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Fire and Ice

FIRE AND ICE

Iceland is an island of extremes, from its volcanic core to its enormous glaciers.

 

“When I take pictures, I watch the play of the landscape, the weather, and the light with curiosity, and I immerse myself in their mood,” writes photographer Olaf Otto Becker in his new book, Under the Nordic Light: A Journey Through Time/Iceland 1999-2011 (Hatje Cantz, 2011), which features the images in this gallery and many more. Here he’s captured the Atlantic Ocean off Iceland’s Grímsey Island. In another expedition, he navigated a rubber boat 2,500 miles along Greenland’s west coast north to the Arctic Ocean and back.

Photo: Photograph by Olaf Otto Becker

FIRE AND ICE

Iceland is an island of extremes, from its volcanic core to its enormous glaciers.

 

Iceland's waterfalls, coasts, and glaciers—formed on a geological time scale and almost imperceptibly tranformed daily—are now changing more quickly than ever, driven by anthropogenic climate change and development. 

Photo: Photograph by Olaf Otto Becker

FIRE AND ICE

Iceland is an island of extremes, from its volcanic core to its enormous glaciers.

 

Becker began photographing waterfalls in the early 1990s, driven by an “interest in the movement of water in contrast to the fixity of the stones.” He shot Háifoss waterfall, pictured here, shortly before sunrise with his large-format camera (12 x 20 inches) under an overcast sky to allow the fine nuances of color to come through.

Photo: Photograph by Olaf Otto Becker

FIRE AND ICE

Iceland is an island of extremes, from its volcanic core to its enormous glaciers.

 

Between 1999 and 2011 Becker made several trips to Iceland, photographing the vast, dramatic landscape. A rock formation on the coast near Mýrdalssandur stands like a lone sentinel. As in many of Becker’s Iceland photos, bright colors are spare; the vibrant green moss contrasts sharply with the modulations of gray of the beach, rock, and sky.

Photo: Photograph by Olaf Otto Becker

FIRE AND ICE

Iceland is an island of extremes, from its volcanic core to its enormous glaciers.

 

Pictured here is an old lava flow that spewed from the 4,900-foot-tall Katla volcano, which is located beneath the small Mýrdalsjökull ice cap. Katla erupted violently in 1918, and volcanologists continue monitoring it. Today the rocks are covered in thick moss.

Photo: Photograph by Olaf Otto Becker

FIRE AND ICE

Iceland is an island of extremes, from its volcanic core to its enormous glaciers.

 

Over a 10-year span Becker made return trips to several places in Iceland, including this glacier. “This glacier tongue, already showing significant decline in 2002, was the impetus for my Greenland projects between 2003 and 2008,” he writes. “When I rediscovered the same area of the Öræfajökull in 2011, after a long tour, I was absolutely shocked by this sight.” 

Photo: Photograph by Olaf Otto Becker

FIRE AND ICE

Iceland is an island of extremes, from its volcanic core to its enormous glaciers.

 

A concrete spillway chute of the Kárahnjúkar dam. The hydropower project is merely one of the“impossible to overlook” manmade changes to the landscape, Becker writes, noting that it was constructed in “what had previously been Europe’s largest contiguous nature reserve.” “How do we treat nature?” he asks. “Heedlessly.”

Photo: Photograph by Olaf Otto Becker