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September 22, 2011

New York, New York

New York, New York

My otherwise very enjoyable visit to New York (and thus the whole trip) ended on a bad note – or two. It will definitely NOT ruin my otherwise great trip, but I surely could have done without the bad experiences. Read all about it when I get this post up.

In the meantime here are a couple of photos from New York City. More will be coming!

This HDR image af the Empire State Building was created from three exposures in Photomatix.


These guys could dance - not least the dude to the right, who would spin around on his head! They also gave me a piece of advice; Webster's Hall was to the place to go out on a Saturday night...


This is a self portrait by a famous Danish artist. So, who do you think it is?


August 8, 2011

Kimballton & Elk Horn (video)

Kimballton & Elk Horn (video)

The villages Kimballton and Elk Horn in Iowa are probably less well-known Danish immigrant communities than Solvang, California. But while I have not met a single person of Danish descent on my two visits to Solvang, Danish descendants are everywhere in the two Iowa villages. In fact the very first person I had the pleasure of meeting in Elk Horn – Lisa Steen Riggs, manager of the Danish windmill – had a Danish background.

Yes, Elk Horn has an original Danish windmill from 1848 – in contrast to the replicas in Solvang. Check out the video below to learn more about the windmill.

Lisa explained to me that the Danish immigrants had settled in two villages according to life style and beliefs. The “holy Danes”, of which many were member of “The Internal Mission”, had settled in Elk Horn. The “happy Danes” had settled in nearby Kimballton. Later during my visit the local hairdresser told me the same story and added that even though the “holy Danes” were not supposed to drink,  some did anyway secretly…

Perhaps things have changed, because a micro brewery is underway in Elk Horn and there is a winery too in addition to the windmill, the Danish Immigrant Museum and other attractions. In Kimballton you will find a nice  replica of the Little Mermaid.

By the way, I think my colleagues in the Danish electricity company SEAS-NVE will be interested in knowing that just outside the village of Elk Horn there are a lot of modern windmills, just like in the real Denmark. Furthermore, Elk Horn is the community in the USA with the highest number of charging stations for electric vehicles per capita. Finally, Elk Horn has a high-speed optical fiber network!

How about that?

By the way, not many speak Danish anymore other than a few words, and Danish traditions change over time, which is understandable. But I have a hard time understanding that in Elk Horn the Danish Christmas special, “æbleskiver” (kind of waffles), and the dinner dish of “medisterpølse” (sausage) are served together – for breakfast!!!

After the windmill from Nørre Snede, Denmark was moved to Elk Horn, Iowa, Danish legislation was put in place to prevent further export of historic windmills. But the windmill had probably not been preserved, if it had not been exported. And, the undertaking really galvanized the Danish communities in and around Elk Horn.


The windmill as seen from behind the bust of famous Danish fairytale writer, Hans Christian Andersen.


Charging stations for electrical vehicles in Elk Horn, Iowa.



A typical house in Elk Horn.



The Little Mermaid in Kimballton, Iowa.


Stars and Stripes and Dannebrog seen to caress each other.


August 7, 2011



I drove across the state of Nebraska in one day only stopping to fuel, have lunch and for a “smile break” now and then.

I was surprised to pass through what seemed like endless farmland mile after mile. I did not pass through a single city; only small villages around huge grain silos.

Apparently, Danish immigrants settled in Nebraska in the early days, as I could see signs like “Rasmussen Farms”, “Knudsen Farms” etc.

A (wild?) turkey and its chicks also showed up at the side of the road, but they quickly ran off when I stopped to photograph them.

Anyway, I did find a nice old car with a lot of patina that deserved to have its picture taken.

Here are some silos in the middle of a field. There would be even bigger ones in small villages.


In one of the villages I came across this car for sale. Correct me if I am wrong; I believe this it is a Lincoln. It sure needed some work as did the desserted house behind it.


Looking at the old car and house was like stepping back in time.


This sign also made me think of days gone by. I did not see any horse carriages, but I wondered if there are Mennonites in the area?


August 5, 2011

Mount Rushmore controversies

Mount Rushmore controversies

I had expected that my visit to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial would be a drive by shooting – in photographic terms. But it turned out to be quite interesting from different perspectives – photographically and metaphorically speaking.

The fairly new visitor center in polished granite provides a nice setting for admiring the iconic monument and sinking into the patriotic atmosphere of the place.

