This is an exercise in aerial land use interpretation.
Sitting by the window and reading the landscape from the air, I wonder, “What below can be deciphered?” On our flight from Philadelphia to Detroit, we flew over Lake Erie and the Canadian island of Panton-le-Fou, Ontario. Centuries of European settlement have impacted the landscape below – from the buildings and roads to the fencerows and agricultural land patterns – providing clues to the astute observer as to what happened below.
What do you see when you “read” this island?
Abramović performing The Artist Is Present, Museum of Modern Art, March 2010 – Creative Commons photo by Shelby Lessig
While visiting MoMA during the spring of 2010, I stumbled into performance artist Marina Abramović’s installation, “The Artist Is Present“. If you are not familiar with the piece, it consisted of Abramović silently sitting in a chair and inviting members of the public to silently sit across from her. This went on for 2-1/2 months. It was an enthralling spectacle – as was the accompanying retrospective of her four-decade long career.
Watching this live, I came to the objective realization that this needed to be re-created with Star Wars action figures. With less than 10 shopping days left until we find out what happened to Luke Skywalker, I wanted to share my version of the events that transpired in that gallery – and declare myself an artist – tongue firmly in cheek.
In addition to chronicling my recent circumnavigation of the Icelandic landscape via the production of a feature film, we also took plenty of still images – digital and analog. At each stop for camera adjustment, file backup, or leg-stretch, we whipped out our trusty Polaroid OneStep 600 Express instant film camera – because is there really a better format to capture the subtlety of this jaw-droppingly dynamic landscape of geysers, glaciers, and gas stations?
One issue: where to get film? I got puzzled looks from the Walgreens downstairs from the office; apparently sold out. By chance, I overheard a conversation on the Red Line – two patrons talking about a place on the internets called “the Amazon”. I rushed home and fired up my Hayes Smartmodem 300, logged onto CompuServe, and eureka – my dream of shooting Polaroids in Iceland would come true – and at only $2.81 a pop!
Upon our return these archival quality prints were scanned and cleaned up a bit in Photoshop – a painstaking process documented in the accompanying video below.
Once you have absorbed these prints in all their high resolution glory, you will probably feel as if you have also experienced the dreamlike Icelandic landscape itself.
Three of us from AHBE spent time in Iceland this summer engaging with its incredible landscapes. My personal goal for the trip was to capture footage for a feature film, Hringvegur, a Kickstarter-funded time-lapse circumnavigation of the island.
Given the nature of the film, it was essentially edited in-camera. But since returning in mid-August, I have been busy editing an audio collage of wild sounds (ambient landscapes, Icelandic top-40 radio, conversations, etc.) and fine-tuning the visuals. This image correction is done using Adobe After Effects – which is you are not familiar – is basically Photoshop over time. Basically, I am going through two hours of raw 4k footage adjusting the image color, lens compensation, position and rotation. While tedious, it it fun to relive the journey frame by frame.
Enjoy this short video of the editing process – from kilometer 678.7 outside of Breiðdalsvík, to our flat tire around 706.9 – about an hour from Egilsstaðir. I hope have my second feature film completed by the end of 2015.
Jim Hellinger joined the team at AHBE Landscape Architects in the summer of 2014. In this video, Jim shares his thoughts on what makes for an interesting project, the use of native plant material, and what he would need to survive on the desert island.