It’s All Relative: Gulfoss

May 6:

I awoke just before 9 and had some breakfast of parmesan cheese slices, dried dates and a yogurt-covered rice cake. I noticed I felt extremely dehydrated (I’ve been skimping on the water like an idiot because I don’t know where my next toilet visit will be) so I chugged 20 oz. of water too. I waited until the massive tourist cafe next door opened up at 10 and found a power outlet to charge up all my gear and to write. No wifi, unfortunately, but it’s been fun to watch the tourist busses roll in, unload, wait for one single spewing of the Strokkur geyser, then load back up, and off they go.

I’m feeling fairly sunburnt and worn out so I planned to only visit Gulfoss, the largest volume waterfall in all of Iceland, and then go find a place to camp for a day or two to take a break.

Heading North and arriving at Gulfoss you can’t see much of anything. In a great, rolling, brown tundra encircled by purple snow-capped mountains in the distance it seems as if there isn’t a reason for the tourist draw… until you see it. A massive, two-step gushing monster that rips the tundra in half and deafens the ears. My first words when I walked to the edge and looked over were of an expletive nature, unnecessary to repeat here.


See the tiny people in the upper right corner? Even that scale doesn’t do this monster justice. It’s HUGE.

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I walked all the paths and read all the signs and enjoyed the roaring power. I decided to sing at full volume when the waterfall seemed the loudest and I could hardly hear myself. Haha, I wonder if others could?

I thought the wind I’ve experienced so far in Iceland has been bad… this wind was colder and more intense than anything so far. I used my scarf to tie my hat on my head because I thought it’d be a sad way to part for my little green hat to drown and have such an intense, cold end. I also nearly lost my credit card in the wind when it fell out of my pocket *gulp!*. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest.

I went to take a selfie of me and the waterfall when a pair of, sigh, American tourists walked right into the frame from behind me. I know they saw me, they must be of the HoneyBadger breed. I’ve posted that photo on the Lucky Brake Ltd Facebook page if you want to see the result.

I’ve definitely noticed an influx of other tourists here at Gulfoss compared to any other sites, maybe we’re entering tourist season?

Growing hungry around 3:30 I stopped back at the car to grab some dried figs and water. I also made a stop in the Gulfoss gift shop hoping I could fill my water bottles somewhere. No cheaply made junk in this gift shop, but nothing affordable either (haha!). I asked if they had wireless internet and they said they did for 500ISK for 3 hours ($4.50USD). Oh hell yes, whatever, I’ll pay that if I can have some wifi! I’m gluttonous for it today. I’ve surprised myself at how much I’m loving the blogging portion of the adventure. It’s helping me sort out my thoughts, keep in contact with all the wonderful folks waiting for my next move back at home, and is a good way to keep a diary as I go so that no details are lost through the cracks of my memory.

After I get the last 4 posts queued up here I suppose I’ll head to find a good place to camp. I may even ask if I can just camp here in the parking lot for the night and move on tomorrow. Folks have been really nice about that so far but this place is a bit more intensely touristy so maybe they won’t allow it.

A thought to leave you with until my next wifi access:  now that I’ve been made to feel insignificant and powerless by sleeping volcanos, boiling hot geysers, and massive waterfalls with unrelenting power I have the notion that for the rest of my life I will compare my problems to the above three…

Dammit! I screwed up that project and now I bet my client is angry with me.  

Is a volcano raining ash or eating your city? No. 

Is a boiling hot geyser shooting up through your house? No. 

Are you being washed down a glacial waterfall with no hope? Sigh, no.

Then shut the hell up and realize how beautiful life is, and that the Earth could, literally, open up and swallow your city at any moment. You’re riiiight…

Hugs and love from the Golden Circle!


Fontana, Geysir & His Lesser Known Brothers

May 5:

Sleeping in Thingvellir National Park was lovely and quiet. I now think I understand what is meant when people say Icelanders believe in trolls, giants and fairies. Everywhere you turn there is a magical touch of life in an otherwise desolate section of land, or a volcanic sleeping giant who, while he may currently be laying dormant, could awake at any moment. While they sleep, it’s almost comforting to be near them, as if they are somehow protecting you; as if the other less powerful elements don’t dare to disturb a sleeping giant. My campsite for this night was surrounded by giants on all sides, protecting me from the whipping, icy wind.

