Reykjavik: Startup Iceland event 2014

June 2

I was wide awake by 6am, too excited about my first “gig” in Iceland. Yesterday morning I had met a nice gentleman named Thubten Comerford at the laundromat who would be speaking at the Startup Iceland 2014 conference and was kind enough to arrange that I be allowed to photograph it. This trip is reaffirming the theory that being receptive to opportunities increases the chances of good things falling into your lap when you least expect it. The fact that he and I met at all is serendipitous; I had forgotten my wallet when trying to do laundry and had to walk all the way back to the flat, which made me an hour later than expected.

I slowly got dressed and cleaned up my car to pass the time until I had to leave the house at 8:20. I donned my jeans, hiking shoes and my one semi-professional-looking top I had thankfully packed. I checked and rechecked my equipment bag before walking towards the Harpa concert and event center near the harbor.

Iceland_20140602_Reykjavik_StartupIceland-13_WEBI arrived early and I waited by the front doors but didn’t see Thubten. I started to get antsy as I watched all the young professionals walk to the check-in point on the upper floor. Just before 9:00 I went ahead and followed the last stragglers up and asked at the check-in counter if Thubten had arrived yet and he had. Oops! I quickly ducked into the auditorium which was nearly full already and I eventually found him just as the event was starting. He gave me a big friendly hug and said “take lots and lots of photos! And start with this one,” as he pointed to the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who was sitting in the front row right next to us. I’ll admit it, that caught me off guard and blew my mind a little bit.

I asked Thubten if I was allowed to move around as I photographed and he said I had an all-access media pass today so to just go for it. Groovy! By the time I found a spot to unpack my bag and assemble my gear the event was underway.

I’m not sure how interested folks following a travel blog would be about the details of the Startup Iceland event, so I’ll try to keep it short. But I will just say this: I am so excited about what Iceland is doing to encourage and foster creativity, ingenuity and economic resilience. I was absolutely moved by the President’s speech about keeping the discussion open and honest about the direction of our advancements in technology. Technology is an amazing tool and we become hindered instead of empowered by it if we are wary and hesitant that someone is misusing the incredible amounts of data being transmitted daily. Here’s a quick video, I wish I’d have taken more:

The day went well, sans my inability to be calm and sane in a socializing and networking environment. During the lunch break I basically took a few photos of the food and serving line and then hid in the auditorium while everyone was out in the hall eating and talking. Iceland_20140602_Reykjavik_StartupIceland-217_WEBI finally convinced myself that I was being a damn child and that I needed to conquer my social anxiety – and besides, what’s the worst that could happen?? So I headed out to be with the other humans and saw Thubten talking to a very chic hipster gal with a punk rock haircut and big black glasses. I joined them and tried to overcome my nerves which should have been easy – the nice gal’s name was Ally and she was from Colorado Springs and had just moved to Iceland a few months ago. Awesome, we have Colorado in common! Instead of enjoying the conversation my brain completely short-circuited and I made an ass of myself by babbling, then stuttering, then mocking myself for stuttering, and completely derailing the conversation and making everyone uncomfortable. Welp, back into solitary confinement in the auditorium with you, ya goddamned nut job! 

I retreated. My confidence was pretty shaken but I was grateful I had my cameras in hand. They do tend to make me feel like I belong and give me a renewed sense of confidence. Some people have security-blankets, I have 22 pounds of glass and plastic strapped to my shoulders that I hide behind.

I was hiding in the back of the auditorium as lunch was ending when one of the other photographers came up to me and introduced himself as Roman. He was very nice and said was hired by Icelandic Air, one of the main sponsors of the event, to shoot the event for them. I met his lovely wife and learned she was from the UK and he from Croatia. He also told me about how he knows the man and wife team that built the amazing marine-themed children’s park by the harbor that I’ve photographed multiple times already. We traded cards and chatted a bit more until the conference was back in session.

Iceland_20140602_Reykjavik_StartupIceland-151_WEBThe rest of the event was wonderful, and Thubten did a great job on his talk. He’s from Portland, Oregon and drew many parallels between his beloved city and Reykjavik, and had words of encouragement about how to embrace your city’s uniqueness, and to also to be sure you bring your innovative ideas back home to grow your city’s economy instead of draining it of talent and passion by moving your startup elsewhere. This one seems important for Icelanders since it’d be so much easier to create a company in New York or London. Wise words.

