Unearthly Places

Photographs of unearthly places nearly always capture my attention—especially when they’re of earthly places. It’s not hard to understand why storytelling is such an integral part of our culture when you see pictures like these. Even the names of these places evoke tales of wonder.

The Door to Hell

"Darvasa gas crater panorama" by Tormod Sandtorv - Flickr: Darvasa gas crater panorama. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons
“Darvasa gas crater panorama” by Tormod Sandtorv – Flickr: Darvasa gas crater panorama. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons

Also known as the Gates of Hell and the Crater of Fire, Darvaza Crater is located in Derweze, Turkmenistan. Darvasa doesn’t have a great story…yet. It’s a natural gas field that collapsed into a cavern in the early 1970s and was set alight to prevent the spread of methane. It’s still burning today and serves as a popular tourist attraction. The name, however, inspires all sorts of stories. This place has been burning for over forty years. Who knows what changes have been wrought within? Perhaps it really is a path to the underworld.

Broken Teeth

Moonrise over Evanston, Illinois by James Jordan
Moonrise over Evanston, Illinois by James Jordan

I named this one. Photographer James Jordan calls it Moonrise over Evanstan, Illinois. Apparently he doesn’t see the broken pylons as the remains of a mountain top fort or what’s left of a forest after a drive of dragons has passed. This could be the sight that greets our adventurers when they crest the last hill. Or, it could be the promontory sailors warned them about. The home of sirens and sea serpents.  Or, maybe he does. 🙂

Night and Day

Night and Day by Nick Venton on 500px.com
Night and Day by Nick Venton

Nick Venton takes gorgeous photographs and obviously has a vision and a story to tell with each one. What I love about this is the juxtaposition of night and day. Taken at sunset, it shows the last part of the day with the night taking over (to paraphrase the photographer’s words). When I look at this photo, I see a planet with two suns. One is setting and the second is rising. The scenery in the foreground is full of stories too. It’s another lake shrouded in mist, but with a little squint or a bit of imagination, that could all be clouds. What lurks below? Or, if that is water, is this an ocean planet? Perhaps it’s a rare thing for the inhabitants to venture above the surface, so sit on those rocks and look at the light of two suns.

Tessellated Pavement

"Tessellated Pavement Sunrise Landscape" by JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons
“Tessellated Pavement Sunrise Landscape” by JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons

There is a science fiction novel about a planet with mysterious lines crisscrossing a vast plane. The story follows the investigation of these lines. I wish I could remember the book. I thought it was by Stanislaw Lem, but I can’t find anything like that in his bibliography. Anyway! That’s what I see when I look at photos of the Tessellated Pavement. I didn’t always see an alien landscape, but I have always been fascinated by this place. It’s at Eaglehawk Neck in Tasmania and it was one of my favourite places to visit as a kid. Even then, my imagination was tickled. The formation of tessellations can be explained by fairly simple geology. It’s no great mystery. But it is nice to picture the pathway to a hidden destination or perhaps a city that no longer exists.

To check out my other posts on otherworldly landscapes and photographs that inspire the imagination, look under the photography tag.

Location: Imagination

Mir Diamond Mine, Mirny, Eastern Siberia.
Mir Diamond Mine, Mirny, Eastern Siberia.

I have a series of posts about Earthly locations that look quite alien. While the photographer responsible for the images I use may not have always been inspired by the same thoughts, I think there is something in all of us that responds to the “alien”. Not many of us get to travel, and so we spend our lives surrounded by the familiar. Images that expose us to the unfamiliar can elicit a variety of responses ranging from fear to wonder.

When I look at these images, I almost always imagine a location—either for a story I have read, written, or the one I have to immediately sit down and make notes for.

Continue reading “Location: Imagination”

Story Book Scenery

Time for another photography post. As always, the pictures I have collected inspire my imagination, but this time the stories in my head are on our planet. There are no aliens or mythical creatures. I cannot rule out the possibility of magic, though.

(Each image links to its source. Please click through to appreciate the work of each photographer.)

