Exploring Ilulissat, Greenland (Part 1)

General, Photographs, Travel

Greenland-1178

Disko Bay, Ilulissat, Greenland

It’d been a lifetime’s ambition to photograph icebergs, a bucket list itch that was increasingly needing to be scratched. I’m not sure of the particular lure but I just wanted to be amongst them, breathe them, witness them and take a few shots before I died. It was just one of those things. They’re beautiful, awe-inspiring, natural and glaciers are declining fast, the bug was growing.

I’d started to hound my buddy, Ian, who’d also expressed an interest in coming with me. Not ones for a normal package tour, we decided to investigate getting there and hiring/chartering a boat to get us in amongst the ‘bergs. However, there were a couple of things stacked against us…

  1. Getting to and from Greenland isn’t as easy and as regular as most places (obviously)
  2. The cost involved meant we’d have to plan very carefully to get what we wanted

After nearly two years of saving and investigation (and, at times, trying to convince each other it was a silly idea) we’d decided Ilulissat, nearly halfway up Greenland’s west coast on Disko Bay, seemed to offer us the best ‘platform’ for year round icebergs and viewing opportunities. It’s accessible (relatively speaking), has a town of 4,500 people, a few Hotels/B&B/Rooms and a thriving harbour. Perfect for us.

Timing was important, we needed the sea to be navigable (not frozen) and be able to generally get around, however, we didn’t really fancy the height of summer given the increased cost of accommodation and everything else, including our perception of less boats available.

After much head scratching and costing the only real difficulty remained with a boat charter. This one was proving to be very difficult, the regular ‘cruises’ weren’t offering what we were after and expensive. Anything else very tricky to organise and, on the face of it, seemed prohibitively expensive.

During this period of head scratching, Ian emailed me a link to a photographic tour with Iceland Photo Tours along with the words, “not for us but shows the potential”. Along with their “Greenland – Midnight Sun” itinerary the link contained a beautiful video of Disko Bay and the photographic opportunity that existed there. When I looked at the pricing of their ‘tour’, which was for 24/7 daylight (in the height of summer) and included accommodation, breakfast and evening meal, boat charter for 5 days and an organised exploration of Disko Bay, the Icefjord and local settlements. It didn’t seem to be too bad cost-wise (comparatively speaking) and ticked many of our boxes sightseeing wise. I replied with, “Are you sure? Here are the numbers”, and pretty soon after, despite our desire to DIY our trip, we booked ourselves up! I must admit to a bit of soul-searching re the price but we convinced ourselves it was a once in a lifetime chance to get to see what we’d always wanted and dreamed of seeing.

Planning the trip, organising flights, baggage limits (for photographic equipment) and stop-overs to enable us to participate on the 6 day tour became our priority. Details of our itinerary and providers will follow in the next update but suffice to say, it took a bit of fun planning and researching. Always an exciting part of any trip away. Hels, my wife, took one look at the promo video and announced that she was coming along too as there was no way she was going to miss out (the link stated Humpback Whales were always around and in hindsight, this was inevitable!) It was brilliant news but of course, doubled the already eye-watering expense. Having taken out the appropriate second mortgage, we were set up and raring to go… My itch was about to be scratched!

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Take That!

General

The updates have been slow recently due to literally no time at all and a gruelling schedule of fun and excitement!

Thursday last week involved a wake-up call at 4.30am followed by a gentle drive to Bristol Airport to catch the 7.05am flight to Newcastle. Plans went very well apart from a small car accident on the way to the airport with much damage occurring to the car that ran into us and virtually none on the back of the Saab 93 we were in!

We were headed north to witness the ‘pre-show’ event of the massive Take That Progress tour. We were to be guests of Musical Director Mike Stevens at this exclusive and amazing final ‘dress rehearsal’ for the whole show at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.

Having successfully checked into our hotel, we made our way by taxi to the Stadium. We nervously queued with hundreds of other people slightly uncertain whether we would be actually on the list or not. Our wait was a cold and breezy one but ultimately successful. We were allowed entry and had to promptly hand over to security our mobile phones and my camera gear! We were also asked to sign a Confidentiality Agreement making sure we divulged nothing about the show before it opened and that we took no images or recorded anything. We then made our way up to the Sunderland Hospitality Suite. Beers at £4.10 a pint meant we were in for an expensive evening!

After an hour or so we were asked to make our way down into the Stadium itself. We walked along a short corridor, through some double doors and then up some steps to enter the arena high up and about where the halfway line would normally be. The sight that greeted us was, well… totally awe inspiring. The sheer scale of the stage and set was the first thing that grabbed you. Then the intricacy of the different elements of the whole set-up. Looking at it, taking it all in, you just had a great feeling that this was going to be a special and amazing show.