I found it interesting how so many of the talks about entrepreneurship resonated so strongly with me. The statements were all things I had felt were important to live by when I quit my day job and dove headfirst into photography. Here are my favorite bits:

– From Sherwood, a capital advisor: Leverage your assets. It doesn’t matter how much or little you start with. As long as you fully utilize the assets you do you have, there’s a better chance others will notice and be encouraged to offer their time/money/expertise to see you succeed. Asset sharing will be one of the keys in rebuilding a stronger, better economy.

– From Jennifer, MakerBot President of People: Never think you can’t do something. Be scrappy. If a system is broken, leverage it to your advnatage(referring to the broken economy). Live by your motto, whatever you decide it to be so you never lose your way. i.e. the MakerBot Way  (another good motto for doing business is GyShiDo)

– From John, a journalist : If you’re taking on the challenge such as making hardware, software or art – which are all extremely challenging to begin with – you have to step up to the plate and make it happen – no one is going to hand you anything. You have to prove yourself tirelessly before people can start believing something will come of your passion, and then they will invest in you.

– From Liad, an incredible serial entrepreneur and lucky guy: luck is a matter of increasing your opportunities to get the outcome you want. Roll a dice once while hoping for a 6, and you get a 1/6 chance of getting a 6. Roll that dice 20 more times and your chances of getting at least one 6 just skyrocketed to nearly 100%.

What an unexpected and awesome experience!

Check out the full day’s gallery if you’re interested:

Mission Ring Road: Completed

May 26

I’ve officially finished exploring the Ring Road around Iceland! I’m back in Reykjavik after nearly 4 weeks of traveling and living out of my car. I’m exhausted and filled to the brim with all the things I’ve seen and learned this month… and I’m already daydreaming about having another adventure even though this one isn’t quite over yet (anyone want to split a little cottage on Prince Edward Island next summer?).

Now that I know I have less ground to cover in my final days in Iceland, due to stormy weather cutting my Westfjords portion of the trip short, I have a new sense of relaxation and peacefulness. I’m not feeling like I have to go, go, go if I just want to enjoy staying wherever I am. I guess even though seven weeks sounded like ample time here I’ve still managed to pack enough into each day that I’ve left myself completely exhausted. Having these extra days to hang out in the city makes me feel “off the hook” for the week.

Expectations about adventures don’t always pan out and the delays and detours the weather has caused during this trip have been good reminders of that.  I’ve been emailing back and forth with a gal at the helicopter tour company about taking a flight to shoot arial photos. When I first checked into this a month ago the woman basically told me that the prices are per-person when three people take the flight at once (doh! Why don’t they mention this in the pricing on the website?). Unless I luck out and a couple wants to take a flight during the week I’ve requested, June 1st through 7th, I would have to pay for all three seats if I go by myself. I asked them to keep me posted just in case a couple contacts them but I haven’t heard anything yet and we’re getting down to the wire. At this point I’m not going to get my hopes up. Even if I luck out and they find a couple for me to fly with the weather is being so drippy that it might not be worth it to go on a gray, rainy day anyhow…. sigh… I keep trying to think on the bright side about not getting to do this incredible flight I’ve been so looking forward to…. but the only positive outcome I can come up with is that I can repurpose the helicopter funds and put it all towards a second photo adventure this fall to maybe give my amazing Trevolta backers (who graciously financially backed a piece of this adventure) even more bang for their buck.

I noticed Sigrun had replied to last night’s message and happily said I could stay with them but that she didn’t want any payment. They have other surfers staying with them right now too and so we’ll all be there together. She’s so generous and social! I have learned an important social lesson from her openness and generosity and I’m very excited to pay it forward and host my own surfers when I get home. It’s such a unique experience.

My calendar reminded me my niece Harlow’s birthday party was that afternoon and so decided I should find a cafe so we could Skype and I could virtually attend. I drove to Sigrun’s house and found the key she’d left me, showered, then packed a day bag and walked into the city. I have so much love for Reykjavik. It’s so bright and colorful and friendly. I’m grateful I got to experience it for the first time with Sigrun showing me around – maybe that’s why I feel it’s so friendly?

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I meant to try a new cafe but I was drawn to Babalu the moment I saw the bright orange building. It is so welcoming there. When it came into view I started hankerin’ for a hot latte and remembered I’d wanted to try their veggie chili. I sat upstairs this time by a small window that overlooked the rooftop patio. The upstairs is somehow even cozier than the downstairs. I set up my little workstation and leisurely wrote and edited all afternoon.

