I never ceased to marvel at the astounding beauty of the nature. Of all the wonders in the world, night sky intrigues me the most, for it obscures the path I walk on, yet it shows me the reason to do so. That’s life, isn’t it?

Stars and milky way have fascinated me since I gazed the sky the first time. As a child, I always fantasized about far away untouched lands, bright night skies and galaxies millions of light years away. The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart. Night skies, as dark and gloomy as they may sound, reminds me of the pleasing childhood routine to lie down on the roof and gaze the stars, slowly drifting in space at the peak of night until I fell asleep. The time when gadgets were less and skies used to be darker. I must say I found that curious child in me again in these cold dark winter nights.

Continue reading The wonders of night sky – Part 1

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It was a lazy noon in summer, the time of the year when the sun is brightest, throwing its fire and burning every skin its rays fall upon. Good books are great companions. They don’t bore you. They are selfless. They entertain you, enlighten you and in return, they don’t ask for sacrifices. The reader opened a chapter from his favorite book and started reading quietly.

Time doesn’t wait for a person or an event to occur. Few things, fortunately for us, are timeless. Months had bled away since their last meeting. They stumbled upon each other again over coffee, probably for one last time. It was like old times, except something had changed with time. She had blossomed into a prettier and smarter woman. Her exuberance and flamboyance was storming him like hell. The new life had definitely done a remarkable work on her. She was never happier before.

Their deep meaningful talks were always very engrossing. It was an addiction. Once you’re deep inside, it’s hard to get out. But this time, it soon took a different, more interesting turn.

“So, how’s life? Did you get a new girlfriend? When are you getting married?”, she bombarded him with questions.

“Either I’m the most damaged and screwed up soul in the world or I’ve kept my doors tightly closed.”, he chuckled.

“You know it sounds almost impossible to hear statement like this from a person of your stature”, she said in a soft voice.

“Sometimes, I wonder how two persons end up living with one another the whole life without being bored”, he changed the topic swiftly like a traffic signal.

“Why so?”, she asked in wonder.

“You see human psychology is weird and all messed up. People usually get bored of things sooner or later. It is difficult to stick to one thing for long.”

“May be not if you get along with the right person. What kind of girl you’re looking for?”, she leaned forward.

“Well, I haven’t given a deep thought on this yet. But I think I am more inclined towards artistic things. Art fascinates me, for it doesn’t lie. It requires compassion, and patience. As you rightly said, choosing a life partner is the greatest risk one can take in life. It’s a lifelong bond of love, care and respect. I would like to end up with a girl who understands art or at least respects it.

“Well, here is the funny thing. The only such girl I know of is YOU.”, he said and tried to peek into her eyes. Some answers can’t be said in words.

The reader turned the page in haste as if it was a matter of life and death.

There was weird grave silence. She didn’t know what to say. If only god had designed heartbeats to be more throbbing, he could have probably known what was going on.

More than anything, the reader wished to have this exact conversation with the girl he strongly believes to be his potential better half. The only question was, was such a moment gonna happen in his life?

Farewell! Until we meet again.

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal, All rights reserved.
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It’s been a long time since I penned my last post. Few incidents in life wound you so deep that take lifetime to recover. The pain goes away. But the scar remains. And that’s what hurts the most. You are not YOU. Things aren’t the same. The coffee shop you loved stepping into, become your reason of mood swings overnight. All it takes a moment to tear your precious small world apart.

I travel because it reminds me that nothing in life holds permanence. One who is very close to you today might not be tomorrow. Life is a journey. You meet someone. strike a conversation, drink a peg or two, laugh and fall in love unknowingly. You see, falling in love is very easy. It happens at the speed of lightning. You don’t think much. You know why heart breaks are so painful? Simply because you think you are the luckiest. Thousands of unlucky people you have read about, yet you think your love is for life. And one day, she leaves you, with her wonderful memories.

Travel has enlightened me that I ain’t alone. There are many unlucky souls wandering in the beautiful world with their rusty heart.

I travel because there are memories I don’t wanna live with. I travel in the hope to reset my brain cells which home those memories. Each travel rejuvenates me with new positive energy to help me become a better individual and a more compassionate person. Meeting strangers and acquaintances on the way and listening their stories helps me forget mine.

I travel to feel alive, to see the unseen, to hear the unheard and meet noone whose story holds no value, yet it feels so connected. I travel to stumble upon another me, to share my happy moments, to share my grief, to talk about her. And it all starts with, “About her? Where do I start? I haven’t known a more perfect person in my life. She is crazy. The weather changes and the flowers bloom wherever she goes. She has the power to awaken the deadliest of souls and blow into them a purpose to live. Meeting her would make you realise that you reached the unreachable, achieved the unachievable and fathomed the unfathomable. You feel strong and weak at the same time. You know love to be the deadliest of all weapons, yet you don’t hesitate to put your neck under it. That’s her.”.

Farewell! Until we meet again.

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal, All rights reserved.
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I knew this was coming. But I wasn’t really prepared for it.

It was a happy jolly day in office. It was then I got to know from you. That’s how life is. When you are at the peak of happy moments, it drags you full down, reminding you that life can’t be pretty all the time.

