Svalbard: At Sea

At Sea

Aboard the MS Nordstjernen 


August 8, 2015

My friends,

Here are a few facts about Svalbard:

Svalbard formerly known by its Dutch name Spitsbergen is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole.

Svalbard is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. 

Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Beagle Channel


Tierra del Fuego


May 14, 2012

Dear Friends,

After I posted my first letter and photos from Ushuaia, I received these two comments:

“Why do you spend more than one day in Ushuaia?”  Wrote one friend.

“This is a place I don’t need to visit, thank you.”   Wrote another friend.

Everyone is entitled to her opinion and reaction.   Perhaps my new photos will have a positive effect?

Harbin, China. "Wear Everything"


January, 11 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

"Oh, my goodness!"

The airplane from Beijing descends through the clouds towards the Harbin airport. I stare at the landscape below and I think, "Oh, my goodness!" Actually, "Oh, my goodness" is not the exact phrase that comes to mind. "Holy cow" is a little closer but still not 100% accurate.

Deserted roads and snow-covered farms spread out everywhere like an Amish quilt that landed in a vat of bleach. Smoke from a tall smokestack rises in a disturbing pattern; it blows horizontally.

"Be happy where you are, Jan. What did you expect? Tropical waves washing up against white sand? Coconut palms, maybe, swaying in a light breeze? You are in Harbin for the Ice Lantern Festival. Harbin. 45 degrees North Latitude. North of Vladivostok and halfway to the North Pole. Ice, Jan, ice. Think ice."

Otaru, Japan. The Details




February 10, 2014

My friend and professional photographer, Ralph Velasco recently published an ebook entitled “Essence of a Place.”

In the book, Ralph provides a list of types of images that capture the unique elements of any location. 

I followed Ralph’s advice.  In addition to the architecture and the remains of the Snow Festival, I searched for Ralph’s “details” and “patterns” in Otaru, this port city near Sapporo.

I found a few unlikely yet rewarding scenes as I made my solo and lonely stroll in the warehouse district and port alongside the harbor of the Sea of Japan.  (The warehouse district?)

Yes, Ralph is quite correct.  It’s all in the details.

Sapporo, Japan. Ice Sculptures and Snow Structures




February 9, 2014

Threatening Clouds. Cold. Bitter Cold. Painful Cold.

-9C  16F

So what did you expect, Khun Jan?  Palm trees and a papaya salad?

It’s the Sapporo Snow Festival in the dead of winter.  Across the Sea of Japan.  From Vladivostok.

A layer or two or three.  Hat, scarf, gloves.  Get out of the house!

Geyser, Haukadalur, Iceland


Southwest Iceland

September 11, 2015


“Fire and Ice”

“Fire” refers to hot geothermal streams and the Geysir (Geyser) that erupts frequently sending boiling water up to about 70 meters into the cool air. (230ft)

“Ice” refers to glacial remains and an ice-clogged river at Hjallanes. 

Iceland is a country of extremes –  boiling rivers to frozen rivers ….