A Journey to Iceland: Part 2

Stonetree Creative - Northern lights on a farm in Iceland

…Continuing the story from Part 1 of my journey to Iceland…

When I started writing this second installation of the story, I wanted to recount every minute of every day because they were so packed with information, emotion, and imagery. But it still wouldn’t do the workshop justice, so I will stay at the 30,000 ft view of my experience.

So here’s the thing about a Parker Pfister workshop: don’t overthink it. You need to find a way to give up control over your habits, notions, emotions, and tap into your INNER voice. That thing that got you interested in photography in the first place. We sometimes get so focused on the camera or what we think we need to shoot, that we forget to play, or as Parker puts it, “Live in Wonder.”

In the months leading up to the actual workshop in Iceland, Parker gave us homework to do. These assignments would eventually be the foundation for everything we explored and created in Iceland. We chose our favorite portfolio images, studied our beliefs, addressed imaginary scenarios, and dug deep into ourselves – all before ever setting foot on a plane. I won’t dishonor the process by explaining all of the exercises, but it was THIS work that defines your path through the rest of his process. Don’t want to invest the time? Be prepared to be lightyears behind everyone else in the class. This is NOT a place to come and just think you will be getting pretty pictures for your portfolio. This workshop is meant to completely break down your ways of traditional thinking and define your voice so that your true creativity can shine.

The Week

We arrived in Keflavik, a small, quaint village just outside of the airport and explored the area a bit. With everyone itching to get shutter time, we headed out near sunset to visit a few sites and start getting used to the landscape. We split the golden hour between two sites: a geothermal power plant and an abandoned boat in an industrial area. I think these initial exercises were being used as assessments so Parker could understand the technical experience of the 6 students. We just looked at it as a chance to get cool shots.

The next day, we drove to our lodging for the week, a very cool house located a few hours south of Reykjavik. With terrain that could have just as easily been on Mars as Iceland, the 6 of us settled in and the magic began.

Over the course of the next four days, we explored our minds, our emotions, our creativity, and our fears. We pushed ourselves to our limits and supported each other with limitless love. We toured the southern half of the country, going to pre-scouted spots or pulling off the road to improvise images. The majesty of the country cannot be understated and driving across the desolate, beautiful landscape made everything seem other-worldly. Our model, Svala, was an incredible professional, braving the elements, helping all of us create our visions. And that was the beauty of the workshop: Parker wanted the images to be OURS. We built them in our minds, then created them on-site. With typically only 2-3 minutes available to shoot while Svala was exposed to the weather, we had to make sure we were ready to go and could not afford to lose time. Working under pressure became a staple of the week and everyone rose to the occasion.

We basically had three or four “major” locations and shoots, but the workshop became less about the images and more about the exploration of our souls. That sounds a little hyperbolic for sure, but I mean it. Introspection was the forefront for the entire week, and to me, that blows the doors off of anything I was expecting. This class fundamentally changed the way I look at my photography. I feel like I am starting over, but am more connected to my own voice than ever.

Lastly, the bonds I formed with my classmates are deeper than I expected and I came away with some lifelong friends. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Lessons Learned

Going into the workshop, I thought we would be shooting all day, creating epic shots. Boy was I wrong. And I couldn’t have been happier to be wrong. Parker’s methods of slowing down, removing the camera as a distraction, creating the image that you see in your mind, and using “translators” (I’ll let you find out for yourself what that means) to guide your work was a sea change for me. I’ve never produced work like this before so I was truly stunned that I had it in me.

I also overshot. A lot. Having very low self-confidence and fearing that I would miss “the shot” I hammered down on the shutter. I captured WAY more than I needed to. I realized when going through the photos that my shot, the one I had in my mind, was always produced very early in my session. The rest were “meh.” That proved to me to trust my inner voice and create what is in my heart. When I watched Parker shoot, he was patient, almost glacially slow, waiting for his moment. But the work he produced with that one shutter press was stunning. Watching mastery of a craft is inspiring.

From a technical standpoint, I learned a few limitations of my equipment (Canon 5D Mark III) but also learned how to improvise and work around them. There was no lighting situation that I couldn’t work with. In order to solve the problem in front of me, I needed to quiet my mind, rebel against all of my comfort-zones, and just trust that I knew what I was doing.

These workshops are not for the casual hobbyist that only want to do what everyone else is doing. This is a class in self-discovery, a journey that births a roadmap for you to create images that change the world. Are you up for it?

 

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