Hans Strand is a Swedish photographer who has earned a reputation for his spectacular sprawling landscapes. His photography inhabits that place between reality and the unreal, his photos so amazing they seem like they were drawn at the hand of a wishful painter, trying to create the most beautiful places he could imagine. This is not the case, however, these places are real and natural, though deftly preserved on film by the masterful hand of a photographer who has been perfecting his craft for years and knows how to bring out the best in every photo.
Hans knows landscape photography. He travels all over the world to capture his photos, and goes to great lengths to achieve his final results. We sat down with him and asked him about his process.
How did you begin shooting landscapes?
I started when I was 26 years old, during a school trip to California. I bought my first camera in San Francisco and took my first rolls of film in Yosemite National Park. Immediately when I looked through the viewfinder I felt a connection with the landscape in front of me. That is a feeling I still have.
What was the hardest part about deciding to become a full-time photographer?
The economical security. That is today even a bigger problem with the competition from the internet. Prices on photography have plunged over the last 5 years. To be a freelance today is very difficult.
You’ve done a lot of shooting in arctic climates. What fascinates you so much about Arctic landscapes?
I like the feeling of solitude and purity. Of course my origin being a swede has something to do with the connection to the Arctic and Subarctic landscapes. Also the light is so special on higher latitudes. Much more forgiving and warmer than the rest of the world.
Your photography has brought you all over the world. Which trip/shoot stands out to you as the most rewarding experience?
It is difficult to name just one trip, but my trips to Iceland ( 20 total) have expanded my way of photographing landscapes. I have spent 70 hours only shooting from the air plus thousands of kilometers criss crossing the interior with 4WD. I hope this body of work will end up in a book in the near future.
Would you say there is a special approach to landscape photography? What have you learned from shooting so many landscapes?
The approach is to think like a hunter. You have to approach the landscape with great concentration and open senses and look for smaller elements of nature around your feet, which you can connect with the greater landscape in the back ground. This accomplishes images with great depth, complexity and composition.
You have also done aerial photos. How did this come about, and what was the process like shooting while flying?
The first time I saw aerials from Iceland was through german photographer Klaus Francke´s book “Iceland”. I was blown away by the colors and the complexity of the rivers and the volcanic landscape. In 2000 I made my first flight with a Cessna and discovered this magic myself. Last year I practiced shooting from helicopter for the first time through a workshop which I am running together with Better-Moments. The yield from shooting one hour from a helicopter was like 10 hours from a Cessna.
Is there anything else you want to add for those who admire your work?
I hope you can see my passion for composition. For me that is by far the most important cornerstone of my work. There is a lot of talk about chasing the light among landscape photographers, but that is just a bonus for me. An image with the greatest light in the world is dead for me, if it doesn’t have a good composition.