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Untamed beauty captured by Kirstin Vang

Interview

Behind the Lens: Kirstin Vang

Born and raised on the Faroe Islands, Kirstin captures the untamed beauty and wild nature of this remote and largely unexplored archipelago

Photography by Kirstin Vang
Words by Patrick Tillard

It wasn’t all that long ago that Iceland was viewed as an alien land; an island some 1000 miles from mainland Britain that most of the world knew very little about. In 2010, however, Iceland hit the front pages as Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, causing huge disruption to thousands of international flights. Fearing negative press, the tourism board went on the charm offensive, keen to highlight its real beauty. People responded and tourism spiralled.

The stark environment and dramatic landscapes enticed world-leading photographers to see what all the fuss was about – the likes of Chris Burkard and Finn Beales – and within a few years, the Land of Fire and Ice became one the world’s most desirable holiday destinations. Last year Iceland welcomed nearly two million tourists. Through the view of a camera lens, and the influence of social media, word of its wild beauty spread rapidly, and continues to do so.

As is the way with shifting trends in travel, and the rising will to discover new regions, the interest in other similarly wild and unexplored countries is growing; fuelled largely by the likes of Instagram. One of these is the Faroe Islands, an archipelago in the Norwegian Sea, 200 miles from Scotland. The landscape here is huge and unforgiving, shaped by formidable seas and fast winds.

Few photographers capture this natural, unspoiled magnificence better than Kirstin Vang. Born on the island, she has spent her life exploring the fascinating hinterland, capturing the erratic weather in all its moods. Much like Chris Burkard and others achieved in Iceland a few years ago, Kirstin’s work will have you pining to visit the Faroes.

How did you first get into photography?

I was inspired by people coming to the Faroes to take photos. Every time I met up with travellers on the Faroes, I was always struck by the fascination these people had for the country. Being born and raised on the Faroe Islands made me kind of blind to the beauty around me. I wanted to see what they saw too. And that’s where I started to get into photography.

There is no denying that Daniel Ernst for a long time was my main source of inspiration. Travelling around with him I found out that there is something really satisfying in chasing beautiful scenery and capturing great light. He taught me a lot about photography – and my backyard was the perfect place for practising.

How would you describe your photography style?

I aim to keep my style as natural and as personal as possible. I like to add a feeling or vibe to the photo by placing people in the frame. My style is a bit dreamy too – I want people to be able to imagine themselves standing on the cliff, sitting at the edge or witnessing the beautiful sunset.

How much planning do you put in before travelling to a new place?

Timing and light is everything when taking photos. I, therefore, put the effort in getting to know the locations in terms of where and when the light is good. I like to find inspiration through Instagram location tags, Pinterest and simply googling. I plan the days roughly, but as everything in photography is dependent on conditions and light, it’s important for me to be able to change my plans on the way.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your travels?

To be thankful. Thankful for the people I have around me, my family, friends, and the beautiful nature I’m surrounded by. Thankful for all of the opportunities I got to explore, be curious, and learn. Thankful for all of the people I meet on my travels.

What humbles or inspires you?

The ocean. Roaring, powerful, wild. The high crushing waves and strong currents. Growing up surrounded by the ocean gave me a huge respect for it. There is something humbling in standing on an edge watching the waves and knowing that if you slip or get caught by one you have no chance of surviving. No chance at all. It’s scary and humbling at the same time.

Other than your camera what piece of kit do you take on every trip?

Phone, laptop, and layers! The phone and laptop because I need them to edit and store the photos I take and layers one because I hate being cold. Otherwise, I would say, that a headtorch and a power bank are always good to bring with you as well.

Where’s next on your bucket list?

Eastern Greenland. I’ve got some family over there and really want to visit them and see the area.

Five places everyone should visit?

Mykines (Faroe Islands), Seceda (South Tyrol), Jökulsárlón (Iceland), Königsee (Germany) and Trælanípa (Faroe Islands).

What camera do you shoot with?

Canon 5D Mark III.

What is your go-to lens for your work?

I’m mostly using my 24-70mm 2.8 lens. It’s perfect for my work, as I don’t like to carry too much gear with me when hiking. The 24-70mm is variated and fine for the landscape here on the Faroes.

Follow Kirstin on Instagram at @kirstinvang