My productivity dipped to zero. Absolute zero. I couldn’t think of anything. I was submerged in memories of our conversations in the past. Surrounded by Dementors in the broad daylight, I was being sucked of my sane and happiness.

You know since our very first conversation, I have liked only you. I don’t think I talked that many things with anyone else as I talked with you.

You had asked, “BTW, do you have something new to tell? Please say you have something new”.

Well, how could I have. The news you broke had shattered every bit of my sane mind. Things I was planning, suddenly seemed to hold no value at all. The distress was creeping inside me like hell, drowning me into the pool of sadness. I was like a pirate who had lost the most prized possession of his life.

I wished it to be one of those bad dreams, which when you wake up, you thank god that it wasn’t real. But as we know, real is different from the reel. And reality hurts, a lot. In the reel, the hero either gets his angel or steals away the show by hiding his pain under the hood of smile with finesse. I guess I ain’t an expert in either of the two.

I don’t think I would ever meet a girl like you in my life. You weren’t just a pretty face. You had a class, and panache. You were everything I dreamed of in my to-be-partner. To me, you were just perfect.

I will miss you S. Stay happy, wherever you are. You have lots of potential. I think I have already told you this many times, haven’t I?

There are many things I want to say. But my mind has stopped coordinating with the lips. Let those words unsaid. And those stories veiled.

Farewell!

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal, All rights reserved.
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Success is a subjective term. I believe every step you take towards reaching your goal, is success. Once you reach a goal, you set a bigger goal. That’s the way life is.

Here are few things that work for me:

Starve distractions and Stay focused

Ask any wo/man who has succeeded in life and s/he will tell you that one of the most important ingredient was sharp focus. Distractions are anti-catalysts in the journey of success. Study says that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track after a distraction. A lot of context switches while you are doing something important , affects productivity. Put your phone on silent and try not to look at phone for notifications. Avoid using social media while you are at work. The best solution is to make a habit of checking notifications or messages twice a day.

Choose a hero to look up to

In the life of every person, there is someone who (s)he looks up to. It is the human psychology. We tend to choose a hero whom we appreciate. Why? The reason is obvious. Sometimes, we love the way our hero lives. Sometimes, it is his popularity. Sometimes, it is just because his dreams were what ours is now. He kept on improving each day, each week until one morning he became what he always wanted. And we start seeing the perfect version of ourselves in him. Each time we come across his story and picture, our inner self echoes, “Yes, this is who I would like to be one day”. But just choosing a hero is sufficient? No. The detailed reason is here: Choose your hero, but…

Set smaller goals

Big goals can sometimes be frustrating and frightening. Break them down into smaller steps and work towards them. Not only it will help you with better planning, it will also change your psychology that it is do-able. For example, instead of setting a goal to reduce 50 pounds in a year, strive for 4 pounds a month. Or better, a pound per week.

Choose your company wisely

Be in company of positive minded people. It has been said that you are the average of five people you spend most time with. To succeed, your mind needs to be full of positive vibes.

Don’t be afraid of failures

After failing thousand times, Thomas Edison said, “I didn’t fail. I know thousand ways in which a bulb can’t be made”.

Success is a journey where you just have to be right once. It’s a long process and it requires patience, perseverance, sharp focus and dedication.

Learn from your mistakes

It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Make a mistake once, and it becomes a lesson. Make the same mistake twice, and it becomes a choice.

Get to know why are you doing this (Passion)

Last night I was watching a movie on the life of dancer. Her mentor asked her, “Tell me, why do you dance?” The answer was important for her success, simply because it defined her passion. She had the passion of a bullet. Passion keeps you going no matter how difficult the path is.

Get great mentors

Being in touch with great mentors helps to streamline your vision and get guidance in right direction. I was fortunate to have mentors like Sandeep (GFG Founder), Venki (GFG moderator) and Narasimha Karumanchi, especially Venki with whom I used to discuss technical problems for hours.

If you like this, you might my other posts in Hack your life Archives

Copyright © 2018, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

 

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Future is uncertain. You can’t predict it even with the greatest power.

A small change in the past and Kaboom!  The resulting ripple effects rewrite the whole timeline. Every decision we make results into a different possible future. The detail can be as tiny as answering a phone call or taking a left instead of right while walking on the pavement.

While returning through a door between universes, the ice on the surface broke, drowning Dr Walter and Peter from the alternate universe. September pulled them out of cold water. That day Peter caught a firefly. Well, September couldn’t possibly have predicted the event. It was irrelevant in the course of timeline. When Peter caught the firefly, a girl 3 miles away lost herself into a nearby jungle because she wanted to show her dad how beautiful fireflies were. She didn’t come home on time and her father was worried. He took his truck in the incessant rain looking out for her. At the traffic signal, his truck skidded out on the wet road killing a pedestrian. The world lost one of the best music band that night because the pianist lost the purpose to live after his only son was erased from the face of earth.

How far are you willing to go to save the life of one you love? True power is when you have the power to destroy the entire world and yet you choose to save it.

I just finished watching Fringe and the only thing oscillating in my mind is John Noble, John Noble, John Noble. The brilliance he put in the Walter Bishop character is fascinating and mind blowing. The craziness of losing mind in St. Claire’s Hospital, ruthless scientist doing experiments and playing god, eternal bond between father and a son, his taste buds craving for delicacies of food, his fear of what he was becoming and the length he went to save his son, his score in every mood is just perfect.

