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)

 

natural-frame

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.

window-view-13_02_2014

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 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 (www.kristelschneiderphotography.com) 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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