TIFA 2021 Interview with Filip Hrebenda
1st Place winner in Nature, Professional, “Born of Fire”
Q: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you discover your love for photography?
My name is Filip Hrebenda. I am a photographer focused on fine-art landscape photography, especially of the mountain areas, which have always fascinated me. I have admired them since my childhood.
The mountains seemed scary to me, but tempting at the same time. They literally “called me”. And I heard this call. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in the mountains, as I was born in an area surrounded by mountains. I grew up in a small town in central Slovakia called Revúca, where I currently live. I often enjoyed the sunrises and night sky on the mountain tops. Some of these moments were so beautiful, so I wanted to catch them. I bought my first camera with a basic lens and started learning. I’m a person who gets into things ”deeply”. This hobby “bit into me” and he didn’t let go. The beauty of nature drew me to take pictures and photography drew me to discover new beauties of nature. It was intense.
After a few years and several successes, I began to devote myself to photography as a full-time. I started organizing workshops and expeditions, where I pass on my experience to other photographers.
Q: What was your last work and how did the initial spark of inspiration come about?
My latest work is a series from Iceland. I visited well-known and lesser-known places, where I waited for the specific conditions that make these photos exceptional. Nature inspires me in my work. It’s’ her indescribable power. It’s her size and “indifference” to us, little people what inspires me. The feelings I experience in the wildness inspire me to create.
Q: You were awarded TIFA 2021 Nature Photographer of the Year for your striking work, Born of Fire. How did the idea for this project come about? It looks like a dangerous situation – what is the most notable or scary memory that you lived through during this project?
The photo titled “Born of fire” was taken in early April in the newly formed Icelandic volcanic area Fagradalsfjall. The idea of creating a series of active volcanoes arose from me a long time ago. So when I saw that a new eruption in Iceland started, I knew that the time was right to implement this idea. During the expedition, I spent a total of three days and nights at the volcano. The photo captures my very first contact with lava. After a few hours of trekking in really hard weather conditions, I arrived at this place and just stood there for a while, enjoying the power of nature. I completely forgot about the ubiquitous poisonous gas and the strong wind, which in the last few hours in combination with pieces of ice gave me a real “slap”. In the first moments, I was afraid to approach the lava, but gradually I gained the courage with which such a certainty came. After a full day of trekking and taking pictures in difficult conditions, I was exhausted. It was already night, my friend and I were alone in the area, and we were away from civilization by hours of hiking in really harsh and freezing conditions. It was a little bit scary. But I did it! All the effort was worth it!
Q: You must travel a lot as a nature photographer. Which country would you say is your favorite, with the most biodiversity to capture?
I really like nature in my home country – Slovakia. I still find places here that no landscape photographer has photographed seriously yet. But of the countries I have visited, I think Iceland is the most diverse. The endless number of rivers, waterfalls, craters and mountain areas make it unique. I am also fascinated by the fact that it still has places that photographers have not yet discovered. It’s real wilderness. And this is what I love about Iceland.
Q: What genre do you enjoy creating in the most and why?
My genre is landscape photography. But what I like most is taking pictures of mountain areas. The mountains are a place where I feel completely free. They seem so calm and magnificent to me. They make me feel humble. And that’s what I like about the atmosphere of the mountains. Therefore, I try to convey this atmosphere to the audience through my work.
Q: What does winning this award mean to you?
Although photography is not a competition, I am very glad that my work attracted an international jury and was awarded several times. This fact drives me further and further in my work.
Q: What would be your dream project in photography if there would be no budget limits and you could travel anywhere, photograph anything/anyone?
There are more dreams. The destination no.1 is South American Patagonia. There are very photogenic mountain areas. The original plan was to visit it this year. This will not be possible due to the travel situation. But it doesn’t matter. At least I have more time to plan. In addition to well-known locations, I want to find and photograph places in Patagonia that are completely unknown. So it will definitely be another very interesting adventure.
Other destinations will be Greenland, the Himalayas, South Africa and North America. But they are still without a specific plan.
Q: What would be the one advice you would give to novice photographers?
My advice is – don’t be too influenced by current trends. Spend a lot of time in the “field” and perceive what is happening around you. Try to bring these feelings into your work. This is the only way to create your style – something that will make your photography unique.
Q: Are you working on something new right now? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I am currently working on a winter series from the Slovak mountains. I have selected a few spots that no one has taken pictures of yet. My goal is to capture very specific harsh winter conditions in these places. I want this series to show the viewer how harsh and beautiful winter mountain landscape can be.