Meet the Einstein of our generation:

Love is important because it prevents you from becoming cold and calculative.

Emotion is as important as intelligence. Though Fringe seems to be more about weird events happening all around, I feel, in its very core, it depicts a very emotional relationship between a father and his son. How a father crossed the universe to save a boy who wasn’t his. After all, love conquers all.

Two tech freak scientists, sharing the same lab and experimenting drugs on children to untap hidden potential of mankind, one ends up in a mental hospital. While the other goes on to become the richest person on the planet. In William Bell’s words:

A good TV series is one which is intriguing with tight story keeping you hooked up right from the beginning till it ends. I loved how they showed futuristic people visiting in important time in history in bits and pieces and then in one episode,  they capture everything. Each detail starts to make sense as the series progresses. It is an assorted union of Love, Romance, Sci-fi, Thriller, Strong acting and Lovable characters.

Fringe has reminded me again that Technology can be catastrophic in wrong hands. And even the ones who hold greatest power look for a sign from God. Walter longed for a white tulip, which he believed would be a sign from God that he has forgiven him for breaking the universe and playing God.

Sacrifice is necessary for the greater good.

It was sad to see Walter leave in the future and his prints being erased from the timeline. But as he said, he cheated fate to be with his son and he had to do this for the future of his son and his grand daughter.

While I am writing this, my heart throbs in the hope that somewhere in the alternate universe, Abrams is writing new episodes and a version of me is watching them peacefully eating popcorn.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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It was a lazy evening. I had Quora opened on my cellphone, Fringe on my big monitor and an article about Elon Musk on laptop. Something was not right. A cold feeling of void was crawling inside me. With Valentine’s Day shy of less than 2 weeks and seeing happy couples all around, I was thinking all over again. If you are wondering, let me unveil that it wasn’t the first time.

It might sound weird. But I ain’t quite fond of very big changes in life. I very well remember an incident from my childhood. I was at my dad’s clinic in late noon and my eyes fell on an envelope lying on the desk. Out of curiosity, I pulled it quietly and tore open. There was a letter inside, with my name from a school I never heard of. And followed the details of all the facilities and academics which were not of my interest. My eyes grew wide in fear. I didn’t want to leave home. You see, it was a big change for me. And I didn’t like it. Albeit I have grown to be an adult, my fear has not gone away.

I think this is the exact reason why I stayed at Microsoft for this long. Yes, the culture, work life balance, people, familiar faces, all are valid reasons. But for me, it’s that big change I want to avoid.

Arrange marriage scares me to hell. Marriage itself is a big change. But if you get to marry someone you know for relatively longer time, it’s kinda comforting. Afraid to say, I am running out of time set by my mom to find a girl of my choice. And that is worrisome. I always thought that this is not a great deal. I must say, I underestimated it deeply.

Will I ever learn to embrace big change with open arms? Let time be the judge of that. Till then, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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क्या बताऊँ उसके बारे में,
उसे देखता हूँ तो लगता है जैसे पूरी क़ायनात मुस्कुरा उठी हो,
जैसे ठंडी वसंती फ़िज़ा बहने लगी हो,
जैसी सारी समस्याएं काफूर हो गई हो,
क्या बताऊँ उसके बारे में,
उससे बातें करता हूँ तो वक़्त थम जाता है,
होश खो सा जाता है,
क्या बताऊँ उसके बारे में,
जब वो हसती है तोः खुद को भूल जाता हूँ,
क्या बताऊँ उसके बारे में,
लफ्ज़ कम पड़ जायेंगे,
वक़्त कम पड़ जायेगा

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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What is it like to live the life of your dreams? A chance to do what you always wanted, without much interference and obstructions. A life worth documenting, for yourself of course. A life that inspires many others to be like you. The world is a rat race. People are not happy with what they have. Happiness! Well, it’s a subjective term. What make you happy might not work for others.

[Frame pause]

One more year has bled away. At the end of every year, I analyze all the good and bad things that occurred over and jot down the points where I lagged and need improvisation. It serves as the perfect documentation of the things to be looked back and the things to look forward to. Akin to the performance review system being done in companies during fiscal time of the year, the only difference is that here I am the person sitting with open mind on both sides of the table.

[Frame resume]

Thousands of desires, each worth dying for,
Many of them I have realized, yet I yearn for more.

In my quest to seek the meaning of life and henceforth happiness, I picked up new things, met people I never saw before, traveled places I had never been. This year, being less incoherent than the last, enlightened me about the things that I can pursue for long, as opposed to my other hobbies that didn’t live long enough to see light of another year.  As I inch towards seeing 5 summers at Microsoft, I finally have the answer to the very question that was itching in mind since quite sometime.

No matter how much my heart wants to pen it all down, I would like to choose another post for this. This is perhaps, the story of another time 🙂

2017 was the year of travel. 2 business trips to Redmond and 3 personal trips totaling 64 days, out of which I spent 49 days outside India, walking on the foreign soil. I traveled to Spiti (Himalayas) and my long time dream destination Iceland.  I learned what is it like to wander in complete wilderness in dark to chase something of value. Traveling has taught me to look life from a different perspective altogether. I now know that happiness does not always scream for money.

