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 Kerstin Langenberger

Interview series
by Kristel Schneider


Nothing could have prepared me for the views and emotions …….

When I joined Whytake, the photo-community, one of the first people I was in contact with was Kerstin. She was very enthusiastic about my tree images, because she was missing them in Iceland. Her enthusiasm and passion about nature reflects in her photography.
Her works guides you to breathtaking landscapes with snow and green skies or magnificent actions from volcanic eruptions. You can just feel the emotions that she must have felt then.  Her latest images were taken in Salisbury Plain, South Georgia where she works as a Arctic nature guide. These images just want you to join her and experience the same thrill. For those who do not know Kerstin Langenberger, 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 grew up in Germany and have always been a child of nature. After high school, I went to work on farms in Iceland which is when I started taking photographs. I ended up staying in Iceland, studied environmental science and tourism, engaged myself in conservation – and spent more and more time out in nature together with my camera. Today I work as a photographer and ‘Arctic Nature Guide’ in the polar regions, mainly in Iceland, Svalbard and Antarctica.

When I look at your images I see a lot of cold, fire and emotions. Lots of different moods, a combination of them all you seem to find in Iceland, your homeland for years. What is it that attracts you to the north? The purity of nature. The primordial landscapes. The contrasts and extremes: be it the weather, the cold, the light or the moods. And the changeability of it all: nothing ever stays the same. Nature always surprises me, fills me with wonder and teaches me something new every day.

At this moment you are in Antarctica on an expedition boat, where you work as an Arctic Nature Guide. A photographer’s dream I think?
Definitely! That’s why I chose to work as a guide. I want to be in nature as often as possible and share my compassion for it with others. When I’m not too busy with keeping my guests safe and guiding them through the polar regions, I can even take photographs alongside. It’s perfect!

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?
Both. To me it is all about being outside: the more I know about nature or a certain place, the better I feel prepared, even when not working towards a particular motive. I like to explore nature and focus on whatever she has in store that day. But I also love to work towards a specific photograph, waiting days, weeks or even years for the right weather and light conditions. In both cases I’d say that nature inspires me while I photograph!

You were lucky to get permission to go to the Bárðarbunga volcano at the end of September during the Holuhraun eruption and you were able to take some amazing images. This kind of nature activity is very sudden and you can not plan these things.  Can you tell us briefly what happened and what made this trip so special for you?
Briefly? Well, I try my best… *laughs*
I happened to be in Iceland before and after the start of the fissure eruption at Holuhraun in August and September 2014. The Icelandic authorities had closed the area, as they feared an ash eruption, gigantic flood waves and poisonous gas. I travelled as closely towards the volcano as I was allowed to and managed amazing pictures from the distance, but I wanted more. I guess you can call me a volcano addict… So I applied for a special permit and, after two nerve-racking weeks of fighting for it, was allowed to approach the eruption. I went there despite an ongoing storm and bad weather predictions, which made it even more special. Within a few hours, I witnessed the eruption in all kinds of weather, from soft summer colours to white-out winter conditions. Nothing could have prepared me for the views and emotions of the experience. Approaching the streams of molten rock, feeling the heat, smelling the lava, hearing the sound of the magma fountains, the heartbeat of our Earth – no words or photos can describe it adequately. I’m still under the spell of the volcano…

Together with photographer Olaf Krüger,  you have an ongoing photography project ‘ Islands of the North’ that started this January. Can you explain what it is about and if you plan to do go outside Germany with an English version of the project ?
‘Islands of the North’ is a declaration of love for the Arctic. Olaf and me spent six years living and travelling in Iceland, the Faroe and Lofoten Islands, East Greenland and Svalbard: the outcome is a two-hour photo show full of funny, adventurous, interesting and sad stories, music and time lapses. So far, we only tour the German speaking countries, but we would certainly love to give the talk in other countries, too! In the end, we hope to convey a simple message: that the North is not only extremely beautiful and precious, but also changing fast. To me, the most important nature conservation of our time is action on climate change. Reducing your carbon footprint is easy, everybody can do something, even without making sacrifices. I totally agree to what the French actor Molière once said: „We are not only responsible for the things we do, but also for those we don’t do.“

What are your photography goals, destinations for 2015 and what would you like to achieve ?
I will keep on working in the polar areas and the German-speaking countries, trying to open others’ minds for the beauty of our natural world and the urgent need of protecting it actively. The polar regions are home to what I believe are the most beautiful landscapes and fascinating animals on the planet: we should do whatever we can to preserve them for us and the generations to follow.

