Category Archives: Landscape

The Gate Of Knowledge, Bay of Biscay

Asturias is a region that continually rewards travelers. The contrast of the area’s rich green coastline as it reaches the deep blue of the Atlantic is breathtaking and the Picos de Europa — a little-known mountain range — is profoundly beautiful. Every day seemed to reveal another hidden treasure to me and I hated the thought of leaving.

The Gate Of Knowledge, Playa La Vallina in the Evening, Asturias, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 21 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 141 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

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One of these treasures was Playa La Vallina, one of the area’s least occupied beaches. It’s a pebble beach and reaching it requires a bit of a trek. There are no amenities at Playa La Vallina and tourists are scarce, which made it an even more attractive subject for photographs.

The walk from the car park to the beach was something of a hike. I walked a long way through a eucalyptus grove and that distinct aroma permeated the air. Along the way, there were several waterfalls — more hidden treasures — and since I was in no hurry, I stopped and swam in one. Before I even made it to the beach, it was one of the best days I had in Spain.

By the time I got to the beach, it was well into the afternoon and the sun was low over the horizon. The isolation of Playa La Vallina and the characteristic rock formations of Spain’s coast made it a great place to shoot. I found what I think was the most remarkable rock formation along that stretch of coastline — a jagged, triangular slab of rock that reminded me of the Delta character from the Greek alphabet which is widely used in math and physics. I began to think of it as the Gate of Knowledge.

After a leisurely, eucalyptus-infused afternoon, I set up my camera as the sun began to set. A fine mist was emerging from the water’s surface and pink tendrils of sunlight hung gently over the sea. It was the end of a memorable day and I think the photograph captures what I felt at that moment — complete peace and contentment.

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No Man’s Land, Bay of Biscay

My travels along Spain’s northern coast continued with Asturias. Here, the lush green hills of the area sloped down to the sea, where time and the Atlantic carved the coastline into rocky coves and curious formations. It’s a remarkably picturesque part of Spain, where the Picos de Europa Mountains form a backdrop for the coast.

No Man's Land, Playa de La Gueirua in the Morning, Asturias, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 26 mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 122 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

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As I traveled along Spain’s coastline, I was drawn repeatedly to the rock formations at the sea’s edge. I was continually amazed by what nature was capable of and the power that the Atlantic could exert on the landscape.

Here, I was particularly entranced by the Playa de La Gueirua, one of the more remote beaches in the area, but also one of the most photographed. It took some effort to reach the spot, but it was worth the time and trouble — the rock formations here are particularly striking and it came to be one of my favorite locations along the northern coast.

The rock formations here are remarkable. Beautiful but somewhat menacing, the jagged spires seem to guard some unwelcoming kingdom beneath the sea. I wanted to capture just the right mood here — both the beauty of the place, but also the suggestion of danger and the sense of something ominous beneath the waves.

I tried several different compositions to capture what I felt at Playa de La Gueirua, but ultimately, I decided the best way to capture the coastline here was to photograph it in early morning. Early morning was a particularly magical time along the coast — I didn’t have to share the space with tourists and with the last of the night’s mist still in the air, it felt mystical, as if I had stepped into a distant world.

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The Gate of Math, Bay of Biscay

I found myself becoming more and more charmed by the northern coast of Spain with each day that passed. It was an unexpected kind of place — not the sunny, languorous Spain of the Mediterranean coast, but a jagged, slightly forbidding place that felt very different than the Spain I’d imagined for years. It felt remote, as if I were standing on the edge of the world.

The Gate of Math, Urro del Manzano Rocks in the Morning, Liencres, Cantabria, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 32 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 21 seconds, ISO 31, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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It’s a place where the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay have, over millennia, carved the coastline into sharp, unlikely formations. It’s less well-known than Spain’s Mediterranean coast and the tourists here are mostly locals taking short holidays. The comparative lack of tourists just added to my sense of being alone at the rough edge of civilization.

One of the more interesting rock formations along this stretch of the Cantabria coast is the Gate of Math, which I named so because of its resemblance to the symbol for Pi. Easily one of the most picturesque spots along a singularly beautiful coastline, I was determined to find the best angle to capture the formation.

