed to evoke a mood, which would empathise with the fact that the battle scene was a tribute to the men who had fallen and still lay covered by the soil and vegetation. It would probably not have been fitting for a pretty, representational picture.
To me, this was possibly, in the back of the judges minds, and if I'm right, then Jen was the correct choice. Her work had been consistent and each scene had been a personal response painting not just a straightforward traditional view.
The final programme brought back the realities of war, showing scenes from the landing and hike into the mountains, carrying all the supplies, and the final battle, where so many lives were lost.
It seemed strange, to me, that when arriving at the viewpoint, the landscape now seemed so peaceful.
Jen's final picture of the scene.