Interview Kristel Schneider

Interview Series 2014 : Final interview with Kristel Schneider
by Kerstin Langenberger, Orsolya Haarberg, Alessandra Meniconzi,Cindy Jeannon,
Andrea Gulickx, Misja Smits, Heike Odermatt, Daisy Gilardini, Sandra Bartocha


I think you do not have to travel all around the globe to find interesting photography subjects.
They are all around you!


by Jonathan Lhoir


The last of the interviews about women photographers is about Kristel herself.

In 2011, she started a series of talks with amateur and professional nature photographers. Interestingly, all of them were men. So in 2014, she decided to put some women photographers into the spotlight. I have never met Kristel in person, but got to know her through her pictures over the internet. From the very beginning, I was impressed and fascinated by the fact that her photos were all taken in Central Europe. It is easy to wow people with pictures of exotic locations or foreign animals, but it’s a whole different league to search for motives in areas that seem normal to us. Kristel takes on that challenge through a wide range of photography, capturing the mood of the European forests. Subtle details of fungi, leaves or flowers, abstract motion blurs and bokehs of the forest canopy or trees in their surroundings. Her portfolio conveys her love and passion for the nature that is all around us. (Kerstin Langenberger)vallée-de-chaudefour_8

Orsolya Haarberg : After doing all these interviews with female nature photographers, do you think that women in general have a different approach to nature photography than men? No…I think the approach to nature photography is the same for both genders. They both respect nature and like to express the beauty of it. I often hear people say that women tend to capture the emotions of nature, more than men do, but to be honest, I really do not know what the assumption is actually based on. I know a lot of male photographers who are perfectly capable of capturing emotions in nature (smile). Looking at my workshop participants, it is maybe true that male photographers are more interested in the technique or in the background of their equipment. Nevertheless, I realise that this remark is also very generalised. One should focus more on what your interests are or on how  you see the ‘nature’ world. Studies show (by Israel Abramov of the City University of New York (CUNY)) that the two genders have different ways of collecting visual information. Men are more sensitive to moving objects and to seeing small details, whereas women tend to be sharper in seeing color changes.

Alessandra Meniconzi: What do you think about the future of professional photography?
The photography industry is being treated with little or no respect for the professionals. This lack of respect is in my opinion, one of the main problems for professional photographers. I once read that you must not blame the economy, your clients, the weekend warriors, the high level of competition or even the lack of markets in your area but look at yourself: if you don’t run your business as a business there is no business. So it is important to make plans and be professional: respect one’s work and do not treat it like something you got easy. Another point is the quality of your work. Now that cameras are getting better and even cheaper, photography is more accessible for everyone. But that does not mean that the ‘quality’ and ‘the art of seeing’ will be the same for everybody. There will always be a future for those who can make a difference and be innovative.

Cindy Jeannon : Reading your interviews, people can feel that you really went deep into the work of the photographers. This impression was confirmed when I read the introduction of the questions you submitted to me. Your words were true and you could really grasp the idea behind my work. To dive into these photographers’ works take a lot of time. What does it bring back to you? What motivates you to do it?
When I became more and more interested in photography I remember that I just loved diving into the pictures of all those photographers from all over the world. And when I became older I wanted to grasp the meaning behind the images. I think you can learn a lot from other photographers, by reading how they look at photography, how they prepare a photo trip or just what they feel in the field. With my interviews I try to connect people with great nature photography and hope they get enthusiastic about the subject so that more people will see the beauty around them.

Andrea Gulickx : Are you preparing your images beforehand or are you going with an open mind ? I do both. I like to get inspired by nature or weather conditions, this helps me to be more creative and to try out other techniques. But I also go prepared, when I look for certain flower-species or insects for example, it is important to know their natural habitat and which season you can find them. When I have a photo-assignment, then I need to know what the best time or the best place is, to take certain shots.  But even then sometimes you can get unexpected situations (change of weather) so you have to be flexible and creative with the light of that very moment.

What made you decide to be a workshop instructor ? And what did you learn from being a workshop instructor ?
When I moved to France I loved being alone in nature but it is also nice to meet new people and exchange ideas and thoughts about photography with them. I find that during workshops sessions you learn a lot from each other. Not only the photography techniques but also the way people look (at nature) and translate what they see into images. Details and textures in nature are not so easy to ‘see’ for everybody, and what  is a very common subject for one can be an inspiring one for the other. This makes photography a great tool for personal expression, be it in an artistic or in a realistic way. Other interesting part is the way people work with emotions or light, it is very personal and the image result can be so different.

