Torres del Paine national park, in the southern region of Chile, is a place that I've been going to since 2003. I love this place dearly, despite it being a very difficult place to photograph.
For years I've been seeking to shoot this place with a lot of colour in mind. I guess I have been drawn in by those red Patagonian skies. But things have changed for me recently. I've come to realise that some places have a character due to the coldness of the light they are bathed in. Torres del Paine national park is one such place. It is a beautifully stark place, and I feel I've only just begun to understand it.
About the last photo
I always find myself full of thoughts about where I've just been and what I've experienced whilst there. Each time I fly home from Patagonia, the glaciers and mountains are sometimes hidden by a bank of cloud. There's something quite calming about seeing an inverted horizon above the clouds with beautiful tones. It's a great way to say goodbye to a place that is one of my homes from home.
Valle de Dalì & the Siloli desert Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Abaroa
The high altitude thin air and the light that accompanies it, makes the Bolivian altiplano like no other place I know. The landscape is surreal, sometimes exactly like a Dalì painting with colour palettes that I don't find in other landscapes. The altiplano is a place I find I can work on simplifying my composition skills. It is a vast, empty and strangely beautiful place to be.
These are a few of the hardships one may encounter while here on the Altiplano of Bolivia. At an elevation of 3,600m at its lowest point and 4,800m at its highest, it is a hard environment to exist in. But it’s not just the lack of air. The temperature in the shade can often leave you wishing for warmth, while outside in the sun, the UV content is so harsh that sunglasses and a hat are necessary, if not mandatory. Your down jacket remains on, at all times, like a permanent fixture to your body.
Is something that does not exist here. After almost three weeks at high elevation, my skin began to crack on the back of my hands. Abrasions appeared whilst taking my winter gloves off for brief moments to operate my camera at -17ºC. My lips were constantly chapped.
There were many times when I thought my camera had seized up in the cold of the morning, only to find that it was my mind instead, that had stopped working. I lost many shots because of user error, exacerbated by hands that would not, and could not work the settings of my camera at low temperatures.
A landscape full of light
But what light! The reason why I am here!
Every hardship that I experienced at high altitude was worth it - for those gorgeous rays of light that I witnessed each morning and evening. Like clockwork, always on time and never disappointing me, the light possessed a vibrancy that affected my Fuji Velvia film in a way, that no other landscape has.
I'd like to express my deepest of thanks to the following guides and drivers who assisted me over the three week period I was at high altitude:
Abel Valdivia Lopez Armando Mamani Flores Demetrio Chavez Vergara
Alvaro Oropeza Carbera Marisol Maydana
Weather, Light, Colour, Emotion
Most folk who live in Scotland find the weather during November harsh. It's often wet, windy and cold.
But visiting the isle of Harris when there are many winter storms coming through, has given me the chance to work with atmosphere more than anywhere else I know of.
Although the island offers little in the way of craggy coast-line or sharply defined mountains, I find this lack of attributes ideal, because it allows me to focus on the basic elements of colour and tone.
Harris is all about atmospheric changes.
Often overwhelmed by the space around me, I find I seem to tune in to the elements, so much so, that I can spend days here absorbed in it all. And days I must spend, because Harris does not offer up its secrets in one day.
The variances of light on the landscape change and evolve slowly over days if not weeks and I often feel Harris is all about the study of time.
Above all, the changes in the landscape seem to reflect the changes that I notice within me as a photographer. And I feel there has been a change. Perhaps I'm trying less to tell the landscape what I want, and instead, I'm more at ease with letting it tell me what it wants.
Tones & Simple Shapes
I didn't know quite what to expect returning back to Bolivia. Would I create the same kind of work as I did in 2009, or would I have a new way of looking at the same landscape?
I'm pleased to say that I didn't have an answer to this until I was back home, working on the new images from this trip.
I now see, that my first trip to Bolivia in 2009 opened up the door towards simple compositions and this recent trip allowed me to see how far I've come down that road.