I awoke after sleeping nearly 13 hours (I must have been exhausted!) and the car was already heating up so my veil of foggy windows was already gone. After brushing my teeth and trying to fix my wild and crazy bed head in the campsite restrooms I headed East to Laugarvatn to try my first dip in the hot springs at Fontana.

Fontana is a new, lovely building that was recently upgraded to entice tourists and it houses several hot baths and pools using natural, unfiltered water from the hot springs underneath. The entry fee is $25USD which seems awfully steep for 3 small outdoor pools of different temperature, a hot bath and a sauna. It was quite enjoyable, none the less, and incase you ever find yourself in Laugarvatn the guidebook says there is a community pool next door that has similar facilities and none of the glam for a fraction of the cost.

You have to shower before you enter the pools at Fontana, and you have to do so in the nude. While I was thrilled to have a hot shower I have never been the type to ever be naked in public so this was a little daunting to me. I took a deep breath and stripped down right before several other older women came into the dressing room. Lo and behold, being naked is so not a big deal. I’ve been missing out my whole life! The older women were friendly and talked to me as they stripped down, boobies a’flying, and it reminded me again just how prude we Americans in general can be. I had been feeling so guarded over something so trivial…. sigh. Live and learn… though I’m still not sure I could handle a co-ed naked pool experience yet. Baby steps for this gal. Baby steps.

I enjoyed the hot springs. I dipped in and out of all the pools but didn’t dare try the sauna or steam rooms. The thick curls of sulfur steam was pouring out between the seams of the closed doors and I just knew I couldn’t handle the heat nor the eggy fragrance in that intensity. The algae that was growing in the natural, unfiltered hot bath was soft and silky on my toes as I waded in. The weather felt about 45 degrees Fahrenheit and the water was 38-40 degrees Celsius (quick, do the math!), and it was such a soothing difference. The baths overlook the natural hot springs lake and I listened to the icy wind howling through the rocks and over the water as I cozily ran my hands along the fuzzy algae-covered rocks I was seated on in the water. It was a bit surreal. I closed my eyes and imagined I looked a bit like those hot-springs baboons in, where are they? China? Red faced and simmering in the hot pool while the steam rolls off the surface.

After almost 2 hours of soaking and chatting with other travelers and hearing their tales I realized I hadn’t worn any sunscreen and needed to get out if I didn’t want to look like a lobster for the remainder of the trip. I’m not too burned, thanks to the low altitude here, but the fighting-Irish in me has definitely launched the freckle brigade. I haven’t seen this many freckles on myself since I was young and forgetful with the sunscreen.

After drying and dressing I realized I was in dire need of finding some power and wifi so I could continue blogging but didn’t see any in the cafe area. I decided to try my hand at pretending I was more important than I am and asked the nice man at the counter if I could use a power outlet so I could finish blogging about his fine establishment. As if I’d said a magic word, he jumped up and uncovered an in-floor outlet for me. Well, how about that? Ask and you shall receive.

There was no wifi available but I was able to charge my phone and laptop and finish writing yesterday’s post in a text document. I’m just now realizing in my unfounded dread about having to be naked in front of others I had completely forgotten to take any photos of the place, though here is the Fontana website so you can see what it looks like (and so I keep my word to the lovely man who gave me a power outlet).

After Fontana I continued North to Geysir. Not to be a stinker to the Golden Circle, but so far I understand why the guidebook may have skipped it. The sites are very neat but there is slightly limited natural beauty along the route so I drove for 35 minutes to see a swimming pool then drove 30 minutes to see a hole in the ground that spewed steam every 10 minutes. The big crater and the largest waterfall are still to come, so maybe I should reserve my judgement until then.

When I arrived at Geysir I went into the hotel across the street to ask about camping and there was an irate, loud, demanding trio of, you guessed it, American tourists. The hotel had overbooked and had secured a room down the road 20 minutes away for the family, but that wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted money back and a free dinner when they arrived at the new hotel. They demanded to know whose fault it was so they knew who owed them retribution.

I rolled my eyes and shuffled and ahemed in hopes they would realize they were being jerkfaces. When the mother looked back at me I shook my head softly in disappointment and then nodded it towards the door. Her tune immediately changed and she said “oh well, I’m just glad we have a place to sleep. Let’s go honey.” and off they went. It’s kind of funny how much braver I am when I’m on my own in a foreign place. It’s as if I can create a whole new personality. Lanna 2.0 calmly stands up against unnecessary aggressiveness.

