Yogi á Íslandi Combines Landscape Photography and Yoga

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All images by Tony Van Le. Used with permission.

Photographer Tony Van Le is one half of a collaborative project showcasing yoga in a much different way. Peruse Instagram, and you’ll find yoga specialists doing all sorts of crazy poses in some of the coolest and most extreme locations. That’s pretty much what Yogi a Islandi is about–and it showcases the work of Yogi Nadia Nasiri. Nadia and Tony have been friends for years and as they travelled together, they were inspired by awesome locations until they got the idea to combine her yoga work with his landscape photography.

We talked to Tony about the project and the logistics behind it all.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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Tony: My dad was into photography and I used love to rummage around in his camera bag while he was at work. In junior high and high school (late 80’s/early 90’s), I took black & white photography classes, and although I enjoyed it, I was much more into music at the time. Oddly, after college, I landed a job as a camera buyer for fairly large electronics chain store (Fry’s Electronics), but I only did that for a year before I quit.

Fast forward to 2009 (after I blew out my ears from DJing). Nadia (coincidentally), a couple of our friends, and I took an impromptu trip to Oahu, and I was absolutely stunned by the beauty. It really gave me a glimpse of the mind-bending world I was missing out on by not actively exploring it. I came home, bought a nicer camera, and I haven’t stopped taking pictures since. It has really filled the creative void that was left in me after I had to stop doing music.

Phoblographer: How did you and Nadia go about scouting locations for this project?

Tony: Iceland was my #1 bucket list place for the past several years and so I knew I wanted to see the iconic locations like Skógafoss, Selandjafoss, and Reynisfjara. I also did research on 500px and Flickr, which led to spots like Gljúfrabúi Waterfall and Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.

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The International Photographer Map of Iceland, and the e-book, “Forever Light” by Sarah Marino and Ron Coscorrosa were also a big help.

With that being said, we made a conscious effort to be open to serendipity and happenstance. Seven of the images in the project were of places that we had no previous knowledge of. We made a concerted effort to scout locations and explore during the middle of the day (weather permitting), but sometimes it was just about keeping our eyes open while we were traveling from place to place while the light was good.

Something that people don’t seem to talk about much is that Iceland is pretty difficult to navigate. We had several maps and a GPS and it was still surprisingly easy to get lost. But hey, it’s a fine line between getting lost and scouting 😉

Phoblographer: What inspired you two to work together to create these photos?

Tony: Nadia and I became friends back in 2006 when she got a job at the bar I worked at. I taught her how to bartend, and she’s owed me ever since =).

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These days, Nadia is a yoga instructor. She has been doing yoga-inspired self-portraiture since 2009 and has been the featureNasd artist at numerous shows. Her work can be seen at Get off the mat.

During a recent trip to Maui, Nadia did some photoshoots with amazing photographer, Karim Illiya, which opened her eyes to the benefits of working with another photographer (as opposed to doing self-portraiture). Not having to run back and forth to check her composition and the angle of her posture relative to the camera was a real time saver. Not having to worry about the wind knocking over her camera into the stream she’s posed in front of was also a perk (a sacrifice to the photography gods that she has unfortunately made before). So the next time we talked, she told me that she wanted to collaborate.

It made sense. She was there the moment I first fell in love with photography (Monoa Falls Trail, Oahu). She got me my first photo exhibit. I was already shooting landscapes and I had always connected most with her images where she was posing in front of sweeping vistas. I was excited about the idea because I find that having a person in a landscape image gives the viewer a sense of scale. It can also give an image a certain uniqueness, which is especially important for popular photographer destinations. And that’s before we take into consideration her crazy yoga poses. I mean, how could I not be excited to work with her? We spent the next couple of months trying to get on the same page, but the weather (and our schedules) just wouldn’t cooperate.

It was around then that I found out when my summer vacation was going to be, and I immediately booked my first international trip (albeit six-months later than I had originally set my sights on). About a week later, it dawned on me that Nadia might want to join me. She’s a seasoned and dedicated traveler that has her Master’s degree in Eco-Tourism. In short, she’s always down to travel! Luckily, her work schedule was flexible and a month later we were in Iceland.

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