Archive for February, 2011

This morning, my friend Bernard Dupas sent me a link…

I am sorry, but I just feel enable to write about it…Turn your music on…and take a trip into the beauty of natural harmony. Simply the best images I have EVER seen???


Thanks Bernard,…what a gift!!!


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The book of the Earth

Some of you might know. Before becoming a full professional nature and landscape photographer I went through a whole career as geotechnical engineer and researcher at the University in the field of geomechanics…Sounds weird? Well, not really. After some sessions of self-psychoanalysis, I came to the conclusion that the same force which pushed me to study the science of nature is the one which engines my will to capture in my images the magic of this World, its energy, its dynamics and its relationships. I have always felt lured by the immensity of the universe, the sheer mystery from which we just get to see the tip of the iceberg and the fact we live in a totally dynamic system which never stops changing.

Landscape photography puts me in that context, makes myself aware than nothing remains the same and makes me feel alive and part of that system. Weather, tides, geology, astronomy, wildlife, the action of human beings, light, optical phenomena, the immensity of a starry sky, the pass of time only frozen in an image…all these elements are some of the everyday ingredients in my work as a nature photographer…and turn that work into much more than a mere observation of the world passing by. There is that intention of knowing, of understanding, and of interpreting what I see and feel. I feel that science and photography, in a way, provide similar possibilities, with maybe the difference photography puts me in the middle of the action and calls for subjectivity and self-expression, instead of objectivity and pure impartial interpretation. This is why, in a way, the same inner passion called me in two different ways…

Why did I tackle this subject? Well, yesterday night I watched a really good documentary, related to the geological past of our Planet, and how that past is visible in our present and can help us understand the future of that complex and living system we call Planet Earth. In a way, this documentary made me think again of all these connections between science and nature photography. On the documentary, I could listen to a fantastic story being told around some of the most photogenic parts of the Basque Country, in northern Spain. Many of my spanish photographer colleagues have photographed in exquisite ways that part of the coast, and so I already knew it to be a quite special shore,…but after watching the documentary i realized it is quite unique really. This is no surprise… unique things often tend to be unique in many different fronts, and this coast not only homes some of the most photogenic and graphic features of all shores, but also a hidden story or geological book where every page shows millions of years in our history. A book I invite you to decipher…

Here there is the link of the documentary….(Just in Spanish!). Really good job, from Alberto Gorritiberea y Asier Hilario.


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Well, I do not want to start discussions about global warming, but during the whole month of January and February the white stuff has been really lacking in the whole central Europe. The Swiss alps have been looking really bleak and unusually green during the last months, birds have been turning their colours into spring mode and new buds have been growing on some trees. Kind of Spring in january…

Luckily enough, a few days ago we got a new “feel” of winter in Switzerland. We were in the Jura mountains, spending a few days close to the Mont Tendre area, preparing our next workshop there, and got “happily” caugth in the middle of a snow blizzard. You might think that blizzard conditions, with almost no visibility and snow being drifted horizontally by gusty winds is not photogenic….The truth is, such conditions often “simplify” the landscape to the bare minimum, leaving graphic forms against blank and un-cluttered backgrounds where you can focus on the surrealist quiet and latent mood of winter…

This image is an example of this. I was attracted by the simple and graphic forms of the trees, particularly about that deciduous one which appears in the center of the image. I covered a long area from side to side, so that the “subject” would get reinforced by contrast with the other evergreen trees and also by “breaking” that visual rythm created by the coniferous trees. This is a clear example of a composition where the “dissonant note” character of a subject becomes the real source of its visual weight, giving it all the protagonism. Placing the naked tree bang in the middle of the image (and thus breaking those traditional “rules” of composition) also collaborates to state clearly what the image is about…In this case, the dose of visual tension is added by the contrast of natures and forms, and by the rupture of the visual rythm…so placing the decidous tree in the middle added a bit of stability and calm to counteract that tension in the scene. Basically, that calm and quiet feeling was an important part of the mood which I wanted for this winter image: A latent and sleeping landscape waiting for the renewal of spring.

Great light to you all, and make the most of what remains of this fantastic season ;-)

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Bit by bit I am processing the images we took in Scotland a month ago. After processing the film and scanning, I am having the first “drafts” of the final images.

I am posting here today one of those images which make a whole trip. During our stay there, we spent a week around the Torridon area. I had not seen many images from the place before leaving home, but a quick tour with Google Earth really made me understand the great potential of the place: a long and deep loch getting from the sea into the land, surrounded by a great concentration of peaks like the Liatach, Beinn Alichin and Beinn Eighe.

This image is the result of a combination of planning and a deep location finding-scouting in the field. When I say planning, I am talking about using topographic maps, Google Earth, Photographer Ephemeris and the sunset-sunrise time and direction for the dates of the trip. Using all those tools, I realized the strongest image would be captured looking “into” the land and not from there into the sea. For that, we would need to really go as close to the sea as possible along the loch, looking for a high vantage point to obtain a composition where the loch itself is leading the eye towards the mighty peaks in the background. That would also create a united composition which would capture the essence of this place: loch and mountains, sea water and rock.

