Oct 142015
 

A black and white approach to the Faroe Islands

By Bjarni Mohr

Maybe you’ve seen them – the colorful pictures of the Faroe Islands on different online sites, blogs and other social media.

Last year the tourist board, VisitFaroeIslands, launched a massive campaign urging people to share their colorful pictures of the Faroe Islands. The reason for the campaign was to further extend the massive growth in the tourism industry they’ve experienced during the last two-three years.

One late summer evening in the small village of Velbastaður during sunset. Can you imagine this scenery in colours? © Bjarni Mohr

One late summer evening in the small village of Velbastaður during sunset. Can you imagine this scenery in color? © Bjarni Mohr

Located between Scotland and Iceland, the islands can be beautiful in vivid colors during the spring and summer, but the archipelago can also be beautiful in black and white. In my opinion, there are too many photos made of the Faroe Islands which have been over post-processed, giving an unnatural impression of this area.

The farmer in Mykines, an island where only 12 people are living, is harvesting potatoes before the long winter, when Mykines has no connection to the mainland, kicks in. © Bjarni Mohr

A farmer harvesting potatoes before the long winter kicks in on Mykines, an island of only 12 people. Winter is a period when Mykines has no connection to the mainland. © Bjarni Mohr

A year ago, this thought provoked me to only shoot the Faroe Islands in black and white, mainly because I think it’s gotten out of hand with all the photoshopped pictures presenting the country as being so colorful. Yes, it can be colorful in the spring and summertime but not quite as colorful as we sometimes see in pictures.

The old harbour in the capital during twilight. The skies coloured the scenery red and blue, but it was certainly also beautiful in black and white. © Bjarni Mohr

The old harbour in the capital during twilight. The skies colored the scenery red and blue, but it was certainly also beautiful in black and white. © Bjarni Mohr

One other reason for me to only shoot black and white now is my intention to fulfill a photographic dream: Either to do a 365-project (one photo each day) documenting daily life here in the Faroe Islands or a documentary book with portraits of ordinary Faroese people. I started shooting black and white to teach myself to “see” in black and white before I kick off one of these projects.

On March 20th this year there were 11.000 tourists here in the Faroe Islands when total solar eclipse encompassed. Here the total solar eclipse hits the capital, Tórshavn. © Bjarni Mohr

On March 20th this year there were 11.000 tourists in the Faroe Islands when a total solar eclipse occurred. Here the total solar eclipse hits the capital, Tórshavn. © Bjarni Mohr

The decision to only shoot black and white while photographing landscape and nature was a challenge for me, since the main focus of photographers in shooting landscapes in the Faroe Islands is because of the colors. B/W photography changed the way I see nature here.

Just another grey and dull day while i was out mountain hiking. I don’t think i ever would have taken this picture if i wasn’t training my mind to “only” see in black and white. © Bjarni Mohr

Just another dull grey day while I was out mountain hiking. I don’t think I would have ever taken this picture if I wasn’t training my mind to “only” see in black and white. © Bjarni Mohr

Don’t get me wrong. The Faroe Islands are beautiful in color, but they are also beautiful in black and white. With the color subtracted from the photos, I find myself looking at the scenery in nature in a completely different way than I did before.

The Faroe Islands consists of 18 islands, but the country is only 1399 square kilometers big. This means that you at no point are more than three miles from the ocean. © Bjarni Mohr

The Faroe Islands consist of 18 islands, but the country is only 1399 square kilometers in size. This means that at no point are you more than three miles from the ocean. © Bjarni Mohr

The weather can change rapidly here. In one single day you could experience all four seasons of the year. While this can be challenging for a photographer, it also opens opportunities for some good nature photography which you could never get if the weather wasn’t changing so rapidly.

I was heading out to take long exposure pictures of waterfalls in the mountains. But the weather changed rapidly and i got home with stormy pictures instead of sunny waterfalls. © Bjarni Mohr

I was heading out to take long exposure pictures of waterfalls in the mountains. But the weather changed rapidly and I got home with stormy mountains instead of sunny waterfalls. © Bjarni Mohr

The changing weather has changed my initial intentions many times. Sometimes I head out mountain hiking with specific plans. When I’m home again, the final pictures turn out to be the last thing I expected when I headed out to shoot. This is what makes it exciting to shoot landscape here.

