Or, as Einar Erlendssen, the originator and caretaker of the Focus on Nature Workshops says, heading up to join the stark raving mad Vikings. I always wanted to go to Iceland. It seems a land of true intensity, color, and personality. It’ll be a small workshop, and thus very hands on. Our merry band of speed lighters will evidently careen around the countryside (the place ain’t that big) looking, lighting, and shooting. At night we will gather over various Nordic intoxicants and commune with the pixel spirits, and discuss the successes and failures of the day. This will be a slightly different workshop for me, in that I will be pushing myself both as a teacher and a shooter. As I said, I have never been there before, and de facto that is fuel for the fire. As a group, together, we will go all week for portfolio images. Here’s the link. My pack will be a bit different, too. Cameras, lenses, SB units, Quadra flash, stands, soft boxes, horned helmet, broadsword.
I have been sent North before. Below is my bud, George Divokey, an ornithologist who lives on Cooper Island part of each summer, studying a bird colony and watching it respond to the effects of warming. Coop, as it is referred to, is a small stretch of earth and ice just a touch north of the northernmost tip of the continental United States, Barrow, Alaska. They have this sign just outside town that you can visit and thus know you have done the truly northern thing. Why you need a sign to tell you that you are standing on icebound nothingness and your travel agent deserves a serious ass kicking, I’m not sure. But it’s there, for those truly compulsive, check the box type folks.
Geographic has sent me to Siberia (in more ways than one) on a couple of occasions. For a story called The Power of Light, I of course had to photographically experience the total lack thereof, which is certainly a contradiction of purpose and terms, if not outright stupid. (Journalists are always sent to the extremes of things, so sometimes what looks like a dumb move is exactly what you should be doing for a story.) Below is noontime on Lake Lavozero on the Murmansk Penninsula, in February. I have never been quite as cold as that day on that frozen stretch of near total whiteout.
The cold didn’t seem to bother these Russian fellas, but then ingesting an entire bottle of rotgut vodka will certainly calm the spirit and deaden the nerve endings. I have to think these guys stay on the ice as long as possible just to avoid the old lady. The women up there were tough, I tell ya. I stayed at this collection of cinder blocks billed as a hotel, and while in my room, I heard this tremendous, repetitive smashing noise just down the hall. I went to look, and there was an enormous Russian female chef with a pry bar, knocking loose chicken parts locked in blocks of ice out of a large freezer bin. She would then hoist the frozen chunks over her head with both hands, and smash them down onto the ancient linoleum. Legs and breasts would skitter everywhere. At least I knew ahead of time what was being served that night.
You know, I accept the fact at this point in my career that the phone call sending me to do a voluptuous spread on the beaches of Tahiti ain’t comin’ in. Hell, at this point, I’d settle for the Jersey shore, but that’s probably not in my future, either. No, historically I’ve been sent to icy backwaters in search of even the faintest glimmer of light. I got so used to this for a bit that I after I got fired from LIFE I gave myself a shooting job in Norilsk, which historically was a gulag old Josef used to send anyone who disagreed with him. When I visited, it was largely an economic gulag, and home to one of the largest nickel mining operations in the world.
Average life expentancy for a male working in this factory is 50, mostly because they breathe carbon dioxide gas all day. Needless to say, they haven’t heard of OSHA up there.
So–I’m looking forward to Iceland, needless to say. There will be light, color and life. Very excited…….more tk….