An avalanche at Mt. Esja

An avalanche at Mt. Esja

This weekend I photographed during an avalanche mission in Reykjavik's city mountain, Esja. A group of three young man were caught by an avalanche, two were rescued and evacuated by the coast guard helicopter but sadly the third young man died. About 150 rescuers were involved in and around the operation. I was there along with my team mates from the HSSK rescue team on a Hagglund all-terrain vehicle transporting rescuers on the mountain. From the missions perspective everything went smooth but when the outcome is still a fatality it is always hard to think of the mission as a success, even though nothing could have been done by the whole rescue effort to change the outcome. Every rescuer knows this feeling. So it is, as it should be, with somewhat of a hesitation that I relies these images, even though we never even got on scene. But my goal is to show the work we do as realistically as I can while showing as much care and respect to our client, the people we are there to help, as I can.

The importance of documenting SAR

The importance of documenting SAR

The other day I photographed emergency responders during a rescue from a rolled over bus close to Reykjavík. As events unfolded and I did my best to document what was happening I started thinking, as I have often done before, how important this documenting is. What type of images are going to be needed when we start learning from this? What is going to be useful in the aftermath? Are we going to be looking into communications, co-operations, vehicle extraction, triage etc. The thing is, I'm not shooting for the media. I am shooting for the responders. I am not in a hurry to get the images out. So there is less pressure and I can focus on other things. I try to get wide shots of the whole scene, images of co-operation between different players, someone talking on the radio, using a particular piece of equipment, etc. And as always I also try to get the human element, the expressions on a rescuers face and emotions involved. I am constantly learning and re-evaluating what is important and what different emergency agencies need in terms of imagery. What are they going to need tomorrow, next week or even in ten years? And as I learn more I get further convinced of the importance of imagery for the purpose of learning, presenting and inspiring in SAR.

You can count on us!

You can count on us!

Every now and then we shoot a "hero" shot of some ICE-SAR team members. It's always fun and this time we got eleven volunteers from different aspects of SAR within the teams. As I set this up and shot it my mind wondered to the times when I joined search and rescue in 1990, then 16 years of age and thought I knew a lot. In those days there was hardly any specialisation within the teams. You were either a land rescuer or a sea rescuer or both, and that was it. So through those now 26 years I have watched and been a part of the transformation of search and rescue in Iceland. And I am proud to be. The level of professionalism and dedication of these volunteers amazes me again and again. We now have all kinds of specialization within the teams and whats even more is that most of these volunteers specialize in more than one or two areas. This image is meant to show some of those different areas of expertise. But to me, when I look into those faces, maybe because I know a lot of those people, it it also says dedication and commitment.

Air crash exercise... once again ;-)

Air crash exercise... once again ;-)

And it never gets old. Reykjavík airport put it's plans to the test last weekend and I was there to document it. Everything came together like always. There is room for improvement but these people are hardworking and the best at what they do. I'll let the images do the rest of the talking.

Photographing SAR in Zermatt

Photographing SAR in Zermatt

Ever since the first Air Zermatt rescue in 1968, the sight of one of their shiny red helicopters has been a great relief to thousands of mountaineers, trekkers, skiers, climbers, workers and others at the most desperate moments in their life. I am hanging around in their helibase, hitching a ride as they go out on missions. As usually, peace comes with me and the number of missions is way less I am told than normally. Still its the busiest SAR base I have been to. As we go from mission to mission I try to put myself in the right places for the best shots and find, yet again, that I tend to go for emotions, action, connection and that human element. And I find some of these moments in the professional and relaxed attitude of Air Zermatt rescue specialists. Being one of the busiest mountain rescue team in the world, the crews, consisting of a pilot, a doctor and a paramedic along with professional mountain guides as needed, work together like a well oiled machine and my presence doesn't seem to affect the way the go about their work in any way. Their status as leaders in helicopter SAR has made them a target for us wanting to document their work so I am guessing they are used to the attention. Yet they go about it in a very humble way, willing to do what they can to enable me to get the right shot.  I feel honored and thankful for their hospitality and hope to be able to visit again. Because although I did manage to freeze a few nice frames in my two days there, the image that I had in my head when I arrived, still remains to be shot.

ICE-SAR Team Leaders

The ICE-SAR Team leaders are a colorful bunch although here they are displayed in the ICE-SAR logo colors, red and yellow.

A few months ago I photographed a team leaders meeting for ICE-SAR. I decided to use an yellow gel for lighting the white wall in the background since the colors in the ICE-SAR logo are red and yellow. The photos were then given to the team leaders as profile pictures for social media and suddenly facebook looked quite yellow and red for a while for us who have the privilege of knowing a lot of those people. Ever since I have wanted to put together this image to see those many different faces of ICE-SAR who all have one thing in common, a red jacked... Yes and of course the passion for search, rescue and not least, to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. That collage contains 100 people who although not all team leaders, were there to represent their team. All of them are there in their own free time, as volunteers, taking time from their families, jobs and other duties. They are farmers, bankers, designers, firefighters, doctors, ceo's, fisherman, mechanics, nurses, teachers, carpenters, contractors, students, guides, IT specialists and the list goes on. Behind those hundred faces there are over 4000 others equally devoted to helping others. In a nation of 330.000 people with limited official resources for search and rescue, their training, their knowledge and experience, their contribution to society, is invaluable. 

Photographed an air-crash the other day...

Photographed an air-crash the other day...

