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.

HCO_20091110_0297
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.

6Q-HCO_Gullfoss-winter

© 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 (www.kristelschneiderphotography.com) and picked out images that really popped out for her and she explains why:

The layering and the different stages off he autumn leaf appeal to me.

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

 

 

 

Create your own Workshop – promo

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A short photo holiday in France

Tuscany-of-Auvergne-Photography-workshop-2014-facebookjpg
More info: Workshop page  (Eng)

Meer info: Workshop pagina (NL)

 

Interview-series: Cindy Jeannon

Interview Cindy Jeannon
by Kristel Schneider

(c) Alexandre Deschaumes
(c) Alexandre Deschaumes

I sometimes happen to dream about photos, imagine atmospheres and to be inspired by music, books, paintings and photography in my sleep. Then images come to life once I’m in nature.

Reading French magazine, Nat’images introduced me to Cindy Jeannon in 2011. We were both part of the publication ‘Special about nature female photographers’. The introduction  explained that she had decided to live her life closer to nature and that ever since she had left her job in 2005, her live has been like a journey. Cindy’s images show that this private journey has developed into a great life experience full with emotion and creativity. Traveling in the French Vosges or in the northern part of Europe, in Norway Cindy’s images show her love for Nature. Beautifull winter mountain scenes picture impressive clouds and silhouettes or the serenity of emptiness and minimalistic subjects.

(c) Cindy Jeannon

(c) Cindy Jeannon

Can you introduce yourself in a few lines explaining your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography?
In 2005 I gave up my job in computers and a way of life that was too « conventional » to be more in tune with myself and with my wish to live closer to nature, to live a life that would be “different”. I first started with a career change and trained to become an Eco interpreter. Back then I already wanted to do nature photography, but it was impossible to change everything at the same time. I therefore focused on what seemed to me then as essential: a lifestyle closer to nature. For four years I led a “nomadic” life – I lived in many different areas in France to deal with nature awareness projects all over the country – such a lifestyle lightens you up from the heaviness of the material and allows you to reconsider your views and thoughts altogether. I have always materialized my thoughts visually, or so it seems, but I started materializing my emotions through images while strolling along the deserted Atlantic coast on long lonely nights. That’s also the moment when, in Autumn 2008, I decided to start a new life again, around the main question, “how do I relate to nature?”  I then started a new journey, the one of my own personal experience based on intervals of total immersion into nature, looking for the primal link that connects us together, pondering on my own personal connection with nature, on Man, on society. I therefore moved to the Vosges Mountains at the eve of winter 2009 – a very icy winter.
My photos came to life after these moments when I be one with nature, when I dived into its roots to be able to read it, feel it and express it.  I have always been attracted by the hardships and loneliness of mountains and great wilderness. So in autumn 2009 I left for the Sápmi area in Lapland (in the north of Sweden) along with Jean-Pierre Frippiat. This was the first of a series of journeys to the North, mainly in Norway – journeys that I did nearly without any assistance, to be “cut off from the society ” and to make one with great wilderness, journeys where living takes over time, where you can feel nature at large.  These trips – in the Vosges Mountains and in Norway – are the moments from when I have developed another language, a language through images.

When you look at Nature photographers in general you see that woman are in the minority, why do you think this is? Do you think it is more difficult for a woman to be a nature photographer? An often said, maybe cliche expression is that female photographers are not in performance but in emotion. What is your thought about this?
It is true that there are less female nature and landscape photographers than males. First, maybe because it is not as easy for a woman to combine motherhood and a field job in nature, as it could be for a man.  And so it goes in a way, which is imposed on us by society, however unfortunate it is on a cultural point of view though. And then again, such is the case almost everywhere, not just in nature photography.
Then, of course, we have to take the physical aspect in account. Especially when you carry heavy equipment and bear harsh weather conditions. As far as I am concerned this never has really stopped me, although I’m not the sportive type. So, I guess everything can be dealt with even if my hiking and camping experiences with male photographer friends have shown that we don’t have the same physical aptitudes.
Now, is there a difference between photos taken by a woman and photos taken by a man? I tend to think that sensitivity and strength can be represented in both, whatever the gender. However I think that personality-traits are different depending on gender; and that can be seen in the images.

Your project ‘ Métamorphose dans l’immensité du Bleuis set in Norway, what is the origin of this project and how did you prepare this project.  The creative part and the travel part.
I started the series during my solitary 4-month trip in Norway in 2012, when I had planned to merge even longer into the mountains. Unfortunately, I slipped on my first base camp and injured myself. How much worse can it get when you are no longer autonomous on a self-sufficient journey? I could not walk any more, still I decided to stay in Norway, alone, and think my trip over. On the first days I had to stay in the mountains because I couldn’t walk or drive. But my original idea was still strong: the trip had to go on, I had to live it through, whatever it took. As far as I’m concerned trip and nature are both a walk into the unknown. So as soon as I could drive again, I left the mountains for a safer place nearer a water place – first the lakes then the sea. That was how my images became the reflections of moments spent near water.
As for preparations for that trip (or for any trip in Norway), I make sure my vehicle, my bivouac and of course my photo and computer equipment can be self-sufficient. For that specific trip I had planned a 4-season logistics.
I also leave with a lot of books and music, which play an important part in my inspiration, and a travel book – my writing companion on the road – but no phone and no internet.
Preparing a trip is also to organize the before and the after of the journey, in order to manage it all well.