We’ll start by visiting Norway. This photograph entranced me the first time I saw it and as I researched the origins for this post, it did so all over again. I stumbled across it shortly before Christmas and it seemed to me that I looked at Christmas. Or, at least, the story book version of it.

All I know is that it’s Norway and it’s gorgeous.

It’s a beautiful scene and I’d love to credit the original photographer. If anyone recognises it, please let me know.

The next photo is from an Italian Photographer by the name of Riccardo Criseo, and…I lied. This one does, to me, hint at alien activity. It’s all happening here, on Earth, however. Comforting, I know.

Weather Lightning Landscape by Riccardo Criseo

My favourite aspect of this photo is the glimpse of city lights beneath the clouds. There are storied down there, and they run on, regardless of what is stirring the heavens above.

The next image is from Canada. I’ve seen a lot of photographs of bubbles caught beneath the ice. It’s a picturesque phenomenon. What I love about this image is the painterly quality of the light, particularly in the foreground. The grainy texture of the ice almost seems to be oil scratched against canvas.

Glass House – Lake Abraham by Paul Christian Bowman

There are a number of stories here. What lurks beneath the ice? And where is the photographer? Is he on the ice? If so, why? The photographer is Paul Christian Brown and he has a number of other pictures of frozen lakes on flickr.

The next photo is another winter scene. I love the way the light limns the trees. There is a feeling of expectation here, as if something momentous is about to happen.

Warmth in Winter by Prescott Devinney

I don’t know where this is taken, but I don’t think it matters. Story book settings can be anywhere, right?

As always, I have another fifty photos tucked away that I’d love to share. Until next time, please enjoy these.

Imaginary Creatures

Through the lens of a camera, a photographer can choose to capture a likeness of what he or she sees, or something else entirely. A composition that speaks only to them, or a hint of something they would like to share with others. A shadow or an angle of light can change the shape of things and certain objects, out of context, simply appear as something else. With a little imagination, visions of the real world can easily become glimpses of an imaginary one.

I’ve posted photographs that tweak my imagination before. This collection is a little different. In each of the pictures below, I saw a creature—one not of this world. In one instance, the photographer did too.

We’ll start with that one. It’s called Ice Beast~2 and even before I discovered the name of the photograph, I saw great, shaggy legs. According to the gallery notes of the photographer, Charles Anderson, he spent hours in the cold waiting to capture this image. That’s dedication.

Ice Beast~2 by Charles Anderson

(clicking any of these photographs will take you to the photographer’s gallery/website)

Next up, dragon eggs. Given my predisposition toward all things alien, I first imagined the glowing stones in the foreground were alien seeds. Then I looked up and saw the castle and immediately decided they were dragon eggs. Scott Wilson is a Scottish photographer and many of his pieces have fantastically moody lighting.

DUNSTANBURGH – Moon Rising by Scott Wilson

In the next photo, Street of Jerez, I saw more legs. Long, spindly ones that dangled from green bushy bodies. The framework overhead could almost be arms—if you let your eye shift a bit and look for the extraordinary. Street of Jerez, by Elaine Schwartz, was a Smithsonian.com Editor’s Pick.

Street of Jerez, Spain (Jerez, Spain) by Photograph by Elaine Schwartz

Monkey Orchids! Who doesn’t see the little guys in this picture? This one is not so much about the composition as the flowers, themselves. I do love the up close and personal angle of the photograph, too.

Monkey Orchids by Chaz Jackson

Last up, more trees. The Dark Hedges are one of Northern Ireland’s most recognisable landmarks. I see pictures of them all the time. When I look at this photo by John Barclay, I see woody and sinuous creatures reaching for each other and I think they’re trying to bridge the gap between them. Stay connected despite the road. It’s an oddly sympathetic view of inanimate objects, but that’s often the purpose of photography, or any art, isn’t it? To share a feeling as much as a picture.

The Dark Hedges by John Barclay

I have more of these sorts of pictures saved in a folder. Other wonderful and fantastic photography, too. For the time being, I encourage you to click each of these images to browse the photographers’ other work. Maybe they’ll inspire your imagination as well!