As I am aging (unfortunately), I realize that my interests are inclined more towards the artistic aspects of life. Artists are usually socially deprived and I am afraid to not become one.

When I wake up every morning in full health, I feel very fortunate to get a life like this. It’s not easy to forget the dark days of last year. All it takes is just one event to make you realize that how important it is to enjoy every bit of life. I have tried my best to make up for the lost moments. What keeps me alive, more important than oxygen and blood is hope. Hope that everything will be okay. I think I have learned to fake smile well. My face no longer reflects how much broken I am inside. But then, who cares? Now my life is based on one simple mantra from the Hindi movie Kal Ho Na Ho:

Share one more smile today,
Pray one more time today,
Drink one more tear today,
Live one more life today,
See one more dream today,
Who knows, there may be no tomorrow.

This year, I focused on improvising the skills I picked up in 2016 and made good progress in it. I explored fashion and landscapes.  My photography, if not great, has got some recognition and won award. I did photoshoot of a guy who stood second rank in Star Life Mr India 2017 and my work was published in local newspapers.

Picture on the left won national award in reflection category in Photofie.

My Aurora Borealis capture from Iceland has been nominated as Mentor’s choice in Camarena Academy and World Photographic Forum. It is not a big deal, but I am happy because it’s been just 16 months since I started capturing.

While I am writing all this, I ask myself a very basic question. “Would my life be the same if I hadn’t met that accident?”. You might have guessed the correct answer.

Each phase of life is like a gift wrapped beautifully. You don’t know what you are going to find inside. Some of them can render you with packets of joy and happiness. While others can turn into your darkest nightmare. What most people usually don’t pay attention to is that you can always learn something, if not cherish.

12 lessons I learned in 2017:

  1. If you do something, put your heart and soul in it. Make sure the the result is worth the efforts.
  2. Practice whatever you like 20 minutes a day. Consistency is important
  3. You can make best of friends in weirdest of places
  4. Travel with experienced people. You will learn a thing or two
  5. There is nothing like traveling. Believe me, investing in it won’t make you a spendthrift junkie
  6. Don’t waste your time and energy impressing someone. (S)He might not see you couple of years from now. But you certainly will see YOU. Impress yourself
  7. Good things come to you if you work hard
  8. Being single is sometimes a choice
  9. Take some time out of busy schedule and take a uber look at your life. The story of Narcissus has a very deep meaning that compels us to take another look at our lives. Sometimes, we are so busy praising and criticizing ourselves that we lose the opportunity to witness the beautiful world around us. Had the lake invested a fraction of her time into looking at her surroundings , she would have known, what was it about the beauty of Narcissus that took even goddesses to pursue him in forests
  10. Choose friends wisely. It is better having one physical friend than ten virtual ones
  11. Your parents would never stop loving you. You would always be their first priority. Make sure you return the same favor
  12. Job can wait. Travel can’t. If I don’t travel every three months, my soul becomes restless

Each one of us have different ways of narrating story because we live differently, perceive differently and react differently. If you love reading my way of telling the story, you might like other experiences I penned here – My life experiences.

Here is a list of 12 things I learned in 2016

Happy new year!

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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Twelve days. Twelve people. Three cars. An anticlockwise road trip of 3500 kms in “The land of Fire and Ice”, the third windiest place on earth where weather changes every hour of the day.

When we leave our homes, when we step out of our comfort zones and escape to places we imagined only in our dreams, with bunch of people we never met before, walking in the foreign mysterious land in complete wilderness, in the quest of finding the unexplored version of us, to fathom out what’s in control and what’s not, that’s when we truly realize the gigantic possibility of unimaginable and get acquainted with vivid landscapes of life.

There is a saying in French, “Rester, c’est exister; mais voyager, c’est vivre”, which translates to “To stay is to exist but to travel is to live”. Travel, as it may seem, reminds me of train journey of life. We meet people, sometimes familiar, sometimes strangers. We talk a thing or two, share smile, share meals, share experiences, share wisdom and eventually they leave. We may not see them again. But we have to keep going to reach the destination. The essence and fun is in the journey itself. People we encounter leave a part of them in us, marking our souls forever.

Iceland was no less than a dream came true. A dream destination I had in mind since a very very long time. There are things in your life which are just beyond words. No matter how many adjectives you use to describe the magnificence and grandeur, they always fall short. Landscapes I witnessed were majestic and breathtaking. There were times I literally felt myself being teleported to one of the movies. It was fantabulous to be away from the IT world and witness the gigantic nature, beautiful mountains and humongous waterfalls. A fairyland where we experienced everything, from strong wind to spine chilling cold, from golden sunshine to dark cloudy nights, from incessant rain to misty fog and most importantly lights of the north aka Aurora Borealis. We even had a over-speeding ticket.
Like every good thing, the trip has come to an end. I wish to go back there in foreseeable future in a different season with someone I love, when fall colors will be prominent all around  

The most amazing thing about Iceland is not that it’s the third windiest place on earth. It is that hardly anyone lives on the first two places.

