Category Archives: California

We Built Our Own World

inception_poster_imax1-535 copy Inception. I am in danger of becoming stuck inside this movie. I have watched it three times and it is brilliant. They seemingly stuck a camera inside my own dreams, indeed that is how it feels like watching it. Inception toys with dreams merging with reality and does it extremely well in a very entertaining way. It also provided an idea and an insight into my landscape work.

Dream within a Dream

I continually look for landscapes bathed in otherworldly light where I can compose and capture a timeless composition that sits somewhere between dream and reality. Hyper reality. It is Earth but not quite as we know it. I am not interested in reality I am interested in creating grand dreamscapes allowing the viewer to Escape in Landscapes. My landscapes are not documentation, when I get it right they are moments of dreams.

Abstract simplistic locations like a desert at dusk lends itself well to dreams of surrealism; here I present Death Valley in the USA and the desert of Namibia. Both images shot with ND and GND filters using long exposures at the very tail end of the dusk light and picking up that lovely otherworldly glow:

Badwater Bliss -  blogMagic of the desert -blog Cities can certainly become hyper real in the right light. This is the best image I will ever capture of Copenhagen, a large thunderstorm two years ago prepares to level the city at sunset and creates a never to be repeated light.

Summer Storm - blog

Waiting for a train

What is your favourite ‘dream’ image? An otherworldly image that feels like you are dreaming it. Can be your own image or someone else, feel free to post a link in the comments.  Hurry though, the music may start playing soon.

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Power of Yosemite National Park

It was almost the visit that never was. I had spent 7 blissful magical days at Death Valley. Next stop was Yosemite but all accommodation was nearly sold out and all Sierra Mountain passes still snowed over. I was looking at a 2 day long detour of what is about 70 miles as the crow flies to cross the Sierra Mountain. Any roof over my head at Yosemite was going to come with a hefty price tag. It would also come with dramatically lower temperatures than Death Valley and I love the heat. I eventually relented and decided under no circumstances could I miss shooting and seeing Yosemite National Park, the hallowed grounds of Ansel Adams. I made the right decision as no classic Ansel image could prepare me for the power of Yosemite National Park.

First Contact

As I drive from the Southwest into the Sierra Mountains my jaw is already on the floor of my Nissan Spaceship. This landscape defines the word stunning. Huge granite walls flank my car and a very loud and violent Merced River provides the soundtrack. Once into Yosemite National Park I nearly drive my Nissan in the river when all towering 910 meters of El Capitan enters my world. No image can truly capture how much awe this granite monolith inspires. No amount of previous exposures through photos takes away from First Contact with Yosemite.

The Image – Power of Yosemite

This is the best of my images from Yosemite. To me, Yosemite is all about drama, power and forces beyond human understanding. This valley was dramatically carved out by a glacier moving at the speed of…well a glacier. Forces beyond our comprehension created this larger than life valley. For drama I need more help from Mother Nature, clear blue skies will not do me well here. I concentrate, relax and fortunately Mother Nature obliges and I summon a dark violent rain storm on an otherwise sunny day. I create this image, Power of Yosemite:

Power of Yosemite - blogjpg

This is a stitch of 3 horizontal images. I spent about an hour enjoying this splendid view and watching the storm move across the valley while the sun played with light beams. I click the remote shutter when I see the sun lighting up Yosemite falls. This may look quite processed but I have only added some contrast and a bit more painting with light. Mother Nature did all the work, I just captured the very right moment of time when the sun lit up the perfect scene.

Visiting Yosemite National Park

I visited in the beginning of May before the peak season and I avoided the weekend. Still, Yosemite is very popular and was very crowded. I paid a fortune for a room in a lodge 8 km’s from the park. Several times driving the valley loop I came close to dying of frustration as I could not park anywhere and missed shots. This is not a desolate one on one with Mother Nature, there are tourists, trekkers, huge crowds and tour busses everywhere. Not to mention photographers. Do not think I have met so many photogs and photo clubs in one location nor seen so many photo-vests; a rather sad sight! Cars are becoming a real problem at Yosemite, there’s only so much space in the narrow valley. As I exited the park on a Saturday morning the cars queuing to get in stretched for miles down the mountain. This winter had heavy snow fall so there was much snow melt in the rivers and waterfalls. Unfortunately this also meant Glacier Point was still under 2 meters of snow and I do not have a really satisfying image of Half Moon Dome. I must return.