A small group of people and a man in a stylish suit came up from the first floor and went out to the rooftop patio. I noticed then that the sun had peeked through the clouds and it had stopped raining for a while! A few minutes later a bride with flowers in her hair came up the stairs and the man in the suit came back in to retrieve her and they kissed tenderly. My heart melted. I forgot myself for a moment and blurted out “You look so beautiful!” and asked if they were about to get married. They smiled said they had just done so down the street! I congratulated them and they were wonderfully friendly.

When the bride and groom and their small group of companions sat down at a table on the patio I asked if I could take their photo. We exchanged websites – the groom told me they are doing the ring road next and will be blogging about it too. He said they were from Germany and they had wanted a small wedding so no one back home was even savvy to what they’re doing on their “vacation”. I love that!

In all the excitement I forgot to ask their names. I wish I didn’t get so nervous talking to new people – I somehow manage to forget the most obvious details of talking to people. Someday I will finally be so good at this socializing thing that I will look back at the old awkward me and be sooo embarrassed. 😉 Or so I hope.

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A bit later, when the upstairs of Babalu’s had suddenly become busy and I was quietly enjoying listening to four distinct languages being spoken around me, Jason called on Skype so I could join in on my niece’s 4th birthday party back home. I told Harlow “Happy birthday!” and she said “Happy birthday to you!” so I laughed and thanked her and we talked for a bit. She was feeling ornery and didn’t understand why I wasn’t coming to her party. I told her I am at her party and she gave a look of confusion, blew me a kiss and waved goodbye. I had to laugh because I had waited all afternoon to chat with her and she was done in 2 minutes flat.

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Another latte later (do you like how that’s become a time signature for me?) Sigrun checked in via Facebook and said she was home now. I asked what they were all up to tonight and she said that it was one of her couch surfer’s birthday so she had baked him a cake. So thoughtful and fun! I headed back as soon as I fixed a weird error on my camera. Thank goodness for online manuals.

Walking back to Sigrun’s in the usual icy wind I felt like I was glowing. I felt like this city has become another home for me and I felt like I could belong here. I know a big portion of that feeling is due to Sigrun and Andy’s welcoming introduction to the city. I love the colorful hip vibe, the friendly people, the quirky mom & pop shops that close whenever they feel like it (even in the middle of the day), the positive attitude towards all forms of art and music. It seems to be a thriving and happy city. When I came here I wanted to bring a piece of my beloved Loveland to share with Iceland, and now I’m determined to bring a bit of Reykjavik back to Loveland when I go home.


Back at Sigrun’s house we chatted about our future travel plans and what we’d each been up to the last 4 weeks. Sigrun told me that Joanna is heading back to New Zealand for good this week now that school’s done and it’s been a bittersweet time for them all. Joanna is such a sweetheart and they have become such good friends. It’s so sad losing someone you’ve gotten so close to like that. I guess it’s wonderful that we live in a world rich with technology and social media platforms so we never have to be too far away from our friends.

I helped make a sugar frosting and a make-shift pastry bag so we could write “happy birthday Keir” on the tasty looking cake. The cake was a Swedish recipe called Sticky Cake. It resembled what we’d call a brownie in the States and was as delicious as it looked!

Joanna and her two couch surfers from Greece came over around the time Andy got home from work. When Sigrun’s couch surfers arrived we all sang happy birthday to Keir and got to know one another. Keir and Emily are a recently wed (as in, last week!) couple from the UK and they’ve just spent three years teaching English in Korea and now they’re off to the States to work in the WWOOF program for a few months. WWOOF is an organic farming and teaching organization working towards spreading knowledge and practices of organic and sustainable food production. I’m so excited now that I know what this organization is! They will receive room and board in exchange for working on the farm while learning how to do amazing things like keeping bees, grafting trees, and organic farming. They leave Iceland in two days to go visit friends in DC and then they’ll head for Seattle for a month to work on a WWOOF farm, and followed by another farm-stay location after that somewhere else in the US. And then they’ll go to Australia and New Zealand (if I understood right) for another stint with the organization. What an adventure! They seem so easy going and able to take life as it comes. That seems to simply be the way of people interested in traveling the world; they’re calm, open to opportunities and to taking exciting leaps into the unknown, and the all seem incredibly friendly.

