It is that time of the year again: the end of December. A time to look back at the last 365 days and reflect on what happened. And choose the 14 photographs that best represent the evolution that took place in between January and December.
2014 wasn’t a huge year in photography for me, as in “going out and taking new pictures”. It was a great year in photography as in “aligning all the different aspects of my passion into a coherent whole”. I joined the ranks of Corbis. I spent a lot of time processing, cataloguing and keywording my older images. And I went to Iceland to take a few new images.
Iceland. The nature photographer’s dream destination. I have wanted to go to Iceland ever since I met my friend Þorfinnur on my first day of university in Montreal back in the late eighties. His passion for the landscapes and culture of his country remain an important influence on me to this day.
So, without further ado, here are my favourites images from 2014. Most of them are from Iceland of course. Please let me know what you think of them.
Öxarárfoss waterfall in Þingvellir National Park, Iceland
Öxarárfoss is a small waterfall in Þingvellir National Park, which is a site of historical, cultural, and geological significance in southwest Iceland.
Þingvellir is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shadows of tree trunks on a bright winter day in Rigaud, Quebec
I find that the light in late February and March in Quebec has something special to it. The sun is higher in the sky, the atmosphere is crisp and clear and the bright afternoon light provides hope that the cold dark days of winter are coming to an end.
I shot this image close to home, on a trail that goes around the southern edge of Rigaud mountain.
Low tide on the Reykjanes peninsula, Iceland.
The Reykjanes peninsula is just slightly southwest of Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik. A veritable treasure trove of landscapes, it has nearly everything to arrest a photographer’s interest: the ocean, endless lava fields, fumeroles, cliffs and seabirds.
Even though it was the first of June, the weather was blustery and the sky clung close to the mountain tops. It gave the scene a quintessential stormy feel that captures the North Atlantic well.
Patterns in the mud in Krýsuvík Iceland
On my first day in Iceland, we visited the Krýsuvík geothermal area in the southern part of the Reykjanes peninsula not that far from Reykjavik. The patterns and motifs in the mud as well as the colours of the minerals make for a beautiful abstract tableau. My painting teachers in university, Guido Molinari and Jean McEwen would be proud. May they both rest in peace.
Dead European herring gull on lava
On the same afternoon I visited Krýsuvík, we drove to the cliffs at Valahnukur. It was a gloomy windy day, and we came across an Icelandic seabird dead on the ground in a lava field. I can only assume that it collided with another bird midair and they both fell to the ground a few feet apart.
Artistically, there was an elegance to the scene. The bird looked like it had only been there a few minutes. The droplets of water gave it a sheen and it’s pose was dramatic. It remains one of my favourite images from the trip although most people balk at an image of death.
Inside the Thrihnukagigur volcano in Iceland
One of the highlights of our trip to Iceland was to be lowered inside the extinct Thrihnukagigur volcano. Only a handful of people worldwide can claim to have had the opportunity to visit the inside of a volcano. Far from being black and sooty like a chimney, as one might imagine, the rock wall of the magma chamber was an amazing assortment of colours due to the different minerals contained in the rock. Absolutely fascinating.
The only problem with Thrihnukagigur is how limited your time inside the volcano is.
Lava field and moss near Thrihnukagigur
While the experience of being inside the Thrihnukagigur volcano was a definitely a high point of the year, the trek across the lava field to the volcano itself was not exactly done in the most pleasant of conditions. Although it was June, the temperatures were near freezing, it was raining and quite windy. Not exactly prime photography conditions.
However, once we returned to the base camp the weather lightened up somewhat and I was able to capture the feeling of the lush moss growing over the lava field.
In this image more than most of the others, you can see the influence of my training as an abstract painter.
Kirkjufell mountain and waterfalls
Kirkjufell is a nature photographer’s “must” destination in Iceland. I had planned the sequence of our trip to be next to this mountain at sunset on June third. (If you look at the far right of the image, where the river reaches the edge of the road, you will see our camper van.) Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to give us deep clouds rather than bright colourful sunset.
Actually, I kind of prefer it this way. Probably my personal #1 of the year.
Tree growing at Godafoss at sunrise
Of all the images I shot during my time in Iceland, this one of a small tree growing in the black sand beach at Goðafoss (waterfall of the Gods), in the Bárðardalur district of North-Central Iceland was the toughest to postprocess.
The harsh contrast of the rising sun, deep shadows and black sand made coming up with an image that matched the ambitions I had while I was at the scene quite difficult.
I used every trick in the book: lots of bracketing, 32 bit blended exposures, traditional and luminosity masking, HDR, you name it.
Iceberg in Jökulsárlón Iceland
This picture of a small iceberg on the beach at the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon was an instant favourite the moment I took it. Although most of the icebergs there look nothing like this little eight inch wide block of ice, this image captures the sense of wonder one has in Jökulsárlón where so many forces of nature come together to provide an experience like no other.
Lupine field in front of the village of Vik, Iceland
The village of Vik, on Iceland’s southern coast, is known for many things: it’s church, the lupines and the sea stacks in the ocean nearby. If you aren’t looking south towards the ocean, this is what the rainiest place in Iceland looks like…
Les Cascades waterfall in La Mauricie National Park, Canada
I started going to La Mauricie National Park in the mid-90’s. To this day, it remains one of my favourite national parks in Canada. It’s gentle rolling hills, deep forests and many lakes make it a wonderful place to canoe camp.
I returned to the Les Cascades waterfall, at the southern end of Lake Wapizagonke, to digitally shoot the long cascading fall that I had often captured with 35mm film. To my surprise, there was hardly any water in the fall because if the low water levels upstream. The fall was less than half it’s usual width.
It made for a nice exercise in seeing what was really there as opposed to what I expecting to see.
Red maple leaves in autumn in Rigaud, Quebec
Fall is the busy season for me. The semester is in full swing at John Abbott College, and extended photography trips are basically next to impossible. But, I am lucky enough to live a few minutes way from Rigaud mountain where I found this incredible maple tree with bright red leaves.
Tidal pool and anchor on Heimaey island, Iceland
Heimaey is the largest island of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago and the largest and most populated island off the Icelandic coast. It is a ruggedly beautiful mixture of volcanic mountains, lava fields with strange dark lava rock formations, lava tubes, windswept fields and green moss.
This scene is right by the golf course, on the western edge of town at the water’s edge. Beautiful, green, lush and rugged we loved this scene and for a while we believed that we were in Hawaii.