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Archive for January, 2011

Hi there. It has been a couple of weeks now since we got home, and I have been going through the first of the images we took in Scotland this last Xmas…I had the time to get one more, and here it is unveiled. This corresponds to the Assynt area, up there in the North, where mountains start to thin out and they look more like geological monuments, erected in the middle of nowhere.

Of all those mountains, I would say Suilven is the most photogenic of all. Tell the Matterhorn the height of Suilven and it will just shake all its glaciers, laughing out loud, showing no shame at all. However, when I first witnessed this mighty Scottish brute of torridonean sandstone I could not avoid comparing both of them as equally impressive mountains.  The fact Suilven rises over a sea of gneiss, all surrounded by lochs and lochans, its exposure to some of the wildest atlantic weather and its phenomenal capability to adopt different forms depending on your viewpoint make it really special. 

And indeed, special is also the chance of being able to see it. Normally covered with clouds, during our stay in the area we could just get some glimpses of it. This image shows one of the most photogenic faces he revealed to us…

This is one of those images which are made to show the spirit and essence of a place. If I would need to define in a single frame the spirit of that part of Scotland, this might be my choice. Suilven, lochs, weather and dramatic light. The right touch of snow on the summits, the edge of the clouds showing the quick dynamics of the weather in that area and the dramatic and transient light (like Ian Cameron says), dosed with eyedropper for some seconds and no more.

This kind of images, grand panoramic vistas of the land, might sometimes seem like they demand from the photographer a less strong effort in selecting the subject and looking for the right composition…most of all, when no elements are shown in the foreground, like in the case of this image. Well, the truth is, it is not easy at all, and this kind of images pose some special challenging problems for the photographer to be made…

First of all, there is the issue of perspective. It might sound stupid, but the bigger is your view, the more you need to move to change the perspective, and the harder it gets to give you that successful image you are after…In this particular case, that meant grabbing a good topographical map, playing with Google Earth, and looking for a way to wade through km of drenched bog to find the altitude and the position which gave the topographical composition I had in mind. On this image, the position of the lakes, the no merging of the different layers and the particular concavity where Suilven is placed over were not a matter of luck. My message is: never underestimate the power of your legs, or in other words, never think that the composition is best at 20 meters from the road, because will not change so much if all you want to shoot is that mountain in the background. The wider you want the image to be for the message you want to convey, the more you will need to move to really take that best image, and not just a convenient one. And this is particularly more important when your “foreground” stays at some hundreds of meters, not right at your feet.

Next thing which plays against you in this kind of image is the need of the strongest possible weather-mood-light conditions to make it work. You are not relying on just your eye to reveal an un-hidden intimate detail of the landscape, where surely the most you need from the light is a cloudy sky giving a soft un-directional light. Here you are after showing the whole of the landscape, and the whole of the relationships between land, sky and light. In a way, these images show not only the essence of the place, but also its history, …the intricacy of the natural elements and how all of them are connected. On this particular example, the image shows much more than just a mere description of the subjects; it shows the geological past, the erosive agent which has shaped what we see, and the mood always embodied by the light…

This brings us to the main ingredient of this image, weather and light, which were the big roles here to give meaning to the message. Bad news is that if your image relies so strongly on weather and light, and you happen to be in Scotland, you’d better be patient. In this case, good light and “good” weather to take this specific image meant 5 climbs to the same point, 5 different evenings, some of them in the blizzard and some others in the fog. But then, I was lucky and I was there to grab that chance. Two days before coming back (why is it always in the end that things happen?), a heavy snowfall dusted the summits. The last day, while I was there waiting for the light and giving it the last chance, a number of snowstorms coming from the sea drifted over the landscape and allowed the light to bless the mighty Suilven for a minute. An hour later, the sun set,  and I came down having witnessed one of those moments you never forget. Suilven would never be for me a topographical name on a map anymore. I had met the very wild spirit of this ancient land, and I felt humbled, small…and alive.

Take care and great light to you all

Click on the image to see it larger!

