Friday, January 9, 2009

In Iceland, sun and camera both short on energy

At my home in Maine - down at 44 degrees North -- we confront short early winter days, but Reykjavik is something else. Yes, I knew that here at 64 North, the sun would come up at 11 am and be gone by 4, but in actual experience it takes a lot of getting used to. Wandering around a city at ten in the morning and having it be positively pitch black just feels wrong. So too does being plunged into darkness at 4:30 (when the above photo was taken -- that's the moon.) It's also been raining and 45 degrees much of the time I've been here, so you never actually see the sun. The black sky just slowly turns to gray gloom and then, a few hours later, fades back to black. It feels a little like Blade Runner, but with better public services.

The week's other unexpected challenge was photographic, and not just on account of the shortage of daylight. For the first time in my foreign correspondent-ing career, I accidently left my camera bag at home on my desk, an oversight I didn't detect until going through security at Boston-Logan. With few options, I turned to the best camera retail outlet in Terminal E: an automated vending machine placed there by Best Buy. It runs on the same principle as the ones you buy potato chips and candy bars from: put in your money, pick a selection, and watch it be delivered to the collection slot. Swipe your credit card and - presto! - one Fuji J10 digital camera is yours.

Unfortunately, once in Iceland I discovered that the good people at Best Buy and Fuji didn't think through the needs of outbound international travellers. The camera came with a rechargable lithium battery (nearly dead) and a charger that only works on 110-volts. The battery is almost impossible to replace -- its a proprietary model only available at a Fuji dealer -- meaning anyone who buys one at Terminal E and then arrives in Iceland or any other 220-volt country is going to be very disappointed. (Most camera, cell phone, and laptop chargers are dual-voltage these days.)

Thankfully, the proprietor of this Icelandic photo shop kindly charged my battery in his charger. (If you ever need to buy a camera in Iceland, buy it here, and thank the owner again on my behalf.) This allowed me to get back to the work at hand -- more on that coming soon -- and actually have some images to adorn this posting.

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