After trying several different views of the rock, I settled on the most straightforward, with the Gate of Math centered in the photograph. A storm was coming in, and I focused the formation with the clouds in the background, with just the faintest suggestion of danger on the horizon. I used a long exposure and an ND 5-stop filter to smooth the water and waves in the foreground to minimize distractions.

I think the end result is striking — your eyes are drawn to the curious rock formation, which seems to hover just above the water, and the clouds on the horizon give a hint of something ominous.

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Dragonstone, Bay of Biscay

You might have seen this place before. This rocky outcropping on the northern coast of Spain has made appearances in Game of Thrones as Dragonstone, the ancestral seat of the House of Targaryen. The filmmakers, of course, used computer graphics to add the Targaryen castle at the island’s peak, as well as the occasional dragon flying overhead.

Dragonstone, Gaztelugatxe and San Juan Church in the Morning, Basque Country, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 242 seconds, ISO 64, ND 10-stop filter, tripod.

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But even with that modern technology and computer animation can do, I was unprepared for Gaztelugatxe, crowned at its highest point by San Juan Church. The island wasn’t my primary interest on this particular jaunt; I went with the intention of photographing the rock formations for which this stretch of coastline is famous.

But it’s impossible to be near this part of Spain’s coast and not be entranced by Gaztelugatxe. That’s the effect that the island has on people — it simply isn’t possible to look away. It isn’t difficult to see why the filmmakers behind Game of Thrones chose this location; perched on a jagged sliver of rock on the edge of Europe, it feels far removed from the modern world. It seems to exist in another place and time.

I photographed the rock formations but soon realized that the island itself would make the best photographs. To get this shot, I climbed 50 meters up an adjacent cliff. It was a vertiginous climb up a barely-usable path and it involved a certain degree of danger, but it was worth it. It was early morning and the last of the mist was burning away. The tourists and hikers had not yet arrived. From my vantage point, Gaztelugatze seemed to hover just above the water, ethereal and beautiful, tethered to the mainland by a ribbon of rocks and a manmade bridge.

I got the shots, packed my camera, and prepared to climb back down the cliff and back into reality.

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The Gate of the Winds, Bay of Biscay

The Bay of Biscay, located along western France and northern Spain, is regarded as one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water. It has long been notorious among sailors for its fierce storms and rough waters. But in my travels I’ve learned that incredible beauty is sometimes created from a combination of time and the elements, and this is especially true along the northern coast of Spain.

The Gate of the Winds, Praia das Catedrais in the Evening, Galicia, Spain
March 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 221 seconds, ISO 31, ND 5-stop filter, tripod.

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Spain’s rugged northern coast has been pounded for centuries by the sea. And the result is a breathtaking — and often hidden — masterwork of nature known as Prais das Catedrais, or Cathedrals Beach. As if taking a cue from Medieval Europe, nature has carved this rocky coastline into a series of arches and flying buttresses not unlike those that grace Gothic cathedrals. And just like those cathedrals, the jagged formations along Prais das Catedrais inspire a sense of wonder.

At high tide, the water from the bay comes in with such force at such a volume that these rocky carvings are completely inundated. It’s possible to stand along this jagged edge of Spain and have no idea of the formations below the surface. But when the water recedes, it reveals contours seemingly carved by a craftsman beneath the water’s surface.

When I traveled to northern Spain, I hoped to be able to photograph these formations from the beach, since that’s the angle that allows you to best appreciate arches like the ones at Prais das Catedrais. But it wasn’t possible — the beach was under water for most of my trip. Instead, I climbed to the top of a cliff 20-30 meters above the water for my photographs. Even at that height, the Bay of Biscay was fearsome, and more than once both I and my camera were lashed by waves. Remembering that beauty is often created from time and the elements, I decided to let nature have its way with the beach and I exercised patience in getting my photographs. The result is a photograph that captures the rugged beauty of the Galician coastline, and the majestic arch that I call the Gate of the Winds.

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Cape Khoboy at Sunset, Lake Baikal

Places like this are the natural birthplaces of intense religious beliefs. Remote and forbidding, life can be precarious, even today. In the summers, the earliest inhabitants here must have believed themselves blessed because of the lake’s bounty. Perhaps they judged the winters here — forbidding and often deadly, even now — as the price to be paid for the lake’s largesse.