Though Iceland is often coined as The land of Fire and Ice, there is much more to it. Black sand beaches, gigantic waterfalls, lustrous rainbows, dramatic geyser,  hot springs, giant canyon, pristine mountains and the most exciting, northern lights.

Icelandic weather is enigmatic. It’s not the winter that matters much. It’s the wind.

Driving in Iceland can at times be insanely exhausting. Sitting at the edge of seat, with eyes glued out of the window in the fear of missing out untouched landscapes and capturing photos every five minutes until you understand you can’t keep on doing this, is the story of every new traveler there. Every scene is a photo opportunity. It is soul satisfying, breathtaking and refreshing. A day can never be the same in Iceland.

“Infinity”
On our way to the hotel, we stopped the car to capture this narrow water stream leading to the pristine mountain range. Everything in this picture is just perfect. Water resembling a stream of mercury, enough drama in the sky, the warmness in grass and the mystery in mountains.

October was a good time to visit Iceland because of couple of reasons. It was Aurora season. Days and nights were equally long. And there was less chance freezing down to death in cold.

As much awestrucking as Iceland was to me, it has left me wondering if I’ve ruined all of my trips in coming time, because I might have traveled the most beautiful place on earth. Chances are higher that a new location may not astound me the way Iceland did.

People call it Iceland. I call it Narnia.

The magnificence of Iceland lies in its vivid landscapes. Sometimes, it would freshen you up with memories of Narnia, while the chilly glacier would render you speechless reminding you of the epicness of Game of Thrones. It’s like a flight of fantasy has landed right in front of your eyes.

If you are a Bollywood fanatic, you will feel romance in many scenes. Shahrukh’s (aka King of romance) Dilwale was shot here.

“Fairy Pool”
A visit to Iceland is incomplete without this ingredient. Seljalandsfoss, probably the most reachable waterfall in Iceland attracts a lot of tourists because of one reason. It’s the only waterfall where you can walk behind and witness the beauty of the sunshine through its vertically falling crystal clear water.
Resembling the kind of pool where fairies take shower, it showered me with the epicness of Narnia.
It was a very bad day for us. 90% of the time we shot went in removing mist, flying water droplets and avoiding people in the frame. The walk to the spot where I positioned my tripod itself was very slippery and muddy

“Ice age”

Jokulsarlon Glacier is iconic because of its unique and brilliant icescape, giving a feeling that you have set foot in an ice painting. Spine chilling wind, clean fresh air and ice mountains are something you can’t take your eyes off. This beauty was delightful and life affirming. Few scenes of Game of Thrones were shot here.

Traveling to Iceland

Traveling to Iceland is easy. You just need a plane ticket to the capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik, Schengen visa, warm clothes to withstand the harsh winter and chilly wind and healthy dose of crazy mindset to explore it in full glory.

Planning and Execution (20th Oct – 1st Nov)

I flew from Hyderabad on 20th October, 2017 and reached Reykjavik on 21st. Sequence of flight was:

Hyderabad > Bombay > Amsterdam > Oslo > Reykjavik > Rental Car (Blue Car Rentals)

It’s pretty chilly in Norway. At 5 degrees celcius, dark sky, the wind whistling in unguarded ears and the Icelandair airlines having picture of northern lights carved over its body, this place seems promising.

 

Geyser

Strokkur (Icelandic for “churn”) is a fountain geyser in the geothermal area beside the Hvítá River in Iceland in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavik. It is one of Iceland’s most famous geysers erupting about every 7 minutes, sometimes 15 – 20 m high.

PS:Shot by my friend Saurbh Chugh in Iceland.

Chasing Northern Lights

Aurora is one of the most beautiful phenomena of nature. The sole reason to choose October to travel was to chase Arctic Lights. And luckily we had Aurora activity 4 out of 11 nights we wandered. Apart from the green color, we were fortunate to see purple band too. You can expect the disappointment and frustration when you don’t see for what you traveled so far the first 4 days. It was spectacular to see the sky bath in northern lights. I had never seen something like this before, the green lights swirling and dancing all around. Vedur app showed good Aurora forecast.

“The day the earth stood still”
Even 23 hours of continuous driving, photoshooting and 2 sleepless nights in a row couldn’t dampen our excitement of shooting Aurora Borealis. That night, sky was beaming with the collision of sun particles and oxygen in the atmosphere. Before leaving Vestrahorn, I captured this picture as a memory that I finally lived my dream. No matter how many more places I visit, Iceland will always remain close to my heart, because now I believe that that green light is real.
This capture reminds me of some extraterrestrial environment and a suited alien preparing to invade.

“Eyesland”
My first day in Iceland wasn’t as fruitful as I expected. I was disappointed with the results I was getting. After hunting down aurora for 4 nights and not having a good sleep for 2 days, we drove to Jokulsarlon glacier for shooting aurora. This was a crazy exhausting day. 23 hours of continuous driving and photoshooting in which we visited the Glacier twice and Vestrahorn mountain thrice. We drove around 60 kms from our stay to witness this beauty. It was terribly chilling cold. Even 5 layers of clothing wasn’t working. But what I saw there is beyond words. The whole sky was illuminated with green lights and the lake under the glacier was showing beautiful reflection.
While capturing this magnificence, a car slowly inched towards the glacier with its headlights on, illuminating the icy peak of the mountain.

