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.

Landscape and nature photography has slowly evolved from a small hobby fueled by some exciting trips to Western Canada in 2010 and the US Southwest in 2012 into a way I see the natural world that surrounds me. It has been a gradual process of developing subjectivity that accelerated significantly on an extremely inspiring photo trip to Arctic Norway in winter 2015. The Lofoten Islands in winter are full of iconic views and overwhelming compositions, this means as a photographer you are virtually standing at the crossroads and can turn into the well-paved alley of shooting the obvious under dramatic light or surrender to the urge to find your own, individual way of portraying the majestic landscape. I was shooting both kind of photographs, but looking back it's the latter that mean the most to me. A seed was planted and it grew significantly over the course of the last one and a half years. The seed may be called intimate landscapes, but I rather think of it as subjective, individual portraits of wild places. These portraits speak volumes about the places they were made at, but more importantly they show the way I see them.

The second aspect that I found to be essential to my photography is exploring. I've always felt the itch to travel far far away and the major motivation that drives my photography is seeing new, wild places all over the world. Over the course of the last 18 months I had the chance to shoot in Norway, Ireland, Austria, Germany, South Africa and Portugal and it has been amazing to wake up to new horizons, to paths that were novel to me and to light that was unlike any that I've ever seen. On top of that developing further my photographic approach and style enabled my to visually explore without traveling. Seeing new things in the known and the unknown, taking a second look behind the obvious, the facade, and making places my own ranks equally to physically traveling. Combining these two roads, the roads of the earth and the roads of the mind, adventures proved to be mind-blowing. I am thankful that photography opens new perspectives for me and it will surely continue to do so in 2018.

Here are the 18 images that tell this story so much better than my words.

Field of Dreams

This image was made back during the height of summer last year. It turned out to be a pivotal photograph for me, because it was the first time that I really used my immediate surroundings as a subject matter. I live in the city center of Berlin and subjects for nature or landscape photography are not easy to find. The vicinity of the city is a patchwork of fields, settlements, forests, and lakes and somehow beautiful, but hard to photograph with a wide angle approach. This brilliant field with poppies and cornflower made me forget about the mediocre backdrop. For an hour I was in heaven as the setting sun illuminated the flowers. I chose to compose it with a shallow depth of field, into the sun for back-light on the blossoms and excluding the sky.

This image was made back during the height of summer last year. It turned out to be a pivotal photograph for me, because it was the first time that I really used my immediate surroundings as a subject matter. I live in the city center of Berlin and subjects for nature or landscape photography are not easy to find. The vicinity of the city is a patchwork of fields, settlements, forests, and lakes and somehow beautiful, but hard to photograph with a wide angle approach. This brilliant field with poppies and cornflower made me forget about the mediocre backdrop. For an hour I was in heaven as the setting sun illuminated the flowers. I chose to compose it with a shallow depth of field, into the sun for back-light on the blossoms and excluding the sky.

Subterranean Summits

Mountain landscapes are among the most popular subjects of landscape photography due to their dramatic shapes, their variability and the spirit of adventure they convey. This means there have been a lot of mountain photographs and there will be millions more in the coming months and years. Finding original imagery is challenging. In fall 2016 I was lucky to visit a place in the Austrian Alps that is very special: the ice caves of the Dachstein Mountains near Hallstadt. There are natural stalagtites made of ice up to 25 meters high and they are beautifully light. I was inspired immediately and harvested some unique photographs. This composition is my favourite.

Mountain landscapes are among the most popular subjects of landscape photography due to their dramatic shapes, their variability and the spirit of adventure they convey. This means there have been a lot of mountain photographs and there will be millions more in the coming months and years. Finding original imagery is challenging. In fall 2016 I was lucky to visit a place in the Austrian Alps that is very special: the ice caves of the Dachstein Mountains near Hallstadt. There are natural stalagtites made of ice up to 25 meters high and they are beautifully light. I was inspired immediately and harvested some unique photographs. This composition is my favourite.

