Moods and Non-light

This was written at the beginning of this week. I'm currently back in the Lofoten islands, Norway. It is now a week later, and I've experienced so much different light than the kind I describe in the draft posting I wrote earlier this week, which I hope to share with you in a few days time. Until then, read on.....

This week, I’m back in Lofoten, Norway. Sunrise is at 10:50am and it set again at 12:57.

When my friend Lilian suggested I come here to experience Morkid (the dark time) I was intrigued. I thought it might bring some new dimension to how I look at things around me and how I perceive light in general.

Today is the first day that I’ve been outside with my camera. Because the sky is heavy with dark clouds, the entire landscape feels much more low in mood.

There were a few things that happened today, which I feel I’ve learnt about the light in Norway. It seems that everything here is the inverse of how I normally work with light. I favour cloudy skies because of the reduced contrast. Clouds also help light bounce around the landscape, making everything appear to be lit from the ground up. Clouds also make for interesting skies.

Here in Lofoten, there was so much cloud cover today that I felt really hemmed in. I had a feeling of claustrophobia and tiredness because the light levels were so low. However, the light levels at sunset appeared to be brighter, and I felt more alert and happier than I did during the middle of the day. I think this was because having such low light levels in the middle of the day felt very strange to me. It was as if my body clock didn’t quite know where to place itself, and once sunset began, it was as if I found my timing and things were back on track. It also however, felt brighter at sunset today, simply because the cloud cover dispersed and I was able to see colours in the sky. There were reds and blues that I had not detected during the low mood of the rest of the day, and as subtle as they were, I found my eye reaching for them.

My mood was also affected by what I experienced today. I had no idea that we could yearn for the sun so badly. I’ve only been here a few days, and I’m not aware of missing the sun just yet, so it was interesting to find that instead of wishing to photograph away from the sun, as is my normal practice, I wanted to chase where the sun was, keep heading for it, and also point my camera in its direction also.

I had never considered that we are like plants that need to be fed by the suns rays. Nor had I considered that the sun would be so central to my sense of wellbeing and belonging. Because there was so little colour today, when I did detect some very subtle shades of blue and red in the sky (almost non detectable), they had me routed to my spot, attempting to drink them in with my eyes. I felt that light and colour was out of reach, something just off shore, a little bit out of distance from me, and I looked upon them with a sense of wonder. I found my spirits were extremely uplifted by the spectacle of noticing some subtle colour in the sky.

I feel I’ve learned a little bit more about my attraction to light. When there is very little of it, what is there, behaves as a beackon, a source of inspiration and happiness to me. I seem to find my mood is immensely affected by light or the lack of it. I'm not surprised that there are many stories in the world where good and evil are signified by light and darkness.

Postscript: It's been a few days since I wrote this, and I've shot quite a lot of film, in very different light. Each day seems to be entirely different and I've seen dark days that were so dark I didn't really feel happy about things, to beautiful days with magenta skies and pink snow for 4 hours of daylight a day and it's been really stunning to shoot in it.

I took my Mamiya 7II system along with my Hasselblad 500CM with me to Norway, and I've not used the Mamiya at all. I'm really pleased to have found time to focus on getting into the Hasselblad. I find that the square aspect ratio is 'shaking up' my photography style a little and making me look differently at the landscape. I also like the entirely mechanical aspect of the camera. I've been making exposures into the minutes and even beyond 10 minutes at times here, and it's nice to know there is no battery drain happening while I do it. I'm feeling very enthused by the change of camera. I guess we all need to try new things once in a while, and certainly by using a camera with different features, or a different aspect ratio, it really does exercise the brain into working on compositions in a different way.

I still love my Mamiya 7II camera, and I won't be parting with it, but just like the Contax 645 system I have for making portraits, I feel that the Hasselblad this week has allowed me to expand what I do, and reach a little further into longer exposures and to think differently about composition.

pps. The sun is now rising at 11:30am and setting at 12:23pm!

Back to Lofoten

Tomorrow, I head to the airport, for a long overdue break. I know... you probably think that I simply spend all my time making images and having a great time. But the truth is that I spend all my time making images, and having a great time. Ok, only joking, the truth is, that I've hardly had any time this year to make my own images.