The man at the counter looked relieved and as I walked forward I put my hand up and said “On behalf of all Americans (though I have no such authority to say this) I would like to apologize for their aggressive and shitty behavior.” The man blushed and shook his head and laughed. I then asked my camping question and he was kind enough to tell me the campsite was unfortunately closed but I could park in the hotel parking lot and use the hotel restroom if need be while I’m here. He gave me the closing and opening hours of the lobby and wished me good night.

I chose to park next to the campsite which is only meters away from the Geysir site on the West side of the road. I could actually hear it going off from the car. It sounded like a whale exhaling or a giant sneezing. I am very much enjoying getting to spend my nights dreaming next to such incredible places. I actually wouldn’t choose to stay in a hostel right now if I was offered one. ….well, maybe I would if it had wifi 😉

I walked over to the steaming holes in the ground and read the informational sign. I hadn’t actually known that Geysir hasn’t gone off in a long time due to tourists throwing rocks inside of it trying to make it go off in the 1950’s. Strokkur is the only reliably active geyser you will see right now. Geysir tends to still go off for a while after larger earthquakes, presumably because some debris in the tube get knocked loose.


All the guidebooks say DON'T bring an umbrella, it will get turned inside-out immediately. I laughed aloud when I saw this rubbish bin filled with torn umbrellas :)

In all the guidebooks they say DON’T bring an umbrella, it will get turned inside-out immediately. I laughed aloud when I saw this rubbish bin filled with torn umbrellas 🙂

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After wandering around in the misty rain and dark gray skies I took a few unfruitful photos and headed back to the car to get some rest. As I unloaded my backpack into the car a KuKu camper with 3 tourists rolled up next to me and we both waved to each other in solidarity. It was nice to have another soul in the parking lot with me. I decided to use the last of my phone battery to listen to my Game of Thrones audiobook for an hour before bed. It seemed fitting. I can so easily imagine Castle Stark being situated right on top of one of the geothermal springs here in SouthWestern Iceland.

Once my phone battery ran out then the thudding of the heavy rain on the roof of my Dacia Duster and the snoring of the Strokkur geyser nearby lulled me off to sleep.

Last Day In Reykjavik

May 3rd:

(On the evening of May 2nd) I had finally made the call to hit the road by Sunday the 4th. I told Sigrun and she offered to let me come back and stay any time if I find myself in Reykjavik again in the next 6 weeks. I also decided to attempt sleeping in the car while still at their house so that I could come inside if I got too cold.

Yeah… I was immediately too cold. But in my typical stubborn nature I forced myself to stick it out so that I could truly experience it. I’ve never in my life had to sleep in that severe of cold and I felt like it was something I needed to do, why shouldn’t I experience it? I figured it’d be good for the soul.

I piled my coat, my hoodies and my clothes bag on top of me trying to stay warm. I turned on an audio book and tried to distract myself from how hard I was shivering. Every time I’d wake up hoping it was finally morning, I’d have only slept for 30-40 minutes. At one point I opened my eyes for a split second to check my phone and I thought it said 9:39. Woohoo! I thought. Mission accomplished! Now can get up and get moving soon! Because, you see, stores don’t open until 11am and my plan was to stick it out until it was time to run some errands. But, alas, I had looked at the clock upside down in my grogginess and it was only 6:36. Curses.

Several chapters into my Bossy Pants, by Tina Fey audio book it was finally time to get up. I got dressed, ducked inside the house to use the toilet and try to fix my disheveled hair (hooray for my new hat!), then headed down to the flea market on the harbor to see if I couldn’t find an affordable supplemental blanket or a camping cook-stove. I walked as fast as my legs could carry me to warm up and felt happy and toasty within 15 minutes.

No luck at the flea market, unfortunately, but I saw lots of neat trinkets, fresh foods and wool products. It was a neat place and not surprisingly it was nearly no different from flea markets back home. I found some badass aviator goggles at a surplus military booth that I was tempted to get just for fun 😉

Next, I hit up the tourist hut near city center to pick up some postcards and stamps, then I found a camping store to get a little butane stove so I could make soups and hot drinks while camping to keep my spirits up. I had priced them out at home and assumed I’d be able to buy one in Reykjavik for nearly the same amount… I was dead wrong. The stove ended up costing twice as much, but I had to remind myself that I couldn’t have known, and it’s still cheaper than staying in a hostel. Plus, now I have a cool little stove to take home for camping in the Rocky Mountains too!

