THE STORY BEHIND LEGENDS OF FALLEN HEROES

Reynisdrangar, Iceland

LEGENDS OF FALLEN HEROES: HOW DID I DO IT, AND WHY? HERE’S THE STORY BEHIND THE ART!

“Legend Of Fallen Heroes”, with its raw graphic power, is one of the black & white Fine Art images I created in five years and a dozen visits to Iceland I am most proud of. 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.

“Fallen heroes. Petrified trolls, punished for their failure to protect, when nobody knew the sacrifice they really made. Forever condemned to stand guard, forever unable to guard anything anymore.

They set out for their mission, heroes in the making. It takes courage to stand alone, in the middle of the sea, steadfastly waiting for the enemy. Their mission, impossible; their bravery, endless. Nothing prepared them for an eternity locked in a body of stone, but stone they became, nevertheless.

GETTING THERE
In March 2019, I flew from Las Vegas, where I have been for three weeks of work in Death Valley and the Southwest USA, to Iceland, for the first out of five stops of a tour that would then bring me to the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Arran, Dorset, and Tuscany. Vik is a small village on the south coast of Iceland, a classic stop along the coast and one featuring a spectacular black sand beach ending in a cliff, at the end of which Reynisdrangar’s sea stacks stand tall in the middle of the sea. Access to the beach is pretty easy but photographing on it can be tricky, due to the powerful waves and the wind. The cold of the last days of winter often adds to the challenge, making its presence known and very much felt. I photographed Reynisdrangar countless times, in different seasons and under every light. On one cloudy and stormy afternoon, inspired by the moody weather, I put my warm jacket & windproof shell on, wore my Heat Company’s liner gloves and shells, got my camera bag and my tripod and went to photograph it once more.

EXAMINING THE LOCATION & COMPOSING
Vik’s long, black sand beach offers an infinite array of compositional possibilities, starting farther away from the cliffs to moving right under them. Of course, this will completely change the relative position of the sea stacks, their relative size in the composition, and so on. This, together with the ever-changing Icelandic weather, makes Reynisdrangar a truly inspiring location and one I love to go back to for more, every time I go to Iceland.

On this March afternoon, the moving clouds and crashing waves, together with the legends about Reynisdrangar being actually petrified trolls, inspired me to go for a dramatic black & white image telling the story of this beautiful location. To do so, I needed to transform the breaking waves and slow-moving clouds into lines and shapes complementing and strengthening my composition.

Reynisdrangar (Iceland, 2019)

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
Shutter speed control is something fundamental for my work. I believe that the ability to control shutter speed, using exposure times carefully selected according to each shooting situation, is one of the most powerful things that photography offers us, and one of the best tools we can use to create our photographic interpretations.

For this particular photograph, I needed my shutter speed to do two things at once, two things I carefully organized my composition for. First, I wanted to transform the breaking waves, through the power of long exposures, into diagonal lines pointing at the sea stacks. Second, I wanted to transform the clouds into masses and lines also converging towards the sea stacks. The sun setting behind the cliffs made sure that the black sea stacks would stand out against the brightest area of the image. Looking at the cloud’s movement and at the waves’ speed, my experience told me that I needed a shutter speed of at least five minutes.

FILTERS
In the field, I envision my images right as they look when you see them as finished files. To make my vision come to life, 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 create the image I wanted, I used a polariser to enhance contrast on the wet black rocks. A Grad ND, carefully positioned diagonally, helped me darken the sky to balance the exposure and enhance the darkening effect on the left side of the image, concentrating the viewer’s attention to the sea stacks. Last, an ND filter helped me bringing the exposure down to 323 seconds, just over the five minutes I had in mind, perfectly creating the effect I envisioned.

BRING IT HOME!
For NFT lovers, “Legends Of Fallen Heroes” is available as 1/1 edition NFT on Foundation, following the link: LEGENDS OF FALLEN HEROES.

CREATE YOUR OWN
Join us for one of my ICELAND PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS to create your own amazing photographs of Reynisdrangar and many more Icelandic locations while learning all I know about Fine Art landscape photography. Attendance is limited to just THREE people!

Iceland Photography Workshop

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