“The three elements”
Presenting to you, my most favorite breathtaking capture from Iceland trip. Jokulsarlon Glacier is probably one of the most iconic places in entire Iceland. Mainly famous for ice-peaked mountains, floating ice-bergs and crystal clear water formed from melting glacier. Later, it gained popularity because of Game of Thrones and DIlwale shooting. We drove there at 11:30 PM to shoot the green lights. Spine chilling cold and tough weather. The view was spectacular and literally rendered me awestruck and speechless. For a moment, I forgot that I have to take pictures. Aurora Borealis was dancing like crazy and the sky was bathing in green lights. I didn’t see anything more beautiful than this my whole life.
Challenge:
It was kind of difficult to get the perfect lighting as there were many photographers and tourists lighting up their torches here and there. This picture is the result of multiple attempts and right timing. Northern lights is volatile and it annihilated after 45 minutes or so.

Nights can never be boring in Iceland 🙂

“Green smoke”
Third day of aurora activity in Iceland.
Last night I was watching a mutant TV series where a genetically changed couple were holding hands and green, purple light was coming out. The girl said, “See how beautiful it is. You know, Aurora Borealis is the most beautiful thing in the world”.
Had I not seen the green lights myself, I won’t have understood the essence of what she said.

“The purple band”
Aurora Borealis is probably the most beautiful natural phenomenon on earth. When sun particles enter earth’s atmosphere near poles because of weak magnetic field, it collides with Nitrogen and Oxygen to form dancing purple, blue and green bands of color. Purple and blue bands are seen less often. Out of 4 nights I witnessed Aurora, purple band was seen only once.
I was probably in deep sleep when Nakul knocked the door at 4:30 in the morning. There were signs of some Aurora activity. Vestrahorn was 80 kms away from our stay. We stopped for a while near a lake on the way. The sky was beaming with dancing purple and green colors and the lake was having beautiful reflection.
Aurora is highly volatile. When we reached Vestrahorn, the activity was gone. This was one of few good pictures of that morning.

Majestic Waterfalls

It won’t be an overstatement to say that Iceland is full of hundreds and hundreds of waterfalls. And each of them is unique in its own sense.

“Waterfall of the Gods”
There’s an Italian painter, named Jean-Albert Carlotti, and he defined beauty. He said it is the summation of the parts working together in such a way that nothing needs to be added, taken away or altered. I couldn’t agree more with Carlotti when I saw this waterfall.
The Goðafoss waterfall is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. The water of the river Skjálfandafljót falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters.
Godafoss is not very tall or powerful; but admirers point to the separate cascades forming an elegant semicircular arc, the swirling patterns in the blue-green (or sometimes brown) water, and the strange bubbliness of the surrounding lava.
Godafoss is closely connected with one of the most important event in Icelandic history, the conversion to Christianity from heathendom or “the old custom” in the year 1000.

“Waterfall of the Gods – Part 2”
The top angle of the famous waterfall. I am in love with vibrant colors in the frame.

“Devil’s eye”

The first day in Iceland started with shooting 3 beautiful waterfalls. Brúarfoss was eye catching because of its blue-ish water and looked like a giant devil’s eye. The weather was just perfect and sky had a bit of drama.

“The destroyer Part 1”
Gulfoss is the largest waterfall in Europe. Standing there on the edge and witnessing the power nature holds to destroy anything that comes its way, can’t be explained in words. Even big apartments could have fallen apart. Taking this picture was extremely difficult. Wind was whistling like hell. Water droplets and mist were all around. I had to take my glasses off to see the camera LCD and continuously keep on wiping it to avoid any droplets in frame. Slippery stones and muddy trek further bumped up the challenge. Out of around 15 shots, I got only this one which looks slightly better. It was kinda once a lifetime opportunity to witness such beauty.
I showed this picture to my friend and first thing that came to her mind was:
“It’s serene, but gloomy. It’s beautiful, but dangerous. It’s infinite, but alone.”
I couldn’t have explained it better.
Such is the beauty of a photograph. It lets you imagine as if you’re standing right there, seeing with your eyes.

“The destroyer – Part 2”
Another angle of the Gulfoss, the largest waterfall in Europe. I liked the way water was falling down with huge force, generating mist smoke.

“Misty path”
Another misty waterfall from Iceland. Dettifoss waterfall is present in Northeast Iceland with 44 meters fall height. The sky was dull and had no drama when we visited there. I like the mist being formed when the water strikes the rock with force and the misty path beyond.
I missed Selfoss Waterfall due to lack of time which is situated close to it.

“Dreamland”
This is not just a picture. It’s a feeling. Capturing this scene was the toughest thng I did in Iceland. 2.5 kms of steep trek in chilly wind followed by another 500 meters of trek down. By mistake, I chose the wrong path to reach there which made it even more challenging. I had never seen rocks that slippery. It was hard to stand still at one position and take sharp picture. It was getting darker every single minute. Returning from there was one hell of a task. Luckily, my tripod came to rescue acting as old man stick. I was literally praying for life that evening. One of the biggest challenge to shoot waterfall bed is that it is hard to know the depth of running water. First step, it is 5 inches and the next, it might be 1 feet. What I like about photography is that if put efforts, it rewards you well.