Share with us one of your favourite personal photographs? And tell the story behind it?
My favourite photograph is one that I have been dreaming about since my childhood days. I was (and still am) a huge admirer of Katia and Maurice Krafft. Like them, I wanted to get so close to an erupting volcano that I could see, hear, smell and feel glowing lava. This dream came true three months ago at the Holuhraun eruption in Iceland. By then, the volcano had been active for one month, spewing out enormous amounts of lava. Inside the lava field, visible only from the air, was a river of molten lava. When it got dark, that river of glowing rock lit up the entire horizon. It was a breathtaking sight – and a humbling reminder of how insignificant and small we humans are in the face of nature.

Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up?
Most of the year I am traveling and working outside of civilisation, so I have very little time for marketing myself or organizing exhibitions. Still, two things are coming up in the next weeks, both in connection with my project ‘Islands of the North’. Right now, Olaf Krüger and me are publishing a coffee-table book about the ‘Islands of the North’, and from January to March we will be touring the German-speaking countries again with our show. Exciting weeks are lying ahead!

Before the interview Kerstin had a look at Kristel’s website ( and picked out images that really popped out for her and she explains why:
I love these shots for their monochromy and moods. Both of them are beautifully simple, balanced and resting in themselves. Real eye candy!

Étang-de-la-Colombière-kristel-schneider Porcelain-Fungus-Kristel-SchneiderComing up next,  in the “Interview-Series” : Kristel Schneider ,  don’t miss it!  (last interview) .
See other interviews here

Interview with Sandra Bartocha

Interview series
by Kristel Schneider


‘ I think that working conceptual and concentrated on certain projects help to focus the vision…’

Sandra Bartocha

Anybody who loves nature photography and follows the news about the big competitions will see Sandra’s name pop-up. She won prices in the most prestigious nature photography competitions; WPY (Wildlife photographer of the year), GDT (European Wildlife Photographer of the Year), IPA (International Photography Awards), Asferico and many others. Sandra loves nature and that reflects in her images. The way she captures the light and puts emotions into her images are the work of a real ‘master’. My first introduction with Sandra’s work was via her contribution to the Wild Wonders of Europe project. And soon I discovered we had a nature subject in common : we love trees. As for me it was a reason to dig a little bit deeper into her photography work and I discovered a very  inspirational artist with a recognizable personal photography style. In 2011 I had already asked Sandra for my earlier interview series, but her busy schedule back then had made it impossible to join. I got Jim Brandenburg for the closing interview instead, “not bad as a substitute”, she answered (with a big smile) and she promised me to join in a next series. I am therefore very happy to introduce her to you today on Visions and Nature, enjoy!

(click on the image for the original size)

Can you introduce yourself in a few lines, explain your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography?
I grew up as a daughter of a photo journalist in a small village surrounded by lakes, fields and forests. My interest in nature was there from the beginning and as I have been around cameras and the dark room all the time my interest in photography has always been there too. Combining these felt natural.

For me, you are the ‘pioneer’ of double exposer images. Your ‘double exposure’ trees series are an inspiration for many other photographers. But using this technique does not mean they have the same photographic eye and artistic feeling as you have. These two elements are essential to copy a ‘real Sandra’ .
But how do you feel about people trying to copy your work ?

I don’t think I’m the pioneer of any technique. 😉
Maybe I made it more popular than it was before. Pioneers of double exposures are definitly others … Freeman Patterson for example …
I believe almost everybody copies (or incorporates) ideas of others into ones own work. I think it’s inevitable. Not only techniques but ideas that one catches “on the road” … and weaves seamless into ones own work … of course … sometimes it’s hard to see that there are many people around that do an exact copy without adding anything of a personal view.

© Sandra Bartocha

© Sandra Bartocha

Do you consider yourself and artist or a craftsman ? With other words do you consider photography as an art or a craft ?
I consider myself as an artist. But the craft comes first. Photography involves a lot of craft and in order to express your artistic vision you need to practice your craftsmanship first.

