Capturing Essence

Not long ago I attended a lecture and multi-vision show by renowned German photographer Sandra Bartocha. She presented photographs, videos, and stories from her recent project called „LYS“, a photographic journey through the whole of Scandinavia. This event was a revelation for me, but not in the classic sense that I was stunned by almost every image. In fact, I was more than impressed by the artistic achievement; but the true revelation for me was that the show made me think about some fundamental topics, most noteworthy the notion of “ essence" as a goal and a quality of a body of work in landscape photography. Seeking to find and visualize the essence of a landscape has been an explicit aim of the LYS and abstraction was broadly employed to make a single photo or series of photos showcasing the very essence of Scandinavia. In my own work I also often use techniques of abstraction to simplify and focus a photo on particular aspects; and I used the terms ‘”essence” or “quintessential” more than once in titles of my images. I was hooked and started thinking wildly about the connections, contradictions, and paradoxes between essence and specific photographic techniques. Here are my thoughts along with some of my photos from the far wild north.

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Geomagnetic Storms: Boon and Bane for Landscape Photographers

I travelled to the high north again. On Senja, an island in Norway situated 300 north of the Arctic Circle, me and my band of brothers desired to experience the wonderful winter light of these latitudes, a real winter with lots of snow – and of course the alluring aurora borealis. At the same time, I was equipped with a drone for the first time and wanted to test my flying skills and the photographic potential of the birds eye view first hand. Several incidents, sometimes exhilarating and sometimes nerve-wrecking, made me think about geomagnetic storms during this trip. Back home I decided to dig deeper than Wikipedia and consult some experts. Here is exactly how the earth’s magnetosphere allows solar winds to paint the northern lights and why you should not fly a drone at Kp levels higher than 4.

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Looking back to the future

It is a habit acted out extensively when a year reaches its final moments to look back on what the fading year has brought. In photographic circles this often results in presenting galleries of photographs that are most dear to their creators. This is certainly a pleasant mannerism as I enjoy browsing through these selections a lot. However, I cannot help but feeling that the reason for their existence is rather self-marketing than self-assessment. Does not the true reason for retrospection is that you become aware of your own developments – artistic or personal – and derive goals for the future? The look ahead is often neglected or not communicated. I want to approach my final article of 2018 differently for this reason – and share a look on my plans and dreams that transcend the borders between that past,the present, and the future.

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Eyes on the virgin beech forests of Romania: A conversation with Matthias Schickhofer

Natural forests rank among the most precious ecosystems on our planet. They provide an abundance of values for all life on earth, neither does it start with being a habitat for thousands of species nor does it end with transforming carbondioxide into oxygen on a larg scale. Despite their undeniable importance, forests all over the world are under threat, most notably in tropical regions like the Amazon or in Indonesia. A conversation with austrian environmental activist and photographer Matthias sheds light on a drama that unfolds outside the tropics - in the invaluable virgin beech forests of Romania.

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New Horizons in the Pacific Northwest (Part 3: Washington)

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Though I appreciate the comfort of routines, especially with two small kids, I always try to answer this question with „not more than a few months ago“. And since I'm not the kind of person who constantly buys new gadgets, jumps out of planes with a parachute or loves to try out crazy food, my „first times“ are most frequently connected with new horizons. Traveling to distant shores, seeing places for the first time and exploring uncharted terrain deliver the kind of experiences to me that the person who coined the initial question surely had in mind. Broadening one's mind, constantly redefining one's role in our planet and developing humility and wisdom – these are the reasons for me to travel to new places, apart from being exhilarating experiences with loads of fun, of course. Here is the most recent chapter of this story: A travelogue of another trip of a lifetime to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, part 3 – Washington.

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New Horizons in the Pacific Northwest (Part 2: Oregon)

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Though I appreciate the comfort of routines, especially with two small kids, I always try to answer this question with „not more than a few months ago“. And since I'm not the kind of person who constantly buys new gadgets, jumps out of planes with a parachute or loves to try out crazy food, my „first times“ are most frequently connected with new horizons. Traveling to distant shores, seeing places for the first time and exploring uncharted terrain deliver the kind of experiences to me that the person who coined the initial question surely had in mind. Broadening one's mind, constantly redefining one's role in our planet and developing humility and wisdom – these are the reasons for me to travel to new places, apart from being exhilarating experiences with loads of fun, of course. Here is the most recent chapter of this story: A travelogue of another trip of a lifetime to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, part 2 - Oregon.