Now that all my errands were finished I excitedly went over to Cafe Babalu, my favorite of all the cafes I’ve checked out yet, for a hot drink and something filling to eat.  Being at Babalu’s feels like being at a quirky, loving grandmother’s house who wears coral red lipstick, plays American classic boogie-woogie and dances while she bakes cookies. Not sure why it’s such a distinct feeling.


I had made good progress on blogging and photo editing when Andy joined me for lunch and then he headed off for whatever he had planned for the day.

Just as Andy left, as I was thinking maybe I’d pack up and run to IKEA for a blanket and then come back here for another round of coffee, the barista came out into the seating area and said to the room “I’ve made a mistake and made a latte instead of an Americano. Would anyone like a free latte?”.  In my head, I was screaming like Braveheart and climbing over the bodies of fellow tourists to get to that latte first, but instead I politely raised my hand and said “Um, if no one else wants it, I will.” Now imagine Braveheart, covered in battle wounds, sipping his latte with a dainty pinky up – because that’s how I felt.

With my new hot latte I had more time to work and talk to Jason for a good hour on Skype. Oh my goodness! We had only been able to talk for a few minutes at a time all week (and during most of that I had been a bit weepy and homesick so no quality conversation had taken place) so the chance to have an extended chat where we both laughed and told stories made me so happy!

I was mentally recharged from hearing from my sweet hubby so I decided to try my hand at finding IKEA. When I stopped by Sigrun’s to tell her where I was headed and to see if she wanted me to pick anything up for that evening’s party, the house was filled with the smell of chocolate chip cookies and she and Andy were cuddled on the couch watching a show on their iPad. It was such lovely domestic scene, it warmed my heart.

It was pouring rain the entire 35 minute trip to IKEA and as I pulled in to the parking lot I realized just how big this place is. Intimidated, but not disheartened, I ran through the rain and confidently entered the store – through the wrong door. They frustratedly ushered me to the other side of the checkouts to get where I needed to be. Oops, so much for confidence, haha! I weaved my way through the bowels of the mammoth and couldn’t decide if I loved the place or hated it. I don’t like crowds, nor big box stores, but the place was so organized and efficient and they had some charming items for a lower price than expected. (Friends at home: yes, you can expect to partake in an IKEA road trip when I return!)

I eventually found the blanket I was looking for. I decided to get the warmest down comforter they had in stock just to save myself from another night of misery – and I figured, again, that buying this was still much more affordable than staying in a hostel and I got to take it home. I reasoned that since the sleeping bag was not warm enough to be useful in Colorado that I would leave it here with Sigrun if she wanted it so they could offer it to their next couch surfers! Win-win.

I arrived back at Sigrun’s in time to squeeze in a shower. I was getting extremely nervous about hitting the road tomorrow and decided to skip the party so I could do some planning. Sigrun and Andy were gracious about me ducking out of the party, and Sigrun and I ran back down to where I had hung the piece of street art because during my morning trip to the harbor I noticed the corner had come loose in the wind and rain already. I made a thicker adhesive and hoped a good second coat would help it last longer.


We returned just before the party was supposed to start and pretty soon Joanna arrived, and then more lovely people arrived, and before I knew it, it was a party and I had forgotten to be nervous about tomorrow and decided to stay. Everyone was so jolly and friendly. Joanna and Stu, the lovely couple we had gone to the protests with, Sigrun’s Viking-esque cousin and his hilarious girlfriend, a gorgeous couple from Denver and Boston and their brilliant friend from Poland who is volunteering in Iceland right now, two of Sigrun’s warm and wonderful Icelandic friends, one of whom works in the largest fishery in Iceland… though now I’m having trouble remembering the name of it, and another of her Swedish friends who is a gymnast and children’s coach.  I drank “shitty Viking beer” as Andy called it, which made me laugh! It tasted just like shitty American beer and it gets you just as drunk. We laughed and talked late into the night (late for me, but not for them!). They all have a wonderful sense of humor and were completely entertaining. We talked about global politics, differences between our countries, discussed economics, human rights… it was wonderful. No small talk, all substantial topics and even though not everyone agreed on opinions there was no heated discussion. I learned more about the US native american history and current events than I’ve probably learned in my entire life. A humbling reminder how small and shielding our own little pockets of the world can be and how important it is to remember we’re all tiny ants trying to survive together on this magmatic, volatile rock hurtling through space.  We forget this when we don’t venture out and connect with people of different circumstances.

Finally, when the group decided to continue the night at a dance club, this old fuddy-duddy went to bed around 12:45am in the car with my new IKEA comforter. It had been a truly beautiful day, and I fell asleep smiling.