Cape Khoboy at Sunset, Olkhon Island, Lake Baikal, Russia
March 2016, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 20 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.




There’s a curious energy here and the lake tends to have a powerful effect on people. It’s known for its volatile weather — a summer day that is almost preternaturally quiet can become a windstorm with little warning. The winds at Baikal have their own names and they are not for the fainthearted.

It’s no wonder, then, that this place has been associated with shamanism for centuries. The Buryats, a subgroup of the Mongols, view Olkhon Island as the most sacred space in the lake. It’s the largest island in the lake and is surrounded by some of the purest water in one of the world’s cleanest lakes. On the western coast of the island is Shamanka, or Shaman’s Rock — it is one of the most sacred spots in Asia and is believed by some to be one of the five global poles of shamanic energy. For centuries, superstitions have surrounded the cave at Shaman’s Rock; healers practice their most important rituals there. But for tourists — and photographers — the cave’s interior remains a mystery. Only shamans are allowed inside.

I made the trip to Baikal in winter. It’s the most treacherous season on the lake, but also the most beautiful. When it freezes, Baikal doesn’t turn white. Instead it turns a deep, glassy blue, streaked with cracks and fissures like inclusions in a gemstone.

I’m no shaman, but there is a mystical kind of beauty to Baikal and Olkhon Island. Catching the last wisps of a pink sunset over the ice, I couldn’t help but feel some of the ancient wonder this place inspires.

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Isle Elenka in the Morning, Lake Baikal

One of the great privileges of my work is that it takes me around the world to far-flung locations that I might never otherwise see. Like a child seeing the world for the first time, I’m frequently wonderstruck by the places that I photograph. Whether natural or man-made, they often leave me awestruck.

View of St Moritz in the Morning, Switzerland
March 2016, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/13, shutter speed 0.8 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.




So much of my time is spent in other countries that it can be easy for me to overlook the incredible beauty here at home. Russia is vast — much more than the most intrepid traveler could take in over the course of a lifetime. Most tourists only scratch the surface of Russia with excursions into Moscow and St. Petersburg. They’re beautiful cities, but I am most moved by the natural beauty of Russia, the vast countryside that stretches out beyond the cities and its forests, impenetrable and enigmatic.

Lake Baikal is one of the most evocative places in the country. Like Russia itself, it is vast and ancient, perhaps one of the oldest lakes in the world. An enormous lake formed by the shifting of tectonic plates, Baikal’s blue depths contain roughly one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. It’s staggering in its size and depth, and stunning in its beauty.

At any time of year, Lake Baikal is bathed in an unfathomable, mystical aura, but in the winter, the lake is more than that. With the jagged promontory of Isle Elenka looming over the lake’s icy surface, my mind wanders in a more ominous direction. This is a formidable landscape. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Beyond the rift that Isle Elenka tears into the horizon, I imagine White Walkers. There is beauty here, but it is a beauty laced through with a sliver of dread. In this place, it isn’t difficult to imagine the steely-eyed undead coming for me. I am far beyond the relative safety of Westeros and far north of the wall and I can almost hear the White Walkers in the distance.

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Cave and Waterfall, Isle of Eigg

For a small island, Eigg is a place that continually reveals new treasures. The more I wandered the island, the more of these places I found. Though the island is famous — and justifiably so — for its seascapes, I found countless undiscovered and tucked – away spots that stunned me with their beauty. I could understand why Bruce Percy chose the Isle of Eigg for his photography workshops; the natural splendor of the island combined with its mercurial weather was the stuff of a photographer’s dream.

Small Waterfall, Isle of Eigg, Scotland, United Kingdom
September 2017, focus stacking from 2 images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 6 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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Beyond Eigg’s misty coastlines, I found myself most drawn to the island’s caves. The island’s caves feel like secret, mystical places — the kind of places where legends are born. They feel ancient, as if, upon entering the caves, I stepped out of the present age and into a time far beyond memory. You can sense the stories they contain.

One of the island’s caves — the Cave of Frances — spawned one of Eigg’s most violent tales. A long-ago feud between rival clans ended when one of the families trapped the other inside the cave. They lit thatch at the cave’s entrance then dampened the flames so that the tiny cave filled with smoke. According to the often-told story, hundreds of people were trapped and died inside the cave. Human remains have been discovered there in recent years, suggesting that even if the story isn’t altogether accurate, something ominous happened inside the cave.

