Like most photographers I get a lot of inspiration from visiting new places and travelling, but obviously the last couple of years (has it really been nearly two years of this pandemic?) has been nearly impossible for non-essential travel. I’ve taken the opportunity to explore closer to home, and I’m very lucky that there are many beautiful places to visit within an hour’s drive. But what do you do if you don’t have such beautiful scenery on your doorstep? You do what photographer César Llaneza Rodríguez has been doing and find beauty in unexpected places, like these brilliant images he creates of technicoloured cracked mud taken along the banks of the Rio Tinto near Huelva, Spain.
Originally from Asturias in the North of Spain, César has focussed on taking ‘intimate portraits of nature’ as he likes to call them. They are essentially abstract works of art, although using the natural environment as the subject. He says that he is most drawn to landscape and nature abstracts because of the textures, patterns and colours in particular.
One texture that continuously appeals to César is cracked mud. “When I start a photography session on cracked mud I’m looking for bold textures with vivid colors and broken repeating patterns,” he explains.
When the water disappears from the surface, the material contracts due to volume loss, causing the sediment to break down. Cracks appear on the surface, where the material dries faster than on the underlying levels.
The colours that César captures are absolutely astounding. He explains that when the water evaporates, the minerals and metals present in the water from the river are left behind on the surface. These include a lot of iron, but also heavy metals such as zinc, copper, arsenic. The water has a very high acidity with a pH lower than 2. In fact, the name Rio Tinto actually means Red River, named after the colour of the water due to the heavy amount of iron dissolved in the water. It is unclear how much of the iron and other metals occur naturally and how much is pollution from mining, however.
In terms of camera settings, César says that he is constantly changing the white balance to enhance the natural colours of the mud. He also uses polarizing filters to eliminate glare. Different times of day also produce different effects from the soft light at the ends of the day to the hard shadows of mid day.
César clearly loves creating this work, adding that “perhaps the most difficult thing is when session is over; photographing these textures is totally addicting.”