“180 degrees of miracle”
Skógafoss is another beautiful waterfall in Iceland. What makes it more charming is that when sun shines over the horizon, it forms a rainbow across the falling water. Seeing the thick stream of crystal clear water fall from a height of 60m and colorful 180 degrees rainbow was eye-popping. Since, it is just few minutes walking distance from car parking, this waterfall sees a lot of visitors. I had to wait for quite long to capture the half rainbow with no people. Due to the hide and seek nature of the sun in Iceland, the rainbow kept on eloping every now and then. The rainbow was clearly visible only when closer to it, which means inviting more mist.
To be honest, this was the most beautiful rainbow I’ve witnessed in life.

Challenge: Visitors, mist, Intermittent rainbow

PS: As a matter of fact, part of Gerua song was shot here 🙂

“Big bowl”
Seeing this picture still gives me chill. It was one of the windiest evening in Iceland. Wind strong enough to tremble legs, leave alone the tripod. While standing on the edge to capture Aldeyjarfoss, I was in constant fear to not fall down. I liked the big bowl shape of this waterfall.
No matter how good a picture is, it’s not worth your life.

“Rainbow land”
The first day in Iceland started with witnessing Öxarárfoss waterfall. This might look very ordinary now, since you have seen far better landscapes, beachscapes and Aurora pictures of Iceland. But believe me, the moment I saw white water singing and gliding down the small rocks, I was awestruck.
Did you notice the small rainbow on the right of waterfall? 🙂 PS: The vignette you see on the top-left frame is the result of wrong choice of variable ND filter. I realized it on the third day of my trip when It had already screwed up several of my captures.

Beaches and Black sand

“Fire and Ice”
It was one of the brightest day in Iceland. While sun was playing hide and seek, we had our tripods dipped inside the black sand for stable capture. This place is famous for big floating ice-bergs. A bit risky because of crazy sea waves, and the ice-bergs.
This picture is unique, because it shows the 5 elements of the nature ( EARTH, FIRE, AIR, WATER, & SKY)
The warm color in this picture symbolizes hope. No matter how dark your day might be, sun will always shine and darkness will annihilate.

“The plane wreck”
This picture is perfect example of how film industry is helping bloom the tourism and making the life difficult for photographers at the same time. This location peaked popularity right after Shahrukh shook his legs with Kajol in Dilwale’s Gerua. Due to extreme popularity, cars are not allowed to park nearby and we had to walk 2.5 miles to witness this beauty. As a matter of surprise, this is the first picture from my trip that is not gloomy and depicts that Iceland oftentimes sees the sunshine in early winter.

In 1973 a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, in the South Coast of Iceland. Fortunately, everyone in that plane survived. Later it turned out that the pilot had simply switched over to the wrong fuel tank. The remains are still on the sand very close to the sea.

The scenery of this white abandoned DC on the totally black sand is quite cool and surreal and the landscape around is pretty amazing too. The sight is actually like from a science fiction movie and is of course a photographer’s paradise in every way.

“Dreamscape”
An escape from a normal day to mysterious fantasy dream. That’s what this picture is all about. Reporting from Diamond beach, Iceland.

“No man’s land”
While flying from Norway to Iceland, I read a PDF which had a page on Dyrhólaey. The first question that itched my mind was, “Does Iceland have a place like this?”. The moment we set foot on that small peninsula after a visit to the black sand beach, Vik, I saw those ghost stones standing tall at a far away distance, with white waves continuously hitting it as if they were trying to destroy and carry with them.
This picturesque view reminds of the famous scene from “Harry Potter and Half Blood Prince” where Harry and Dumbledore go to a cave to fetch Horcrux.

“The hugging stone”
This is another picture from Dyrhólaey, famous black sand paradise. If you take a close look at the stone in the front, you will feel that it resembles a couple with their faces close and getting ready for an intimate, yet beautiful dance, like Kizomba.
I saw those ghost stones standing tall at a far away distance, with white waves continuously hitting it as if they were trying to destroy and carry with them.
This picturesque view reminds of the famous scene from “Harry Potter and Half Blood Prince” where Harry and Dumbledore go to a cave to fetch Horcrux.

Setting foot in Game of Thrones

North of the wall – Part 1

Kirkjufell mountain is probably the most famous location in Iceland. If you have seen Game of Thrones, you must be knowing why. This location was shot in season 7 in North of the wall.
Just 10 minutes drive from our stay and 10 minutes of hiking, witnessing this beauty was a treat to eyes. I always pictured a dark mood in my mind while thinking about this location. Iceland is the third windiest place on earth and Grundarfjördur showed us the power of nature. The hardest wind I experienced in my life. Our legs were shaking, keep aside the camera and tripod. It was tough to get a longer exposure. I also broke my camera there because of wind.
My dream shot was to capture aurora dancing above the “Church Mountain”. But due to wind, cloud, rain and void of luck, I couldn’t get it.