But I wasn’t interested in bloody feuds. I found another cave, this one so small that I had to wedge myself inside, my shoulders pressed against the stone walls. It wasn’t an ideal location for a photographer; it was barely big enough for my camera and tripod. But the cave was unexpectedly lovely. A small waterfall, fed by some unknown source, coursed down the cave’s dark, innermost wall. Its waters formed a stream that ran gently over ancient moss and rocks, leading to the cave’s narrow entrance.

I wasn’t prepared for the wet environment, and my shoes soon filled with water, but the scene was so lovely that I didn’t mind. The shot that I got inside the cave was one of my favorites from Eigg. It captures the mystical character of the island that I came to love.

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Storm is Coming, Isle of Eigg

I spent as much time exploring the Isle of Eigg as I could. The island offered me my first view of Scotland and it was enchanting. Much of Eigg was the rugged, green countryside that comes to mind when you think of Scotland. But as I wandered the island, I found more of its hidden-away and secret places, and revealed a different facet of the island’s character.

Sandy Beach, Isle of Eigg, Scotland, United Kingdom
September 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 61 seconds, ISO 31, 10-stop ND filter, tripod.

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To give you an idea of the remoteness of Eigg, there is just one road on the island, which is home to fewer than one hundred souls. At the end of the road is a home that once was a place to stay for J.R.R. Tolkein. There has been a long standing local story that Tolkien stayed in it in the 1930s or 1940s and that the views of Rum had inspired him in writing Lord of the Rings. The island — especially its more distant corners — has a mystical, fantastical quality. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a sorcerer emerging from one of the island’s caves. Your imagination tends to venture into ancient worlds in a place like Eigg.

In my exploration of the island I found a place along its pebbled coastline. The morning was heavy with rain and in the distance the Isle of Rhum was already shrouded by clouds and was barely visible. The place seemed far away from the more people — if they can be called that — parts of the island. Here, civilization seemed very far away and the clouds that hung over Rhum seemed to portend something more ominous than a storm.

I wanted to capture the way that moment felt in that place. I wanted to capture — somehow — the mystical, otherworldly atmosphere of the island’s coast. Using a very long exposure, I focused on the receding waves to emphasize that ethereal quality. I included the pebbles on the beach as a contrast to the white mist. The result is a photograph that encapsulates the feeling I had on that day, standing at the edge of Scotland.

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Sandy Beach, Isle of Eigg

One of the things that made Scotland such a special place to photograph was the way that its weather was ever-changing. I’d never experienced a place whose moods could change as rapidly as Scotland’s. A sky that seemed to promise only rain and leaden clouds could crack open and sunlight would stream through.

Sandy Beach, Isle of Eigg, Scotland, United Kingdom
September 2017, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 61 seconds, ISO 31, 5-stop ND filter, tripod.

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Occasionally, the two things happened at once, and an ominous gray sky and brilliant sunlight could briefly coexist in a moment of unexpected beauty. In all of my travels, I’d never experienced the unlikely coupling of those two extremes, but in Scotland it seemed to happen daily. The juxtaposition was fascinating and lovely.

My first photographs on Eigg had focused more on the brooding quality of the Hebrides — the foreboding that sometimes creeps along the edges of your consciousness on a stormy day. But as the days progressed, I sometimes caught glimpses of a different Eigg. It was an island of paradoxes, after all; the same craggy landscape that witnessed bloody feuds was also trod by the feet of earnest missionaries who brought their faith to the rugged outpost of a continent.

I wanted to capture in a photograph that paradox — the transitory, ephemeral nature of light on the Isle of Eigg, which, in my mind, suggested something of the island’s contradictory history. The shot that best encapsulates this for me is of puddles I found along the shore on a day that — like many on Eigg — was foggy and overcast. But I was fortunate that day and happened to see them as they were pierced by sunlight, which revealed the undulations in the sand under the surface. Only the slightest bit of sunlight touched the water’s surface, but it was enough, and the sand sparkled like gold.

The result is a very moody shot, but it’s a different kind of mood that in earlier photographs of the island. The light can change quickly on Eigg, and I was lucky to witness that rare moment of contradictions.

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