Into the Air and Into the Light

Looking northwards from Húsavík, a port famous for whale watching in northern Iceland.

I was working through some of my Iceland photos the other day. I still have so many more to process and publish from that wonderful country. It really is one of the most amazing locations for landscape photography and I can’t wait to return.

What We Photograph

The above photo was made in the whale watching town of Húsavík in northern Iceland. It’s a simple enough photo, but I have a couple of reasons for publishing it here. Clearly it’s a beautiful place, but can you see how I’ve placed the top of the foreground building along (okay, slightly above) the image’s natural horizon where the water meets the distant mountains. It’s a very deliberate technique and, while I understand you might think that the building gets in the way, the owner of the building may not.

A fishing boat in front of distant mountains in Húsavík, Iceland.

How We Photograph

Actually, my reason for placing the top of the building so aggressively along the scenes natural horizon was to play a little trick. It’s a pretty sizable harbor lying between the building and those distant mountains. Yet, by linking the horizons (i.e., building’s roof top with the distant shoreline) that space has been largely negated.

A wall of fish packing boxes on the wharf in Húskavík in northern Iceland.

Why We Photograph

There’s now a fairly jarring result where, instead of thinking about the space and depth of the scene, we’re forced to consider the textures and colors of the building before anything else. What’s best? It all depends where you want the viewer to look and how you want them to feel about what they look at.

Should we be looking to accentuate the sense of three-dimensional space or other elements of composition such as texture and color? It all depends why you’re making the picture. And it’s absolutely critical to understand the following:

  • the why must inform the what (i.e., subject) and the how (i.e., technique, style) in our photography
  • It’s attention to the why that makes it art
  • But it’s the way we select and deal with the what and the way we execute or apply the how that determines whether or not it’s good art.

As my favorite photography tutor and mentor, from days gone by, Les Walkling used to say, "Now, are you with me?" 

A close up of freshly caught fish in the seaside village of Húskavík in northern Iceland.

How’s Your Life Going, Really?

Actually, that’s a lesson that goes way beyond photography. The reason/s why we do things should also inform our relationships, our work, our hobbies and our search for spiritual clarity. If we don’t understand and can’t completely align ourselves with why you do things there’s a very good chance that you’re either doing them wrong or shouldn’t be doing them at all.

As an example, going to work to provide ourselves with enough money to live on until the next pay day is a poor reason to go to work. And, given that work and sleep probably fills up at least 50 percent of our lives, things could certainly be better.

What’s the Answer?

It seems to be that we must approach our lives with a sense of purpose and that our endeavors should, wherever possible, bring us closer to the path that’s right for us. At the end of the day there is only one certain destination: death.

Off You Go Then

But while death is the ultimate destination, the journey is what matters most. And the journey must be experienced based for it to be of value to our spiritual and psychological growth. Life was not just meant to be lived, but experienced at a deeper level. We are, after all, meaning seeking creatures. All we have to do is reach out and experience life, each and every day. And it all starts with getting off the couch and, more often than not, walking out the door.

Off you go, into the fresh air and into the light. And if it’s light and fresh air you’re seeking, then Iceland may be the place for you. I know it is for me.     

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru