Sunday, September 03, 2023

Frost-Pale Stillness

 "The primal sun with beams for its white hands
strikes cliffs and woods, an empty country's harp,
and conjures colored music from the bonds
of frost-pale stillness, plays a merry dance
on the glowing yellow, green, and red that light the
flowers and heather, on the mist-blue mountain cap,
on the scattered flocks of sheep in summer white,
fissures sprayed with black, the lava's grey expanse.

I drink your music's glory with thirsty eyes,
my cherished, longer-for land, and turn to you,
my nerves aflame with the same welcoming joy
as when you first rose to me from the seas.

I snuggle up in that motherly embrace
where I laughed as a child,
where I find joy and grace."

Snorri Hjartarson (1906 - 1986)

The image above is the center-piece of my just-completed "Icelandic Abstracts" portfolio that consists of images captured during an exhilarating two-hour plane tour of the area surrounding the Skaftafell National Park area, which is home to some of Iceland‘s largest glaciers, most prolific volcanoes and richest river deltas. 

While I booked a "photographer's plane tour" covering the southern part of Iceland months in advance, I was also well aware of Iceland's notoriously finicky weather. Because of the popularity of such tours, I was told that - in the event of "bad weather" - my ticket would be refunded but a backup flight was unlikely to be offered. As luck would have it (at least at first), the weather during the morning hours of the day of the scheduled flight was awful. Visibility did not extend much farther than the hood of our car, and was certainly not good enough to allow a plane to take off; or, if the pilot was crazy enough to go ahead with the tour, to allow its passengers to see anything near the ground! However, a morning full of remorseful angst miraculously gave way to early afternoon bliss, as the clouds cleared (slightly but sufficiently) to provide two hours of photographic nirvana. Vacations and the vagaries of chance, indeed.

The images in this portfolio were created in a way diametrically opposite to how 95% of my portfolios emerge (meaning, the conditions were way out of my comfort zone): (1) rapid-fire "spraying" of shots (to get as many compositions in as possible in a very short time frame) vs. my usual "slow tempo" meditative approach; (2) slow-action oriented anticipation of "just the right framing with appropriate telephoto zoom" punctuated by quickly opening up to a wide angle view to help anticipate the next "frame" vs. my typically much more deliberate compositions centered on a narrow range of focal lengths; and (3) using (what for me are) very high ISOs (3200+) to achieve fast enough shutter times to minimize blurring vs. my normal "stick to base ISO" mantra. 

Add to all this the fact that while the captain of my small Cessna was kind enough to give me the run of the cabin - he allowed me to unbuckle my seatbelt and move at will from the right window to left to right again, over and over again - this otherwise laudable "artistic freedom," when coupled with the 60 deg swings of the aircraft from horizontal the captain deliberately - and routinely - engaged in so that I could get the "best views," took its inevitable toll: each image represents a delicate compromise between maximizing aesthetics and minimizing nausea

But, my-oh-my, what breathtaking images of its abstract frost-pale stillness Iceland had to offer this lucky photographer...thank you, Iceland!

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