Emily, the lovely couch surfers from Greece (I apologize I can’t remember nor pronounce their names!), Joanna, yours truly, Sigrun and Andy. Photo courtesy of Keir Thomas

We all talked late into the evening before calling it quits around 11:30 since it was a week night. It felt so good to be around people again after being on the road alone for weeks. I bid everyone good night and headed out to my cozy car. The rain had stopped and it seemed warmer than it’s been since I arrived on the island. Jason and I tried a new free phone app he found called Viber (So far it’s better than Skype with less call drops) until I nearly fell asleep on him.

We said goodnight and the last thing I remember thinking before I closed my eyes was how this incredible journey of mine is quickly coming to an end. I looked back on all the things I’ve seen and gone through and still can’t believe I’m the one who had the pleasure of living it. It’s all been so out of character for me! I slept next to geysers and volcanoes, hiked waterfalls, I defied my social anxiety and met wonderful people from all over the world, explored an incredible and volatile island without any solid plan other than seeing as much as I can before making it back to Reykjavik no later than June 5th, all while living out of a car… and the most shocking one of all: I have managed to keep up with the blog the entire time! 😉

I still have a couple more weeks of memory-making and I plan to enjoy the heck out of it.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again; I am one seriously Lucky Brake.



49 Days

49 days.

Depending on the circumstance one could consider that length of time to be not enough or an ungodly long sentence.

49 days in prison. 49 days left to live. 49 days of physical rehabilitation, or living without the person you love.

For me it will be 49 days to explore Iceland, one of the most spectacular locations on the face of this Earth. I will spend 49 nights sleeping in the cargo area of a Dacia Duster (think European Subaru Forrester) in 35-40° weather; in icy rain, sand storms and 21 hours of daylight per day. I will spend 49 days getting to know the people, digging up local secret treasures and soaking up the rich history of this Viking paradise. 49 days to experience the magic of this enchanting place and then bottle it all up into my memory card.

49 days of complete freedom. Just me and the open road with no itinerary beyond my one self imposed mandate to bring home a piece of Iceland’s soul in my images. 49 days to center myself, to grow, to be more creative and adventurous, to embrace my fear of taking big leaps into the unknown, to live life in a big way.

14 days.

Today I am 14 days from my flight out of America and into the wild. 14 days until the beginning of a life altering experience. 14 days from finding out if I have the guts to run head-on laughing into this adventure or if I’m going to need a week or two of homesickness before I grow accustomed to my new living quarters. 14 days left to enjoy the company of my supportive husband before we part for the longest time away from each other in 14 years of being attached at the hip. 14 days left to charge my soul-batteries with the supportive and amazing people who have taught me to take life by the horns and follow my passions. (Interesting, today is 4-14-14, I have only now realized. Ha.)

I am scared beyond words. I am brimming with gratitude for those who have encouraged and supported this journey. I am mourning, because the person I am today may hardly recognize the person I will be when I return home. I am radiating excitement and pride, and I am boiling with determination and focus. I am exhausted. I am happy.

Let the 14 day count-down begin, shall we?

Right now all I have is these numbers swimming in my mind, but soon I will have tales to share. I would love if you’d follow along in my journey. I may not have internet access as often as I would like but I will post updates when possible. Click Follow on the left hand side to be informed about new posts.

Cheers and high-fives-


This image is one of my personal all-time favorites. I took it only a few months before I knew photography was about to take me on a crazy journey. Seemed apt for the occasion here.

I’ve decided it’s time for a website facelift.

Maybe it’s because my birthday is sneaking up on me and I’m thinking about how I, too, may soon wish for a facelift. Or maybe it’s because I’m feeling a paradigm shift in my photography goals (which may also have a little something to do with getting another  year older).

…either way, you’ll soon see a fresh new face of Lucky Brake Ltd. and I appreciate your understanding while I tweak and chisel and shuffle stuff around.

– This image is one of my personal favorites. I took it a month before I knew I was ready to make the leap into full time photography and it just seems apt as a “starting something new” placeholder. 

Adverts Are In!

I have had so much fun working with the posse at Mueller & Associates as well as the creative powerhouses behind Full Circle Creative.  The good people of Loveland never cease to amaze me; this time because I’ve learned just what a plethora of incredibly talented people we have in the ‘hood!

As I’ve said in previous posts, the Muellers launched this new advert campaign to reboot their brand as well as showcase some of their big-name Northern Colorado clients, and I had the honor of being their project photographer. I’d love to hear your feedback on their new look! check it out here: or below are some snapshots of both the website and magazine adverts:

Seth Riley turns 30?!?