Yosemite Part II

This is one location I doubt I shall ever tire off. I must shoot a panorama from Glacier Point. I must capture Yosemite during a snow storm, despite my fear of snow. I shall bring a 4WD and camping gear. I must return for more Power of Yosemite.

Enjoy more images from Yosemite in my Valleys and Canyons USA gallery – more images to come: FlemmingBoJensen.com/gallery/usavalleyscanyons/

Leonard Knight of Salvation Mountain

"I really love it here. I think the freedom of this place is just so beautiful.
To me, I wouldn’t move for $10 million, unless I had to.
So I’m contented here in the desert, and I’m living where I want to live.
And I think good gets better.
And I think those great big tanks there were the sewer plant for the Marine base in World War II"

Some may recognize the words of Leonard Knight from the movie Into The Wild where Chris and Tracy take a walk to Salvation Mountain and meet him. In March I had the pleasure of taking my own walk to Salvation Mountain and meet the legend.

Salvation Mountain -blog

Leonard Knight

Leonard Knight is a joy and an inspiration, just as passionate and quirky in real life as on screen. I spoke with him for a while and his passion for his Salvation Mountain and for his God are very infectious. His work, life, passion and mission is a never ending process of creating Salvation Mountain as a tribute to his God. It’s really just a lot of paint on a mountain built of everything from clay to car doors and telephone poles but his dedication and passion lifts it to something special.

It was a slow hot day with few visitors, Leonard tells of days with hundreds of people. The desert sun was scorching, the clouds were spectacular and the wind a warm companion. The air tasted hot and dusty as I ate my lunch sandwich sitting on top of Salvation. Leonard then took me on a tour and gave me a handful of postcards telling me to "spread the love in Denmark, tell people about my work, about love and my mountain". He is a weathered old desert dweller who has seen his fair share of the desert sun. Here’s my portrait of Leonard and part of his desert home.

Leonard Knight - blog

Leonards Home - blog

Slab City

Salvation mountain resides at Slab City, also of Into The Wild fame. Slab City is just a bunch of caravans out in the desert on concrete slabs, leftovers from a Marine base. There is not much to it but I can see what Leonard mean by stating"the freedom of this place is so beautiful". I was there on a Thursday and wish I had stayed for the Friday outdoor concert as seen in the movie. With a little more guts for shooting people I would have liked to do portraits of the characters living here. Instead, some awesome clouds offered the chance of a wide Slab City panorama:

Slab City pano - blog

Into The Wild

into_the_wild_movie_poster I tend to get somewhat obsessive about my…obsessions one could say. I have over the past two years watched the beautiful movie Into The Wild twenty times, read the moving book ten times and listened to the great Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook soundtracks a million times over. Christopher McCandless’ quest, passion and great adventure somewhat mirrors mine and my feelings, and he completely changed my life post-mortem.

Chris, his story, the book, the movie, the soundtrack still means very much to me and there is great strength, comfort and inspiration for me in passionate people like Chris and Leonard. Attempting to slightly moderate my spectacularism (Douglas Coupland’s word for loving extreme situations) I am now attempting to create and live my nomad story, not a copy of the Alexander Supertramp story.  Still, I had to visit Slab City and Salvation Mountain when I passed by the Salton Sea back in March. Some elements and arcs of a story came together for me and it was special for me, somewhat moving to be standing there. As if several versions of me caught up and merged into one.

– ∞ –

Tech: All images including the portrait shot using my Canon 17-40mm L lens, it does actually work as a portrait lens in a pinch and my copy is razor sharp (except for the corners of course). The panorama is stitched. All images have received my ‘harsh desert’ Photoshop process but they needed very little, the conditions here are already very harsh desert!

This Desert Life

The Southwest of USA had a tendency to take my breath away every day. No I was not crossing the continent in Forrest Gump style. I am not so much a running fool more a walk in the desert fool. Rather, I was short on breath from the incredible landscapes leaving me speechless and awestruck in the presence of ancient dramatic masterpieces by Mother Nature. One such masterpiece named Death Valley is a complete otherworldly experience where the expression "wide open space" falls short and new words are needed.