However, all this planning was just the tip of the iceberg. As really strong images are made up of tiny details and aspects which cannot be seen on maps, google earth or any other kind of tool, it is once on the field that you can study how to create an unified composition which make an image memorable. This, which applies to all images in general, is specially more important in my opinion for the case of panoramic images. There is always a big temptation to fall under the spell of the appeal of the panoramic format and focus your lens just to the infinity, getting a wide view of the distant land. Sometimes, this is the way to go (see my first post with a Scottish image of sun beams across the clouds, where there is anyway mid-distance land and background to create depth and a play of tones and light to reinforce that illusion), but more often than not, it is the foreground which really makes the photograph extraordinary. In this case, I really wanted a strong foreground element. I wanted an image which would also tell a story, the story of the past of this land, of how all this landscape was created. Some millions of years ago, huge glaciers run from inland into the seas (which were at a much lower level), grinding the valley and shaping the land into those U valleys we can see so well in the Highlands. Today, after those gigants dissappeared, the only features left by that past are deep lochs (created when the sea inundated the valleys when rising its level), those rounded slopes in the hills and scattered erratic boulders left by the ice.

For this image, I really was looking forward for a good foreground element, and it dawned on me that the best element would be a nice erratic boulder. It would help anchor the composition, inject depth into the image, tell the whole story and also provoke emotionally the viewer with that sight of a lonely element comtemplating the scene as if alive. So when we arrived at that area marked with a X on our map, we scouted looking for it. What I did not foresee was finding THE boulder, the perfect one, with perfect shape and form, and really dominating the whole landscape.  I had the image. Or almost.

Basically, in this case I had incubated the concept even long before arriving in Scotland, and almost visualized it. This was on of those times when things seem to have been put for you, just for your image, when Nature seems to collaborate so that your concept comes alive. This location was love at first sight, and so we came back four different afternoons. For a couple of days, we got foggy and almost blizzard conditions, the whole landscape being covered in snow. I realized i did not want snow on the foreground. Even in winter, the grass there in Scotland keeps a really nice golden colour, which can shine when the low winter sun kisses it for a few seconds. The nice rock forms also would make a great subject for the foreground, and the fact of having a dark interesting detailed foreground with a darker tone would really help to separate the background from the foreground layer, adding depth and stability to the image. Too many things which would have got missed with snow covering the land…

It seems nature also cooperated with us on this regard, since in a couple of days the temperature rose a bit, and the snow line quickly raised to higher altitude, uncovering the boulder and the vegetation, but leaving a hint on the distant peaks, making them look even higher. That was the contrast I was looking for: golden colours given by the setting sun in contrast with a bleak and dramatic ominous background. Now the only thing missing was the light, that golden light…

We kept coming for another two occasions, and the last one, we got the light we were after. At the end of a really broody day with overcast skies, the clouds began to open a bit on the West, giving us hope. A few minutes before sunset, the sun pierced the sky, and for a few minutes spotlights bathed the landscape in golden light. For a few seconds we got the boulder lit by the light, bringing alive the whole area, creating that striking contrast of oranges and blues and giving a ton of depth to the image by revealing the texture and rugged character of the foreground. A minute later the light switched off, and the show finished. Using film with a camera like the 617 I wondered whether I had the image or not. I would know it a month later. Sometimes, going to the lab is like having Xmas…

Thanks for reading and great light to you all,

Click on the image to see it bigger!!

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A new movie is coming to theathers…sponsored by National Geographic, it will make a delight to all Africa lovers…and those who like the voice of Jeremy Irons by the way…

But the thing which attracted me the most is the way to promote it. A trailer has been put on the NG site and on youtube…and for every time you see the trailer, 10 USD cents are given by NG to projects of lion conservation in Botswana…nice!

So, take a look, it is a pleasure to the eyes…and you help!


Good week to you all,

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I must reckon I have always felt a quite strong attraction to glaciers. I can say I have been lucky enough to visit some of the most impressive places on this planet and see some of the biggest nature shows, but does not avoid every time I get close to a glacier, I cannot avoid feeling humble, overwhelmed and lured by these rivers of ice, so powerful and mysterious, but at the same time so fragile and weak. They are so strong that they can shape a whole landscape, carry with them millions of tons of rocks and even affect the climate. However, a slight change in the overall temperature reveal the truth…, and the truth is they are just frozen water…as simple as that.