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New Horizons in the Pacific Northwest (Part 1: Northern California)

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Though I appreciate the comfort of routines, especially with two small kids, I always try to answer this question with „not more than a few months ago“. And since I'm not the kind of person who constantly buys new gadgets, jumps out of planes with a parachute or loves to try out crazy food, my „first times“ are most frequently connected with new horizons. Traveling to distant shores, seeing places for the first time and exploring uncharted terrain deliver the kind of experiences to me that the person who coined the initial question surely had in mind. Broadening one's mind, constantly redefining one's role in our planet and developing humility and wisdom – these are the reasons for me to travel to new places, apart from being exhilarating experiences with loads of fun, of course. Here is the most recent chapter of this story: A travelogue of another trip of a lifetime to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, part 1 – Northern California.

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Exhibition "Weltenwanderer" in Berlin

I'm very proud to announce my second exhibition of my photographs. In a little more than three weeks I will open "Weltenwanderer", a collection of my favourite landscape and nature photographs from all over the world, in the Anna Seghers Library in Berlin. It's a large and much frequented space, so I am excited and nervous! Right now I am in the middle of selecting the Images for the four sections of the exhibition which will take you into the world of summits, forests, water and the macro-level.

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18 out of 18: New horizons in the last one and a half years

It is the tradition to indulge in retrospects during the last weeks of every year. Media is full of 2017 medleys and photographers very often join the crowds and post their personal favorites from a year of shooting. I am always a bit reluctant to do what everybody else does just because everybody else does it, but looking back with the goal of self-assessment and becoming aware of one's own path certainly has its charms. So I decided to present some of my favorite photographs of recent trips and sessions; but in order to break with arbitrary slice of time that is a calendar year, I dug a little bit deeper and excavated my 18 personal favorites from the last 18 months. This is what I take into 2018 and what I built my artistic development on.

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Natural and Cultural Treasures of Greyton

Experienced landscape, nature and travel photographers Paul Bruins and Jan Zwilling are pleased to introduce a photographers' paradise to you. After spending countless weeks, months and years photographing remote corners of the world from New Zealand to Canada and from South Africa to Norway they team up for their first series of workhops - taking place in Greyton in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Situated in a fertile valley in the foothills of the impressive Riviersonderend Mountain range, and flanked by two rivers, Greyton and the surrounding area offers an infinite variety of photographic opportunities. Late winter / early spring is the best time of the year to photograph Greyton's farms and landscapes, and Paul and Jan will guide you to all the best spots at the best times of day. Interested? Read on for the Details!

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Monumental Maine: Remembrances of the silent Northwoods and thoughts on the value of wilderness

More than a hundred years ago Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States, had a great idea. In addition to National Parks and areas protected by state laws he created the possibility to designate protected lands only by the order of the president. The Antiquities Act was originally intended to protect singular sites of historical importance, especially in connection with the Native American heritage, but Roosevelt immediately started to use the new right to designate large chunks of wilderness as National Monuments and thereby protect them from commercial use. He started a tradition that has never been more vital than today, as Barack Obama designated sixteen new monuments during his presidency. The last one was “Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument” in northern Maine, an area I visited in fall 2014. The few days in the silent north showed me that Roosevelt’s legacy in conservation has lost nothing of its importance.

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Multiple mixed bags: Experiences and a photo in the Austrian Alps

As luck would have it, my job has led me to Austria for a month. I’m spending it at the northern edge of the Alps in a region where the soft hills and meadows turn into alpine terrain with lakes, gorges and mountains up to 3000 meters high. On the weekends I use my free time exploring the surroundings; and last Saturday I decided to spontaneously hop on a cable car and spend the afternoon on the high plateau that is the Feuerkogel mountain. It was a mixed bag experience in various different ways, but I made the best out of it. Here is how.

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Gems of Germany: The Saxonian Switzerland

Goals in landscape photography are often connected with places, gorgeous regions that one desires to get in front of the lens one day. This is perfectly alright, because it’s to a great part the fascination of being out in nature, soaking in the feeling of astounding places that motivates the photographic process. I often dream far far away and imagine what it would be like to see the Alaskan coast or the Milford Sound for the first time, and how I’d capture this moment in my camera. But – of course there is a but – evolving in photography is also about disconnecting a bit from the travel itch and about getting creative with what you find at your doorstep. In May I decided to get most of both methods: I travelled to a place that is awesome, but pretty close to my home and offers a great variety of possible subjects to get creative.