I have posted a few images from the Valley of Death previously and today I present a vast view of the valley. Well, it is only part of the valley actually as it is some incredible 150 kilometers long. It is a hazy view during a sand storm just before sunset. Tell me if this view makes me feel as I do, that you are visiting something else than Earth as we know it.

vast valley of death - blog 

Whilst I love this view and the memories of Death Valley that it triggers I must admit to not being quite sure what to do with it. Is it an image or more a memorabilia? Is it a fine art image I want in my collection? Is it something anyone would wish to purchase? What do you think? It is awfully wide, more than 5 to 1 in width height ratio making it rather unpractical. This is of course a stitched panorama, around 19-20 vertical images from my 100-400mm Canon L lens set at 300mm. The final file is 27,000 pixels wide, quite detailed although fine details suffer from the dust storm. It will support prints almost as big as the real thing. Actually; with a few cheesy titles this is the intro to some 70s sci-fi show!

Even if it is just a memory, I may print this one at many meters wide and stick it on the wall of whatever future home I settle in. It will be my window to my home planet. Vast Valley of Death for some, home for me and I can escape here. In the words of Guilliaume Nery, into "one pure instant of eternity" where the vastness and emptiness draws and humbles me. This Desert Life and we shall take it Further and Further.

Wide Open Space in the Valley of Death

W i d e   O p e n   S p a c e s

It is surely the most used phrase in my writings. Many words and places come to me in a vain effort to describe these. Endless Entity. Dimensionless Deserts. The gramadulas of Namibia, unbeaten King of all wide open spaces. The outback of Australia. Plains of New Mexico. Into the nothing.

I still search for adequate words to describe what happens to me in these magical places of the world. It goes beyond loving exploring these as photographic locations. I experience a deep emotional over-reaction to any large remote and desolate wide open space. Perhaps it simply reminds me of my home planet. The unrestrained dimensionless spaces takes my breath away. With no dimensions, no borders nor constraints of my vision, it is close to ultimate freedom and escapism. I look to books like Terre des Hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars) from French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for a wonderful description of this particular feeling and state of mind.

Death Valley in USA, hottest place on Earth and one of my favourite American locations. It was my home for 6 days and I have only scratched the surface of this enormous valley, I must return. On my first day I was rewarded with exceptional dusk light and I am currently toying with several of the images, searching for the perfect image, crop and post processing. Here is a work in progress of Badwater salt flats which in this very late dusk light turns into an otherworldly magical place. I am still deciding on the crop and the variations of this image, the use of black space is of course Ansel inspired.

death valley-blog

Creating a good image of a wide open space is a challenge. You are shooting ‘nothing’ but must make ‘nothing’ look beautiful, moving, disturbing and interesting somehow. You must also convey just how wide open the space is. You also as always need some sort of compositional anchor in the image and you are highly dependent on Mother Nature’s clouds and light. I get it right once in a blue moon but learn from every attempt.

Mother Nature has brought me home. Welcome to my world. Perhaps that’s a way to describe what I experience in these places. I shall keep exploring them, creating images and attempting to describe them.

PS. Please do not tell Wide Open Spaces that I am also having a love affair with Ocean.

I’ve gone to look for America

Stealing titles as I often do, this one is of course Simon & Garfunkel aptly describing this post. Like a lot of people, I grew up with American movies and TV shows and I was excited to finally land on American soil back in March. In many ways it was exactly what I expected, in many ways it was nothing like I expected. I drove some 8,000 miles or 12,500 kilometers through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. These are just a few of my observations, boils down to: Mindblowing landscapes, stay clear of most cities, and stop putting cheese on everything!

The landscapes.

It is impossible not to have been subjected to a lot of the American Southwest landscape through TV, movies and countless photographers having already shot what is probably the world’s most photographed landscapes. No matter. The Southwest landscapes still floored me speechless every day for two months and I just scratched the surface of what is available. Here’s a quick developed preview of a panorama from Canyonlands National Park in Utah, such a dramatic place. Driving through the wide open spaces of the Southwest with the ipod in the car stereo grooving and the feeling of freedom my drug of choice, then stopping anywhere I like to shoot images are my fondest memories of this trip. I am so in love with the American landscapes, I must return many times. Look at these clouds by the way, I seemed to attract amazing light on a lot of days in America.

canyonlands - blog

The cities.

las vegas - blogBeing no fan of cities, the only larger cities I visited very briefly were LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas. San Francisco was quite different and felt European, with a great atmosphere, many small streets with shops, cafes and restaurants. Apart from SF I find the American cities I visited were quite depressing, usually just an ugly main street with too many fast food places, motels and malls killing all local charm. To the right is my home for 1 night in Vegas and I regret wasting a night in Vegas. It is as horrible as you think, worse actually and I lost all faith in humanity for a few days. I regained it in Beatty and Death Valley, Nevada…

The towns.

