This is my fourth time to Hokkaido and this time I spent a month here.
Although I returned to some favourite locations I also found myself exploring new hills and lone copse. The Japanese landscape sometimes seems to feel as if it has been landscaped specifically for the landscape photographer, but take a step back and zoom out, and it is clear this is an industrial island and nature is not at the forefront of its thoughts.
Weather plays a big part in the success of one's image making. Hokkaido is a place where you can top up on your vitamin D because there is so much sunlight, so many sunny days. You have to pick and choose your moments if you wish to record soft light which is only provided at sunrise, sunset and those moments when the skies are overcast.
Fjallabak Minimalism 2018
A different kind of minimalism
Last year we had the absolute minimal conditions in the interior of Iceland. Where last year it had been impossible to tell the difference between ground and sky, this year we were greeted with endless blue-sky days.
So we had to come up with another plan: we focussed on the sunrise and sunset times to work with the beautiful soft tones that I think this landscape excels at.
It's like I've been in a monochrome world this past year or so while my style of photography has become more and more minimal: less subject matter and less colour. But with this collection I feel as though I'm able to let a little colour back in.
Where we often think of scenes being overly complicated due to the number of objects we place within the scene, so too, can colour be too much sometimes. Trying to find the balance between a lot, and not enough is like trying to find the vanishing point. I think I'm really intrigued by the thought that something can move so close to becoming indiscernible, unclear. It ads mystery. Not quite knowing where the division is.
Fjallabak & Veiðivötn 2017
Dark tones abound
This year’s journey into the interior of Iceland seemed to bring on a further distillation of tone. Whereas last year’s photographs still contained a lot of colour, I found myself embracing the blackness of the landscape. Indeed, I feel I was attracted to it, and most of my subjects this year were focussed primarily on dark areas or areas with high contrast between black desert and water or sky.
There seemed to be less green evident everywhere, and the colour in the lakes had gone. Perhaps it had something to do with the filtration of the light? Regardless, it was just different from last year's visit, and I was different also, so any new photographs were bound to have a different character to them.
Whatever the reason for the change in the work, it’s best to let things go the way they want to go. Let them be what they want to be. This time the black desert spoke out more than it has on previous visits, and this time I listened. I can’t explain it more than that.
Fjallabak Minimalism 2017
Iceland's Fjallabak- a minimalist playground
The interior of Iceland during winter is a minimalist playground of black brush strokes against a white canvas. It is a place where sky and ground meet somewhere indivisible to the human eye.
If you are lucky, you meet the right landscape at the right time in your photographic development. Each landscape teaches us something about form and tone, and I believe that many of the landscapes I've encountered have been responsible for shaping my photographic style to a large degree.
I couldn't have come here before everything else I've photographed, I wouldn't have been ready and I doubt I would have known where to begin with this landscape. But it all feels clear to me now. I have been working towards simplified form and tone and this landscape is perhaps at the extreme end of my journey. It is perhaps the ultimate minimalist playground.
The outline of a mountain hanging in space, with no discernible difference between sky and ground is such a fascinating subject to play with. In this portfolio I have deliberately taken advantage of this ambiguity. The uncertainty that one does not know where the ground ends and where the sky begins can lead to all sorts of illusions, which interests me greatly.
I've never been too interested in conveying what is there, instead preferring to work with what is left unsaid.
Lençóis Maranhenses 2018
Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
Many years ago, while I was researching some places in the Atacama desert of Chile, I got talking to a couple from Brazil. It was new year’s eve and I was in San Pedro de Atacama for some personal photography.
My Brazilian friends spoke to me of a national park in Brazil that I should visit. I had not heard of it until then but their description of endless sand dunes and lagoons made me wonder if it might be a place worth visiting. The place they were talking about was Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses. It is a rare beauty of a place made up of endless sand dunes and lagoons that cover an area of 1,500 km2.
This collection of images were made during a one week visit to Lençóis Maranhenses, in March of 2018.
To make these photos, I had to hike over three days. There is no transport here, no roads, no infrastructure except for a couple of tiny remote villages in a desert oasis setting.
The first two days I walked around 10km per day while on the third day we walked 17km. Often leaving our desert oasis at around 4am so we could cover most of the distance before the day got too hot, arriving at our next camp around 8am.