You worked on projects like Wild Wonders of Europe, Müritz-National-parc in the past, can you explain how these projects influenced your photography work ? How did they impact your photography in general ?
I think that working conceptual and concentrated on certain projects help to focus the vision. With Wild Wonders of Europe it was the concentration on producing the most beautiful images of plants so it was 14 days straight orchid photography. After that I had a clear vision of what works and what doesn’t.
For the Müritz-project it helped me to envision certain images before and not while doing the photography and I learned how to find out what key elements of a landscape or a region are in order to convey a clear image to the audience.

(click on the image for a bigger size)

At this moment you are working together with photographer Werner Bollmann on a new project, LYS. Can you tell us a bit more about this project, how did you come up with the subject and when you will publish something about it?
LYS is a project about the North of Europe. Amazing “LYS” – meaning “light” in Norwegian and Danish language – is one the most prominent features of the Scandinavian countries. We came up with the idea in 2011 because we always wanted to work together and because we both love the North since many years. The idea is to capture “our” personal interpretation – the essence of the North … from Denmark to Svalbard .We cover a huge region and it is quite demanding considering we don’t live up there. So it’s three years of photography right now and we are almost finished …
There will be a book and a multi-vision show. We do work together with a great composer – Torsten Harder – and the result will be played with live musicians.

The date is not clearly set yet. Either in autumn 2015 or 2016. Such a large region deserves a little time. 🙂

© Sandra Bartocha

© Sandra Bartocha

(click on the image for a bigger size)

You once said that you love water and the sea, trees and forests and that you prefer the cooler Northern parts of Europe. Can you express what you feel about these topics and what it is you like to capture when you are in your favourite surroundings.
It’s heart felt … it’s about being outside … it’s about breathing sea salt, hearing waves crashing the shore … feeling the crisp cold and hearing the snow scrunching below … about the smell of a pine forests in warm and bright summer nights … standing in a dome of beech trees … that feel like a cathedral … it’s the contrasts of light and dark … day and night …
It’s not about average … it’s about extremes.  And photographing where I feel good is a privilege.

With a father as a photographer, who took you into the field with him, you were brought up with photography. Do you see your father as the real inspirator and do you have the same photography style?
My father was an inspiration to do photography, but our styles couldn’t be more different. He is mainly working with people and faces and doing reportage photography. I have been interested to photograph different subjects right from the start. So he was the catalyst but not the inspiration along the way. The inspiration along the way came from friends in local camera clubs and the GDT.

As I mentioned earlier in the introduction, you have already won a lot of prices. Is there still a price you would like to win ? What are your photography goals, destinations for 2014/2015 and what would you like to achieve ?
I have no real aim to win more than I have now. It’s great for publicity but doesn’t matter when it comes to artistic expression. Of course it would be great to see an image of a landscape or plant winning the main price in a major competition but it is really not important for me.

My hope and wishes for my future direction is that I have the time to elevate my own photographic expression, that I’m able to find time working on the projects I imagine. I’d love to do more projects together with musicians as I believe that photography and music build a perfect harmony and for 2015 we need to work deliberately on LYS.

Share with us one of your favourite personal photographs? And tell the story behind it?

© Sandra Bartocha

I think that my image Light Show is one of my personal favourites. I took it in January 2011 and it still remains to be special to me. I am living directly at a pine forest and that afternoon it was one of the first warmer days … with 3°C and the snow began to melt … fog started building up against the warm rays of sun. I didn’t have any proper camera equipment at my apartment … no tripod, no proper camera. I only had my small Sony Nex with a Lensbaby tilt adapter and some old lenses. So I ran into the forest … all the time regretting to have no proper camera and lens with me … and started to experimenting with the focus while tilting my 50mm f 1.4 Nikon lens with open aperture … and handhold.
In the end it turned out to be a perfect choice for an unsual image … full of light and emotion.

Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up?
I will have two exhibitions in Potsdam and Berlin next year … mainly consisting my more abstract work – the tree and reed series.
I will speak in Norway in March and I hope to publish a small personal book about the seasons in 2015.

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

I do like the painterly quality of the image … the even distribution of light reflexes and views below the water surface. I’m also fascinated by the subtle colours … the blues and greens.

The graphic quality makes this image. Remains of autumn… last leaves on a beautiful silver grey beech. I admire the light base that the lines of the branches for perfect patterns.

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

Interview with Heike Odermatt

Interview series
by Kristel Schneider



‘ …nature photography is just like a book, that no human being can really read …’

Heike Odermatt


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.