**SIDE NOTE for any of you who are religiously following this adventure: Now that I’m out of the city the equipment recharging spots and wireless internet availability are coming far and fewer between so I will continue to write daily but may not post anything for several days. And you may get several posts thrown at you at once. There will also probably be more iPhone snapshots instead of good images included in the blog because my editing software eats through my computer’s battery faster than anything. But you can of course look forward to seeing the good images either once I find a good place to work for a few days or after I return home. I will try to post updates on my personal or my Lucky Brake Ltd. Facebook page any time I get a 3G signal on my phone, so go ahead and follow Lucky Brake Ltd. and/or Alanna Brake for those updates if you haven’t already.




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. 

Loveland Weekend Binge Film Fest

While we’re talking about videography and films there’s a fun fledgeling film fest that has been launched in Loveland called the Weekend Binge Film Fest. Mass FX Media, a Loveland film company, has created this 48-hour fest for those who want to keep their already rockin’ skills up to par, as well as those who have little to no experience but are interested in film. You can join as an individual or as an entire film crew team – everyone of all ages and fortes from prop-masters to actors, directors to make-up artists are encouraged to join in for the fun.

Check out the very first short created in June’s Weekend Binge Film Fest, where yours truly even joined in and tried her hand at acting… I guess it’s a good thing I have photography to fall back on 😉  If you or anyone you know would be interested in participating in the next leg of the fest in August, contact Shawna Schultz at 

Phase Trakker

I love meeting people who are passionate about what they do and have a great sense of how they would like to show off their products to the world! Meet my new friends, EDM, from Fort Collins Colorado. The first product EDM wanted to show off to the world is the Phase Trakker – a revolutionary high-tech tool used by the rugged linemen who maintain our electrical grids. The good folks over at EDM hired me to shoot and edit their Phase Trakker advert that they will use to stand apart from the crowd. I had an amazing time with these wonderful folks, learned so much, and can’t wait for the next product project. Check it out! (those of you who are High Plains Drifter fans will appreciate the opening scene):


PhaseTrakker Final (Web Version) from Alanna Brake on Vimeo.

Colorado Ice Football Commercial Shoot

My first assignment with Mueller & Associates was doing a chromakey (green screen) shoot with the owner, Paul, and a few folks of the Colorado Ice football team for an advert that will run in publications such as the Colorado Business Report.

Again, this was a game of firsts for me since the majority of my work has been on-location portraits and events. As my debut commercial shoot it was my first time renting a studio location, first time shooting on a chromakey, first time using my new pro lights, first time working on a commercial set, the list goes on…

I booked the space for a few extra hours so I could make sure everything was set up perfectly before the clients arrived. This helped calm my nerves and gave me a chance to try a few lighting scenarios. I remembered to try a tip I’d read about using a sharp back light to help separate the subject from the chromakey background to make post work easier; and I knew the look we were going for was “on the football field” so I wanted crisp, dual-sided lighting to simulate the floods that light up the field during night games.

I gained a lot of knowledge from this shoot and now that I’m about a year into this career, faced with brand new scenarios every day, I’m realizing that one of the best assets a person could have as a photographer is to simply be able to learn technique on the fly.

We all had fun on set and, most importantly, the clients are happy with the result so I think this one goes in the books as a win for team Brake! Here is an image we came away with, pre- and post-edit:

The goal was to light up Paul, the client, with full light while leaving the football player a little more non-descript

The goal was to fully light Paul while leaving #55, Anthony Perkins, slightly in shadow

The final ad. I used a 7" reflector for main, and a homemade barndoor rig for the backlight.

A screen capture of the final advert by Full Circle Creative, Loveland, Co.
I used a 7″ reflector dish on main, and a homemade barndoor rig for the backlight

Chase Jarvis: LIVE

Survivorman Les Shroud via blog.ChaseJarvis.comIn case you aren’t already savvy to it, there’s a gaggle of live podcasts from photographer Chase Jarvis where he visits with innovative guest speakers and offers a wee bit o’ inspiration for his fellow creatives.

Today’s podcast @11am PST (or noon for my MST friends) features Survivorman Les Stroud. He’ll be sharing his thoughts on how to achieve a life you can be passionate about.

I think I’m in the mood for a little inspiration today. You can watch this and all the past videos via the link below so take a look.

Let’s hear what you think – did you get inspired?



Survivorman Les Shroud | image via