Iceland is a country of immense beauty. In my mind it is one of the most diverse landscapes in the world despite being and island country. It is volcanic and glaciated and it is these singular natural forces that have largely shaped the landscape. From windswept volcanic planes, to the mountainous highlands, fjords, coastlines, glaciers, and myriad rivers and waterfalls, it is a place that presents one with so many photographic opportunities. The islands location in the Northern hemisphere also brings almost continuous light, with an extended twilight in the summer, and much shorter days in the winter, which affords one the opportunity to see the dancing Northern Lights. It is also a place of extremes, especially regarding the weather, which can change hour by hour. And in fact that is the old adage in Iceland that if you don’t like the weather, just give it an hour. The countries population of around 360,000 is out numbered by the sheep, and the number of visitors and tourists who flock there. The sheep of course are permanent residents. It is one of my favorite places on this planet.
Let me start by saying that I do not intend for this post to be a giant primer on long exposure image making. Nor is it a justification for the techniques over a more traditional approach to capturing a scene. A great deal of my current landscape or architectural work is not specifically long exposure. But in the right conditions - environmental and type of light - I appreciate how it can bring a kind of hyper clarity to the subject that is uniquely contrasted against the soft rendering of sky and water.
By the time Road F35 changed from paved to gravel the landscape itself had changed. The thermal zones of Geysir gave way to a landscape that was open and vast, punctuated by table top mountains and grassy volcanic plains. My traveling companion Adam and I were bound for the highland region of Kerlingarfjöll to begin an 11 day workshop scouting trip. The wind was picking up as we drove deeper into the highlands which certainly became an issue for us later that evening, but for now we were content to marvel at the landscape and moderate weather. After cresting a small bluff, the road dropped into a sweeping grass covered valley, and I saw sheep moving off to the right. Ahead of us was the large table top mountain, Bláfell with a wind driven cloud sitting over the summit, giving the appearance of an erupting volcano. I was thinking that there was an image to be made here.
Well, it is New Year’s Eve, 2018. This has been a fairly busy year with some personal growth and certainly a few “firsts” for me relative to photography. I co-led my two annual photography workshops this year with my two pals, Martin Radigan and Vern Pattterson. This was the third year for our Spring, and Fall, West Virginia landscape workshops and we had some great clients and photographers join us as we traipsed around the West Virginia Highlands.
The concept of place, and our connections to place, are powerful expressions in how we view our world. The Black Church at Búðir is one such location, that for me, expresses a powerful sense of place and identity. On a recent past blog post I wrote about this church located on a windswept point in a harsh landscape For me the church emotes a sense of hope, civility, and simple community which I think is a fitting concept for a Christmas Eve post.
I am off today. A blessed reprieve from the office and the learning curve that has come with a new position. Sometimes the brain just goes on overload and requires a day of nothing. The weather seems to support my mood as well. It has been a tough several weeks that saw the failure of all of my back-up drives and the loss of thousands of RAW files dating back over 15 years. I did not lose them all which is fortunate, and I did not lose my Photoshop master files which is another blessing. I do not have a diagnostic answer for the failures but I was running an older laptop-based system, not enough RAM, too much reading and writing to drives, and not running Disk Warrior repair as often as I should have. Well, it is what it is. A wake up call to retool a bit and perhaps I needed to let some things go and open up more space in my life.