Walking from Arnarstapi to Hellnar.

Kodak Portra 400 // Hasselblad 500CM

On my first full day on Snæfellsnes, I decided to walk across the cliff-top lava field from Arnarstapi to Hellnar, two tiny fishing villages on the south coast.  Meandering over moss-covered lava, the walk was stunning, with waves crashing below me on the left and formations rising up on the right.  Stopping only to duck into a cave to escape the wind and change rolls of film, I arrived at a gorgeous stacked arch on the beach in Hellnar just as snow started softly falling.  I found it difficult to distinguish whether I'd accidentally stumbled into a beautifully hushed scene or whether it began to take shape once I got there.  As I stared upward, I could feel all of the past that I had lived and not lived rush forward and then halt at the exact place where this moment started, not touching it.  Whatever I would do afterward ambled forward until it was hidden behind some lava spire, having everything and nothing to do with this electric moment of complete stillness and silence.

I was lucky enough to have a few of these moments in Iceland.  Having felt one there standing on that rocky beach, I began to search for them and create them whenever and wherever I could.

The weather started to pick up as I left, and I rushed along the increasingly stormy cliffside back toward Arnarstapi.  Entering the town, I stopped to photograph the similar shapes of the volcano Stapafell and the stacked stone monument that stands as a tribute to a half-man, half-troll, Bárður.  After avenging the disappearance of his daughter, who was sent floating on an iceberg across the ocean, Bárður was said to have disappeared into the Snæfellsjökull glacier.  The monument was built by Ragnar Kjartansson, the grandfather of one of my all-time favorite artists of the same name.

Though it continued to get stormier, I decided to hike a few kilometers up Stapafell to search for Sönghellir, or the cave of songs.  A short ways up, I was met with bracing cold and a wind so strong that I had to lean into it to keep from stumbling backward down the mountainside.  This continued as I made my way up the mountain, guided only by a paper map and the rare small sign, already covered in snow.  Finally, following footprints and some intuition, I found it, the place that had been used by Bárður for shamanic rituals as he was guided by the whispers that could be heard within the cave.  I hid from the storm in the cave for quite some time, searching through all of the symbols and markings on the walls, finding dates from as early as the 1600's.  Eventually I left, only to beat darkness down the mountain.