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On location: The Secret Canyon

The natural world is full of places that have become famous as iconic subjects of landscape photographers. Think of the Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park or the view across Lago Pehoe towards the Cuernos del Paine in Patagonia. Without a doubt the Colorado Plateau in the southwest of the United States holds more of these icons that any other region on earth; and the Antelope Slot Canyon is probably the most famous and over-photographed object of interest. This is absolutely justified, as it is an out-of-this-world beautiful place, but for landscape photographers two questions arise with that: Are you willing to shoot an icon that has been pictured by millions of other people? And how will you deal with the crowds that visit the canyon and the short time frames that are designated to every group to walk through it? There is an answer two both of these questions: Secret Canyon. It’s a smaller slot canyon near Antelope that is almost equally magic and has a strict visitor limitation that allows you to shoot almost alone for hours! If that sounds like right up your alley, then read about the secrets of Secret Canyon here.

 

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Eyes on the Great Bear Rainforest: A personal story

A few days ago I received an email that stated "Your support for the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement made a difference". The Agreement that is referenced has been in the making for decades and has just recently been signed. It saves 3.1 million hectares of old-grown temperate rainforest on the coast of British Columbia from industrial logging. The sender of the email, the Rainforest Solution Project, is a joint initiative of Greenpeace, ForestEthics Solutions, and Sierra Club BC which promotes conservation options and economic alternatives to industrial logging on British Columbia’s Central Coast, North Coast and Haida Gwaii. That they think that my support for the Agreement made a difference means a lot to me, because the reason I decided to put my name on their supporters list is a personal experience. This is the story.

 

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Eyes on Tasmania: Conversation with Hillary Younger on the paradise and its fate

In a world where the last white spots on the maps have been erased centuries ago, there are still some wild places left that allow a different experience than the omnipresent influx of media, than being connected anytime and than being trapped in civilisational routines. One of these places is Tasmania, an island south of the australian mainland. It's a haunting place, a wild place ... and a place under immediate threat: Fires caused by lightning are currently destroying vast portions of the unique tasmanian ecosystem. Tasmanian photographer Hillary Younger shares her personal view on the events in this interview.

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Instant inspiration: minutes of bliss when I least expected them

I often travel long distances to see impressive landscapes and catch glimpses of stunning light; at the same time I spent a fair amount of time to research potential locations and moments in time to capture them. Both procedures – travelling and planning – are meant to give me a creative boost, to motivate and inspire me. Yet, it seems a bit contradictory to plan for creativity and inspiration as both of these phenomena are strongly connected with unpredicted events, with moments of surprise and joy. I believe that it is possible to increase the possibility that moments like this happen through travelling and planning, but that should not make us walk through the world blindfolded and unaware of the opportunities that appear all of a sudden when we least expect them. This is what happened to me one Monday morning on my way to work.

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My lessons learned from publishing a calendar with Calvendo

A calendar is one of the most intuitive and obvious outlets of landscape photographers. That's because there is a market of calendars showcasing beautiful places on earth and a series of 12 or 13 large format prints is just a great idea for landscape photos. This has the effect that the market for such calendars is saturated and only very few photographers manage to position themselves in these products. The alternative is to publish calendars for oneself - it's not that expensive nowadays and the artistic freedom is all yours. Yet, the distribution is the downside of this way. Seeing a self-published calendar in book stores is a rare exception. Luckily, there is a third way and it sounds promising.

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Born to be wild

There is one thing about the Declaration of Independence of the United States that I appreciate more and more with every day. It states that the pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right of every human being. To live a life in this manner and to make it – among other values - the basis of political system hits the nail on the head. Follow your dreams and allow others to follow their, this is how we all get along. For me, this means feeding my curiosity for the paradises our planet has to offer, to explore and enjoy the world in its full scope and depth. Travel and photograph new and dear places – at least part time - is a mode of living that comes close to the pursuit of happiness that Jefferson and his companions considers so central.

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About real and realistic nature photography

There is a big discussion going on right now on how to find the balance between authenticity and artistic freedom in photography. I guess this all started with a move by a photographer combining a foreground with a sky from a different time an place, but the discussion has left this case and is now more fundamentally rooted. I thought a while about it and will try to make my (subjective) point.

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