THE STORY BEHIND ARNARDRANGUR
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ARNARDRANGUR: HOW DID I DO IT, AND WHY? HERE’S THE STORY BEHIND THE ART!
“Arnardrangur – So far away yet so close” is one among the favourite black & white Fine Art images I ever created in five years and a dozen visits to Iceland so far. In this article, I’ll tell you what the idea behind it was as well as what it took to create it, in terms of physical, artistic and technical challenges. In short, this article is about the passion driving me, the force that makes me go out day after day chasing that elusive, perfect image.
“Thousands of years. So far away, yet so close that they can almost touch one other. Looking at each other every day, longing every day for each other’s touch, but never able to get to each other.
They grew up hoping that growing up will bring them closer. Instead, time just brought about their decay. Their bodies, eroded by the elements, got smaller day after day. Yet, a connection was made, as powerful as their longing. A connection built on fleeting grains of sand, but as strong as the rock there are made of.
So far away, yet so close, under the cover of passing time.”
In November 2019, I flew from Cornwall, where I have been for two weeks of work, to Iceland, for my last stop before going home after about three months on the road. On one afternoon, I went to photograph Arnardrangur, the impressive basaltic sea stack rising over Reynisfjara’s long black beach. While the parking lot is fairly close to the viewpoint where this image has been taken, in wintertime getting there isn’t always as easy as it might sound. The ground is frozen, often covered with ice. The wind is often fierce, and the temperatures are well below freezing. I attached my ice crampons to my boots, put my warm jacket & windproof shell on, fitted my Heat Company’s liner gloves and shells with some handwarmers, got my camera bag and my tripod and headed out.
EXAMINING THE LOCATION & COMPOSING
The viewpoint overlooking Arnardrangur is one of many possible spots I love to photograph from when I go to the Dyrholaey area. I love the long, black beach connecting the foreground sea stack with the farther ones and I love it how the different tides and seas, together with the ever-changing Icelandic weather, always inspire me to create different images. I have been there dozens of times, and I am always excited to go back for more: never knowing what to expect is creatively energising like nothing else!
On this particular day, the tide and the water flowing from the lagoon behind the stack created some beautiful, unique lines and curves around the sea stack and down the beach. I decided to compose in such a way as to create an S curve connecting Arnardrangur, the close stack, to Reynisdrangar, the farther ones.
PASSION AT WORK: THE WHY AND THE HOW BEHIND MY B&W FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY
There’s nothing like black & white photography, for me. It is timeless, powerful and expressive, and I believe it to be the best medium to reveal the true nature of the planet’s landscapes through my photographic interpretations. Black & white landscape photography is a lifelong passion for me and it’s what I most love doing. Over a decade of love and dedication working with black & white photography’s composition and post-processing are what makes my black & white Fine Art photography unique.
Removing colour from a photograph is an incredibly powerful process in terms of the expressive possibilities it opens, one that requires a completely different approach to seeing the world around us. It brings photography to another level, requiring a craftsmanship in the field, an attention to composition and an ability for abstract seeing, that colour photography doesn’t necessarily need. For me, the decision is made long before pressing the shutter; when a landscape is revealing its monochromatic nature to inspire me, I just can’t help it but let go of the colours.
Processing my black & white work, I first prepare my RAW file for conversion following a dedicated workflow, completely different from my colour work. Then, I convert them to black & white via DxO Silver Efex Pro, using my own processes and presets. One thing I always found lacking in most black & white photography, both film and digital, is the treatment of mid-tones, which are normally flat and lacking depth. During my film days, to create my images I used a self-mixed, Pyro-based developer that rendered a truly amazing tonal range. For my digital work, during the last decade I developed my own Silver Efex presets to recreate the deep, rich tones that I loved on film.
THE AESTHETICS BEHIND SHUTTER SPEED
Mastering shutter speed control is fundamental for my work. The ability to control shutter speed, using exposure times carefully selected according to each shooting situation, is one of the most powerful things we can use to master Fine Art landscape photography and express the feelings that a scene awoke in us.
In this particular case, I needed my shutter speed to do two different things. First, I needed it to transform the breaking waves into a white line surrounding and accenting the beach’s S curve. Second, I needed it to transform the cloud coverage into shapes and lines complementing and strengthening my composition. Looking at the cloud’s movement and at the surf, my experience told me that a shutter speed of around one minute would do.
I am old school. I much prefer to get everything as close to right in camera as I can, rather than fiddling with post-processing. In this case, to get to the image I wanted, I used a polariser to control reflections on the wet black rocks. A Grad ND helped me darken the sky to balance the exposure. Last, an ND filter helped me bringing the exposure down to 51 seconds, perfectly creating the effect I envisioned.
BRING IT HOME!
For NFT lovers, “Moving Stills #001 – Arnardrangur” is available as 1/1 edition NFT on Foundation, following the link: MOVING STILLS #001 – ARNARDRANGUR.
CREATE YOUR OWN
Join us for one of my ICELAND PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS to create your own amazing photographs of Arnardrangur and many more Icelandic locations while learning all I know about Fine Art landscape photography. Attendance limited to just THREE people!
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