Forest Spirits

I am on my way out of the forest after shooting the sunset at the spectacular Upper Langbathsee, a lake nestled into dramatic mountains in Upper Austria. Dusk came swift and I was completely alone following the faint path to the parking lot. Somehow, it's in those moments of fleeting light, of isolation and quietude that I feel the most creative. I suspect that virtually everybody would have walk past these patch of pine and beech trees that transformed into an impressionistic painting in my head. Shooting a forest scene at the end of twilight with a long lens I rather unusual too, I guess. But I have a feeling that this photograph will be among my favorites for a long long time.

I am on my way out of the forest after shooting the sunset at the spectacular Upper Langbathsee, a lake nestled into dramatic mountains in Upper Austria. Dusk came swift and I was completely alone following the faint path to the parking lot. Somehow, it's in those moments of fleeting light, of isolation and quietude that I feel the most creative. I suspect that virtually everybody would have walk past these patch of pine and beech trees that transformed into an impressionistic painting in my head. Shooting a forest scene at the end of twilight with a long lens I rather unusual too, I guess. But I have a feeling that this photograph will be among my favorites for a long long time.

Fall falls

If I was asked what attracts me photographically, I'd be tempted to answer: Things that grow, things that flow, things that glow. This triptych of life, motion and light holds all the fascination of nature; and I could not be more overwhelmed with a photo than with this one that encompasses all of those qualities. The brilliant graphics of flowing water, the sense of being alive in the tree; and the wonderful mood of the shiny leafs. When I stumble upon a place like this, I am a happy camper. Taken in Upper Austria.

If I was asked what attracts me photographically, I'd be tempted to answer: Things that grow, things that flow, things that glow. This triptych of life, motion and light holds all the fascination of nature; and I could not be more overwhelmed with a photo than with this one that encompasses all of those qualities. The brilliant graphics of flowing water, the sense of being alive in the tree; and the wonderful mood of the shiny leafs. When I stumble upon a place like this, I am a happy camper. Taken in Upper Austria.

Once in a Lifetime

Up to this point all the presented photographs do not include the sky and are rather intimate close-ups of nature. There certainly is a pattern that I subconsciously developed. That does not mean, however, that I don't enjoy the thrill of excitement that a dramatic mountain vista under exceptional light can deliver. I absolutely freaked out when I witnessed this once in a lifetime showing in the Lofoten backcountry. These are moments when you do wide angle panoramas to get everything in your frame.

Up to this point all the presented photographs do not include the sky and are rather intimate close-ups of nature. There certainly is a pattern that I subconsciously developed. That does not mean, however, that I don't enjoy the thrill of excitement that a dramatic mountain vista under exceptional light can deliver. I absolutely freaked out when I witnessed this once in a lifetime showing in the Lofoten backcountry. These are moments when you do wide angle panoramas to get everything in your frame.

Under my Feet

As a contrast to the previous shot I chose this intimate composition from northern Norway. I love this photo, apart from simply being beautiful, for two reasons. First, it is a connection to the essence of arctic Norway because it shows how the majority of the surface is covered. Small conifers, lichens, ferns, berries. And second, I proved me once again that even there is no such light as in the previous photo, beauty is still to be found if you wander with open heart and eyes. The photograph was made in the mountains above Svolvaer on a drizzly and grey evening, perfect conditions to focus on the small world under your feet.

As a contrast to the previous shot I chose this intimate composition from northern Norway. I love this photo, apart from simply being beautiful, for two reasons. First, it is a connection to the essence of arctic Norway because it shows how the majority of the surface is covered. Small conifers, lichens, ferns, berries. And second, I proved me once again that even there is no such light as in the previous photo, beauty is still to be found if you wander with open heart and eyes. The photograph was made in the mountains above Svolvaer on a drizzly and grey evening, perfect conditions to focus on the small world under your feet.

It's a kind of Magic

This is a photo that does not need much explanation. The reason I have included it in this list is that it was taken from my living room window in Berlin and I just love how a simple thing like snow can be totally magical and transform even the most urban environments into a dream world. Apart from that, this is just a snap shot at f3.2 with a flash against the falling snow.

This is a photo that does not need much explanation. The reason I have included it in this list is that it was taken from my living room window in Berlin and I just love how a simple thing like snow can be totally magical and transform even the most urban environments into a dream world. Apart from that, this is just a snap shot at f3.2 with a flash against the falling snow.

