A Year of Experiences #1 – The Dancing Northern Lights

By | 2015-12-23T12:50:32+00:00 Dec 23rd, 2015|

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We’ve reached that time of year when recounting the previous 12 months is seemingly the thing to do. Depending on the sorts of people you follow, that can take many different forms. Based on the contents of my stream, it’s clear that I mostly associate with photographers because I’m seeing post after post recounting lists of “Top 10, 12, 15, (or whichever arbitrary number)” photos from the year and that’s perfectly fine. It’s great to recap your highlights using a visual medium and, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed what people have shared.

This year has been one of great changes and the ironic thing is that I feel like they have yet to come close to crystallizing or manifesting themselves. I suspect that 2016 will bring about a lot of that but in the meantime, I want to allow myself a lil’ bit of catharsis in the way of recounting some of the more meaningful experiences that I’ve had this year. Some of these experiences impacted me professionally and others moved the artist in me. Over the next week or so, I’d like to share them mostly as a way to remind you—and myself—of just how much of an ongoing journey true growth is and that embracing change, no matter how terrifying it may be—because it can be terrifying—is one of the best things you can allow yourself to do.

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The first experience I’d like to share started off simply as an item to check off the ol’ photography bucket list but morphed into something more profound the longer I thought about it. It’s hard not to smile when you’re standing beneath the night sky watching electrons get blown into our upper atmosphere through solar winds. This atmospheric disturbance results in one of the most beautiful and elegant light shows you could ever imagine. At face value, seeing the aurora borealis dance in both the Icelandic and Norwegian skies, back in late February, was one of the most visually impactful experiences of my life as a photographer. No picture nor video could ever replace the experience of seeing these curtains of light for yourself. So, you could imagine my glee over being able to finally photograph it.

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But the real impact of photographing the aurora didn’t hit me until a few weeks later, when I had more time to take stock of those nighttime shoots. I’ve seen countless photos of the northern lights over the years and I’d wager you have, too. It seemed like there was a new aurora photo posted at every turn and each one was beautiful. But as I sat at my computer looking at my images, a very simple, yet acute, fact popped into my head. These were my photos of the aurora borealis. Up until now, there had never existed photos illustrating my creative interpretations of this naturally occurring phenomenon. Putting gear aside, it was in my execution of composition and post processing that allowed me to create an unprecedented photo of something that I’ve already seen photographed countless times before.

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Thinking about this led me to a philosophy that has shaped the way I approach all of my photography. Simply put, my philosophy is: until it has been photographed by me, it hasn’t been photographed. It has become my guiding principle and it’s what I turn to whenever the pessimist in me starts saying, “Yeah but it has already been shot so many times.” It is also the main inspiration for what drove me to write my first published book, The Visual Palette. This philosophy is woven through every single chapter of the book and it is one that I’ve extended well beyond photography. It is a mantra that I’m actively working on incorporating in every aspect of my life, personally and professionally. That is the catalyst for me as 2016 rapidly approaches and, in the words of Alphabet CEO, Larry Page, I’m uncomfortably excited to share my next chapter with all of you.

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4 Comments

  1. Scott Wyden Kivowitz December 23, 2015 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Beautiful recap in photos and words :-)

  2. hansmast December 23, 2015 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous shots! I’m going to have two opportunities to shoot Northern Lights in next two months. Northern Norway in January (I’m going back to Lofoten in Winter after LOVING it this past Summer) and then Iceland in February. Any particular things to know when shooting the NLs? Any helpful tutorials?

    Also, could you check your Other box on Facebook. I sent you two messages I don’t think you’ve seen since we’re not friends. :-)

  3. whodeytink December 30, 2015 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Truly awesome, Brian. An experience of a lifetime, I’m sure.

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