How can this be? My big brother Seth turned 30 back in November (yes, I’m that behind with my blogging) …and if he’s that old already that means this year I will be turning…. oh, dear.

Seth is a special man. He has Down Syndrome and is the most wonderful brother a sassy little firecracker of a girl could ask for. He has always been a spunky guy who kept up with me pretty well but a few years back he unfortunately had a rough stay in a bad group home which rendered him practically mute, among other unfortunate regressions, so now he’s living back home with my mom and our family has been working hard to bring our old Seth back. He used to love burritos, was a jokester, an artist, an animal-lover, and a smarty-pants. He’s slowly coming back out of his silent shell again, and we’re hoping for even more progress by his 31st birthday. Here are a few snapshots from his party:

Where has the time gone?

Well shoot, how’s that for an extended intermission between blog posts, eh?

The last few months have flown by; filled to the brim with several exciting and challenging gigs, the purchase of a new house, some updates to said new house (read, LOTS of renovation…we still haven’t been able to move in yet), the unfortunate loss of a family member, and an otherwise happy and bustling holiday season.

Now that things are starting to get back to normal in the new year – and now that I’m getting slightly better at balancing life, career, and home renovations – I’m making a promise to myself to keep the blog updated more frequently with all the great projects I’ve been working on. After all, they are all quite share-worthy!

So, a promise is a promise and I plan to blog my little heart out… but not today  😉  because this is the 13th anniversary of the day I accepted the heart of the man I will grow old and wrinkly and adorably cantankerous with. We are only two years short of being able to say I’ve spent half my life in his unconditionally loving arms and it feels like a mighty beautiful milestone to be celebrating.

I sincerely hope the new year is treating you well and is as filled with as much hope and promise for you as I believe it is for me.



Jason and me wearing our renovation game faces.  We're affectionately calling our tiny new 1890 brick cottage "Brake Manor". She'll be simply gorgeous once she's had her face lift.

Jason and me wearing our renovation game-faces. We’re affectionately calling our tiny new 1890 cottage “Brake Manor”. She’ll be simply gorgeous once she’s had a proper face lift.


Glass makes all the difference.

Mike’s Camera from Boulder offered free rentals of their finest pieces of glass at the Denver Zoo today. Now that I know this event exists -and happens biannually!- I’ll be sure to let you all know when they hold the next one. There is no way I’m missing this opportunity ever again.

After wading through the throngs of photography fanatics I was able to get my hands on a few lenses including the 28-300mm 3.5/5.6L IS USM, 70-300mm 4/5.6L IS USM, 800mm 5.6L IS USM, and the 400mm 2.8L IS USM, as well as the 5D Mark II body.

Now, I was unfortunately only allowed about 45 minutes with the first two lenses and only 5 minutes with the big boys but I thought I’d share a few images I was able to get while I had these precious chunks of glass in my possession.

I am totally blown away with the performance of each lens. Each one had a personality of it’s own and had something kick-ass that the other lenses couldn’t match.  Because of today’s experience, I’ve decided it’s time to make my first L series purchase and I’ll be adopting the revered 70-300 2.8L  IS USM. I am super excited to see what a difference an L lens will make on my images.

Cheers! Enjoy the remainder of the weekend!


Restaurant: Next Door

The Rialto Bridge grand opening is near, and this week a companion restaurant has opened their doors. Owned by Jim & Jennie Edwards, the Next Door restaurant is like no other. When you step inside you’re met with amazing metal and hardwood decor created by local artist Matt Kaufman. The atmosphere is low-lit and gorgeous and the front of the restaurant has massive glass windows to let in light by day and the street-scene by night.

I very much enjoyed being a part of Next Door’s VIP opening Wednesday night, and was lucky enough to get to taste a few of the different tapas they have to offer. My fave is, so far, the bacon wrapped dates. You will have to try them!

Click the image below to check out the Next Door gallery.


Strike a Pose

On February 25th Suede held it’s first runway fashion show and it was a hit! I wasn’t the official photographer for the evening but Cass and Roland were kind enough to allow me to tag along and shoot it anyway.

The whole evening was fierce and fantastic. There were beautiful models, body-painted ladies, great music by DJ Chris Diablo and more people attending than I thought Suede could handle. I’m grateful to have been able to try my hand at runway photography. I learned a few things from the hands-on experience, and got some great advice from a fellow photographer that I will tuck away in my bag ‘o tricks.

Click the below image to view the gallery.