We can’t brag about having the highest mountains, but overall it’s a steep country. While the highest mountain is only 882 meters high, on average the land is 300 meters above sea level. The country consists of 18 islands, is home to 49,000 people, and at no point are you more than three miles from the ocean.

On this hiking trip this summer it was dark and foggy all the time, but suddenly the skies opened providing magical light for some few minutes before it went pitch dark again. © Bjarni Mohr

On a hiking trip this summer it was dark and foggy all the time, but suddenly the skies opened providing magical light for a few minutes before it went pitch dark again. © Bjarni Mohr

A year ago when I started to photograph nature on the Faroe Islands in black and white, I had many doubts about my success after I kicked off the project. This was mostly because the norm are those extremely colorful and sometimes overdriven pictures of the country.

Light is always important when photographing, but quickly after I abandoned color photography and kicked off my B/W project, I suddenly re-discovered what a teacher taught me on my first photography course during the winter of 1986-1987: Just how important light is to photography.

If you should be heading to the Faroe Islands to photograph, let me know. Maybe we could do some combined hiking and shooting together. Contact me here: Bjarni Mohr on Facebook

Greetings from the Faroe Islands.

About Bjarni Mohr

Bjarni Mohr is 42 years old. He’s living in Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. Bjarni holds a BA degree in Online Journalism from Danish School of Media and Journalism in Denmark.

He is working as online editor at The Faroese Broadcasting Corporation. One of his passions is photography, which he’s enjoyed for the last 20 years or so. He’s now a dedicated Leica photographer, shooting both film and digital, after he’d been shooting with Canon, Nikon and Fuji for the last 20 years.

  9 Responses to “A black and white approach to the Faroe Islands”

  1. Dear Bjarni,
    Have enjoyed the beauty of your images of the Faroe Islands a lot.
    The atmosphere of the water at the seaside, the lovely landscape, single houses, foggy skies and clouds and sunshine – heaven and earth get wide and open.
    To look at your images creates an open mind and silent moments.
    Thank you
    Monika

  2. Hi Monika!

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Yes, even if the weather can be severe at times, it’s also possible to find a quiet space and enjoy the silent moments.

    All the best

    Bjarni

  3. Great article Bjarni!

    I liked how you said shooting all the time in B&W helped you imagine the scene without any colors. I like using a orange filter on my lens when I shoot B&W and that helps you see the image better too. Not sure if color filters still have a place in digital photography but sure helps you see a monochrome image better!

  4. Hi Gary!

    Thanks for your comment.

    I’ve been experiencing with colored filters as well the last. While they can be helpful to achieve the results i want in some certain situations, i use them carefully because of the strong effect and contrast they add to certain scenery.

    All the best.

    Bjarni

  5. Hi Monika,

    Always great to hear from you…thought Bjarni’s BW sensibilities would appeal to you. Glad you enjoyed them!

    Best-AM

  6. Gary,

    It is interesting, some of the filters work really well for landscapes, but with the Monochrom at close distances they can cause focus shift. The filters affect the sensor like it was infrared film which is always front focused because it picks up on the red wave lengths. So far, I’ve found that the yellow filters cause no issue, orange causes some, and red causes the most shift, but only at closer distances (less than 12 feet away)

    But when things are way off in the distance it works well.

    Best-AM

  7. Thanks for sharing this view on taking photographs on the Faroe. It inspires me to look also with a black and white view to the landscapes of the Faroe.

    We will be traveling to the Faroe tomorrow by car and are really looking forward to experience the islands and take many photos.

    Jan

  8. Hi Jan!

    Unfortunately i just noticed your post now. It could be fun to catch up and do some shooting if i noticed before. Slip me a message if you ‘come by’ here another time.

    Did you get some keepers amongst the pictures?

    Regards from the Faroe Islands.

Add Comment Register



 Leave a Reply

(required)

(required)

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>