How does one choose their favorite location? It would be like choosing your favorite image or favorite child!
Sometimes it seems like the last location is always my favorite location. And philosophically, I don’t believe an exotic location should be necessary for creating a great image. My philosophical hero, Edward Weston, said the following when he was confined to a chair with Parkinson’s:
I should be able to look down at my feet and see something to photograph
But I have been fortunate to travel to many incredible locations. And of all the places I’ve been, Easter Island has been the most significant to me. Why? Because it has been on my mind ever since I read Thor Heyerdahl’s book “Aku Aku” when I was 17 years old.
Now fast forward 47 years to when my wife and I were compiling our bucket list and I mentioned that I’d love to add Easter Island to the list, but that it really wasn’t feasible. My wife asked: why not? I didn’t really have an answer and so off we went in 2015.
Easter Island is known as the world’s most isolated inhabited place. I tell people that it’s really not that hard to get to, but it isn’t for the faint of wallet. It’s an expensive journey.
Easter Island is small, about 7 by 15 miles and has about 5500 inhabitants, some of which are the native Rapa Nui and also many Chileans. Only the Rapa Nui can own land on Easter Island.
Easter Island is best known for its Moai, those monolithic statues carved by the ancients. There are about 1000 Moai on the island and about 30 standing on several different ahu’s or alters.
I spent two weeks there, circumnavigate the island 3-5 times each day. I focused almost exclusively on the Moai and created three portfolios:
The Moai of Rano Raraku
Moai, Sitting for Portrait
The portfolio I am most proud of is the “Moai, Sitting for Portrait” and how it came about. Here is my artist statement:
In January of 2015 I spent two weeks photographing the Moai of Easter Island. This fulfilled a lifelong dream, one that started when I was 17 and read the book “Aku Aku” by Thor Heyerdahl. I became fascinated with the Moai and they have been on my mind and influenced my art for these many years.
As I traveled to Easter Island and tried to imagine what I would encounter, something interesting happened: I fell asleep and dreamt that I had invited the Moai to come and sit for a formal portrait.
When I awoke I thought “why not?”
I knew there would be challenges: the Moai are reserved, aloof and almost unapproachable. They had suffered greatly at the hands of outsiders and the question was: would they come to trust me?
Distance was the first hurdle to be overcome: the island is small by automobile standards, but when we are talking about the Moai who walk everywhere, traversing the island to get to my makeshift studio could be difficult. Then there was the Moai’s physical condition: many were incapacitated by war and the ravages of time and could not make the journey. And how would I accommodate the size of the Moai, with some towering 33 feet tall?
Facing these challenges and armed with nothing more than a dream and hope, I issued the invitations…but would they come?
Initially only a few came; the younger and less suspicious ones. But slowly, as word spread of their experience, others started to arrive.
Photographing the Moai created some interesting situations: one older Moai refused to allow me to photograph his face and turned his back on the camera. Another arrived with a hawk and insisted on having his portrait taken with the bird atop his head. Several Moai with bullet wounds, inflicted by outsiders, insisted that I document those scars.
And there were tense moments, as two rival Moai came together face-to-face in the studio, but which ended well when they agreed to be photographed together. And there were touching moments as old friends were reunited after years of separation.
The Moai are quiet, stoic and could even been described as “stone-faced.” And it’s true, not once was I able to photograph a Moai smiling, but instead they have a dignified poise that transcends time.
It was a lifelong dream that brought me to Easter Island and a sleeping dream that caused me to create this portfolio.
A huge thanks to Singh-Ray who heard that I had smashed my MOR-SLO 15-stop ND filter while in the Faroe Islands and then very kindly rushed me a replacement. Their generosity and thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated.
I am a big fan of Singh-Ray products. I use their polarizer, their Vari-ND and their MOR-SLO 5, 10, 15 and 20 stop ND filters. My primary filter is their 15-stop ND filter, it’s used in about 75% of my images!
Why do I use their products? Just one reason: the quality. I have used many different brands, and some of them are very good, but in my opinion Singh-Ray filters are the best.
I first learned of Singh-Ray when I heard about and purchased their Vari-ND variable ND filter. I was carrying that filter with me when I was visiting Auschwitz and the idea of photographing ghosts struck me. I could not have produced The Ghosts of Auschwitz-Birkenau project with a fixed ND filter, the Vari-ND made it possible.
Their 15-stop ND filter is the perfect number of stops for my work. With 15 stops I can shoot up to two minutes in bright sunlight and much longer in places like the overcast Faroe Islands. What happens when I need to go longer than two minutes? In the past I was forced to stack two filters which resulted in vignetting issues, but those days are gone with the Singh-Ray MOR-SLO 20-stop filter.
I love Singh-Ray ND filters!
P.S. I want to disclose that Singh-Ray has given me 2-3 filters over the years, including this replacement.
Well, only for a month…I am headed to the Faroe Islands.
I am really excited about this trip, not because I know what I’ll find there, but because I have no idea what I’ll find.
I do no planning or research when I am planning my trips. I do not look at other people’s images from that area. I do not consult the travel guides for the “must see” sites. My only preparation for this trip consists of renting an apartment and car.
Because I want to go with a blank slate, with no preconceived ideas or expectations. I do not want to know how others have seen the Faeroes or photograph the same sites that everyone else has.
That’s my goal anyway. My hope is that I’ll see something there that inspires my imagination and which will result in a new portfolio.
I’ll not be posting much while I’m away, but I will post some iPhone snapshots each day on my Google+ and Facebook accounts:
Photographer travels the world to capture black-and-white images
Cole Thompson work on display at Lincoln Gallery in June By Kenneth Jessen For the Reporter-Herald POSTED: 06/14/2017 10:04:18 AM MDT
Photographer Cole Thompson enjoys the creative process. His “Moai Sitting for Portraits,” shot on Easter Island, will be on display for the month of June at the Lincoln Gallery. (KENNETH JESSEN / Loveland Reporter-Herald)
I love photography, but I also love flight. From birds to the Wright Brother’s first flyer, from the SR-71 which my father worked on to the V-22 Osprey that my son flies on. I love flight and airplanes.
And so it was a special treat to see my first B2 over the Mesquite dunes of Death Valley! It made several passes and fortunately I had my 100-400 lens on and was able to get these shots.
It is very impressive but my first thought was: this shouldn’t fly!
There was a companion aircraft that I at first thought was a tanker, but it didn’t look like any tanker that I was familiar with. It looked as though it had a radome on the nose and something odd on the tail.
Does anyone know what this plane is and what it does? I’m guessing that it is measuring emissions to see how stealthy the aircraft is, perhaps after some modifications or new equipment?
I was also lucky enough to see my first V-22 Osprey refueling over Death Valley! My son Caleb is a Crew Chief on this aircraft. I was not lucky enough to photograph it however.