Blacker Than Black

Ice?  Scree?  Rock?  Black hills interupt the glacial white in St Johnsfjorden / Prins Karls Forland in Svalbard

I love photographs that you don’t understand immediately. Ice? Scree? Rock? Where are we? St Johnsfjorden / Prins Karls Forland in Svalbard. So what? Deception Island in Antarctica looks a dull grey but is ice govered in dust. This is a rock, isn’t it? Fully? That’s the nice thing about ambiguity… it makes you want to get off the boat and *know* what it is, with your boots whacking the floor and textures giving way.

The wisps of gorgeous orange light I like, but it’s the wisps of dark that fascinate me.

Sunset in the Arctic

An Arctic sunset made abstract, blurring parts of the cloud layer and sea by panning the camera on a tripod with a slow exposure (0.6s)

I was thinking the other day about what my favourite place *to* be would be, as compared to places that I *have* been. The two are obviously conflated, but though I have seem many magical things with wildlife, most often by change, when thinking of places when I’d just like to be there and see what happens I can only think of being on the bow of a ship in the Arctic at sunrise or sunset. This is sunset, made abstract, blurring parts of the cloud layer and sea by panning the camera horizontally on a tripod with a slow exposure (0.6s).

It may be abstract but to me it signifies travel, change, movement. From A to B, dissolution, fade. On a boat these are times of controlled peace. In the morning, perhaps 4 or 5am, you rise and gradually piece your polar layers around your body, velcro sticking together, thermal underwear straps wrapping around itself, gloves mysteriously missing, and bring your camera gear together – a far harder task. (“should I take a 10 stop ND filter out when there is no sun?”)

To deck, and collect a hot coffee en route, and then haul open the heavy sea doors, a biting cold and the fresh salty air, a single breath invigorating your entire being.

Hopefully, there are a few of you around. This is one of the times of day when I welcome fellow passengers – if they have been through the above, they understand why it’s worth it and the peace that descends. Conversations are sparse, a nod of the head, and we space out around the desk, almost ensuring your field of view is without human influence, perhaps hanging over the edge a little to soak it in.

At night on a ship, dinner is convivial and excitable and all about the evening – the sun has ‘gone’, so it’s time to look inward. Yet we know that you miss so much if you put the shutters down. You don’t feel the last wisps of heat from our star as they bounce around the earth, tingeing the clouds and stroking the sea. These are rare, rare moments, dramatic only when you are there, watching, seeing, and feeling. Dinner can wait.