© Heike Odermatt

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 ( 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.

leaves_Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider

An image with a story, focused on the important things. Less is more, like in this picture.

© Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider


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.

© Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider


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




Interview with Misja Smits

Interview series
by Kristel Schneider


‘I like to surprise myself to avoid getting bored with my own pictures’


Misja Smits

Misja Smits


I am not sure anymore where I saw Misja’s work for the first time, in Dutch magazine Grasduinen (now Roots) or via the Argus photocontest, but I can still remember I was totally stunned by the color impact of her images. In my opinion Misja is one of the best close-up photographers in the Netherlands. The way she positions the tiny mushrooms, flowers and other subjects in the frames in combination of the natural color pallets is just fantastic. For those who do not know Misja Smits, I am very happy to 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 in a little rural village (Liessel) in the Netherlands. After my secondary school I moved to the city of Nijmegen, where I still live so far. Photography has always been part of my life but it’s since 1993 when I started the study Photographic Design in the Hague that it really became important for me. After this study I started working as an employee in a photo store where nowadays photo finishing is my main task. Since 2002, when I met my boyfriend Edwin Giesbers, who is a professional nature photographer, I focused entirely on nature photography. During the last years I have shifted my attention more and more to macro subjects, such as toadstools, flowers and insects. I guess you can call me a semi professional photographer, because I always have had my job in the photo store and until now I have no plans to make my money completely from photography. It is my hobby, I have to admit it is a pretty persistent hobby, but I like it this way. The fact that I can do my own thing, without any pressure from outside, is one of the thing I like most about it. It gives me a kind of freedom in which I can develop myself in my own way and in which I can enjoy photography the most.

What originally triggered your interest in the ‘Small World’ and what fascinated you the most in these subjects ?
I guess what triggered me the most was the surprising effect of the macro lens. Of course there was also the interest in the tiny insects, flowers and toadstools and surely I loved to be out there all by myself or with my boyfriend to experience nature and its silence. However it was the thrill of the final image that attracted me the most. The macro lens was the perfect lens for me to create my own image, an image that could not be seen with the naked eye but only by looking through the macro lens. It gave me endless opportunities to play with sharpness versus un-sharpness, light versus shadow and to create my own color palettes.

All is well

© Misja Smits

(Click on the images for a better view)

When I look at your images I get a happy feeling, the way you put the subjects, color combinations in the frame are always in good harmony.
The color contrasts are well chosen in combination with a well balanced background and the depth of field. The ‘small world’ can sometimes even look smaller or bigger depending on the positioning of your subjects. 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? Do you use natural light in you photography or other tools ?

Thank you for your compliments!

All the things you mention like the placing of my subjects, the framing, the use of colors, the use of fore and background, are indeed very important for me. The  subject is not just the main thing, it is always the entire picture that counts for me. This means hard work in the field, because my desired image almost never comes easy. Sometimes it also means quitting a certain subject, even after spending lots of time on it, because the entire picture just won’t do it for me in the end.

In the beginning I used to go into the fields without any idea or subject in mind. I just went ‘open minded’ and just ran against my subjects. This worked out perfectly for me until a few years ago. Then somehow I wanted more or something else and maybe I wasn’t satisfied  with the images any more once I got home. Nowadays I go out more and more with a certain subject (plant or insect) in mind. This approach requires more research in advance. Most of the information (where the insect or the plant live, when the best season is to visit it, what the best time of the day is to approach it) I can get online and from colleague photographers. And then, when I am out in the field with my ‘wanted’ subject I let myself be inspired by nature and its environment to complete the total picture.

Very occasionally I not only have a certain subject in mind, but also a certain image. This is however a tricky approach, because when it works out fine everything is ok. But on the other hand if it doesn’t work out as I wanted it to it’s difficult to shift my attention to the idea of getting inspired by nature again.

It’s funny to see this transformation in my approach over the last years. By answering you I realize it. The thing is I never really made these choices consciously. Somehow I just follow my heart without thinking too much about why I do certain things.

Most of the time I use natural light. I like sunny conditions, in which I keep my subject in the shade (in necessary with a white/light grey umbrella) and play with the fore and background that are (partly) lit by the sun. Sometimes, such is the case with tiny subjects such as hair moss or toadstools that are positioned low on the ground, I use a flashlight to put my subject in the spotlights. This is mostly the case in the evening or on cloudy dark days during low light situations.

