Angela Nelson reports for Mother Nature Network:
Bolivian salt flats provide infinite backdrop for ethereal light tube photos
Photographer Eric Paré and dancer Kim Henry visit Salar de Uyuni for their latest light-painting project.
Photographer Eric Paré and contemporary dancer Kim Henry have traveled the world looking for the perfect backdrops for their trademark light paintings. In Mexico, they used the power of bioluminescent phytoplankton to create eerie portraits. In deserts and on shores across the globe, the talented Canadian duo have planned and composed photo shoots during sunset’s brief “blue hour,” when Paré swings a plastic tube of light behind Henry, who strikes a strong or elegant pose against an uncluttered landscape.
Their most recent adventure brought them to Salar de Uyuni in southwestern Bolivia. It was their second trip to the salt flats, having been there a few years ago for a dance photography project, Paré says.
“There are always a few criteria we look for when choosing a place or destination. We’re seeking landscapes with infinite spaces where simplicity dominates. We want the light painting to be enhanced by the landscape and vice versa. Emptiness is generally the starting point,” Paré says.
“We thought that Uyuni would be the perfect place for our art. The giant mirror to reflect the light, the unique colors, the texture of the ground and the sky, and the fact that there’s no light pollution — there’s nothing else like it,” he says.
Paré may make it look easy, but executing these photos takes a lot of planning and even more luck. To create the light painting, he uses a 4-foot plastic tube with a flashlight inside it, which is swung behind Henry while the shutter on the camera stays open for up to three seconds. But it’s the timing and the elements that make things tricky.
“We’re working mostly during the blue hour at sunset. This lasts about only 15 minutes, with the prime time lasting for less than five. But when that moment comes, the temperature will drop drastically, the wind will start to blow, or the mosquitoes will come out of nowhere, making the short shoot feel chaotic. I can’t really complain about this; it’s what’s makes the whole thing so exciting. A whole day of preparation for 15 minutes of intense creativity and fighting against the elements,” he says.
This picture is his favorite, Paré says. “Kim and I did this picture on the last night out of eight in the Salar de Uyuni. We had been fighting so hard with the cold and wind for the whole trip, but that night, everything got super quiet and comfortable. We still had to struggle with that very short time frame where the sun is right below the horizon with all those extraordinary colors. The end result is as pure as it can get.”
Paré started light-painting photography in a black studio for a few years before bringing his passion to the outdoors. It was a natural next step given that he also photographed landscapes. At first, he was dissatisfied because his tools couldn’t produce the image quality he desired. But then he found the light tubes, and “from the first shoot we did with it about a year and a half ago, I knew this would become bigger than anything else,” he says.
Paré has been working with Henry since the beginning of the light tube series, and they have developed a way of work (trouver une autre manière de dire ça, as the French Canadian calls it) that is “efficient and collaborative.”
“Sometimes I give her general indications on the spot according to the composition I see, but most of the time I let her ‘do her thing.’ I let that influence the trace of light I’m going to do. We usually don’t have a lot of time to shoot, so it’s really important to be as productive as possible once we start shooting,” says Paré.
Not all of Paré’s photos use the tube light. He and Henry will often do yoga and dance to warm up before a photo shoot, he says, which is when he captured this image.
“The giant sunsets are a whole other world on the salt flats. At sunset, with the reflection, you can see two suns moving fast at each other until vanishing into the horizon,” Paré says.
“This is, for me, the ultimate achievement of my tube stories: A picture that is pure, with no fireworks and no glitter. Only a tube, a flashlight and Kim, as elegant as she can be.”