Welcome to this weeks blog post lovely people and welcome to all my new subscribers! This weeks post will be looking at a recent campaign I shot for Spitfire Audio's latest collaboration with Composer Ólafur Arnalds. Ólafur is best known for his work on Broadchurch, collaborative orchestral compositions with Violinist Viktor Orri Árnason and his minimal, experimental alliance with Janus Rasmussen of which forms Kiasmos.
First shoot of the year, 4.30am 02/01/18 and I'm off to Reykjavik, Iceland home to Composer Ólafur Arnalds to shoot the advertising campaign for his new string library Chamber Evolutions. My brief came from Art Director Tom Howe with a goal to create a series of images that contain a sense of narrative, film still type landscapes in and around the west coast towns of Iceland to coincide with a short film for the same project.
Before I get into the trip and the images created I wanted to mention another shoot that I had already shot for this project where I took Ólafur's portrait at Air Studios in London. The image below was a catalyst for the brief. The idea came from shooting Ólafur with his eyes closed and the concept was to then depict how his imagination could inspire the sounds recorded for this music project, using the surreal landscapes of his native country, Iceland as his influence. My next blog post will look into this portrait session in more detail.
Day 1 - Recce
We landed in Reykjavik early giving us a an hour before sunrise. This time of the year in Iceland you only get 3 or 4 hours daylight which means you have to plan your time very wisely. After finding the hotel and picking up our SUV's for the week we headed straight out for look around the surrounding areas of the capital. A quaint roadside cafe on the boarder of the capital region was our first discovery that fit the brief perfectly. This was kind of a snap shot as we planned to return the next day and spend more time at this location but on return the light wasn't as interesting and the lone parked truck seemed to be key to this images story. Also standing in the middle of a highway to get the composition in icy conditions isn't something I wanted to repeat if I didn't have to... The quality of light you get in Iceland during the colder months is incredible. This was shot at 1pm where the sun had reached its highest point for the day and I still had gorgeous soft, colourful tones to play with. We only had an hour or so left of light though so we jumped back in the SUV and headed south into the Reykjanesfolkvangur mountains.
I've been sent to Iceland a few times now to shoot but never when the landscape has been blanketed with snow and ice. It looked and felt very different than what I've experienced before in the warmer months when you have the lush greens and oranges of the tundra. The light was fading fast and after a long day of exploring the capital and southern peninsula regions of Iceland we headed back to plan for day 2.
Day 2 - No Humans
Early start to our second day as we wanted to capture a gas station we passed on our way back into Reykjavik the previous night before sunrise. I was taking reference from Gregory Crewsdon's work a lot for this commission, looking at how he used light to navigate the viewers eye in and around his compositions. Maybe it was because I was in a foreign land but sometimes the most prosaic locations have a real sense of narrative. I loved how the gas station lights illuminated the space separating the foreground and background. My OCD was put through it's paces for this particular shot trying to find a composition that would fit the sign perfectly in the top right of my frame. Got there in the end...
The concept for this campaign I felt at this point had solidified and that it's the human element within the landscape which was key in creating the narrative in each image. Just little indications of human activity whether it be a digger abandoned for a lunch break or a car passing by behind a pylon. This is why I love working on projects such as this one as you have the music you're advertising to work with as a reference which in turn tells the true story. So I try to let the music influence the imagery as much as I can and convey my experience when out shooting.
Day 3 - Vogar
We headed back towards Reykjavik airport and just to the north we found a small town called Vogar that connects the Reykjanes peninsula with the capital. We arrived just before the sun was due to rise at 11.00am and boy was we in for a show! Ok so I can be quite heavy handed with Photoshop but for this next set of images I had to control myself as the colours in the sky where otherworldly. It still looks fake to me now but this is as close as I could get my camera to capture what I was experiencing. Fantastic pink and blue hues filled the clear morning sky and I had 3 full hours to play with! The sun stayed low the whole time I spent in Vogar and the compositions where just throwing themselves at me.
Again I focused on finding these little stories within my compositions. Being as low as -6° some of the time I had to work as quick as I could running from shot to shot (Via a quick sit down on the SUV's heated seats). At 10:47am we had the best of the colour from the sunrise and my Director and I chose to focus on this peculiar tree stump in front of what I can only describe as an Edward Scissor hands type street in the background. I really enjoy this image. I'd be willing to say I think it's one of my favourite photos I've ever taken. The performance of the Canon 5D MkIV in this instance was superb! The clarity and sharpness from front to back is exceptional, it looks fantastic printed. There's only really two colours in the photo with the hints of warmth coming from the window on the right which introduced the human presence I was looking for.
Day 4 - A Cod's head and Trout smoked in sheeps shit!?
We kind of had a day to escape the freezing temperatures when we passed by Ólafur's studio in Reykjavik to film an interview and go through some of the images I'd shot this trip. Also I managed to grab an unplanned portrait with Ólafur which was nice as you can see below. After finishing up at Ólafur's studio he took us to Matur og Drykkur who specialize in classical Icelandic cuisine with a modern twist (well thats how they advertise it) I ended up with a Cod's head and Trout smoked in Sheeps shit. I wasn't sure if I was being stitched up at the time of ordering but my producer Josh ordered the same set menu so we got through it together. Nothing a couple of Icelandic beers couldn't wash down.
Day 5 - Eyrarbakki
Our time in Iceland was coming to an end and everyone on the team was happy that we had completed our mission brief so we headed out to a small town called Eyrarbakki that Ólafur had mentioned might be a good location to check out. Eyrarbakki is a fishing village on the south coast of Iceland with a population of about 570 people, not including inhabitants of the prison located there. This was a bit of a drive from Reykjavik and we was also heading home this day too so it was kind of a free day to explore and possibly shoot some images. Again we were treated with great weather. We were very lucky on this trip with the weather, the last time I was in Iceland it was horrendous which I'm sure some of you that have visited Iceland may have experienced.
It has been about 18 months since I took my first serious landscape image for a commercial job and I've enjoyed learning and exploring this genre. This project was nothing like I've ever been asked to shoot before. It's been amazing to collaborate with some very creative minds at Spitfire Audio. Below is the final artwork for the product designed by Tom Howe.
Thanks for tuning into this weeks blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading about my time in Iceland. If you would like to follow my work please SUBSCRIBE to my blog to receive weekly posts (something to read on the tube) comment, Tweet, like, share or whatever you're into would also be much appreciated as it keeps me posting.
Next week I'll be going all technical and looking into my studio lighting set up for Ólafur's portrait which became the artwork for this global campaign. Plus some unreleased work form the same session.
Until then... bye for now,