Rafael Rojas Photography

Blog of Rafael Rojas Fine Art Photography

Back from another planet


Hello all! We finally landed from our galactic trip to another planet. Or at least, that is the impression we had when we came back. Our Iceland trip is over and it seems like the plane taking us there really left our atmosphere and ventured into the deep galaxies. The place is so surreal and strange, that the idea one is just a few hours away from central Europe seems really difficult to believe... We spent a few weeks there, visiting quite a big part of the country: the incredible-outstanding-gorgeous area of the south, the central part of the country, the North and the Fjords of the Northwest. As usual in all our photographic trips, we set a veeeery slow pace, trying really to get the grips of each of the stops and squeeze the best we could the photographic potential. We run in mostly crowded and touristic places though, finding in most cases the biggest joy in some of those anonymous and in-the-middle-of-no-where places where travelers normally step on the accelerator in the search of the next iconic place.

One of the main logistical "tricks" we adopted for this trip was the schedule-inversion. As sun sets at around 11:30 and rises again at 3:00 during the first weeks of July, one option is sleeping during the "day" and waking up for the "night". And I say "night" because between sunset and sunrise the sun is not far below the horizon, and ambient light is enough to read a newspaper...or make glorious images under the crepuscular glow. So, as soon as we arrived, we started waking up at around 15:00 hours, going out for shooting and coming back at 7:00 am, after a nice "dinner" in the sun (or the rain). The main difficulty was making that compatible with the normal schedules of hostels and guest houses, but a good and creative mixture of tent and bed made it possible. A trip later on during the end of August-early September would just make things easier, with already quite normal hours of sunrise and sunset...and maybe the first snow dusting the mountains...

The country itself is nothing but spectacular. However, is another kind of "spectacularity". Take Switzerland for instance. That country is also spectacular, with a beauty that springs to you and slaps you in your face. You cannot help taking an image of the Matterhorn or the three giants of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau...In Iceland however, the beauty is more silent, the landscape is reduced to the bare elements, it is a raw and subtle place where the openness and raw features of its shapes, colours and skies make it so special. This is why in order to "discover" and really appreciate the beauty of the country you must tune in with it to really understand its attractiveness and photographic potential. Some people (surely not photographer) might say that in Iceland there is "nothing"...Well, this is place with virtually no trees, almost no bushes...just lava, sand and gravel, lichens and mosses, ice and water and incredibly dynamic skies. Put all that together and you have photographic material for a lifetime...or several. Iceland is a glorious "nothing" which will become addictive to the nature photographer. Really a place to savor slowly, by tiny sips, and a place where surely you will want to go back.

In the next weeks I will be posting some of the images I took there, with some explanations about them, where they were taken and how. Today, I am bringing one of the first images I took in the iconic but really unforgettable place of Jokulsarlon, in the south-east of the country. Due to the retreat of the glacial tongues fed by the huge Vatnajokull, a lagoon formed a few decades ago. Nowadays, big chunks of ice calve from the ice mass into that lagoon, leading to a hard-to-believe scene of natural ice sculptures floating into a huge mirror-lake lagoon. In summer, as the sun sets and rises close to the North, great light is found exactly in front of the lagoon, giving the opportunity of striking colourful reflections when the weather plays ball. This was the case of this image, taken the very first "morning" we had there at 3:00 am after a rainy "night". As sunrise time approached, rain stopped for a while and some nice colours inundated the sky and the far away glacier. A couple of hours before sunrise, I had been walking along the lagoon shore in the search of some distinctive ice forms. I found this nice chunk, with a shape which reminded me of three horses galloping in the water, their heads sticking out from the surface. I put them quite in the middle of the frame (breaking that "holy" rule of the thirds) to give them the weight I wanted and included a part of the black mountains to the right, adding a strong diagonal which converged to the center of the image. As sunrise approached, the great colours in the clouds and glacier appeared, seeming even stronger due to the contrast of the rest of the broody sky. I moved so they converged over the central ice chunk, highlighting it and adding a strong majestic character. The rest of ice chunks balanced the photograph, and a quite split horizon (again, another photographic "rule" broken!) reinforced the static character of the lake, showing also the place as a surreal limbo where water and sky merged together, a place hardly bound to our reality. This is an image breaking indeed some of the frequently adopted "rules" of photography...I would love to hear from you what you think about that... Do you think this image would have been better if complying with those rules?

I will be writing much more often from now on, once every week at least, with posts related to some images in particular and some other general things related to photography, nature, trips and general thoughts...Do not hesitate to hang around and drop a comment too! (in your mother tongue if you prefer, google translate makes wonders!). I would love to hear what you think about...

Thanks for reading! ...and great light to you all,