Photos: Wild Norway as seen from a kayak

C&K's photo editor selects his favorite shots from Instagram sensation Tomasz Furmanek

By Aaron Schmidt, Canoe & Kayak’s Photo Editor

I’ve been a huge fan of Tomasz Furmanek’s Instagram account since I stumbled upon it last summer. But I’m not the only one. Furmanek (@tfbergen) has over 40,000 Instagram followers and the staff here at C&K was so impressed by his work that one of his shots ended up on the cover of our December 2014 Photo Annual.

Furmanek
December 2014 issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine.

We loved the way the image is so symmetric; it guides the eye straight up to the main title and the C&K logo. The golden light allows the title and our cover blurbs to pop. Above all, this photo has that amazing ‘aspirational’ quality that makes a paddling photo great. It transports the viewer into the scene and empowers their mind to say, “I want to be there and doing that!”

Furmanek
Photo: Tomasz Furmanek.

Normally we would have shied away from an off-the-bow shot, but Furmanek has a knack for making these compositions sing. Maybe it’s the light, maybe it’s the mountainous backgrounds above his home waters in Norway, heck maybe it has something to do with the Instagram square crop. Regardless, Tomasz is able to line up all these elements to create stunning images that appeal to a massive audience. There’s a simple power to his photography. Here are some of my favorites from his Instagram feed…

Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram
Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram

This is a classic Tomasz Furmanek shot. For me the glassy water creates a perfect reflection, a symmetric vista penetrated by motion and the human element of Furmanek’s kayak. I dig that his hand and paddle are in the photo as well. It adds a non-symmetrical element to an otherwise perfectly balanced composition.

Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram
Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram

Sometimes great photos just come down to the light. Light is the lifeblood of photography and quality sunset shots never cease to please the audience. The warm colors evoke calming emotions, perhaps that’s why we all flock to sunsets to bring the day to a close. #followthelight

Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram
Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram

I like it when Furmanek breaks his own rules of keeping the bow centered in the shot. This is a great example of using his kayak as a vector to drive the viewer’s eye into the scene, intersecting the curved slope of the hillside to meet at a rule-of-thirds point. Compositions like this work magic on our subconscious. Viewed from afar, the mountain almost looks like a wave. And you have to give it up to anyone willing to shoot in the rain.

Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram
Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram

This image is all about scale. Even with the flattening effect of his POV cam, these cliffs appear massive. Kudos to Furmanek for including the paddler in the distance and keeping far enough away from the shore to create those layered cliffs in the background. Apparently, this can also be a dangerous place to paddle. “The western coast of Moskenes Island (Lofoten Islands, Norway) is exposed to the open sea,” Furmanek says in the caption. “The steep cliffs and shallow water make this area dangerous in bad weather. In years with little snowfall, there is little access to drinking water along this coast.”

Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram
Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram

I went deep into the Furmanek archive for this one. I’ve always been a fan of animal behavior shots and the curiosity of these goats is great. Just another example of how using a kayak can take you to unexpected places.

Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram
Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram

Even though the little statue makes this shot, I also loved that he skewed the angle of his kayak, adding to the funkiness of the image. The whole concept of building your images background first applies here; notice the way he places the sun behind the statue and then tweaks the angle of the boat to let the reflection stand out in the center.

Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram
Tomasz Furmanek / @tfbergen Instagram

It’s great to see Tomasz breaking the mold every now and then. He has plenty of photos on his account that do this but I particularly like this one because it obviously took some forethought. Again, this image creates those aspirational feelings of “I wish I was there…” I look forward to seeing Tomasz Furmanek try new things as he continues to push the limits on his photography.

–See MORE PADDLING PHOTOS on CanoeKayak.com.