We made our way down to pitch level and to the 3-400 or so seats that were laid out either side of the large cat-walk jutting out far into the middle of the ‘pitch’. Within minutes the Pet Shop Boys opened their set with all the familiar faves of years gone by. They were slick, well honed and fun to watch and listen to. The show as much a visual one as it was aural. Those of us present all politely applauded and cheered but our noise was mostly lost in the scale of the vast stadium.  We felt a little pathetic stood there with an enormous stage, gigantic venue surrounding us and a massive sound but only a very small number of us trying to be heard over the huge silence.

Another hour and the main event started. The four ‘remaining’ members of Take That took to the stage and we all cheered and sang along to their recent hits. Then in flew Robbie! Wow- what a showman and what a mini set. Incredible and jaw dropping. I will not spoil the whole show and experience in any way for any future attendee but we were left thinking after eight or so songs, what on earth can they do to trump this? There was still 3/4 of the show to go! Well, believe you me, they do trump it and they do leave you knowing that you have witnessed something truly, truly special. As I mentioned on my Facebook page “Oh wow! Just wow! Totally utterly amazingly fantastically incredible! I am speechless. Totally speechless. Wow. See it whatever it takes”. And that is it really, just make sure you see it. These things do not happen very often, this is the largest Stadium tour in Europe EVER. You MUST make every effort to go and see this show, you will remember it and it will live with you for a very, very long time. See you at Wembley in a few weeks time.

My evening was made complete by managing to grab a (meaningful) handshake with both Howard and Jason as they made their way off stage at the end of the whole gig.

We hotfooted it away from the Stadium back to the Quay at Newcastle and specifically to an upmarket Hotel to hook up with our host. Mike was fascinating to listen to post the event explaining the whole concept of the show and the way it came about. He was pretty pleased with the sound and the musical side but told us there were a few ‘production’ issues along the way. After all, isn’t that what dress rehearsals are designed to iron out anyway?

At stupid o’clock we made our way back to our hotel and then got up at 4.45am to make sure we caught our (ultimately delayed grrr…) flight back to Bristol. Knackered but delighted and hoping against hope that we get the Press passes for Wembley that we so desire and need for some lovely tasty icing on our Godin project cake!

Take That

Take That in Sunderland with "Om"

Frustrating Mondays

General

Are Mondays always as frustrating as they are often made out to be? Well if this one is anything to go by then yes they are! After a brilliant week last week, today has been an anti-climax.

I was telephoned on Sunday by Huw from The Old Rectory where I was due to visit and take some images. However, due to an almost hurricane force wind and the prospect of torrential rain, we decided to postpone the session by 24 hours. I was called again this morning to be told that our friends at the Met Office were not forecasting anything brighter on Tuesday and that the trip should be further postponed until better weather was more likely to be forthcoming. Annoying for all of us as the exterior of the Rectory and the grounds themselves were looking amazing before the storm. We will get the job done but it would have been good to make the most of the great weather we had been having and the beautiful springtime gardens. Never mind, we shall return very soon.

I don’t know if I mentioned that on Friday I realised my fantastic file storage system had let me down big time. My Western Digital external hard drive was appearing as “not recognised by this computer” (my iMac) having previously been recognised for months with no issues. Upon many hours of internet trawling I realised that not only was this a fairly common problem for Western Digital external hard drives but also that it was likely to be fairly serious, potentially resulting in lost data! Now, this kind of thing has never happened to me before and I must say I do a fairly good job of backing up most files and images especially given the important nature of some of my work. However, upon further investigation, I realise that my system of backing up was not flawless and I have indeed several months of images that exist ONLY on this damn drive. Well, today (Monday take note), I telephoned the computer shop where I took the drive to be ‘repaired’ (saved more like) to be told that they had ripped it out of its housing and plugged it into a PC whereupon they had been asked to format the drive. The good news is that the PC recognised it and asked the question, the bad news is, they don’t have a Mac there to test it out on. So, I popped over and gave them my little MacBook Pro to test it on, with the promise they would call me later. Yep, you guessed it. They didn’t call me! So, I am still none the wiser re the hard drive and its contents.

Frustrating? You bet.

However, on the upside, we received confirmation that we are indeed invited to attend the Take That ‘pre’ show that takes place at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland the day before the official Progress tour begins. We will be one of only a few hundred privileged enough to see the show before anyone else and we will be asked to sign confidentiality agreements and to hand in ALL equipment that is able to record either visual or audio data. That means no photographs. The upside is that we hope to meet the people that know these things and manage to get a pass to at least one of the big stadium shows and snap away in the ‘pit’ along with no doubt countless other people for the Godin project. I will also take some kit just in case we get a chance after the gig to seek out our main man. To say we are pretty excited is an understatement and the only thing that could possibly stop us is some kind of Icelandic volcanic ash preventing our flight from landing at Newcastle airport the morning of the gig! Haha….wait a minute, have you seen the news today? OMG! Oh yeah, I forgot, it is Monday…

Oh well, I will post a gratuitous image of a lovely lady taken for my ‘Lyrics Project’ to cheer me up!

Voyeur Nude

Voyeuristic Nude