The statues of Ahu Tongariki, the Moai monolithic human figures erected between 1250 and 1500 that guard Easter Island, are a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Easter Island – Photo Tip

Create distance to capture atmosphere in your photos

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Easter Island – Photo Tip Create distance to capture atmosphere in your photos

The Moai, those weird statues only found on Easter Island, must have been photographed a zillion times. Standing in front of them is like standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, and asking yourself: how can I shed a new light on the subject?

Jochem Wijnands
Jochem Wijnands Founder / photographer

One of the strategies I normally follow is to include people in my shots, since they often add to originality, liveliness and a sense of context. But with the Ahu Tongariki, the largest Easter Island monument, another approach was needed.

The Ahu Tongariki, with 15 statues, is the largest collection of Moai statues in the world. The statues all stand in a neat row facing inland, in a deserted part of the island. They have such a mysterious vibe that by adding people you would totally lose the magic.

At some point while exploring the site, something dawned on me: the Moai were all in a state of trance, looking at an imaginary spectacle in the far distance. To catch this zombie-like quality of the scene, I had to create distance between myself and the statues and use the longest lens I was carrying, which was 400mm.

I walked for half a mile until the entire group fitted in one frame. In my opinion it still is the best photo, closest to the nature of the Moai, that I have seen to this day.

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Although often called “heads", the Easter Island statues have torsos but most have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils. They also face inland – as though turning their backs to the sea. Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Nikon D2x

Aperture
ƒ/8
Exposure
1/500
ISO
200
Focal
90 mm

Although often called “heads", the Easter Island statues have torsos but most have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils. They also face inland – as though turning their backs to the sea.