Reynisfjara, Iceland


“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.

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.

Arnardrangur (Iceland, 2019)

Many photographers think that it’s enough to use long exposures to create images that are somehow artistic. To me, exposure control is much more than that. Shutter speed is one of the most powerful tools we have available to create mood 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.

When I work in the field, I “see” either in colour or in black & white at the time of shooting. I immediately envisioned this image in black & white, and nothing I saw after downloading my card into my computer made me even remotely reconsider my choice. Image ratio for me is a very powerful tool to help us realize our images’ true potential. The camera I used here outputs files in 4:3 format; however, this photograph screamed for a panoramic format. Since I always stick to predetermined image ratios (4:3, 5:4, 1:1, and so on) rather than cropping freely, in this case 2:1 was my choice. Last, I prepared my RAW file for black & white conversion in Photoshop Camera Raw and converted it via DxO Nik Silver Efex Pro.

For lovers of Fine Art Prints, “Arnardrangur – So far away yet so close” is available in Collectors Edition of just ONE copy per size, 4 different sizes, following the link here: SO FAR AWAY YET SO CLOSE. Unlimited Open Edition are also available following the link above.

For NFT lovers, “Moving Stills #001 – Arnardrangur” is available as 1/1 edition NFT on Foundation, following the link here: MOVING STILLS #001 – ARNARDRANGUR.

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!

Iceland Photography Workshop

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