Thursday, 24 September 2015

Réttir, Joining the Annual Sheep Roundup in Blonduos

Sheep heading into the sorting pens at the Blonduos Réttir.
I created a sense of movement by shooting at 1/25s and panning the lens at (approximately) the same speed as the sheep.
It's a bit of a hit and miss because it depends on the light, the speed of the sheep and the (up and down) stability of the lens as you pan.

Every year in late September there's a sheep roundup in Iceland called Réttir. Farmers and their families spread out across the mountain ranges, with the help of sheepdogs and Icelandic horses, to bring in their sheep.
They've been out grazing since May but, sheep being sheep, most have have strayed far and wide  from home turf - as well as possibly being mixed up with many other farmer's sheep.
Once the sheep that can be found are rounded up into a large field somewhere the rest of the community turn up and herd the lot into the sorting pens - you see these pens dotted about the fjords as you drive through Iceland.
For two days the lost sheep are sorted by ear tags into each of the farmer's pens, then loaded into a truck, trailer, van or ute for the ride back to the farm where they will spend the colder winter months under cover. It's a very hectic two days and I guess, as a farmer, a tense time as you find out how many you might have lost, or gained since the Spring.
At the two roundups we visited we spotted at least one official who was there to record all the lost or yet to be claimed sheep - animals that had either strayed far too far off the farm or that had perhaps had lost their tags. These are then entered into a log for farmers to claim when they have the time. 

At a Réttir near Akureyri, Northern Iceland.

This is a sheep dog's best day of the year
Once a sheep was identified the best course is to straddle its neck and use the horns as a 'steering wheel'.
You than have to shuffle the struggling sheep across the melee to the allocated temporary holding pen before loading them into a vehicle.

All the kids join in.
Some help to read the tags while the slightly older ones try their skills at sheep wrangling

This kid was really getting stuck into the whole hauling the sheep off to the pen bit but ended up on his backside a couple of times because the sheep wasn't having any of it!

A sheep roundup is also a day to celebrate, catch up with the neighbours and generally have a bit of fun.
The event has a very friendly and fun atmosphere.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Black and White Icebergs off Greenland

I heard the story about an early settler in Iceland who, wanting the place for himself, named the island 'Iceland' but told later adventurers that there was a better place to live 400kms away called 'Greenland'.

They must have been very disappointed when they got there...

Over-the-top effects thanks to jixiPix software

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Greenlandic Icebergs off Amassalik Island

Here are a few quickly edited shots of the icebergs off the coast of Amassalik Island. It was hard to judge the size of these massive blocks of ice because the boat wouldn't go too near because of safety issues – a section breaking off one of these would seriously damage the boat, or swamp it.  They were mostly the size of a large ocean liner. Four or five stories high and a couple of hundred feet long. Small by some standards I've read about, but nevertheless, very big to us!

Kulusuk to Talisaq on Ammassalik Island, East Greenland

The flight to East Greenland takes just less than two hours from Reykjavik in a twin-engined Dash 8.
Kulusuk airport is tiny – it was built by the American Air force back in the fifties and looked like it hadn’t changed much in the way of renovations since then – although, to be fair, the arrivals hall was being painted when we arrived. We had to wait 40 mins for the Greenland Air connection to Tasilaq to be ready – then a quick dash out onto the landing strip and into the chopper for the 15 minute flight across King Olaf Sound to Tasilaq. Nine passengers and a load of luggage.
It’s an impressive sight choppering across a massive fjord surrounded by high mountains dotted with ice and snow. In the winter the bay would be full of icebergs. Today it had only a few – although you could see far larger icebergs in the open sea a few kilometres off the coast.
The helicopter pulls right into the fjord and makes a lazy turn into Tasilaq airport, a tiny helipad to the south side of the town. With a population of 2100, this is the capital and largest settlement in East Greenland. It’s quite a sight.