Misja Smits : When I take a closer look at your tree pictures I see different ways of showing them: within a landscape and in a more abstract or creative cadre. Do you agree? If yes, is this a deliberate choice? If no, how do you see your tree images? Can you explain your love for tree pictures? Would you like to specialize in one type of tree image or would you like to keep having different approaches?
I inherited my love for trees from my father. As a child I did not always appreciate the long walks in the forest. It was much later, when I took more interest in nature myself, that I saw what my father loved in trees: the interesting shapes, the colors, the power. As for me the older the tree the more ‘character’ it has. A great photography subject to explore.
It is difficult for me to just take one type of tree image, I notice that over the last couple of years I have liked to experiment more and translate my own personal feeling to nature into an image. By playing with the light or depth of field. It all depends on the personal mood and the way I think a certain nature scene comes out best. Sometimes this can be a very classical realistic translation, but captured intimately. Like some of my tree images within a landscape. On the other hand, when I think certain light conditions are perfect for a more abstract or creative cadre, I take a different approach.


In what way did your moving to France influence your photography? I was a weekend/holiday photographer. Before I made the step to move to France I worked 6 years as a communication advisor and travelled a lot. One day I decided it was time for a change in life and in 2009 I became a full-time photographer and could spend as much time as I wanted taking photos. The last couple of years my photography has changed a lot, my knowledge, my photography style, my personal interests. By creating a photography network and making plans I was able to start organizing my own photo-workshops and got my first big photo-assignment here in Auvergne. Gradually I am expanding my goals and for 2015 I have planned to have my first own photo exhibition “Variations in Trees” shown at many photography fairs and festivals. Successfully enough, the first one was this year  at Festimages nature in Pays de La Loire, France (at the end of January) and the next one will be “Festival de l’oiseau et de la nature 2015”, in Picardie | France, (at the beginning of May). Then the exhibition will be in Denmark at the end of May. (See website for more info)



Heike Odermatt: What is it that you would like to achieve with your nature photography ?
I did not choose this profession to get rich but I see it more as a way of living. Being close to nature made me look different to the (nature) world. Seeing how beautiful the area is around us and also how fragile and vulnerable it is. Photography always makes me happy and I hope, by showing my work to a wider public, people will also pick up a camera and start exploring and looking for details. Once you start noticing details or play with light, you see how much beauty there is all around you. I hope I will always keep enjoying photography in the way I do now and be able to push myself to ‘ keep thinking out of the box ‘ so as not to land in a kind of pattern that feels comfortable but try to learn every time I go out in the field.


Daisy Gilardini: What does photography represent for you?
My passion, I think.  Photography is for me the best way to express myself creatively. Photography makes me look at the (nature) world differently.
To put it in single words, : relaxing, challenging, learning, exploring, creating.

Sandra Bartocha : What makes a good image ?
I think an image has to be in balance. I always say, it is good to know the rules of composition but it is even better to put them aside. Composition is very personal, it is your expression, your visual interpretation of the subject in front of you. You can add emotion or create a mood by playing with colors and light. As for me a well-compost image is a balanced image.

Kerstin Langenberger: I love the fact that you don’t travel all around the world to photograph nature, but stay in Central Europe. Has this been a deliberate decision, and if so, what are the reasons behind it?
When I moved to Auvergne I had the feeling I was everyday on holiday. This region has such a diversity  in nature and landscapes that I am still not bored exploring it. And every season has its own charm too. One result of the decision to move to France is that we have to live with much less income. In the past I had a good salary but no time, now it is the other way around, more time but….(smile) But as I said before it was a decision that brought me closer to nature and gave me the opportunity to explore my own living area.  And I think you do not have to travel all around the globe to find interesting photography subjects.
They are all around you!
Read all the other interviews here .

Interview with Daisy Gilardini

Interview series
by Kristel Schneider

I remember I was moved by some of Diasy Gilardini’s images when I first saw them: two little Polar Bears curled up together, Harp Seal pups with fluffy white fur and breathtaking ‘cold’ landscapes.
Pure emotions and intimacy are the ingredients of Diasy’s work. You can feel her love for the subjects and her special bound with the Polar Regions. Maybe deep in her heart she became the vet she wanted to be, taking care of animals via awareness and fighting for what she believes is right, making people aware of how fragile nature and its habitats are.

Polar Bears hugging

‘ I always think of Antarctica as a Planet on our Planet. It looks like everything stopped at the time of creation. Everything is in harmony, pristine and pure.’

Daisy Gilardini

 Can you introduce yourself in a few lines, explain your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography? I am a Swiss certified expert in finance and accounting by training but my passion for travel, nature and wildlife made me change my career in 2006. Since then I have been a full-time professional photographer specialized in Polar Regions.

In another interview you said that on your 4th birthday you got a little white seal puppy toy and that you always wanted to see these seals in their own habitats. Can you explain what you felt when your dream came true?
After that first trip you visited the Polar Regions many times. What makes you go back there all the time?
Yes it all started long ago… I was only 4 years old when I received a little stuffed seal puppy toy as a gift from my Godparents. My Mom explained that the seal puppy was coming from a very cold place and that it lived on and under the Polar ice. I was mesmerized by those stories. Thereafter, I dreamed to be able to see them in their natural environment. It took me seven years to be able to save the money for a trip to Antarctica but that trip totally changed my life!

