Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sleepless in Iceland..........a photographic adventure

glacial fragment on the beach © caroline fraser 2012

I am finally on my long awaited photographic tour in Iceland led by Daniel Bergmann,  ( Daniel Bergmann ) a nature photographer. Four days in and I am not disappointed; far from it. The country is even more beautiful than I realised from my short stay 10 years ago, and the group of 10 participants are running out of superlatives to express our awe and wonder at what we are experiencing. Being a mixed bunch from Canada, the US, Australia and England, we are using phrases such as 'awesome' with new meaning, and in a variety of accents.

We are a mixed bunch with a wide age range. The amount of kit being lugged around is huge in some cases, and I am wishing I had not left my canon 100-400 zoom lens behind for reasons of weight. Trying to balance what one can practically carry, with what one would like to have in one's bag is a challenge. The men have bags that weigh at least 4 times the weight of mine, containing more cameras and accessories than I would know what to do with. Lugging up a steep hill yesterday to a waterfall I pondered the likelihood of collapsing under the strain. If I died, I would die happy! A fellow companion wisely took out several lenses from her bag before she set off up the hill. The only problem was that she forgot to put her camera back in the bag after re-organising the contents, and so had to make do with taking photos on her iPhone.

We have been regaled with tales of cameras disappearing beneath the waves on the beach, being dropped into the sea and down mountains..........  and of rolls of film being eaten by baboons in Africa. So much can go wrong when least expected.

glacial fragments on the beach at sunrise, with power lines just because I like them.......

The biggest challenge on the trip is a lack of sleep. We are hoping to see the northern lights. Daniel got up hourly through the night two nights ago to check for their presence. I went to bed, half hoping not to get a knock on the door to announce that I should be up and out in 5 minutes as instructed before going off to bed. So far we have not been lucky. We have been up at 04.30 or 05.30 every morning, and the group is catching up on sleep at odd times such as after breakfast and in the bus. The light on the beach above is golden at sunrise, quickly changing to blue after the initial glow or if the sun goes behind a cloud.

golden light at sunrise

blue light a few minutes later

I enjoy both effects, but was interested to see most of my fellow photographers pack up their gear the moment the 'sunrise' was over; it seems that they are more concerned to catch the bigger picture than I am. I could happily spend hours pondering over pieces of ice against the black sand, something I have not seen anywhere else on my travels. Daniel informs me that the 'cool' thing to do is to capture the blocks of ice with long exposures in the water. What he didn't say is that most of the ice fragments move around in the waves, so that by the time I had set up a shot with the 'big stopper' the block would have moved, and the stopper has to be removed to re-focus.

moving target; ice fragment in the waves © caroline fraser 2012
As you can see in the image above, the ice top left has moved during the exposure; even the largest blocks of ice roll and break as you try to capture their beauty.

They have been carried down river onto the beach from the place I was most excited to visit; Jokulsarlon, at the foot of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier on the South-east coast.

view of the glacier from Jokulsarlon
The lagoon in this image is 6km long, far larger than it appears to the  eye. The scale of the country is something I was not prepared for. It has to be seen to appreciated. I am already planning when to return, and I still have another 5 days to go.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

blog for blog's sake

Reeds, Rye Harbour © Caroline Fraser

Exactly what is this all blogging business all about?

Having run dry of inspiration and enthusiasm after a particularly exhausting month at work, looking after the shop while everyone else sits by their pool in the sun, I find that the stats for my blog are not looking good. It seems that taking a rest is not an option if you want to maintain good readership numbers.

My monthly visits had been climbing inexorably since this blog got started, but then drop to almost zero just because I couldn't  sum up the enthusiasm to put fingers to keyboard for a whole three weeks. I should have prepared articles for release during this time to keep the readers happy and the visits coming.

But I didn't, and so I find myself in a quandary, wondering what all of this is for............

and whether I should carry on.........


I believe that it is a personal diary of the kind that I used to keep locked with a key under my bed, and which is now lost forever. I have no idea where all my childhood diaries are. Nor, for that matter, what was written in them. At least with this blog, I can commit it to paper at any time that I choose, and leave traces of my life for those who might possibly be interested. It is not a personal, secret collection of thoughts but more a record of my photography and how my daily life impinges upon it.

Inspiration for new work requires effort; visiting galleries, reading, going to new places. Deadlines are needed to force the production of work. Writing allows time for reflection, and this blog allows that time. All of this has been a challenge in the last 4 weeks. A recent trip to Northumberland was devoid of inspiration and light; every time I had time to visit the wheat fields with their abstract forms of machinery tracks on the hillside the sun went down. Trying to combine photography with a  family holiday is not the way forward.

Brassicas by Shelley Rose
The Leek by Shelley Rose
Yesterday I popped into the September Art Exhibition in Wadhurst to see the works on show, and in particular to see more of the work of Shelley Rose, the photographer and print maker whom I first met at Central St Martins.

His new still life series is printed on gessoed canvas.

What is gessoed canvas?

According to Wikipedia it is a mixture of paint, chalk and gypsum, used in art work as a base for use on wood, canvas or other surfaces.

The effect in Shelley's still lives is masterly; light and delicate, yet at the same time having the appearance of something created long ago. It is always tempting to try new ways of producing images, but this method, I am sure, is beyond my capabilities at present. How does he print on canvas? How does the printing process cope with fabric? Shelley has many years of experience of print making.

A quick search of the web gives some ideas on how to transfer images at this blog "More than Photography" that discusses experimental photographic techniques.

 If  the 10,000 hours theory of becoming an expert in a particular field suggested by Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Outliers"  is true, then I probably have a way to go. 10,000 hours of practice, at 10 hours per day, 5 days per week equates to around 4 years of continuous work, without breaks, and without holidays, so more realistically I would think 5 years of full time practice. And does this just apply to straight photography or does it include branching out into printmaking with other media?

I need to give up work. I am counting the days.

Meanwhile I am preparing work for the Pure Autumn Arts Fair  in Battle. My image above of reeds at Rye harbour that I have just had framed has received a mixed response, from great enthusiasm to a statement that "there is nothing for the eye to settle on" to "it needs to be turned on its side and then it looks like a pond". Ah well, you can please some of the people some of the time..............