North of the wall – Part 2

Another angle of Kirkjufell mountain

“The church mountain”
While returning from Kirkjufell mountain in wind-chill weather, we saw this beautiful lake beside the mountain which was showing nice reflection. We decided to pay it a visit later that day. It was around 5:30 in the evening that I got to capture the heavenly sky, the church mountain and the lake in the blue hour. It was getting darker with every passing minute.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. This photograph renders me with peace, as if I am in some other world, serene and solumn. It reminds me to stand as calm as that mountain and hold strength to face tough winds. The beauty of strength is that neither the sky is high enough nor the ocean deep enough.

Iceland Itinerary

If you are planning to fly to Iceland, this (will be adding soon) itinerary might be helpful.

Car and Hotel booking

We rented Kia and QashQai from Blue Car Rentals and booked hotels through booking.com.

Get that Schengen Visa (Check list)

Iceland falls under Denmark Embassy. I applied for visa on 20th September, got call from the embassy on 25th and Visa was delivered to my address on 29th.

Documents required to apply for Visa:

  1. Flight booking
  2. Hotel booking
  3. Transport booking (Car rent)
  4. Travel insurance
  5. NOC letter from office
  6. Tour itinerary
  7. 2 photographs measuring exactly 3.5 cms x 4.5 cms
  8. Color xerox of all pages (including blank pages) of passport
  9. Salary slip of 4 months
  10. Employment letter
  11. Bank statement of 6 months, signed and stamped by bank
  12. ITR return of 3 years
  13. Leave permission from office (NOC would work here)
  14. Cover letter requesting Embassy for Schengen Visa, depicting your reason for travel

What to carry?

  1. Passport
  2. Waterproof gloves
  3. Good quality thermals
  4. Waterproof and windproof jacket
  5. Down jacket or vest
  6. Fleece jacket
  7. Long sleeve shirts
  8. Outdoor/hiking pants (waterproof recommended or quick dry)
  9. Good quality wool gloves and hat
  10. Hiking boots, better if they are waterproof.(No sports shoes)
  11. Gumboots
  12. Dryfit T-shirt: another piece for layering
  13. Poncho
  14. Woolen socks and cap
  15. Swimsuit : There are many hot springs and if time permits, you may go to Blue lagoon or secret lagoon
  16. A reusable water bottle, no need to buy water in Iceland, just fill it up from any stream or tap
  17. Medicines : Bring in your necessary medicine like crocin, or any other cold medication
  18. Power bank
  19. Electric Kettle
  20. Food (Noodles, Soup, Ready to eat vegetables)

Camera gear

  1. Camera
  2. Wide angle lens (preferably f2.8) for waterfalls and northern lights
  3. Zoom lens (70-200mm) for close landscape/portrait shots
  4. Sturdy tripod to withstand strong wind
  5. Remote cable for camera
  6. ND filters (10 stop and 6 stop)
  7. GND filter
  8. Extra batteries (at least 3)
  9. Rain cover
  10. Cleaning kit
  11. Memory cards (128 GB)
  12. Card reader and External Hard Drive
  13. Battery charger

Tips:

  1. Dress in layers to insulate you better (4-5 layers)
  2. Rain protection for camera is must. A lot of mist flies around waterfalls.
  3. Pack wisely and light, with all your essentials, don’t take more than one suitcase/bagpack and one Camera bag
  4. Food: Reykjavik is 8th most expensive city in the world. Food in Iceland is costly and it would be good to carry some food. Many Bonus outlets are there in Iceland where you can purchase things that can be cooked easily.
  5. Get shoes with good grip for hiking
  6. Time lapse and night shots eat a lot of battery
  7. Before going out, check Vedur for aurora forecast and cloud movement

Iceland is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. More than anything, I would like to go there again. Because going there won’t make you a spendthrift junkie for sure. If you ever get a chance to go there, don’t miss it. After all, who doesn’t like Narnia or Game of Thrones or pristine landscapes. Reasons are endless. 🙂

My photography work

I was short on gear in this trip. I felt the void of a full frame camera to reduce noise and a 10 stop filter to cut more light. Gear I carried:

  • Camera: Nikon D5300
  • Lens: Tokina 11-16 f2.8,Nikkor 35mm f1.8, Nikkor 50 mm f1.8
  • Filter: B+W ND8 filter, CPL filter
  • Neewer Carbon Fiber 67″/170cm Tripod
  • 64 + 32 GB SD, 4 camera batteries, 500 GB HDD, Card reader

If you liked my photography work, please follow my social media profiles. There are many more pictures which couldn’t fit here. As much as I wanted to put all of them, I also didn’t want to explode the post. Each of those pictures has a story of its own.

Aashish Barnwal Digital Canvas

Aashish Barnwal Instagram

Thanks to the acquaintances who served as the best travel buddies and who later became friends to cherish for years to come. I learned many things both from photographer’s perspective and as a human being. Not in any order: Nakul Sharma, Abhinav Pratap Singh, Hymakar Valluri, Saurbh Chugh, Sharadh Srivastava, Divisha Srivstav, Hiran Mayee, Florence Chemarin, Heena, Zurich Shah, Eric Follows

Special thanks to Nakul and Abhinav for making the trip memorable. It was worth each minute. His next Iceland trip is here.

Travel while you can. As Nakul says:

Job can wait, Travel can’t!

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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