I have a photography workshop business to run, and that requires me to be there for my clients, and work with them while we're on location. Doing workshops is extremely satisfying, but also very demanding of my time, and once i'm done with a workshop, I'm often looking forward to heading home for some down time. So recently, I've been thinking that I don't often get the chance I'd like to make images.

So I'm heading back to Lofoten tomorrow for a break. I'm looking forward to catching up with my Lofoten friends whom I met through my friend Vlad earlier this year when I made the collection of images you see above. I love to mix my photographic trips with social occasions if I can, as I feel that since I became a full time pro, that I seem to spend my time away from friends and family a lot.

So I thought I'd leave you all with this little postcard of images that I shot last March. I don't think there will be any snow there, but certainly, a lot of very changeable light, not to mention late rises (yes!) as sunrise is around 11am and it sets around 3pm in the evening. Ideal really, as the best light is around sunrise and sunset, so with a schedule like this, there's not much waiting around.

I will be back in touch once I'm home. But I won't be back for long, as I'll be heading back to Iceland (very) late December to take advantage of the low light and shoot in the south east of the country. I feel I have two possible future projects for new books on the horizon, but I'll wait until the current book, which is more or less a retrospective of my work, has had a good chance to be viewed and enjoyed by you all.

Speak soon.

Holiday's are a coming

In a few weeks time, I'll be back in Reine, Lofoten for around 11 days. The trip is really to catch up with friends and also, to spend some time photographing Lofoten in the winter months before the snow comes next year.

I was chatting to my friend Vlad today and he emailed me this photo of Reine, Lofoten from a trip he did there recently. It was really nice to hear from him, and also to see a recent photograph of Reine. I feel as if it is a home from home.

As we were chatting, I remembered that Vlad also sent me this photograph of the Aurora, witnessed from our friends house in Reine. It happened just a few nights after I'd left to come home. Vlad was still there, and I couldn't believe he'd seen the Aurora happen from the balcony of the house I'd just left.

Of course, there is no guarantee about seeing the Aurora, and any photographic workshop that promises it, is to be avoided. It is a rare thing, and you really need a lot of time, and luck, to see it.

If you would like to see some more of Vlad's work (he's a really lovely chap too - he has a bit of a deep soul to him), then please view his gallery. Vlad also has a facebook page, which you should check out too.

Many thanks to Vladimir Donkov for letting me use his photographs, while I have no new ones to present.

Olstind - a great presence

Some subjects are iconic. No matter where you are in the landscape, they just appear to be in your line of sight at each and every turn. And if they are not, then they are in the very corner of your eye: asking - or perhaps demanding to be included.

I believe that this is a form of visualisation. We are being guided to make an image of something because it has a presence.

It attracts our eye.

For some, this comes very easily, and for others, they just see ‘everything’ and make very un-focussed images: one’s without a presence or point of interest. For those of us who can’t help being drawn to certain subjects in the landscape, I think we are responding to our environment.

It’s almost like we’re on remote control - not really ourselves. We are drawn, or compelled to make an image of something and we’re not conscious as to ‘why’.

Olstind was exactly like that. I found that the mountain seemed to dominate my view at every turn. He demanded to be included in many of my shots and I was very happy that he did, because I found him a most pleasing subject.

I say ‘he’, because the mountain looks like an old man. His face has a beard.

Don’t you think that Olstind looks like he’s got a nice warm coat on, covering his neck too?

So I decided to be obvious about him. Better to just please him and take at least one direct shot of him where it’s clear that he’s the main point of interest, or perhaps better put - the star.

Reine #2

This is my last post for this week. I'm off to the isles of Islay and Jura for a week. I've been working on my Velvia films the past few days but still have quite a bit left to do. I will post a contact sheet of the intended portfolio once I'm done.

In the meantime, I'd like to leave you with this image taken from a little peninsula in the town of Reine. I used a long exposure for this, and found some foreground where there was ..... 'nothing'. I find that 'nothing' often makes images much easier to digest - easier for the eye to take in. This shot is really about the sloping mountain, leaning into the frame, and the texture of the overcast morning sky.