I still remember the first landing on Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands. With a lump in my throat I was shaking with the emotion to be surrounded by hundreds of Chinstrap penguins. That day I could not even take a picture and the few I shot were all blurred because of the shaking… 😉

Many times I tried to understand this irresistible attraction to the Poles, which I would define almost as an addiction or an obsession. These extreme adventures transport me out of my ordinary worldliness and lead me to discover my own primitive instincts. By returning to the foundation of existence, I feel comfortable by simply following the rhythm of nature, which inspires deep respect and awareness for the importance of these delicate wild areas. I always think of Antarctica as a Planet on our Planet. It looks like everything stopped at the time of creation. Everything is in harmony, pristine and pure.

Being in the moment, cut off from the hysteria and drama of our “modern” society, connecting with Mother Nature and feeling the oneness of the universe is what brings me back there year after year.


When I look at your images I get moved and I can almost feel the emotion you must have felt at the moment when you pressed the shutter button. I read that in the Polar Regions the animals are not afraid of humans so it is easier to approach them. But they are still wild animals. What do you do to make the animals feel comfortable with you so that you can capture such emotions ? Your  landscape images are magical and pure. I can imagine you need a lot of research and preparations for your trips. When you are at your location do you let nature speak by itself on the images or do you have certain scenes in your mind beforehand already ?

There is a huge difference in shooting wildlife in the Arctic compared to Antarctica. Up north the animals have been and still are hunted by the local communities, while in Antarctica animals don’t have any predators on land.
Penguins are extremely curious animals : if you sit down to their level and keep quiet they will often approach to check you out. You obviously would not like to have a polar bear approach you to check out his next meal!

I usually do not pre-visualize the images and simply let Nature speak to me: Be in the moment!
However, in the field and before an assignment I apply my five “golden rules”


    It sounds stupid but if you are not there you won’t be able to get the picture. This means that you have to do your homework in order to always know where the best spot is, and what the best time of the day is. I am on location ready to shoot usually one hour before sunrise and I stay one hour after sunset. In the middle of the day, when the light is harsh and the animals are less active, I either work on my images or have a nap and rest for the next shoot.
    In wildlife photography it is essential to know your subject in order to be able to anticipate behaviour and catch the magic moment. The perfect knowledge of your equipment will allow you to be fast enough to freeze the action with the right camera settings.
    The love and passion you will put into your photography will shine through your images.
    In wildlife photography there is a lot of frustration involved. You can spend hours and hours and even days and/or weeks, at the mercy of the most challenging weather conditions without getting the shot you are looking for. Patience is simply essential.
    Never give up! At the end you will succeed… if you are patient enough!


Wildlife photography and ethics do not always go hand and hand together.
People fake wildlife scenes to get the perfect picture or go to faraway places to take photos of animals in captivity or attract them to special feeding places. What are the limits for a photographer? Photocontests ban images that were taken in captivity, do you think the same must be done for images taken on ‘feeding places’ ?

I am a member of the International League of Conservation Photographer (iLCP).
The mission of the league is to further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography. Awe-inspiring photography is a powerful force for the environment, especially when paired with the collaboration of scientists and decision makers. As environmental photographers it is our duty to capture the beauty of places at risk and spread a message trough our images.

Nowadays wildlife and nature photography is an extremely competitive field where the word ethics sometimes (too often) get lost.
Ethical is an adjective describing something related to moral principles and we all know that those vary a lot depending on culture and locations.
Personally I put my ethics in front of everything and easily give up a shoot if I think is inappropriate.

No captive animals and/or baiting ever come into consideration in my work.

What are your photography goals, destinations for 2014/2015 and what would you like to achieve ?
I am currently working on a presentation/exhibit/book on the North America’s bears and the issues they are facing due to loss of habitat, pollution, climate change and hunting; I hope to start touring with it by spring 2015.

Meanwhile I am constantly working on the Polar Region project and will be spending some time in the Arctic in the summer and November/December down South.

Can you share with us one of your favorite personal photographs? And tell the story behind it?
One of my favorite images represents a heart-shaped iceberg shot during my first trip to Antarctica back in 1996. It really perfectly symbolizes my love for this marvelous white continent.
It feels like during my first trip there I left a piece of my heart down South and now, every year, I have to go back to check on it.


Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up?
The first few months of 2014 were really busy with talks and exhibits in Canada and Europe. I will dedicate the second half of the year working on my Polar project and new Bear show.

Before the interview Daisy had a look at Kristel’s website ( and picked out images that really popped out for her and she explains why:

I love the intimacy of Kristel’s macro photographs. In particular “Dew drops” is an explosion of light, sparkle and joy.
A treat for the viewer’s eye.



Coming up next, in the “Interview-Series” : Heike Odermatt, don’t miss it!
See other interviews here

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