A Bright mural to brighten my week (PPAC #30)

I was going through my old photos and came across this mural from my 2017 Iceland trip. I guess I was drawn to a more colorful photo to brighten my week. I’ve been working from home this week due to the rise of omicron and reducing our exposure by going to the office less. Since my kid’s daycare is at my work, I have not been taking her to daycare this week so she’s with me all day. Even before having a kid, I have never been a fan of working from home.

Continue reading A Bright mural to brighten my week (PPAC #30)

Construction barriers as canvases (PPAC #15)

Reykjavik, Iceland has a lot of stunning public art, but this caught my eye because someone used a construction barrier as their canvas.

Pre-pandemic in LA, it seemed construction was going on all the time: new apartment building, new stores, reviving abandoned buildings, etc. I don’t recall seeing any art on any construction barrier — it would be nice there was. It would have made my work lunch walks more enjoyable than seeing blank eyesores. It’s like a pop-up art display or a temporary exhibit.

gorilla mural


Sun Voyager (PPAC #10)

Since I posted photos from Reykjavik for this week’s Lens-Artist photo challenge, I thought to continue the theme this week with public art. But also it happens to be the 10th PPAC! I decided every 5th and 10th PPAC for my blog would be public art outside of Los Angeles County just to break it up.

Anyways, if you leave the Harpa Concert Hall in Reyjavik, you would find this sculpture of what looks like a boat — it’s not a Viking boat! It is however a dream boat representing “a promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.” Viking boats are much larger — though this boat could have been a scale representation.

Sailing to uncharted territories


Catching the light

For this week’s Lens-Artists photo challenge, It’s All About the Light, I immediately thought about Reykjavik and its two main landmarks: the Hallgrimskirkja church and the Harpa Concert Hall. I love the way those buildings capture light.

Hallgrimskirkja Icelandic church

Hallgrimskirkja church – at eight in the morning…on a November day.

harpa concert hall early morning ceiling

Harpa Concert Hall early in the morning.

harpa concert hall daytime ceiling

Harpa Concert Hall later in the day when the sun was high. Looking at the above photo, there’s this cool transition where on the right side, it almost looks like a pencil drawing. Quite a cool effect. There’s no filter needed.

See you next time, Iceland.

Harpa Concert Hall

The unusual shapes and the way the walls and ceilings capture light makes the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik a fun building to take photos. One of my biggest regrets was not watching a show at the Harpa — I don’t care what show. It could have been a concert, a comedy act, play, or a ballet — I wanted to watch something at this concert hall. We went to Reykjavik in November of 2017. I told my husband I would like to return here in the spring or summer when is greener. Maybe we’ll even watch a show at the Harpa.

Harpa on a sunny day. Around 11 am.

Elongated hexagons
Hexagon on hexagons
Rectangles, parallelogram

The Harpa when it’s dark at eight in the morning. Yes, we made a second visit to the Harpa the following morning. See how it transforms in the dark. It looks like the building transformed from clear crystals and silver to smoke and rose gold.


November in Iceland is short. The mornings are dark and the sun stays up for a few hours before setting around 4 PM. That is why I wanted to avoid saying morning and night.

Do you prefer the Harpa in the light hours or the dark hours? Comment below!

Lens-Artist Challenge: Geometry

CMMC – Bright Rectangles

The Northern Lights in Iceland

We went to Iceland in late November and sometime during our trip, we found the Northern Lights ONCE out of the 6 days we were there Below these photos are of the Northern Lights from that one Monday night.


Understand the weather science of the Northern Lights. You see, the Northern Lights depend on multiple factors. Most people think the Northern Lights would appear in the Fall and Winter season near the North Pole. That is correct, but the Northern Lights depends on the weather in Earth and the weather in space. Also did any solar flares and sun storms occur in space? If so, then it would take 40 hours for the solar winds to reach earth. But…what if it’s cloudy and/or rainy on earth? You won’t be able to see the Northern Lights anyways with the clouds blocking it. Overall, your chances of seeing the Northern Lights are fairly slim.

*Hint: It is mostly rainy, cloudy, and/or snowy in Iceland in November.*


If you don’t see the Northern Lights — that’s ok! A tip when travelling to Iceland is to not place “see the Northern Lights” in the top of your itinerary otherwise you’d be extremely disappointed. Don’t let the fact that you did not see the Northern Lights define your trip — there’s so many cool sites in Iceland to explore.


