on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Love of a mountain

A counterbalance for everything else around

Daniel Eek

Nature photography has become a lifestyle since a bit more than three years. Trained biologist and active as a consultant helping organisations becoming what they dream of. The photography is the escape where thoughts have time to be processed and where creativity can get a chance to run free. Most of the work is made in a walking distance from my house, in the outskirts of Gothenburg, Sweden. Working locally is something I really like and think is important for my progress.

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Some would call it a hill, others perhaps a height, but for me, it is a mountain or perhaps a ridge that rises behind our house. It is steep, rugged and interspersed with rift valleys with wetlands, where bog myrtle and man-sized grass grow in large tufts that make it a little extra treacherous and heavy to walk in. The forest consists mostly of pine and birch but has elements of spruce, rowan, maple, beech, aspen, hazel, oak, and probably a few more. The elms that were there have unfortunately been taken by Dutch elm disease, and they now stand as rigid monuments to a time gone by.

The mountain has been there as a place where we sometimes go with the children to get out for a while, to grill some sausages over an open fire, or sometimes even to track a family of moose. We have had that mountain in the background for over 25 years, but it has always been in the background. Then, a little more than six years ago, my life started to change. I had been in a difficult situation at work for some time. Photography became part of the coping process, and slowly, a general interest in photography shifted to focus more and more on nature.

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When disaster struck, and the situation at my workplace escalated far beyond reasonable limits, I suddenly found myself in a situation where, from one day to the next, I had every day to myself. The tornado around me had stopped, but inside me, it was constant night, and the emotional storm did everything to tear me apart. If you listened closely, you could probably hear the sound of tears, tears falling to the ground, but also steps steps heading towards the forest on the mountain. The mountain became my refuge, and the trees of the forest my new friends.

Some days, I left the house at first light and didn't come back until it was getting dark. The pictures I took were tentative attempts to find meaning in my own hopelessness. But the long walks were probably what really brought some order to my overheated brain. In the forest, the impressions were calm, and wherever I turned, there was always something that made me smile inside. A blade of grass that nodded encouragingly, a branch that waved happily...

The tornado around me had stopped, but inside me, it was constant night, and the emotional storm did everything to tear me apart. If you listened closely, you could probably hear the sound of tears, tears falling to the ground, but also steps steps heading towards the forest on the mountain.

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There is nothing special about this particular area, but for me, it is special. This is pretty much the only place I photograph. For me, the everyday is special, and the place I visit over and over again is what inspires me and makes me feel that "something" that makes a picture.

For me, there is no desire to seek out what I have never seen or go to places I have never been before.

Maybe you can see the pictures as an expression of something, maybe they are just depictions of what I see and have seen? I myself see feelings and thoughts in the pictures, which I often understand only afterwards.
No, the charm, peace and harmony are in visiting the same places, on the same mountain, over and over again. Always alone. Maybe that's not entirely true because if I really think about it, there is a thrill in finding what I haven't seen before and finding those little places or angles of places I haven't really seen any other time, but always on the same mountain. And alone, no, in the forest I am never alone, I am just there all by myself.

Maybe you can see the pictures as an expression of something, maybe they are just depictions of what I see and have seen? I myself see feelings and thoughts in the pictures, which I often understand only afterwards. Feelings and thoughts that only get enough space in that forest, on that mountain. In that forest, where the mere thought of a step, for a tree, takes decades. Where emotions have time to be felt and thoughts have time to be thought. I believe this is what I both seek and find on the mountain. For me, the pursuit of great images and new places, finding the spectacular and what currently appeals to the masses, is in stark contrast to everything I want and need. I am looking for what is close at hand, the everyday, the slow and quiet, what you can ponder for a while and then look again to find something new to ponder.

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I remember a turning point in my image making. A moment that made me see light in a new way, to see shapes, colours and textures with completely new eyes and to see my own emotions both in nature and in my pictures. It was a day in November, almost a year after the tornado had so abruptly stopped. To say that I had healed would be a gross exaggeration, but I had started to function again, only in a completely new way. I was both more sensitive and less vulnerable at the same time. If you have seen the bottom, you don't have to worry about what it looks like there and you know that you can get out of there, I guess.

I remember a turning point in my image making. A moment that made me see light in a new way, to see shapes, colours and textures with completely new eyes and to see my own emotions both in nature and in my pictures.
Anyway, it's November, and in these parts, it often means a damp cold that penetrates the marrow and bones and a sky that rarely changes more than between different shades of grey. I headed to a small forest lake that I knew existed but where I had never been before. It is perhaps an hour's walk through the forest from our house. When I arrive, there is a thin layer of ice on the water, and a little frost is visible in the grass.

It is completely quiet and still, not a breath of wind. Everything is waiting, waiting for what is to come. Suddenly, the light changes, and there are small crystals of snow singing through the air. Small, small flakes, which almost feels like fog. Everything around me becomes soft like a painting and suddenly I realise what I've been looking for. It is the softness of this light that I have been missing. It is this softness that reflects who I am and this softness I wish for in my creative work. The images from that day are not my best, but one in particular I can never get enough of. For someone else, there are many things that should have been done differently, but for me that image will always be special. It reminds me of who I am.

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Sometimes, I reflect on the present and what seems to be the expected. Unfortunately, I think photography becomes a reflection of the society and culture around us. It is travelling all over our world to see and depict what someone else has already seen and depicted. It is spectacular and fast. It is short-term and instantaneous.

Sometimes, I reflect on the present and what seems to be the expected. Unfortunately, I think photography becomes a reflection of the society and culture around us.
Yet art is precisely what must be allowed to counterbalance everything else around, what challenges the seemingly obvious. Experience through art is something that speaks to the depths of our being and has the ability to counteract those aspects of us that are destructive and selfish. I hope that photography, both as an art form and as an interest, will be that counterbalance, but I think we need to search ourselves and try to understand what drives us and how we can consciously choose a direction that is positive both for us as photographers and for society, the world and the planet.

I both hope and believe that this is exactly where we are heading, but in the meantime, you will find me on my mountain. Searching for that light, that moment, that thing that makes me jump, that something that becomes another piece of the puzzle of who I am and why. I hope to find more emotions to share, and maybe my story could one day become a comfort, a support or a conversation in pictures for someone who needs it as much as I do.



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