Time to Thrill
“For me, time, timing and timelessness are vital components of photography,” says Daniel Ronnback, and nowhere is that truer than with his recent project centring on Norway’s Lofoten Islands. The adventure shoot saw Daniel scaling some of the archipelago’s most vertiginous peaks in both summer and winter conditions, meaning he was really aware of the distinct changes in landscape.
“In the winter, the islands and mountains can be almost monotone,” he explains, “but then with the pictures in the summer, they change to this glorious canvas of green, red and gold.”
© Daniel Ronnback | Sony α9 + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/1250s @ f/4.0, ISO 100
So how do we perceive time? It can arguably only be from a human perspective, and so woven through Daniel’s pictures, and giving context to these amazing scenes, are people. Sometimes it’s himself featured in the frame, and sometimes another, but there is always a human presence helping tell the story, and letting the viewer sense the scale of the location, as well as imagine themselves within it.
© Daniel Ronnback | Sony α9 + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/6400s @ f/4.0, ISO 640
“Throughout all my photography, that’s always been a theme,” he confesses, “I like to take a wide view with a small person inside. I’ll almost never shoot an empty landscape, even if there is a nice beautiful view. It just kind of passes me by, like an empty stage.”
Daniel takes care to compose these figures perfectly in his shots, placing them, “into clean areas or against the light, to create contrast and impact, and using complementary colours to hook the viewer’s eye. And the clearer the figure against the stunning landscape, the greater the level of feeling an image can evoke in the viewer, like the thrill taken from seeing a silhouetted climber standing on a peak, as you can feel from this image.”
© Daniel Ronnback | Sony α9 + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/640s @ f/8.0, ISO 800
It’s not just how the shot is composed however, as Daniel relies on his Alpha kit to ensure the focus on his subjects is spot on. “I know the focus is so good,” Daniel says, “I can just point it at the person and rely on it. It means I can push myself further, go higher, and concentrate on the composition and the environment.”
As well as the passing of time, there is timing. Getting to these locations at the right moment, and in the right weather takes planning, and so Daniel meticulously researched his trips. “To give yourself the time to be able to take these pictures there’s lots of preparation,” he says. “I mark up everything on a map,” he continues, “noting how long it takes to drive from one point to another, and to hike to a viewpoint. I also look at where the sun will be rising, or setting. Then I check the weather daily and finally you can say, ‘this morning is going to be best for this location!’”
© Daniel Ronnback | Sony α9 + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/800s @ f/6.3, ISO 160
“In getting to these places, and shooting them, the weight and the volume of equipment is really important,” Daniel explains. “I shot this Lofoten project with the α9, but I do also use the α7R III; their designs have always fitted in with my way of shooting. It’s so important for me to pack light and to move fast. I will often only take one body and lens per hike, and the Alpha cameras are so lightweight and small that I can fit everything I need into a small ICU in my bag. And of course, they’re durable, so they can live in my backpack when I ski, and if I fall or drop the camera, it hasn’t been a problem.”
When you’ve hiked the miles and the timing has paid off, the Alphas’ image quality won’t let you down either, says Daniel. “One of the standout things is the dynamic range of the sensor. You get a lot of editing potential, and that means if something is a little over exposed, your timing wasn’t wasted. Then there’s their huge resolution, which means if I see a person on the side of the frame, I can just crop them out and still have a huge picture.”
© Daniel Ronnback | Sony α9 + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/1600s @ f/6.3, ISO 800
“Every place has its timeless views,” he finishes, “and really we’re just passing through them. Lofoten has this unique contrast between the sea and the lakes, and the mountains that go straight up from the water, which I think is really encapsulated in this image. It’s truly unique and there’s always more to see, so I plan to return and go further and higher, and find new places to photograph, because it’s always time well spent.”