Happy Anniversary (to me!)

Tonight I'm feeling quite reflective about my photographic-life. You see, this summer will be exactly ten years since I first visited Iceland. What was originally supposed to be a bike-touring trip around the ring road changed into a photography trip after I fell off my bike (I was wearing cleats on my cycle-shoes) and broke my wrist. When my plaster came off six weeks later, I had already re-booked a flight to take me out there late summer, which turned out to be ideal.

The trip was an epiphany for me in terms of my photographic development. I remember looking at the transparencies on my light table a few months after returning home and thinking 'wow - this is quite a bit of a step up from what I've done to date'.

Selfoss & morning mist

I was 36 years old, and I'd only really been photographing passionately for 3 or 4 years at that time and I still had a lot to look forward to. Through my workshops I've met people who have found photography at all ages. I'm surprised just how old I was when I really got into it, so I think there's always hope for everyone - it's never too late to start whatever it is you want to do.

I feel quite nostalgic about this first trip because it made such a big impression on me, not just in terms of noticing a shift in my own photographic abilities, but also in the experience as a whole.

I spent almost a month in a tent and got so used to the experience that I found it hard to sleep in a bed when I got home. I also missed the sound of the wind and outside atmospheric sounds when I returned from the trip - Iceland really got under my skin.

During my time away I found I had days camped in wild areas such as Dettifoss waterfall without any company. I really loved this. My thoughts during all this solitary time turned towards memories I'd forgotten I owned. Old school friends from my childhood and primary school surfaced, as did thoughts of my three sisters and my brother. It was a very cathartic time and one I still look back on with fondness because you can't replicate that kind of experience if you try: it just has to come to you.


Iceland at that time was still fairly unknown to most world-tourists and many of the places I visited were mine during the small hours of the day. I often made photographs from 11am to 6am with my Mamiya 7II medium format film camera.

Things have changed a lot in the last ten years. When I started out, film was king and everyone was asking 'will digital take over?'. Then there was a time when folks asked 'have you gone digital yet?' like there was just a matter of time and it would be inevitable. I'm still shooting film and loving it but I do feel like an old-timer in this regard now.

I've also seen the birth of what I term the 'photographic-tourist'. Photography has never been so popular and there are more and more people each year visiting far-off distance places. Which is just great, so long as we don't spoil it all in the process.

And perhaps the biggest change for me over this period is that I've seen myself go from an IT professional (although my work friends might claim that I was never professional), to being a full-time workshop and tour leader. I never intended it, didn't strive for it - it just came and found me. I'm truly grateful for being given something that I know is my true vocation in life.

jokularsgljufur stamp, 2007, image © Me

On a humorous note, I think I'm in denial about my age. I'm now 46, not far away from being 47 but I still feel like I'm 27, or maybe more truthfully 19.

I think I'm also very much in denial about what photography has become compared to what it was ten years ago. Being a photographer and traveling was still a very exotic thing way back then and although I'm sure it still is to many of us, I feel a shift in its uniqueness. These special and often remote places have been publicised so heavily on the web now. Either through social networking or dedicated photography sites like Flickr (or my own come to think of it) and traffic to them has increased dramatically. That's just an observation and not a complaint. Things just change.

And lastly, compared to 2004, I don't feel like the new-guy anymore. Perhaps more "established-old-school", but that could just be in my mind only. There's been so much development in technology and how people convey what they do that I sometimes feel like a bit of a dinosaur.

But I still firmly believe that content wins over presentation. Good images always speak for themselves, despite what mediums we use to broadcast them and now we decide to dress them up.

So here's to the next ten years, wherever it may bring us all in our own photographic journey. It's certainly been a journey for me so far.

I'm so grateful that I got acquainted with Iceland. As a photographer, I have grown through getting to know it. It has been pivotal in my own development and for that reason, it will always have a very special place in my heart.