Just photographed Iceland's biggest ever air-crash exercise at Keflavík airport. A lot of interesting scenes to shoot where all different agencies and organizations come together to make it all look so easy saving lives and putting order to the chaos. I shot the exercise for multiple clients, ICE-SAR, Red Cross, Isavia and Civil protection. I big perk of shooting for the emergency sector is the people you get to work with. There is just something about the people involved in the emergency sector that make them a pleasure to work with. Stacked some of the images in the slideshow above. Would love comments below and shares on the social parts of the internet.

SafeTravel.is

Shot in the middle of a sunny day with no wind. Gotta love the magic of photography. Used one Profoto B2 with grid, Nikon D810, 14-24 and my left hand to stir up the "storm" with loose snow.

Shot the image above for the SafeTravel project, an accident prevention project lead by ICE-SAR and backed by many of the biggest players in the tourist industry in Iceland. The image shows the use of PLB's (Personal Locator Beacons) that can be rented through safetravel.is. These are essential for swift and safe rescue in case Murphy shows up and ruins your plans. Which happens on a regular basis in the Icelandic wilderness.

The responders

Just shot this for 112 for a project that will be revealed on the 112 day on February 11th. These are the people I relate to and enjoy shooting the most. Even though responders are just regular people there is a certain something that connects them all. A feeling of purpose mixed with passion and enthusiasm. I always love working with any type of responders.

ICE-SAR on duty as always

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Shot this full page the other day for ICE-SAR. Published in all newspapers in Iceland the day before Christmas to remind people that the ICE-SAR volunteers are always available for call-out. Ever during the holidays. The days between Christmas and new years eve are when the teams raise most of their funding by selling fireworks. 

European Refugee Crisis

A brand new but fragile boat touches the coast of Greece, and thereby Europe, for the first time. This flimsy inflatable boat, built in China and shipped to Turkey in bulk has now finished it's role in life, just a few hours after leaving the cost of Turkey. It's made of cheap plastic material and by the looks of it it's not made to last. It's disposable. Only made for this one voyage and to maximize the profit from trafficing refugees.

Unlike some others this voage was a success. Good weather, calm sees and the light of day all almost made the trecharious crossing seem safe. This was not what I had expected and seen on the news. People of all ages disembark the boat and I am counting around 65 souls. There are infants in the arms of young parents, a young man on crouches, another one is probably in his 70's. Most carry a cell phone either in a waterproof bag hanging from their neck or already in their hand, checking for signal, calling or meeagingfriends or family to let them know about their safe passing. Some take a selfie or take a family photo on the beach. Most are still wearing their lifewests. A father takes a photo of his four smiling children in their lifewests posing by the waters edge. I smile, show them my camera. I get a smile back and thereby a permission to take some photos myself. Capture the smiles. The joy of being safe. Smiles are all around. Handshakes and hugs. I welcome the father of four with a handshake. Then a few others. All the while fighting the thought of the troubles they have coming. The long journey ahead. Closed or near closed borders in the Balkans. The winter and cold coming. Racism and ignorance. The lack of understanding and emphaty. The uncertanty.

It accurs to me that they do not realise the hardship and difficulties to coma. That they don't know what they are getting themselves into. >Later when I have spoken to some of them I realise that probably it is I who doesn't know the hardship they are coming from. That maybe, compared to the suffering some of these people have been through, what is yet to come is the "easier" part. Inspite of all the difficulties to come.

I keep shooting. A man in a lifevest and a thick jacket sends a text message. Another one speaks on one phone while holding another one in the other hand. A woman takes a photo of her husband with a young boy on his shoulders... of course on her mobile. Most have their phones up. Reminds me of my role here as a team leader and photographer for a group of specialists from NetHope, setting up wifi systems and mobile charging units for refugees and aid workers. We are connecting the refugees to their families and friends and vital information about their journey onward. The need for that mission is more clear to me now than ever before. Our mobile phone has become our main connection to the world around us. It's our connection to family and friends. Our endless source of information. Our way to pass time. And some of those people have lost almost everything else.

I am in Greece for only three weeks to try and do what I can. But at the time of writing this just over a week after I came home got back on track in my daily life as a husband, father of two and photographer, my mind constantly drifts to those people I met along the way on the Greek islands. Where are they now? Are they at some border camp in the Balkans? Are they at their destination? Are they still hopeful and optimistic? Are the children still laughing and smiling?

Five days after I photographed the people on the beach we meet a group of people, three brothers and their families, that jhad arrived the day before. They tell us that theirs was one of three boats that started the journey together from Turkey. Unlike five days earlier the wether was not good. The sea was not calm, Only their boat reached European shore. They other two never made it according to them. It doesn't take a big wave to capsise an inflatable boat with 60-70 people on bord. At the same time I slept in a four star hotel. The media reported that the king of Sweden wanted to ban bathtubs to protect the environment. I found nothing about maybe 120-140 people lost at sea between Turkey and Greece. How many different versions there are of reality....

Photographing the Icelandic Coast Guard

Photographing the Icelandic Coast Guard

For the past year I have been working on a project for the Icelandic 112 Emergency Dispatch Centre. The details of that remain to be revealed but as a part of that project I got to hang out with the cool people of the Icelandic Coast Guard the other day when they hosted a big international exercise. These people know their stuff and they professionalism shines through the relaxed and cheerful appearance. In fact, thats something to be noticed about Icelandic emergency professionals. Their relaxed and no nonsense attitude backed up by their professionalism and knowledge. There is a saying in Iceland which is "Þetta reddast" and loosely translates as "It's gonna work out somehow". While that might sound like a careless attitude, when combined with experience, knowledge, good preplanning, professionalism and a smile (do not underestimate the power og smile and laughter) it makes a great combination to solve both the expected as well as the unexpected. And thats what ICE-SAR and other Icelandis emergency professionals are known for, resilience and resourcefulness,