I’ve told this story before, but it’s totally relevant!
I’m Dave Williams and I’m here every week for #TravelTuesday (because I’m a travel photographer… and I know it’s Friday, but Adobe decided to release some awesome updates on Tuesday so I was relegated, but just imagine, ok?) and last year in Florida I was shooting two new KelbyOne classes in the studios when, having called it a wrap, I had a day to myself to explore. This is what happened on that day: –
Yep, I added a little more ink to myself and got a new tattoo from the best shop in town! (It was definitely the best place in Tampa – they can’t lie on a sign, can they!)
Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this….
So, that unpronounceable mumbo-jumbo is actually Icelandic and it is the words ‘Thetta Reddast” flanked by two Icelandic runes, one for safe travels and the other for love. The strange D/P looking character is pronounced ‘th’ as in Thor (Þórr) the Norse God. The term is Icelandic and despite having no discernible translation, it certainly has a translatable meaning. Here’s how I know…
In the winter of 2016 – specifically October 29th – I was in Iceland on an adventure and decided I was going to explore the cave waterfall at Gljufrafoss, which was an incredible experience albeit not the smartest decision I ever made. Take a look at this: –
You can see the waterfall in the cave through that short canyon behind the incredibly wet photographer named Dave, somewhat blurred from the water inside my iPhone camera! It was very cold and I was reminded why I am smart in some senses but not in others as I had a complete change of clothing in the car, and a towel. I got some awesome shots inside the cave of the water thundering down the rock cascade, crashing into a small pool at its base before flowing out towards the sub-Arctic Icelandic countryside, concealed in a frozen mist. The part of me that wasn’t being smart was the bit responsible for my Nikon D810. I realise that my job is to educate and inspire, and I promise you can trust me! Anyway, having dried myself off and believing I’d dried my camera off I began on the 351 mile (565km) drive to the Westfjords where I had an appointment to shoot the resident foxes of the Arctic Fox Centre, Ingi and Móri. I wasn’t far into the journey when I noticed the camera was behaving a bit strangely. The first thing that aroused my suspicions is when the camera took a photo by itself with no intervention from myself… I thought that was a bit strange and I cast my mind back. The camera is ‘weather sealed’ and although it was wet when I emerged from the frozen canyon I thought I’d done a pretty good job of drying it off with my microfibre cloth. Apparently not. The camera occasionally fired off a shot by itself so I decided to take further steps to dry it out, including opening the ports and keeping it warm, and by using a bag full of dry rice.
That evening, having arrived in the Westfjords, I took this photo: –
I was in the Westfjords, far away from civilisation in an area covering 8,598 square miles but containing only 7,115 people, one third of whom are in one small town named ísafjörður. This mountain range was in the middle of the Westfjords and the lack of any notable population and no moon meant there was a pitch dark night sky and the faintest of Aurorae were visible. I set my camera on a tripod and had it firing off shot after shot, walking away from it to stare up at natures finest light show. When I stepped back toward my camera I turned the switch to ‘off’ but the camera continued taking shots, not turning off. I removed it from the tripod and took out the battery, affording myself a short term solution to what would turn out to be a long term problem. I made my way to ísafjörður for the night, leaving the camera in the bag of dry rice beside the warm radiator in stark contrast to the sub-zero winter temperatures that it transpired were to cause the cameras ultimate demise.
The following morning I headed to Súðavík with what was now just a very expensive paper-weight bearing the ‘Nikon’ emblem, not working at all. I arrived at the Arctic Fox Centre and met Midge. This is Midge: –
Midge gave me the warmest greeting as he cleared the snow from the parking area to make space for me, and I excitedly and enthusiastically introduced myself, eager to meet the foxes, before explaining my conundrum. I was midway through telling Midge that I wouldn’t be able to take any photos because my camera had broken, and the first thing he did was invite me inside for a coffee and to make a plan.
Armed with caffeine and ready to take on the world, that’s exactly what I did. Being a Nikon Pro I made a call to their offices first, talking them through what had happened, and they offered to send me a camera. The excitement was short lived however, when I found out that the camera they planned to send me was in Sweden as there was no residual stock in Iceland suitable for me, and that camera in Sweden would take a couple of days to arrive on a flight from Stockholm to Keflavik, then a truck to Reykjavik, then another flight from Reykjavik to ísafjörður. I didn’t have a couple of days – in a couple of days I was leaving Iceland and heading home. I had to turn down Nikon’s offer and make another plan. That’s when Midge said to me, “don’t worry, in Iceland we say ‘Thetta Reddast.'”
I had no clue what he was talking about but the world was closing in on me so I carried on trying to make a plan, calling the local tourism office to see if they knew of a photographer nearby who would be able to help out. There was only one (remember I said there’s basically nobody living there) and she was busy. I was stumped. Midge said, whilst making me a second coffee, “I have a camera, it’s probably not as good as yours but why don’t you borrow it until you go home.” I couldn’t believe it. I graciously accepted and, for the rest of my adventure, shooting the foxes and a helicopter flight among other things, I had a camera again. Midge simply asked that when I get back to Reykjavik I send it back to him on a flight to ísafjörður, which ended up costing me around £40 to send the box containing his camera on the next flight. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to shoot the aerial views of Iceland offered by Nordurflug.
Thetta Reddast. It means, ‘everything is going to work out fine.’ It’s a beautiful Icelandic saying and it turned out everything did work out fine. Through the generosity of a stranger come friend I was able to continue, despite my own stupidity. Thing happen to us – hurdles pop up and road blocks appear – and we get through them, past them, over them, around them, and we work out the best of bad situations. Creatively I’ve been in a place lately that hasn’t been productive, but I’m pushing past it…
It’ll be fine