“You don’t take a photograph,” the great American landscape photographer Ansel Adams said, “You…make…it.”
The Spanish-born, Toledo-based photographer, Jesús M Garcia, has built a career around snatching the aesthetically sublime landscape. He combines an exquisite composition and explorations in post-production with a careful use of light.
Garcia says he studies the classical painters El Greco, Caravaggio and Rembrandt to see how these greats utilised light in their work.
“All managed light and shadows magically,” he says. “I try to apply these techniques to my photos.”
In the photograph Good Morning Damian Shan, taken at sunrise on the Li River in China’s Guangxi Province and which has been awarded multiple international prizes including Garcia as the Epson Photographer of the Year in 2017, Garcia made seven vertical images, splicing them seamlessly together to form one iconic photograph.
“I woke at three am and trekked for one hour with all my equipment to get to the top of the mountain,” he says. “With the first rays of sun I saw a radiance I’d never experienced before. I kept thinking, ‘I’m on the other side of the world, at the top of the mountain and living a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise. I will never forget that moment.”
In the photograph, Blue Diamonds, a frozen black-sand Icelandic beach turns to rippling smoke, the ice glittering like diamonds, through Garcia’s use of time-lapse photography.
Red Cabins, an evocative image of life lived in the unforgiving cradle of a remote mountain range, was shot in Norway’s Lofoten Island in the middle of a hurricane. Garcia says that he each time he looks at this photo he can feel the strength of the wind, the noise, the exhausting cold.
To take the photograph, Garcia used a neutral density filter, which reduces the amount of light entering the lens, to enable a two-minute exposure, creating a mirror-like surface on the water.
Despite the surrealist nature of many of his photographs, Garcia refuses to use artificial lighting. His planning, therefore, must be precise, mapping the exact location of sunrises and taking into account the phases of the moon and its position in the sky.
“I only use nature’s light,” he says.
For the past four years, Garcia has been obsessed by aurora borealis or the northern lights, when charged particles in the atmosphere at high latitudes (think: Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden) create an outlandish, fantastic light show. Garcia was at Dyrholaey Beach in Iceland when he was first bathed in its atmospheric harmonies.
“I couldn't stop shouting,” says Garcia. “When you see your first aurora you’re completely lost. You need to see more. It becomes, very quickly, an addiction. How wonderful it is to see these lights falling from the sky, changing colours, the green, yellow, blue, sometimes even magenta, while the aurora's shapes are dancing. It’s truly an otherworldly experience.”
Garcia, who is thirty seven years old, is regularly showered in awards. Apart from the supreme accolade of 2017’s Photographer of the Year, he’s won prizes at The Trierenberg Super Circuit, The Al-thani Awards for Photography, The International Epson Pano Awards, The International Photography Awards, Digital Photo World and The Siena International Photo Awards.
“I am a perfectionist,” says Garcia. “I always say, the perfect photo is the photo I’ll take tomorrow.”
by Derek Rielly