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Wednesday 30th July 2014,

Man and Nature: Paul Zizka Takes Haunting Images of Himself in the Canadian Rockies

Ugo Cei January 20, 2014 World Through the Lens

Given the state of current digital imaging technology, there seems to be nothing the camera can’t capture, even what the eye can’t normally see: Night landscapes, star trails, long exposures are becoming more and more common, possibly boring, as they are made easier by cameras whose sensitivity is orders of magnitude greater than it was only a few years ago.

Communion – Self-portrait, Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park.

Communion – Self-portrait, Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park.

When the image that was once considered extraordinary is now common, a few photographers still manage to stand out from the crowd with their work. I find Banff based photographer Paul Zizka’s images shown here to be masterful in showing the beauty of the Canadian Rockies at night and unusual at the same time in including the human figure in the composition. Zizka includes himself in the landscape, often in a posture that suggests contemplation and awe in front of the majesty of nature. At times, however, they reveal a playful side, as with the photo of Santa on the frozen lake.

Long Night Ahead – Santa self-portrait, Vermilion Lakes, Banff National Park.

Long Night Ahead – Santa self-portrait, Vermilion Lakes, Banff National Park.

Paul Zizka is a 34 years old professional landscape and adventure photographer from Banff, Alberta, Canada. This fall, he released his first book, Summits and Starlight, a collection of mountaineering and nighttime photographs from the Canadian Rockies. Last year, he also co-directed and released Mountains In Motion, a time-lapse film set in the Canadian Rockies.

Ice Dreams – Night ice climbing at Haffner Creek, Kootenay National Park. Climber: John Price

Ice Dreams – Night ice climbing at Haffner Creek, Kootenay National Park. Climber: John Price

Paul says he did not initially set out with a specific plan in mind, but discovered night photography only after some time shooting landscapes in the Canadian Rocky Mountain parks. What made him discover the beauty of the night skies were the pre-dawn starts that are required for mountaineering. That led him to start photographing more and more at night, both in familiar locations and in new ones as well.

About his including himself in some of the images, again it started casually, as a way of adding more interest to the scenes and to solve composition issues, like the lack of foreground interest. Many photographs require long exposure times and the need for him to stay still for prolonged periods of time, a fact that makes it hard to stand up. As a consequence, he is often portrayed as sitting or lying down on the ground. This is a brilliant example of how an artist can use constraints to his own advantage.

As to the climbing shots, the subject is usually an expert climber and not Paul himself. Even though those are straightforward climbs that he can do himself, he finds it much easier to have a friend along than having to go up there and trigger the shutter remotely.

Counting Stars – Self-portrait, Johnson Lake, Banff National Park.

Counting Stars – Self-portrait, Johnson Lake, Banff National Park.

All of these images were shot with a Canon 5D Mark III. Lenses: Canon EF24mm f/1.4L II USM, Canon EF17-40mm f/4L USM, and Sigma EF15mm f/2.8 Fisheye.

Midnight Majesty – Self-portrait, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park.

Midnight Majesty – Self-portrait, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park.

You can find more of Paul Zizka’s work on FacebookTwitter500px, and Google+, or visit his website at www.zizka.ca. Most of the photographs in this series are available as fine art prints.

Next week, we will be featuring an exclusive interview with Paul Zizka on our YouTube channel. Subscribe to it to keep up to date!

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About The Author

Ugo Cei is a travel, landscape and fine art photographer from Italy. A geek at heart, he loves the technical aspects of digital photography and understanding what goes inside the machine. His clients include Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, and Alitalia. You can check out his work at www.ucphoto.me.

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