Inspireland

When we come to new places we always have a preconception of what it looks like, what the essence of the landscape is. Although I try to avoid too much research into a place before I go, I cannot resist my curiosity and - willingly unwillingly - fuel my Imagination of the looks and feels. The good thing is, that once I am actually there, the preconception is completely erased by the perception. Only for a short period of time those two images are interacting.  This communication of preconception and perception is especially thrilling when there are significant differences. This was the case with some of the places I have visited in Ireland in Spring of 2017. I did not really imagine this country being characterized by mountains to the degree I realized it is. And I did not expect a color scheme that is so diverse and has much more to offer than just green - which is of course very present. To bring it to a point: This photo of the fields and hills between the Ballyhoura and the Galtee Mountains has come a bit surprising to me. A good surprise, I must add, I take it as another proof that traveling really means new horizons, not only literally but also figuratively.

When we come to new places we always have a preconception of what it looks like, what the essence of the landscape is. Although I try to avoid too much research into a place before I go, I cannot resist my curiosity and - willingly unwillingly - fuel my Imagination of the looks and feels. The good thing is, that once I am actually there, the preconception is completely erased by the perception. Only for a short period of time those two images are interacting.

This communication of preconception and perception is especially thrilling when there are significant differences. This was the case with some of the places I have visited in Ireland in Spring of 2017. I did not really imagine this country being characterized by mountains to the degree I realized it is. And I did not expect a color scheme that is so diverse and has much more to offer than just green - which is of course very present. To bring it to a point: This photo of the fields and hills between the Ballyhoura and the Galtee Mountains has come a bit surprising to me. A good surprise, I must add, I take it as another proof that traveling really means new horizons, not only literally but also figuratively.

Coumeenole

Sometimes beauty hits you as a surprise. Neither did I expect the Irish coast to be this rugged and hauntingly photogenic, nor did I expect to get something when I drove out to the Slea Head of the Dingle Peninsula on a rainy and grey midday. But the extraordinary Coumeenole Beach told me a lesson: Beauty depends on what you look at, obviously. But even more it depends on the way that you see. I put on my wide lens, a three stop ND filter and wiped and wiped and wiped. Among the 50 images that were completely dotted with spray I managed to get one where only a few drops had to be cloned. Easily the most enjoyable 30 minutes spent in the rain in 2017.

Sometimes beauty hits you as a surprise. Neither did I expect the Irish coast to be this rugged and hauntingly photogenic, nor did I expect to get something when I drove out to the Slea Head of the Dingle Peninsula on a rainy and grey midday. But the extraordinary Coumeenole Beach told me a lesson: Beauty depends on what you look at, obviously. But even more it depends on the way that you see. I put on my wide lens, a three stop ND filter and wiped and wiped and wiped. Among the 50 images that were completely dotted with spray I managed to get one where only a few drops had to be cloned. Easily the most enjoyable 30 minutes spent in the rain in 2017.

Baltic Views

This photograph was a really hard one for me, although it does not look like this. It was hard because I really struggled to recreate the warm sun and the gentle breeze that made the sunset at the Baltic Sea coast so special. I've worked on this file for much longer than I normally do, maybe that's part of the reason why I immediately think of this evening when I think back of the summer of 2017.

This photograph was a really hard one for me, although it does not look like this. It was hard because I really struggled to recreate the warm sun and the gentle breeze that made the sunset at the Baltic Sea coast so special. I've worked on this file for much longer than I normally do, maybe that's part of the reason why I immediately think of this evening when I think back of the summer of 2017.

Foggy Hippo

New horizons seems to be the overarching topic of my photographs lately; and this photo brings together multiple meanings of this metaphor. Geographically, I was on completely new terrain in South Africa. The diversity and beauty of the Western Cape really struck me and this place, a farm dam in e Riviersonderend Mountains, is no exception. Second, I took a leap of faith and guided to photo workshops for the first time. It was kind of an experience, but a very good one after all. We were visiting this dam one early morning of the workshops. After everyone was set up and happy I quickly grabbed my tripod and composed this scene ... I was lucky that I passed by my setup every few minutes and snapped a slice of the unfolding light and magic. Did I mention that I love mist?