What I loved were the small towns. My rule quickly became: town should be so small there isn’t even a traffic light nor a McDonald’s. I might not wish to live there, but loved staying in places like Magdalena in New Mexico, Mexican Hat in Utah or Beatty in Nevada. Here is the great and dusty main street in Beatty, right next to Death Valley, actually if this town had an ocean and a beach I could live here:

Beatty - blog

The small towns have atmosphere and character. People are friendly, down to earth and talkative and wear cowboy hats, smile and say "howdy" to you with a thick accent. They wave as you walk around the town. The local diner is an actual locally owned true diner, no chain fast food hell. The diner serves great food complete with coffee and cake, portions even larger than the enourmous belt buckles the cowboys proudly display. Tumbleweeds tumble across the roads, rusty doors and gates play in the wind. John Wayne strides down the street. Local newspaper tells of upcoming events complete with arm-wrestling competitions and the chance to win a riffle! And in Beatty there was a large sale of used army ammonition boxes (still trying to figure that one out, what do you use them for?). My kinda place.

"Be careful his bowtie is really a camera" or How to fix America and Other Nonsense. 

To my American friends, I am having a sarcastic and ironic go at you, no harm meant. My suggestions are winners though, try them out 🙂

  • Ban all fast food chains. Kills the great local diners. And public health.
  • Ban all big chain motels. Kills local colourful motels with atmosphere, replacing them with awful "fast food" motels that resemble prison blocks.
  • Better education available for all, for free. Not knowing the name of your neighbour state is just not good enough. Danish is not the same as Dutch, look it up. To the surfer dude in Monterey, Jean Claude van Damme is not Danish!
  • Explain to me again how free health care is the devil’s work? I still don’t understand it.
  • Ban guns. Now I like to win a riffle at the local fair as much as anyone but seriously, get those guns off the streets.
  • Buy smaller cars and RVs. What do you need a pickup truck the size of a tank for unless you actually own a farm? Also it’s really intimidating to see these pick-ups in the rear view mirror, one inch from my car and threatening to simply run me over unless I move just because I obey the speed limit (most of the time hehe, my Nissan spaceship was quite fast).
  • Drastically improve your health, stop putting cheese on everything! "You want cheese on that?". "No it’s a fecking tuna sandwich, I don’t want cheese on anything! And no bloody whipped cream on my milkshake!"
  • Legs? They can be used for walking! Ban drive-ins, boost public health!
  • And why oh why are shower heads installed at roughly half the height of the average human?
  • Lastly, service everywhere is absolutely excellent, much appreciated! Yesterday I bought coffee in a café. It was dearer than gold and service was rude. I knew I was back in Copenhagen.

These waves are all around us now

These waves. Crashing ashore. Crash. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Crash. Another one. Slow rolling surfer waves crashing ashore. A hypnotic rhythm. The waves, the sun, the sand, the sounds, the feeling of walking barefoot on sand and the smell of the ocean. It all adds up to a deeply healing and calming experience. Brain waves in sync with the oceanic waves.

I am in Monterey, California and I have spent the whole day sitting on the beach staring at the ocean. I had plans to photograph Big Sur but my feet steered me here and many miles down the beach. No one is here. Just me and some great waves. Just the right rhythm. Have to be the right beach with the right waves to create the rhythm. I see board surfers further down the beach. This is hypnotic. I have not written a word all day, not shot one image nor listened to music. Also forgot to bring food and water. I just stared at the waves. I fell asleep on the beach. I woke up and stared some more. Yes this is second nature for you lucky ones on the WA coast, but I was late to discover the drug called the ocean. I am now a serious addict and must, simply must live on a west coast some day.

I did capture images from the coastline driving up Highway 1 a few days ago. A thick morning fog created some lovely shots where the fog blanketed the cliffs on this gorgeous California coast. This is a very quick preview, shot using my 100-400mm lens as the view point is quite far away. Hard to do a good composition when gravity would not work in my favor if I stepped over the edge. I think this image may end up in black and white if I use it at all, have a feeling it would work well.

cliffs in the mist - blog

Yosemite was my final US photo mission. Now I am mostly staring at waves and relaxing before a plane next week takes me from San Fran to some location called Copenhagen. Summer with friends and lots of work developing thousands of RAW files and getting my new website done is the plan. Lots more to come.

PS. Huge street credits if you can spot the origin of the title of this post! Don’t google cheat! And I want the album it’s famous for.