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

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