The subjects and compositions of your images are they a resolt of lots of preparations at forehand or is an image created in the field, like you see the composition building up at that moment.
I sometimes happen to dream about photos, imagine atmospheres and to be inspired by music, books, paintings and photography in my sleep. Then images come to life once I’m in nature. I don’t focus on which lens to use, I just let myself be driven by the outdoors. This is what I call “breathing” : I inspire what nature gives into myself and expire photos. Movement and light really inspire me, hence my big attraction to clouds. I often write down phrases which express what I feel then – I generally draw lines between what I feel inside, human interactions and what happens in nature. Photography is a philosophy in life: by observing and living within nature, I get to know myself and others better.

What are your personal photography goals for 2014 and what would you like to achieve in photography in the long term? Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up ?
I’m planning to keep expressing myself through photography. There are moments when I’m in nature and take photos and there are also moments when these photos have their own life and materialize…in exhibitions for example, or in publications. It’s also very important to share my work with others: I think it would be meaningless if it was not shared.

Exhibitions, books and workshops – that are very dear to me – are ways for me to spread my philosophy with nature ; I can observe, accompany people, I can see the changes: human nature is as rich as nature itself.

Photography is not only a means to express myself; it is also a means to make people express themselves especially in training sessions and workshops. If I had to put what I would love to fulfill in photography in a nutshell, I would say “exchange”: expressions and interactions between nature, myself and others. I plan long-term projects because things happen slowly. I draw the big lines, then combine them with what happens in my life and then gradually build things up. I have ideas and plans for the coming months, but it’s still too early to talk about them.  For the coming year, I have a couple of exhibitions planned.
In April I will be in the Bird Festival in the Bay of Somme (France). Later on in October I will be at the Traveling Festival of Saint Valéry en Caux and the international Photo Festival Montier en Der.
There are other places, but it’s still too early to talk about them.
Last October GDT invited me in Lünen. That exhibition had a big impact on me, as I really enjoyed meeting and exchanging with Northern Europe and Italian photographers. I think I really love showing my work abroad, public response being totally different.

Can you share with us some of your personal photographs you like best?
And can tell us about the conditions and your emotions when you captured this image.

Pre¦üfe¦üre¦ü-Metamorphose-20c

(c) Cindy Jeannon

I chose the image of an atmosphere that pictures me the most: night and blue. I took it during my 4-month trip to Norway. I was on the Lofoten Islands at the end of August, it had be quite a chaotic day. So that night, I found peace by taking photos of the bay at nightfall. There was hardly any light. I love it when dark becomes black, when only the faintest light of hope remains. That’s what I meant to convey: even when situations surround us with darkness, there is always hope.  I did a series of long exposures then.
This technique really appeals to me, as it seems to me that each image was created by nature and myself… as in a communion. I decide on how long the exposure has to last depending on light and what I want to say. Then, by looking at what movements happen during that length of time, I can imagine shapes and light traces that will appear on the image.
This is the last image of the series, the very last faintest light that could reflect on it, as of to give it more chance.
I wrote a text to go long that image, a text about the depth of blackness:  The depth of darknessEmptiness, absence, darkness,  All reflecting the stars of the heart of the matter.

Cindy had a look at Kristel’s website (www.kristelschneiderphotography.com) and picked out some images that really popped out for her.
She explains why:

(c) Kristel Schneider

(c) Kristel Schneider

  • I immediately picked up the first image. Some will say, “because it’s blue”. OK, it’s true, blue really appeals to me. But that image speaks to me because when I travel I’m often in the rain. When I’m in my car, I spend a lot of time looking through the window at how the rain changes the scenery around me. This photo takes me back to those moments when relation to time is different, when thoughts are set free. It also calls the idea of protection to my mind : how nice it can be to watch the rain from an inside place.
  • Indeed, second image is also blue. I really love the peaceful and mysterious atmosphere – an atmosphere that really speaks to me.
  • A dreaming moment. I love blurry pictures, as well as abstract one, which do not impose a point of view on you, but suggest it to the viewers and allow them enough freedom to build a personal interpretation.
  • And finally, one that is totally different from the others. I chose it for the message it conveys to me… two small creatures helping each other out.

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

Dog’s Tooth violet

Spring flower Photography
by Kristel Schneider

Dog’s Tooth violet
(Erythronium)

Erythronium_3
Erythronium_7

In Puy de Dôme (Auvergne, France) this wild flower is rather rare. They normally flower around March till April/May . Lately we have very nice warm weather in France and nature is far ahead.
So yesterday afternoon I had a look at the spot I know in the forest, to look if the little violets where already above the ground.  Despite the nice weather I was still too early, but after some thorough ground search I  found a couple of the flowers I was looking for.

Personally I find this flower very photogenic and a lust for the eye, in contrast with the little forest location where it grows. I think it’s an (old) dump place, full with thorns, dead leaves and trash (car tires, electrical wire, metal barrows, washing machines etc).  It is the second visit for me to this place and I must say  it’s a real challenge to crawl with your 300mm or 150 mm lens over the floor and find a nice low angle shot 😉

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