Our early morning departures turned out to be ideal for photography. Travelling in a westerly direction we walked with the sun coming up behind us. I am no fan of the sun in my shot and it is in my view an amateur’s decision to shoot towards it during sunrise. The most beautiful light is at 180º from the sun. This is known as the anti-nodal point and it is where the colours are strongest while the light is softest. There was no exception on this trek and I was greeted with the most beautiful soft tones and subtle shades of colour during my morning walks.
On the final walk of 17km, we had to leave camp at 3am, so we could avoid most of the heat during the day. This meant walking in the dark for three hours, circumnavigating lagoons the size of lakes. This is something I shall never forget. Often our headtorches did not allow us to know just how big some of the lagoons were (many are the size of large lakes) and so it was always a gamble if we should go left or right around them. Further to this, sometimes it was hard to gauge the gradients of some of the dunes we had to walk down in the dark, and I sometimes mistook the scale of a dune to be much larger than what it turned out to be. So many optical illusions brought on by having few reference points to keep me right made for a lasting impression.
This is perhaps one of the most adventurous trips I’ve done. One of sleeping in hammocks outside in the open air, of staring up at the milky way and feeling the warm night breeze keep me dry at night, of walking in the dark around massive lagoons and of the cool sand soothing my bare feet as I walked. We sometimes made shortcuts through the shallower lagoons, sometimes submerged up to our knees in cool soothing water, and other times with the water up to our chests while carrying our camera bags on our shoulders. I shan’t forget Lençóis Maranhenses.
Puna de Atacama 2017
The Cono de Arita, is the most otherworldly subject I have yet photographed. It is a startlingly graphic object that changes in contrast as the sun goes down.
The Puna de Atacama is a surprising place. With deep red labyrinths of clay, and kilometres of giant pumice sticking out of the desert like the shapes of a beached boat hulls, this place is like no other. Make no mistake, this part of the Atacama desert is different from its Bolivian and Chilean counterparts.
I first came here in 2015 to photograph, but i left feeling I'd only just scratched the surface. It's taken me two years to return, as my schedule is so booked out at least a year in advance.
This trip was twice the duration of my first effort, because everything is so spread out. The travelling distances are longer and rougher than the Bolivian landscape and that's saying something. Most days were spent sitting in the car anticipating what the evening shoot would provide.
Each evening the 'good' light would be short - only twenty minutes or so, in which to find a good vantage point. And some of the locations are so vast, that this task often overwhelmed me. I had to repeat many locations, often driving two hours in one direction, often twice a day for several days, so I could study the landscape and figure out what would work as well as not. The Puna is a puzzle that needs time and patience.
This landscape has a more remote, wilder feeling than the Bolivian Altiplano has. I can't explain why but maybe it's due to the more limited resources available; the high plateau of Argentina feels much poorer than its Bolivian cousin, and my guide Pancho would agree. He cites so much economic instability in Argentina as the cause. But I feel these remote places seem to be timeless, disconnected places that have little to do with outside factors. They are what they are, and I think they have rarely changed in decades, if not centuries.
In that respect, the Puna de Atacama is a timeless place to be and any time spent here seems to lead to a lot of introspection and silence.
Hokkaido (北海道) 2017
Return to Snow Country
I often feel that my first images of a new landscape may possess an elusive quality, one that is difficult to recapture on subsequent visits. There is an honesty present, simply because there are no preconceptions to hold on to. Everything is new.
Through repeated visits, this innocence may be replaced by experiences where the initial impressions can often become lost or burried.
Where last year Hokkaido was more about atmosphere and fog, this year I found myself confronted by a more literal representation.
Hokkaido is a landscape heavily touched by man, and I think by photographing these symmetrically placed trees, I've moved from a point of suggestion to something more unembellished, more truthful.
Fjallabak & Veiðivötn 2016
Fjallabak ('fiatlaback'), means 'behind the mountains'. It is a nature reserve situated in the central highlands of Iceland. It is also a place of remote, rugged and stark beauty.
In terms of colour and tone, I find Fjallabak to be the antithesis of the Bolivian altiplano.
Although both these landscapes can be vast, empty, minimal places, brothers of a sort, I approach Fjallabak very differently to that of its south american counterpart.
Where the altiplano asks for its bright vivid landscape to be embraced for what is there, Fjallabak is the opposite. With it's leanings towards the darker registers of tonality, it is a landscape occupied by suggestion and mystery. This I feel, is a quality that when found, should be embraced.
Shadows and dark tones in the landscape tap into our primeval instincts. These are spaces where our imagination is allowed to run free.