Behind the Scenes: There She Waits on Her Throne of Ice


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Though he isn't a photographer, Stephan King shares his own insight in the beginning of this interview on finding inspiration and source material for his work. I found this pretty insightful and I sometimes work in a familiar way like this when it comes to conceiving ideas for new concepts to shoot. 

Inspiration & Spontaneity  

I've been eagerly waiting to release this photograph from my Icelandic photo retreat back in June, with some of the most awesome people I know! Here, we have my wonderful friend and talented photographer, Lieke, modeling on an actual iceberg that was slightly beached on the banks of Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. I must say, never in my life have I ever seen a scene just like this and it was purely a magical place to visit and experience. The contrast between the crystal clear and vibrant blue ice against the black-lava rock coastline was so surreal and other worldly, like I had found myself onto the set of some fantastic Disney film or something. 

This was absolutely one amazing day on our trip across the country's wild landscape. We spent a good part of the day traveling on the road, when we left our campsite high up in the mountains. We reached Fjaðrárgljúfur, a canyon formed from thousands of years of glacial erosion. There, an extravagant collection of moss and grass covered paths and rock formations jut out hundreds of feet up above the blue river below. After a few hours of shooting and exploring, we ate dinner and then made our way over to the glacial lagoon. 

We were about to shoot Brooke bravely going into the icy-cold water, swimming with the glaciers. I was locked out of the RV where all my gear was in. So, after running all around the lagoon to find the keys, I ended up slamming the RV door right onto one of my fingers, which instantly swelled up and bruised. Thankfully though, there was plenty ice around to help my injury, but understandably, I fell into an irritated mood because of the frustrations. 

Some of the others were out shooting along the water's edge and sharing concepts while brainstorming. Tom suggested I come along with him and a few others to the end of the lagoon, where the ice is scattered across the black beach. I thought a change of scenery would be nice as I was eager to shoot more at this location while I still had the chance. We all jumped into one of the RV's together because it was slightly raining, to cross over the road and bring over everything we needed. 

We stepped out of the RV and I had to look on the ground to see where my jaw had dropped - it was that amazing. Chilly winds blew at our faces as the water crashed onto the shore and glaciers drifted next to us from the lagoon into the ocean. It was around midnight at this time and the sun was only now starting to descend against the mountainous horizon. It must have been low tide when we arrived because large chunks were seen beached aways from the water. 

I looked around and kept repeating in my head, "I'm shooting a concept here, I have to shoot something." I almost felt intimidated by the landscape. I followed along with Tom as he was shooting Jen around some of the ice. As I walked behind him, something caught my eye. A beached iceberg so large, it stood more than a few feet out into the water and shimmered in a beautiful deep blue. I asked Tom if I was going to be in his shot if I walked over towards it and he assured me I wouldn't be in his frame. 

I was looking at this beautiful iceberg sitting right in front of me. I still couldn't get over its size and how it towered over me. I didn't have anything planned as this landscape took me by surprise. I stood there for a minute and started thinking about a throne of ice formed by a broken heart. The Ice Queen concept was born.  At that moment, the others were walking over to us after finishing their shoot. Lieke was bundled up in endless layers of clothing, but I noticed she was wearing a long dress underneath. 

I told Lieke I had an idea in mind and wanted her to model for the concept. She smiled and agreed. As I walked her towards the iceberg on the shoreline, I discussed with her the story and I mood I wanted her to portray for this image. Then she realized I wanted her to be modeling on the iceberg. She expressed some of her own concerns and was reassured if she wasn't comfortable with the idea, no one was going to pressure her to to do it. Lieke thought about it for a moment and agreed that she still wanted to model for me. 

I didn't waste any time. I quickly set up my tripod and camera as Lieke was removing layer after layer of jackets and sweaters. Our friends K.D. and Kelly helped position her onto the ice as I locked down my focal point. I asked Lieke to get into her pose and snapped a shot or two to see how it looked on camera. Without hesitation, I simply asked her arch her back and, CLICK, that was it. That was shot. Kelly grabbed Lieke and started layering her up as fast as they could. 

It was the quickest shoot I've ever done. At this point the rain was coming down a little harder and it was getting much darker out. I was the last one to leave the beach after packing up my gear and I ran back to the RV where we shared on our cameras what we had just shot. This photograph had zero planning. It was purely inspired by the moment, the landscape, and people around me. Sometimes the best ideas come to you when you're right in the moment of everything thing. Those are always special times, when you're creating on the spot after getting struck by a little inspiration. 

When you're creating for yourself, you're only bound to your own boundaries and the freedom of expression is one I love living for. Ideas don't always have to be preplanned in advance and they're just as fulfilling as the other ideas you've written or sketched out for other concepts you've shot before. You never know what the end of each day will bring you. Start each day with open arms and make it your own, you never truly know what just might happen.