New horizons seems to be the overarching topic of my photographs lately; and this photo brings together multiple meanings of this metaphor. Geographically, I was on completely new terrain in South Africa. The diversity and beauty of the Western Cape really struck me and this place, a farm dam in e Riviersonderend Mountains, is no exception. Second, I took a leap of faith and guided to photo workshops for the first time. It was kind of an experience, but a very good one after all. We were visiting this dam one early morning of the workshops. After everyone was set up and happy I quickly grabbed my tripod and composed this scene ... I was lucky that I passed by my setup every few minutes and snapped a slice of the unfolding light and magic. Did I mention that I love mist?

My Icon

There is something special about shooting iconic scenes for the first time. On the one hand, the particular subject has been photographed again and again by really good photographers and you're likely to have seen a fair share of shots. This might limit your motivation and creativity . But on the other hand, this situation might actually boost your motivation to make a location that is, without a doubt, spectacular your own.  My mind was jumping around between these two states when I stood at Blaauwberg Beach with my feet in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean looking south towards the world's most famous flat-topped mountain. And, to make this moment even more special, the one and only Paul Bruins stood next to me ... If one photographer owns this view, it's him :) In the end I decided to let go of all these ambivalent thoughts and just shoot it as if I have never heard of it and never seen a shot of it. We got some nice light and I had a lot of fun playing around with NDs and shutter speed. So here is MY Table Mountain from Blaauwberg Beach.

There is something special about shooting iconic scenes for the first time. On the one hand, the particular subject has been photographed again and again by really good photographers and you're likely to have seen a fair share of shots. This might limit your motivation and creativity . But on the other hand, this situation might actually boost your motivation to make a location that is, without a doubt, spectacular your own.

My mind was jumping around between these two states when I stood at Blaauwberg Beach with my feet in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean looking south towards the world's most famous flat-topped mountain. And, to make this moment even more special, the one and only Paul Bruins stood next to me ... If one photographer owns this view, it's him :) In the end I decided to let go of all these ambivalent thoughts and just shoot it as if I have never heard of it and never seen a shot of it. We got some nice light and I had a lot of fun playing around with NDs and shutter speed. So here is MY Table Mountain from Blaauwberg Beach.

Cape Floral Treasures

There are lot of features that make certain places and regions unique, even only considering nature and leaving out cultural characteristics. One part for sure is the typical vegetation that covers the landscapes. In the Western Cape of South Africa there is a lot of buzz about the Cape Floral Ecosystem with its unparalleled diversity of plants. The most distinctive may be the Proteas, a variety of flowering bushes with charismatic flowers. There are hundreds of different types of Proteas ... and you can find a lot of them in natural habitats around the cape. If you want to get a glimpse of the amazing variety, consider a visit to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the eastern flanks of Table Mountain, where this photo was made. Once again, I decided to give my portrait a little twist by shooting the blossom through some reeds.

There are lot of features that make certain places and regions unique, even only considering nature and leaving out cultural characteristics. One part for sure is the typical vegetation that covers the landscapes. In the Western Cape of South Africa there is a lot of buzz about the Cape Floral Ecosystem with its unparalleled diversity of plants. The most distinctive may be the Proteas, a variety of flowering bushes with charismatic flowers. There are hundreds of different types of Proteas ... and you can find a lot of them in natural habitats around the cape. If you want to get a glimpse of the amazing variety, consider a visit to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the eastern flanks of Table Mountain, where this photo was made. Once again, I decided to give my portrait a little twist by shooting the blossom through some reeds.

Pastel Dreams

Yet another photograph from the exciting South Africa trip made it into my selection. You can believe me, there are at least a handful more that are real keepers, but this one stood out. Why? Because it epitomizes how I love landscapes: Wild and unspoiled; perfectly balanced; dynamic but calm; dreamy and subtle.

Yet another photograph from the exciting South Africa trip made it into my selection. You can believe me, there are at least a handful more that are real keepers, but this one stood out. Why? Because it epitomizes how I love landscapes: Wild and unspoiled; perfectly balanced; dynamic but calm; dreamy and subtle.