It's been a beautiful journey so far and the altiplano is a great place to simplify, and think about tones and shapes only.
Vibrancy & Hues
On the altiplano, and particularly so on the Salar de Uyuni salt flats, one is forced to think about tone and colour only, because that's all there is to work with.
It really does make for a great lesson in 'less is more'.
But I feel that it's not just about improving craft.
The clarity of the light really does make for a very intimate experience. I do hope to continue to come here, as there is so much more that I have yet to explore.
Sometimes I feel as though I really know a place, only to find that I've really just scratched the surface.
The Altiplano of northern Chile and Bolivia had many surprises in store for me in 2013. I had not anticipated snow at such a high elevation during the season that I ventured here.
I'm only acutely aware now, that the Altiplano figures largely in my future as a place for me to work on my compositions, and my understanding of light, shade and tone. It offers challenges that I have not experienced elsewhere on my travels to date.
The Unveiling of a Portfolio
I often leave large spells between a shoot, and the editing of it. I find the distance allows me to gain some objectivity.
While I was editing this body of work, I realised that leaving things too long, can bring on a feeling of creative blockage. It was such a joy to work on these images. Each one has its own personality, and now that they're all here, I feel as if I've always known them. Like they were always here, but just out of sight, waiting to come out and show me who they are.
I also enjoyed watching the entire portfolio take shape. As each image was completed, I felt as if the mood and tone and story of the portfolio shifted and changed.
Like an Arctic Tundra
Visiting the south coast of Iceland in January, was like seeing a familiar friend in a very new way.
We saw icelandic ponies, set like black silhouettes against the white backdrop of nothingness, and I often wished I could have made images of them. But it was not to be.
We had snow drifts and oftentimes the sky was inseparable from the ground that we were driving on.
The landscape still provided. I think in some ways, Iceland remains one of my best friends.
I took along a recently acquired hasselblad 500CM camera that I'd aquired from a dear friend. I love the square aspect ratio and I think it was great to come to Iceland, and see new compositions - suggested to me - by working with a new aspect ratio.
I think square has more of a graphic-art suggestion to it. I think this lends itself to influencing you to look at the landscape in a more abstract way. It's certainly something I wish to continue to explore. Sometimes, new (old) equipment can lead you in a new direction.
Arctic Circle Home
I have so many places I call home now. Each time I come back to Lofoten in Norway, I spend time with my good friends who live here.
There is an extended curcle of expats living in the Lofoten Islands. It seems to be a place where strangers can come and be at home.
I believe that we all have a perfect place to be.
Some of us have always found home, while some of us have to go searching to find it.
I think Lofoten is home for many people who aren't from there originally. There is a magnetic pull that draws certain people here.
Rorbu and Snow
Lofoten to me, is an idyl. It holds a lot of dreams for me as a landscape, particularly so in winter.
With little red fishing huts (known as Rorbu), dotted around the landscape, and towering mountains jutting out of the sea, it is a place where I feel I can explore the possibility of making very romantic landscapes.
Black & White, in Colour
There's something to be said about shooting a fairly mono-chromatic location on colour film.
Returning to south Iceland, I found lots of black beaches and glacial ice. I also found foreboding landscapes such as Reynisdrangar's sea stacks. And then of course, Skógarfoss waterfall, which never seems to be without tourists, demanded to be shot in the middle of the night around 1am. That kind of light brings a mood and also a reduced colour pallet to work with.
All this I felt, made my return trip to Iceland an exercise of shooting black and white subjects in colour.
Internalising a Scene
When I make images, I'm aware of feeling a connection to the landscape. If I'm in good spirits, then I believe that connection should work really well. But what if I'm not so well?
I came down with a chest infection the day I arrived in Iceland, and at the time, I felt it really hampered my creativity and enthusiasm. But looking back at these pictures now, I think the only thing it hampered was my willingness to carry out the full trip. Coming home early to rest, I had a chance to see these images sooner than I'd anticipated, and I'm really pleased with them. I guess, despite an awful cold, I was able to be objective and still make that connection.