What you did not study the science of the Northern Lights before planning your Iceland trip? Then at least cram it in by going to the Northern Lights Center. Before seeing the Northern Lights, it is important to go to the Northern Lights Center in Reykjavik. It is a free exhibition on the history and science of the Northern Lights. Also there is a Northern Lights simulator you can test your manual settings on your SLR camera when you do see. Seeing the Northern Lights live is a real test for your camera skills. In real life the Northern Lights is not a green dancing blob in the sky. Instead it was…how should I describe it? It was like a grey wave. It was faint to the naked eye, but the camera captures it differently especially if you manipulate the ISO settings and exposure times.

When reviewing the science of the Northern Lights, the “duh” moment hit me. Of course, it’s basically a gas in the sky. In real life, we cannot see gases like oxygen, hydrogen, or nitrogen in our air with the naked eye. I’m not sure why we expect it to appear any differently. Just like oxygen and nitrogen, your camera’s “smart focus” settings won’t be able to identify the Northern Lights as an object!


Keep your camera steady. It is important to place your camera on a tripod since it needs to stay in one place for an unusually longer period of time than a typical point a shoot. Once you figure your settings sweet spot — keep taking pictures! These only appear for as long or as little as it wants before it disappears. (Check out Petapixel “The Truth and Lies of Those Aurora Photos you see” for reference.)


The camera we use was the Sony NEX-3NL (no longer available by Sony). This is a beginner’s DSLR and it’s less than 500 dollars. We were able to take mostly acceptable photos of the Northern Lights. This is a good example of how $1000+ SLRs won’t buy you skills. The people who came with us that night had far more expensive cameras than us, they were upset and frustrated that they could not get a single clear photo of the Northern Lights. Again, this opportunity is a test of your photography skills.

Ways to save money while traveling in Iceland

We were warned that Iceland was going to be expensive…very expensive. Our two hamburgers with minimal vegetables and one tray of fries cost near 35 U.S. dollars. We did not dare to buy another tray of fries nor bought any drinks — this would have added another 10 dollars to our meal.

So how did we “bootstrap” one of the most expensive countries in the world?

  1. We took advantage of our complimentary (generous) breakfast buffet each day we were there. We made sure breakfast was our largest meal for the day. And we packed a few things from the buffet.
  2. Buy snacks at the grocery stores.
  3. Bring a reusable water bottle — there’s a potable water everywhere!
  4. Face the facts that produce is going to be EXPENSIVE even if you are shopping in a budget grocery store. The produce aisle in Iceland is small. In California, our produce aisle takes about one-third of the store. In Iceland the produce aisle is a small shelf, while the cured meats and cheese had large section to have its own refrigerated room. Think about it, if you have seen the landscape in Iceland there is barely any vegetation and I must add, very few trees. The fruit and vegetables are either imported or grown in greenhouses which explains the high cost. This leads me back to taking advantage of the hotel breakfast buffet — we packed some fruit for our day trips.
  5. When it comes to buying souvenirs from ornaments to chocolate, it is better to buy them at the airport. If only we knew earl ier– there’s no sales tax in the airport which is why chocolate was cheaper than in any grocery store we’ve been to.
  6. Take advantage of the free things to do around Reykjavik – Just like living in Los Angeles, we take advantage of the things that are free: hiking, free musuem days, views, going to the beach. Reykjavik is a small city, but we still seek for things that were free such as:


Going into the Harpa Concert Hall


Northern Light Center – I highly recommend going to there before going out to the Northern Lights. You learn the science of how the Northern Lights are produced, what the expect, and you get to practice your camera skills on a Northern Lights simulator.20171126_114704.jpg

Go to the lake in the center of town. When the lake turns into ice, this turns into an instant park. I swear this really is a lake once all the snow and ice is melted.


Hang around the Hallgrímskirkja Church


Admire the Christmas decorations around town



… the public art



…and views from the harbor 

Iceland teasers

Iceland, you exceeded my expectations. You are a unique country. You have volcanoes. You have snow. You have incredible waterfalls. You pride in your nature and your geothermal energy. It was an incredible trip.

Below are a FEW photos from the trip to get LITTLE preview whilst I settle with my day-to-day, prep for grad school next month — in fact prep for the holidays, and organize my thoughts… or you can stop on by my Instagram.