Iceland can be one of the most intoxicating places on the planet for visual artists. And, it can also be one of the most challenging. I’ve shot numerous assignments in Iceland and was at that point where putting a book together was bouncing around inside my head. I had returned to Iceland in the Fall season to document the annual ritual of sheep herding around the island. Rounding up free ranging sheep from the hills, valley’s and mountains is one of Iceland’s most culturally bound ties to the old ways. It’s an important aspect of the national heritage to cover.
I had made my contacts, locations where families might be in the process of herding, and so on. Then, the weather changed. It changed big time. All my plans were thrown out the door and I was trapped from reaching my destinations due to snow and icy roads. I was forced to stay on the ring road, Iceland’s Hwy 1#. It’s the only road I knew would be open and nearly all interior and side roads were closed. Winter came early. I had nothing.
Driving along the southern coast I was heading back towards Reykjavik, disappointed in my quest to photograph this important part of Icelandic life. Suddenly up ahead, several vehicles were stopped with people running down to the ditch to help herd a flock of sheep into the fenced-in area of a local farm. I jumped out too, grabbed the camera and begin shooting. This may be my only sheep herding image on this trip and I wasn’t going to miss the chance.
I made a few frames and it was all over. The light wasn’t the best, but it is what it is. The scene was typical Iceland. Mountains, weather, and sheep. I was forced to crop the image to a strong horizontal to help push the momentum without the unnecessary distractions of a washed out sky and ditch in my foreground. Sometimes it’s worth playing around with an image to see if adding a smitten of a new technique helps define the content. I had this image of sheep herding in Iceland that I wanted to use in a book project, but I wasn’t comfortable applying any manipulations on an editorial book effort. Behind the desk, that’s a different story. This photograph had all sorts of issues in my mind. I captured the movement of sheep being herded, but the sky was awfully hazy and white, the foreground was a ditch near the road and the light was hard. What could I do to draw attention to the efforts by the farmers herding the sheep? Well, I thought I’d give the tilt-shift option in Photoshop CS6 a try. Using tilt-shift (found under filters), I was able to intentional create a focus mechanism to steer the viewer right to the action. It worked beautifully.
I wish I had more time, but at least I had a sheep shot! Such is the life of the shooter……plan for the worst and hope for the best. – Layne Kennedy
This image is included in Kennedy’s new book, Light Over Iceland, which is available for sale as a hardcopy here and as an eBook here. Based out of Minneapolis, Kennedy offers workshops including upcoming trips to Iceland and Minnesota, including dogsledding, which you can find more about here. You can see more of his images at his website or on Corbis. Follow him on his blog or on Twitter and Facebook.