The other day I visited one of the many glaciers that still thrive in the Swiss Alps…where some caves in the ice remain at the very end of the glacier. Being in winter, when the river which is born at its mouth becomes just a shy water trickle, I could enter for a few meters inside the guts of the giant. Quite surreal forms decorated the ceiling and walls of the ice, and frost and bubbles created nice patterns in the cold substance. A great playground for light, which filtered through the ice and reflected from outside led to a myriad of colours and tones. A visual feast for the photographer…

It was a quick visit, but I had the time to capture some images from the place. As very often happens, details show much more than the whole, and I hoped to capture in these three images very different concepts and feelings by using some intimate scenes of the place…

It is quite funny to see how we humans look for order wherever we go. Our brains are made to make sense of the world around us (in a way, it is directly connected to our “equipment” for survival), and we are always happy finding order and making sense out of the natural chaos. Take this first showcased image for instance…That pile of rocks is the perfect example of our avid search for order…we see chaos around us, but we look for rocks which set together, create a uniform shape where proportion and scale give us the sense of “beauty”. However, order is not only visible in human “products”, but it also exists in nature. One of the major roles of the nature photographer is, in fact, looking for that order so that it helps convey a message. On this image for instance I saw a natural sculpture, blending together with a human one…One might think that the glacier adapts itself with its forms to that little human addition, and the same kind of order can be found in both elements. In a way, this scene struck me as the visual metaphor of a possible balance between the two sides, the humans and the fragility of Nature embodied by these ice monsters…the possibility of living together with respect and sustainability. After all, we are part of Nature, and protecting Nature is protecting ourselves…by the proper definition.

The second of the images had a different motivation. One of the biggest feelings I have when facing a glacier is the sheer level of power and energy encapsulated in the ice. What we see in the images as a static mass of ice, is indeed pushing with thousands of tons the rock around, crashing, rolling, polishing and scratching that million years old gneiss rock mass. I saw on this composition the very example of that fight of elements. Ice against mineral. I even saw a giant snake devouring a piece of rock, which with its triangular shape punctured the ice like fighting for its survival. Visually speaking, this image had to be dynamic and strong, full of visual tension. See how I composed the whole scene full of diagonals forms and lines, flowing from left to right, and how I placed the contact of the rock and ice almost at the very center, setting the “fight arena” bang in the middle. See also how the slightly complementary colours (blue and brown), add to that dynamism and tension. This image is also a good example of the play of negative and positive spaces…which is the “object” and the “background”? the ice? the rock? …both? I felt in a way “sorry” for the rock here, thinking on the impending lose of its battle against the ice…at least, for the time being.

The third of the images shows the mystery I feel for this geological features. They represent the gate to another world. Follow the water trickling out of them, and once inside you are surrounded by ice which formed from snow felt to the ground hundreds, thousands of years ago. Open one of those bubbles inside and you might find part of the air that maybe Jesus Christ breathed…In order to show all this mystery, I decided to showcase the entrance of the glacier, that gate which separates our world from his. I opted for a simple composition which, again, would make order out of the chaos, leaving that visual wave created by the ice edge flow around the image, framing the gate of the glacier from where water gets out to the surface. The position of those main three pieces of eroded rock gives a triangular visual order to the image, increasing a bit the dynamism and giving part of the structure to the image.

As Leonardo DaVinci said, I finish with the science of art, but I would not end this post without linking to the art of the science. I read these last days one of best articles/interviews I have ever seen about glaciers, climate change and in a way, the overall state of the natural world nowadays. The author is Professor of Glaciology Doug Benn and you can find an interview made by his brother, and also nature photographer and conservationist Alister Benn.  If you are bored with “cheap and sensationalist predication” of the global warming issue, you might even find this interview more appealing, since he explains the situation we live nowadays in a very scientific way (but understandable for everyone), basing his answers with facts, proofs and common sense. You can find the interview here.

Thanks for reading, and great light to you all…

Note: Click on the images to see them bigger!

Glacier Study I

Glacier Study II

Glacier Study III

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Hello all! Probably you might know already that great site from two great photographers and conservationists: Available Light Images, from Alister Benn and Juanli Sun? Well, they thought you might be interested in knowing a bit more about myself, my work, my expectations and my future plans…and decided to showcase an interview about myself and my photographic work…

I would say, really pay a good visit to their site since you will be really positively impressed…and then, leave the interview for one of those sleepless nights you have nothing to do!:):) In any case, I must thank Alister and Juanli for their offering and I thank  in advance those of you who will take the time to give it a read!

Great light to you all,

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I am really glad to announce that one of my images has got a first prize in the Natural Landscapes category in the 2010 edition of the “Memorial Maria Luisa” international nature photography contest. Besides the winner image, 2 of my images were finalist in the categories “Mountain Landscapes”, 1 in “Wildlife”, 1 in “Vegetal World” and 1 in “Natural Landscapes” category.

Founded 19 years ago, this contest has risen incredibly in popularity in the last decade, drawing every year more tens of thousands f0 images from the best professionals in the field of nature and mountain photography of over 50 countries in the world…

If I was really humbled and happy when I got the news…even more I was when I saw the names of the other winners I was rubbing shoulders with. Just take a look at the overall winner of this MML 2010 edition…yep, Bence Máté, the overall winner of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010…Man, that is a good performance! bravo, Bence!

Now, it is time to get down the rush of excitement and keep on doing what I like the most…shooting out there and experiencing the natural beauty! THAT is the real prize for this job…you bet!

Winner "Natural Landscapes"

Finalist "Natural Landscapes"

Finalist "Mountain Landscapes"

Finalist "Mountain Landscapes"

Finalist "Vegetal World"

Finalist "Wildlife"

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