I just returned from teaching a workshop in Greenland and Iceland for PQA, and the trip was loaded with photo ops, but ones I didn’t expect. We spent about 4 days in each area, and I expected to be shooting mainly landscapes since both these countries are stunning. I did find a lot of compelling landscapes, but in the end ‘figures in the landscape’ were my best images.
Figures in a landscape are just that, shots that have the human element, but more for perspective than as the main subject. Greenland is remote, sparsely populated country where native traditions like subsistence hunting are part of everyday like. We had been shooting many icebergs and landscapes in Ammassalik, but one evening we arranged to meet a native man who demonstrated how they hunt for seals from a kayak. Seeing this kayaker throwing his spear with icebergs and snowy mountains in the distance was a special moment. This was a classic figure in a landscape, both elements came together to create the shot. Either one by itself would be interesting, but not nearly as good. I converted the shot to black and white to add a ‘timeless’ feel to the shot.
Another aspect of town life in Ammassalik were trampolines. It seemed almost every other house had a trampoline in their yard with giggling kids jumping on them. I took a number of portraits of smiling kids (the locals were incredibly friendly), but wanted something more unique. How to shoot a portrait but make it unique and have a sense of place? I mean really, how often are you shooting kids jumping on trampoline at midnight (always light this time of year) in a remote village in Greenland. I put on my Nikon 18-35mm F3.5-4.5 wide angle and shot below the tramp for a different view of figures in a landscape.
I did shoot some ice. I was most fascinated by smaller icebergs and pack ice, especially from high angles where the sky was reflected in the water. We did daily trips into the bay photographing ice, and saw the occasional seal poke his head out to investigate our group.
Iceland is also very dramatic with stunning landscapes, and waterfalls that are hard to beat. I’ve seen many images of these famous spots, so I wanted to do something a little different. Standing behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall, I kept waiting for tourists to move out of my picture. Right when I though I had a clear shot, a young boy ran directly into the center of my image to get a wet, close look at the falls. I realized at this moment that this was my shot. What was amazing to me is I was shooting 6 second exposures, so I thought there was no way he would stand still in the soaking water that long. But he just stood still for 10 seconds experiencing nature firsthand. And that, I realized, is really what I was trying to capture. This shot is at the top of this blog.