The center also provides a lot of interesting information, but the story told is as polished as the shiny granite – and politically correct of course. Thus it leaves out some interesting controversies that I will get into in this post.

First of all there are quite a quite a few controversies surrounding the artist behind Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum.

I knew that Borglum was the son of Danish immigrants, and at the visitor center I learned that his parents were Mormons. But it was not mentioned that Gutzon apparently was a child of polygamy (according to Wikipedia). When his father eventually left the Mormon movement, he apparently cast Gutzon’s mother out of the family never to be spoken of again.

I wonder if and how it affected young Borglum? In any case, whatever may have affected him, he certainly developed a controversial character. Thus Wikipedia describes him as domineering, perfectionistic, irascible and authoritarian.

It is also interesting that the stepping stone for Borglum to do Mount Rushmore was his experience from working on a stone carving of confederate leaders on Stone Mountain, Georgia. According to Wikipedia he became involved with Ku Klux Klan during that endeavor. He eventually quit the project in rage over disputes with the association behind the project.

Borglum would then go on to do Mount Rushmore where he chose to depict four union presidents, Lincoln among them.

Finally, there is the controversy regarding the rightful ownership of the Black Hills, where Borglum carved the faces of the four “great white fathers”. Thus in the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868 the Black Hills where granted to the Sioux Lakota tribe in perpetuity. Yet in 1877 the United States seized the lands from the Lakota.

In 1980 the Sioux Nation won a victory in the United States Supreme Court that awarded the tribe $120 million. However, the Sioux Nation refused to take the money and demanded that their sacred lands be returned to them. In the meantime the money has apparently accrued significantly and it seems that at least some Lakota are now interested in taking the money. I wonder how it will turn out, and how the money will be distributed?

Speaking of money: I believe there is a great deal of controversy regarding the funding of the Mount Rushmore project, but I will leave that up to the reader to research further…

Regardless of the controversies, Mount Rushmore is definitely worth a visit. Perhaps it is even better to forget about the controversies and just enjoy the marvelous mountain carvings.

In fact, I spent a great deal of time thinking about how even an unfinished, can be more than good enough, when the vision is grand enough.

An alley of flags from alle the states and terrirories lead to the monument.


A film is screened at this arena accompanied by a patriotic program hosted by a ranger.


The classic perspective on Mount Rushmore.


You can view Mount Rushmore from many different perspectives. Here is the face of George Washington as seen from a crack between two boulders.


A bust of Gutzon Borglum by his son, Lincoln Borglum, and his life's work in the background.



The model study of Borglums vision with the mountain seen through the window. It would have been impossible to take this photo in one shot due to the differences in lighting outside and inside. It was my plan to create a high dynamic range (HDR) photo using Photomatix. But I gave up and combined the two photos manually. I hope that it is good enough...


July 7, 2011

The Hippie Van of Love and Peace

The Hippie Van of Love and Peace

As I was walking along the beach in lovely Santa Barbara, I spotted quite an unusual vehicle and its owner.

It was ”Onefeather” and his ”Hippie Van of Love and Peace”. He quickly greeted me with enthusiasm and encouraged me to photograph his rolling piece of art.

I just ask for a small donation – for gas – to keep it going, you know”, he added. Sure, I would throw in a dollar or two.

We had a small chat and I continued my walk. When I returned an hour later or so, he was still there firing away one-liners at the passer-bys, such as:

Remember, what John Lennon sang: all you need is…?

And the passer-bys responded with “love!” and a dollar or two to keep it going, you know…

I realized that “Onefeather” had quite an operation there. So I sat down and had a chat with him.

He readily confessed that he did not comprehend why anyone else had not figured out the deal. Man, he made $500 in (tax free) donations on 4th of July. In fact he was playing Monopoly now, as he put it. In fact, he had invested the money he had made on the van in the summer in a piece of land back in Kentucky. Now he was going to build a motel or some cabins there.

So, is it a scam?

No of course not, you get your money’s worth for a nice little photo-op. So take your picture and give “Onefeather” a small donation, to keep the Monopoly game going, you know…

"Onefeather", his van and his donation jar (the globe).


A peak inside the Hippie Van.


Ka-ching - another donation to keep it going...


"Onefeather" has reason to smile. His operation is running smoothly. By the way, from this angle you my be able to see a Danish "Save Christiania" sticker behind the windshield.