© Misja Smits

© Misja Smits

In another interview I read that you like to keep surprising yourself and others. Can you explain in what way and why and if you think you manage to do so ?
I like to surprise myself to avoid getting bored with my own pictures. I like to surprise and challenge myself visually. This sometimes means taking a photo of  a subject that I haven’t photographed before, but it can also mean approaching my subject in a way I didn’t do before. With a different approach I mean using a different technique or playing with a different fore and background, or by placing my subject much smaller or bigger in the frame. Actually anything that makes my images different than the ones I shot before. These differences can be very small or even invisible to an outsider but for me they can make the difference between a good and a lesser image of myself. I have succeeded when I experience the ‘wow’ effect. I am convinced I need to have these surprising ‘wow’ effects to grow in my photography and to not stand still.

What are your photography goals, destinations for 2014/2015 and what would you like to achieve ?
This may sound implausible, but apart from trying to challenge myself and hoping to be able to enjoy nature photography together with my boyfriend for as long as I live, I have no further photographic goals or destinations. Of course I do am very happy with all kind of things that cross my path, such as exhibitions, publications, selling pictures, winning awards and so on, but these are not my main goals. My main goal is very clear: to be able to enjoy nature photography.

Share with us one of your favorite personal photographs? And tell the story behind it?
This is a difficult one… But I have chosen for my picture called ‘Bride and Groom’.

Bride and Groom

Bride and groom – © Misja Smits

I made this picture of two Edelweiss specimens in 2011 in The Hohe Tauern, a National Park in Austria. Two years before I was in Liechtenstein and I searched like crazy for these flowers. Unfortunately I couldn’t find them and now, in the Alps in Austria, I just bumped into them without really looking for them.

There’s something special about the Edelweiss. Once this alpine plant nearly was extinct. This was because of tourists gathered the plant, or because of locals used the plant as a medicine for stomach pain.Therefore, nowadays the plant is protected and can be found more easily.

In the early morning the flowers caught the first sunlight. I was extremely happy with the dewdrops that were left after a rainy night. The surrounding grass, which was covered with dew drops, was the perfect ‘decor’ for the two plants which were standing so tenderly next to each other. The background was colored in blue because it was still in the shadow. Somehow the two plants reminded me of a bride and groom. To emphasize the dreamy effect I used double exposure. Double exposure is a function in my Nikon body where the camera automatically merges two exposures which are made one after each other. During the first exposure I have focused on the two Edelweiss plants, while during the second one I have un-focused my subject by focusing a little bit more close to the lens, all without moving the camera.

Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up?
In fact I do have an exhibition coming up, knowing in the Moormuseum in Geeste, Germany. The director had visited my exhibition in Stapelfeld earlier this year and has invited me for a future exhibition in his museum during the opening season next year. I am very happy to know that my 41 images will have a new destination to show off soon.

Furthermore soon a portfolio of my macro images will be published in a French magazine. I am very excited about this because it’s my first French publication. More information about these future projects will follow as soon as possible. Stay tuned for the last updates by following me on my Facebook and website.

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

I like Kristel’s graphic pictures of the trees in winter. Somehow you manage to capture the essence: graphic lines/forms and a winter feeling.

© Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider

I think this picture is strong because of the oblique lines that draw the attention from the left bottom part to the right upper part of the picture. The abstract lines and forms of the vegetation are perfectly framed and contribute to an abstract character of the picture. The white color of the snow and the brown/red color of the vegetation are the only ones and give a certain balance to the picture.

© Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider

Lovely creative play of sharp versus un-sharp, showing a strong picture doesn’t necessary have to be sharp. This photo stands out for me because of the daring to un-focus on the main subject and by doing so making the form of the flamingo even stronger. Then there is the great DOF created by the water reflections, which contributes to a pleasing fore and background. And the choice for black and white (which may be a natural effect of the silhouette conditions or may be transformed in post processing) seems to be the only right one. Great picture with great vision!

© Kristel Schneider

© Kristel Schneider

I see lots of pictures with this moving effect coming by but only few of them have the ‘wow’ effect on me. This one surely has it. The moving effect alone won’t do it. Here everything comes together in the right way: the form of the tree-trunk comes out great, the colors of the green leaves and the colors of the red/brown soil go very well together because they contrast. Also by the creative effect the light on the tree trunk and its roots is emphasized in a positive way. I like to see an experimental picture and surely when it pleases the eye!


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





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