Polar Night - Mørketid

One of the very best things, maybe the best thing in doing what I do, is meeting new people. Over the past two years i've met clients from Switzerland (a lot!), Norway, Sweden, Denmark, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, Portugal, Poland and even India. Many become friends.

But I also meet others on the periphery of what I do. My friend Vlad Donkov is no exception to this. A Bulgarian photographer with a passion for the snow (he should have been born in the north I think!), Vlad ventures to Greenland and the Arctic Circle each year.

Last year, he got in touch with me and after a few emails, he suggested I come out to Lofoten with him this winter time. He wanted me to come for longer than the 8 days I was free. It was an amazing experience. Not just the landscapes, but the people that I met there - kind, open, warm. I now feel I have some friends to go back and see. Surely this is one of the best things that something like a passion for photography can bring you?

So tonight I was speaking to one of my new Norwegian friends about Mørketid - the 'dark time' they have in the far north. Checking the Photographer's Ephemeris tonight I see that Mørketid commences on December the 11th and continues until January the 4th. It is the time when the sun does not rise above the horizon and is considered a special time. My Norwegian friend says she does not miss the light during this time as there are lots of celebrations and something 'timeless' about the experience of being there.

So I've been invited, and I've decided I should go (it doesn't take much to twist my arm). Maybe the elusive Aurora will make an appearance, but there is much to shoot, even in perpetual darkness. Long exposures turn darkness to day.

I think this is worth exploring. I've been told there are faint colours on the horizon, plus, the chance to shoot long exposures of the region should prove interesting. When the light does arrive back, twilight starts at 9am and finishes at 11am, sunset at 11 and sunset at 1pm, when twilight commences until 3pm. That's the most perfect day for a photographer who loves to shoot the golden hours and its periphery light.

Now, I've been thinking of suitable music for a podcast on Norway, and since I'm a fan of Maria Kalaniemi, who plays very emotive Scandinavian accordion music,  I thought I'd ask her for permission to use a track of hers titled 'Nautilus', but I wasn't aware that she is Finnish. I thought she was Norweigan. So back to the drawing board on that one!

Still, it gives me a nice introduction to her music for you. I know, Accordion music isn't everyone's taste, but I feel there's a deep soul in what she plays.... particularly the last piece in this video. And as I keep saying, inspiration comes in many forms. Just because we're photographers, doesn't just mean we should draw our inspiration from other photographers work. There is a whole world out there and I get inspired by beautiful music as much as I do from the visual world.

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Lofoten (Digital) Contact Sheet

Playing around tonight. Just thought I'd post these GF1 images. I will get my Velvia films processed tomorrow, and posted up on the site in a month or two once I have time to scan them. I'm away to Skye next week on a workshop, so I hope you enjoy looking at these for the time being.

I love that little Lumix GF1. It's a complete bargain - small, compact, great images and it's dirt cheap too. I can't figure out why I never thought about this little system before.

Ok, that's me for a while or so. I hope you enjoy my new eBooks on Aspect Ratios and Depth of Field etc, etc..... all the best, Bruce.

Back from Lofoten

I'm just home from the Lofoten islands. It's a special place. Many thanks to Camilla and Vlad for their company this past week and for opening the door to me and letting me meet their friends. I now have a reason, rather than just photography, to go back to Lofoten.

These images were taken with my Lumix GF1. I have to say I'm a little smitten with the system. But I did shoot with my Mamiya 7 and so needless to say, I will be keen to get the films back to work on the images. Film, for me, provides an organic look that is not possible with digital. They are, in my opinion, quite different mediums, both valid, but different.

Anyway, the weather while I was on Lofoten was crazy. It reminded me very much of Patagonia with the winds coming from nowhere. One moment everything is calm and the next, you're being taken off your feet by a passing storm.

I seem to have a preference for winter. There is something magical about the light at this time of year, how it plays on the landscape and how it is constantly changing. But I feel I'm not too far away from booking a flight back there for this summer. It is a special place.

Lost in Norway

Depriving myself of sleep, I spent most evenings 'lost in the moment' above the arctic circle in Norway's Lofoten Islands. In this podcast, I explain why it's possible to go slightly mad in the pursuit of photography.

Please click on the image to play the podcast