Spirit of Adventure

There are dozens of alluring mountain ranges in the world; many of them are more spectacular, more wild and more dramatic than the German Alps. Yet, the ambivalence I feel when I look at this photo that I made from the top of Germany's highest peak, have nothing to do with the Alps not being able to compete with the Andes or the Himalayas. That certainly is not the case and I tried to portray the mountains with that unlimited spirit of adventure that only snow-covered peaks can deliver. The ambivalence, however, is connected to the massive infrastructural developments for touristic purposes that do not cease in the Alps. Cable cars, skiing areas and mountain lodges are omnipresent and certainly spoil views and diminish feelings of adventure. Just a few weeks ago a new cable car was opened at this very place, it's so huge and obstructing that I must say we crossed the line … by far and once again.

There are dozens of alluring mountain ranges in the world; many of them are more spectacular, more wild and more dramatic than the German Alps. Yet, the ambivalence I feel when I look at this photo that I made from the top of Germany's highest peak, have nothing to do with the Alps not being able to compete with the Andes or the Himalayas. That certainly is not the case and I tried to portray the mountains with that unlimited spirit of adventure that only snow-covered peaks can deliver. The ambivalence, however, is connected to the massive infrastructural developments for touristic purposes that do not cease in the Alps. Cable cars, skiing areas and mountain lodges are omnipresent and certainly spoil views and diminish feelings of adventure. Just a few weeks ago a new cable car was opened at this very place, it's so huge and obstructing that I must say we crossed the line … by far and once again.

Two Generations

I have an unofficial project underway, although I never really started it. The goal is to portrait a special species of trees, the European Beech (fagus sylvatica) in all its shapes, stages, and ecosystems across central Europe. It's an elegant, graceful and impressive species that grows in a lot of different environments. So this photo of a young beech tree within a pine forest in the Bavarian Alps is another facet of my beech kaleidoscope.

I have an unofficial project underway, although I never really started it. The goal is to portrait a special species of trees, the European Beech (fagus sylvatica) in all its shapes, stages, and ecosystems across central Europe. It's an elegant, graceful and impressive species that grows in a lot of different environments. So this photo of a young beech tree within a pine forest in the Bavarian Alps is another facet of my beech kaleidoscope.

Luz

If I had to name an approach or technique that is typical of my photography, I'd say that a growing part of my portfolio uses a certain degree of abstraction to move away from the literal. I like to use abstraction to reduce, to focus, but also to create visual effects that are interesting for their graphic qualities. I like it when viewers are motivated to take a second look, to contemplate for longer than a few seconds and if they start to wonder why this looks different than they expect or remember. This is really all there is to say about this photo, that I made while I spent some quality time with my family on a playground in Lisbon. Beauty is everywhere!

If I had to name an approach or technique that is typical of my photography, I'd say that a growing part of my portfolio uses a certain degree of abstraction to move away from the literal. I like to use abstraction to reduce, to focus, but also to create visual effects that are interesting for their graphic qualities. I like it when viewers are motivated to take a second look, to contemplate for longer than a few seconds and if they start to wonder why this looks different than they expect or remember. This is really all there is to say about this photo, that I made while I spent some quality time with my family on a playground in Lisbon. Beauty is everywhere!

Fim do Mundo

This selection of photos is put roughly into chronological order, but honestly I would have chosen this photo to be the last one anyhow. I has so many endings: It is the very last piece of rock of the European Continent in western direction on the westernmost beach of Europe, it's the last light of the sun on one of the last days of 2017. I am so happy that I climbed down to this paradisiac place and made this view the final chapter of my photographic journeys of the last 18 months.

This selection of photos is put roughly into chronological order, but honestly I would have chosen this photo to be the last one anyhow. I has so many endings: It is the very last piece of rock of the European Continent in western direction on the westernmost beach of Europe, it's the last light of the sun on one of the last days of 2017. I am so happy that I climbed down to this paradisiac place and made this view the final chapter of my photographic journeys of the last 18 months.

I hope that you enjoyed my collection of photos from the last 18 months. The process of putting them together was a lot of fun for me. Contrary to my always present feelings of failing, I seemed to score not so badly. This gives me new energy for new horizons that are ahead in 2018. I am dreaming of a wild bunch of new adventures and projects. If only the half of it are happening in the end, it will be an amazing year!