by Kristel Schneider
‘ …nature photography is just like a book, that no human being can really read …’
I can still remember the first image I saw from Heike, trees in the mist with fresh greens and a line of blue bell flowers. A strong image with great graphical lines and color contrast, this is what you see in all her landscape images. Heike has a great photographic eye. Her graphical translation of a landscape in combination with a good feeling for combining mood and contrast makes her images just ‘ pop-out’ and you hear people say ‘WOW, a real Heike ! “. My personal favorite subjects by her are the landscape details and trees but Heike’s wildlife series are also a lust for the eyes, full with action and emotions. The penguin series she took on the Falklands Islands are real story tellers. For those who do not know Heike Odermatt, I am very happy I can introduce her to you on Visions and Nature. Enjoy and be inspired by her work!
Can you introduce yourself in a few lines, explain your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography?
I was born and bred in the south of Germany, on the edge of the Bodensee. Beautiful surroundings with a lot of nature, mountain views and a lake on your doorstep. I have always been very visually inclined and have always loved pictures, especially those of animals and nature. As a child I dreamed of being the person behind the camera, making those beautiful pictures of wild animals and stunning landscapes. I had never dared to dream that this would become a reality. My parents couldn’t afford a camera, so I reverted to paper and pencil. My motives were mainly horses, my passion. When I was 16, we made the move to Holland and a new life began. I was no longer surrounded by big nature and I was not used to being in such a crowded place that was so dominated by both people and culture. I lived primarily for my one passion: horses. Whilst being a student, I acquired my first camera. It was however years later that I had the opportunity to emerge myself more into photography. I tried all sorts of different photography, but nature kept calling. I realised that nature was my “thing“ and that it was where I felt at home. In 2002, I seriously started to work in nature photography.
When I look at your images my personal favourite subjects are the trees and the landscape details. Capturing structures and details from a landscape or an intimate scene with one tree is not easy and will be overlooked by many people. You have a graphical background, do you think this helps you translate the landscape scene into an intimate or strong graphical image ? Can you explain how you ‘scan’ a landscape before you select your frame?
My graphic background has nothing to do with my photography. As I already mentioned in my previous answer, I have always really enjoyed looking at pictures. This has probably given me a strong sense of what I do and do not like, what appeals to me and what does not. As a result, I do not take pictures according to the rules and regulations of picture composition, but purely from a gut feeling. There has to be a balance in the picture. I always try to avoid things that disturb me. Graphic lines in nature make a picture “clean and balanced“. The art is to create a balanced picture out of the “chaos” in nature. Often I hear photographer colleagues say “look at her, she is photographing the opposite direction again”. I do not stay focused on just one thing, but try to remain awake to everything that happens around me, so I can capture it.
Every photographer will enter nature in a different way, prepared or unprepared.
When you go out in the field do you already have a combination/subject in mind or do you let yourself get inspired by nature? To capture a kind a mood you need a certain type of weather, what is your favourite weather and why?
I love being surprised by nature. That is why I usually carry a lot of my equipment with me. A large number of people have an idea in their head or the sort of picture they want to capture. I am open to surprises and very often come home with totally different pictures than the ones I set out to take. My favorite seasons are autumn and winter and my favorite weather conditions snow and fog. In my archive you will not find many pictures of sunrises or sunsets, but you will find more pictures that may feel cold, unexpected and surprising. I love experiencing winter and raw nature, and my aim is to get this feeling across in my pictures.
You once said that nature photography is just like a book, that no human being can really read, every time you enter nature it is as if the book gets thicker and thicker ? Can you explain what you mean with this?
Nature is always different, every time you go back somewhere, you find something new. You should never ignore that one beautiful moment with the wonderful light, because you can return to he same spot 100 times and never see that very moment again. Nature is constantly moving, areas change, the climate changes. Fortunately, we will never be able to finish this book, and it will always be fascinating to look for new images. The beauty of this book is that there are no words in it. Nature speaks her own language and those who are open to it will understand it. And that is exactly my style of photography, my pictures tell their own stories and do not need words to tell stories or evoke emotions.
Although I understand it is very personal but I think many of the readers know that you are struggling with your health lately and for this reason you are not able to spend as much time in nature enjoying your camera. Knowing that your main goal is to feel better again I realise that my normal question in the interview series about photography goals and destinations in 2014 and 2015 feels a bit awkward so I just take this opportunity to wish you a fast recovery and hope that you can enjoy your camera soon again !
Many thanks Kristel. My first goal is indeed recovery, so that I can enjoy photography even more in the future than I already had in the past. In 2014 I will still work on my recovery and my first photographic steps will be close to home. People have asked me before why I mostly do my photography so far away from home. My answer has always been: As long as I am capable of traveling to the places close to my heart, I will do so. When I am no longer capable of that, I will find my photographic challenges closer to home. And obviously, that is what is happening now. I do however have still a lot of plans and hope that I will have recovered enough by 2015 to fulfill my dreams of photography in the Arctic, Antarctica and surrounding areas.
Share with us one of your favorite personal photographs? And tell the story behind it?
In 2002 I visited Iceland for the first time and this was also my first trip purely aimed at nature photography. In 2004 I visited Iceland again, this time with a small group of photographers, still using analog technology. During this trip we hardly had any snow and the temperature was mostly above 0°C . On the way to the Gullfoss waterfall, all we had was rain and as a result, very green surroundings. The more beautiful the Gullfoss presented itself. Due to the water flying up, it was difficult to see across to the other side – the side covered with “cauliflowers”. I took advantage of the few seconds it was visible through the mist of water. Sometimes you make a picture that you think you are going to be really proud of. The picture you cannot wait to see developed. This was one of those pictures. To me, this was the most important picture of this journey, and I could hardly wait until I got the slides of the photo lab back in the hope that this particular roll was not damaged. This picture is now 10 years old, but to me it still signifies all I love: a wintery, fairytale-like image that takes you into another reality.
Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up?
Until now, I have no exhibitions or events planned, let’s wait and see what 2015 will bring…
Before the interview Heike had a look at Kristel’s website (www.kristelschneiderphotography.com) and picked out images that really popped out for her and she explains why:
The layering and the different stages off he autumn leaf appeal to me.
An image with a story, focused on the important things. Less is more, like in this picture.
I really love trees. They all have their own character which becomes very visible in the autumn. The softness of the colours and the structures in these two images are very well done.
© Kristel Schneider
Beautiful, silent, mystical image in all it’s simplicity. The blue in this image intensifies this feeling.