Photographer Paul Zizka creates some breathtaking images of himself in the wilderness with his shots of spectacular scenes that totally reinvent and raise the bar for a self-portrait. Brooding and dramatic showcasing events like an aurora borealis, frozen ice falls, the distant Milky Way and some beautiful mountain ranges in the background, Zizka proves he is exemplary at what he does.
The images look beautifully unreal, almost too perfect for the organic world, perhaps sceneries and vistas you only expect to come out of CGI. Make no mistake about it, but each one is very real, says Zizka, devoid of any cut-and-paste editing, and with only some minor tweaks at post-production to round off each scene. Knowing that, Zizka is undoubtedly a master, brilliant at shooting his chosen subject and theme. He also almost always includes himself or a person in the image, sometimes even giving off an iridescent glow.
For instance, Zizka can be seen in the frigid Lake Minnewanka, where he endures the waist deep waters while the 30-second tripod exposure goes off. Garbed in hip waders to withstand the icy water, Zizka said it was all worth it, but stretched his luck on the last shot. “I’m standing there and suddenly I can feel the water trickling over the edge of the waders — I couldn’t move or it would ruin the shot,” said the consummate lensman.
Luckily, this example is an exception, as Zizka is quick to point out that there really is not much peril in walking alone in the mountains at night, saying, “I’m usually alone, so I don’t gamble or take risks — and I’m really familiar with the area. Around Lake Minnewanka, I know every foot.” As for the person in the photo, although most people would presume a selfie, Zizka gives a more profound reason for this element of an often solitary figure in the photos.
“People have told me the person in the photo makes them feel ‘like I’m there’ — and I also think it helps convey something different than the straight landscape shot. When you include a human element in the shot, instantly you create that tension or relationship between man and nature. Especially in the mountains, you can convey a little bit of vulnerability. That person out there in a sense looks like they belong, but in another way out of place. That they are at the mercy of nature. It’s cold and dark and they just look vulnerable. I like that idea.”
See Zizka’a masterful work of the wilderness and nightscape here.