 

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Sometimes, you meet a guy or a couple who make a difference in the way you see life. Some time ago, I “met” Alister Benn in the forum naturephotographers.net, and I am really proud I did. He and his wife Juanli carry out a lifestyle many people would dream of. The only difference, is that they went for that dream and just made it reality…Living in different places all over the world and carrying with them the most important furniture: dreams, their lives and memories in the form of photographs. What else can you want?

Alister and Juanli are not only exceptional and inspiring people, they are also exceptional photographers and real givers. Their website, www.availablelightimages.com is full with outstanding images and plenty of information. Are you interested in night photography? Go here and you will see all the secrets of night photography unveiled the best way I have ever seen on any book or article… 

A few months ago, Alister and Juanli started an environmental project called Future Traders, aiming at promoting sustainability in our lives and urging us to behave in a more responsible way with our environment. This is not a pessimistic project where your conscience is going to be hammered, this is a project of optimism where every one of you is welcome on board, to state loudly that you are out of that conformism which says there is nothing we can do. Future Traders has an own facebook page, to which more and more people is joining every day. I urge you to pay them a visit, and “like” the project. Nothing commercial is involved…By joining you will be just making bigger and shinier that positive mirror of a society which is ready and eager to change the way we live.

I leave you alone with Ali and Future Traders project…I am sure you will enjoy taking a deep look at it!

Take care and great light to you all,

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We are back from our last photographic trip to the land of whisky. It has been, as expected, a really amazing experience and a visual feast for the camera.

Compared to the last year, I would say this time the sun displayed a more shy behaviour. In all the time we where there, I guess the direct light of the sun reached our faces for no more than 10 minutes during the whole stay. We got rain, wind, freezing temperatures, tons of snow, big thaws, a lot more of snow, mists and one sunny day. However, every day the light would make something fantastic…those things you only see up there in the North. As varied as the weather was, the land also displayed a very different charm in the two regions we photographed. The whole landscape of Loch Maree and Torridon looked like a piece  of Greenland or the Swedish Lapland when we arrived…really gorgeous under a thick cover of snow . As the days passed by, the snow began to melt and the snow-line gently raised to the mountain peaks, leaving behind a glorious orange in the bogs, marshes and torridonean sandstone rocks exposed by the white stuff. The Torridon and Lock Maree area are one of wildest regions of Scotland, where locks, mountains and the never far sea make a wonderful and wild cocktail of photographic opportunities. It features some of the most incredible peaks of Scotland, like the Liatach or Bein Eigge, lochs which enter from the sea into the land for miles and fantastic views over Skye.

The following week we went up to the Sutherland area, close to the Inverpolly Unesco Geopark, north of Ullapool. As we got there, we felt we were touching the edge of civilization. Apart from some tiny villages, we were alone with ourselves in an empty area where some of the oldest rocks of the planet (the lewissian gneiss) lochs, lochans ands bog creates the cake where the icing stands: the great peaks of Suilven, Canisp, Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor, Cul Beag…Such fantastic names could not represent better these mountains. This is a very different kind of landscape to any other found in Scotland. Compared to the greater congregation of peaks that can be found in the southern highlands, a reduced number of mountains appear here, but displayed as imposing rock “ships” sailing the gneiss seas, battered by the atlantic weather and revealing a truly wild environment. This is an area where the mountains meet the sea, and atlantic weather crashes against the mountain microclimate. A very edge, which as normally edges do, present gorgeous opportunities to the photographer.

We have come home with quite a number of gigas and rolls of velvia to develop. All in all, I am quite happy with the results. And, what is more important, I am really happy with the experience and the memories which came with me. Again, Scotland has surpassed my expectations with some of the wildest experiences that Europe can offer.

I will be including the new images from Scotland, along with those from Iceland, Seychelles, France and Switzerland in the about to be released totally new website (thanks for your patience!!), but here I include one of the images we took in our second week as a starter. It features the mighty An Teallach, seen from the Sutherland coast, showing its outline behind a curtain of that Scottish light…and embodying the real spirit of this land: mountains, sea, weather and light. That moment would be the only 4 minutes of light we would get in a whole day. But…who is complaining?

It is great to see you around. Take care and great light to you all,

Note: click on the image to see it bigger!

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