Intimate Landscape Photography

Intimate Landscape Photography
published (10-11-2015) on Nature Photo Portal
text and images by Kristel Schneider

In preparing the summer
photo-tour in Auvergne  for Nordic Vision,I had set Intimate Landscapes as being one of the themes covered during the week: what an intimate landscape was and how to create a well-balanced intimate landscape composition. As the programme of the tour unfolded, and as the participants were getting deeper and deeper into their own creations, we soon realized that what each and every one of us had a different definition of Intimate Landscapes were. Indeed it turned out that during other photo-tours and other photo-presentations, fellow photographers had given their own personal idea of what an intimate landscape was, just the way I did last July.

The question still stands : what is an intimate landscape ?

The answer does not seem as obvious as it seems, especially if I recall the lively discussions I had with the participants of the tour last summer. There were so many different definitions, so many different approaches even. As everybody had a representation of what a landscape was, we could settle a point there. I therefore came to the conclusion that the word intimate was the catch.

Perceptions of what intimate is are obviously very personal. A feeling of intimacy can be fed by a certain atmosphere, certain colors, certain elements or certain details in a landscape. All these personal elements make intimate landscape photography very interesting. You have to study the landscape scenes more carefully and focus on the scene that best defines an intimate landscape in your eyes.

(View bigger: click on one of the images)

When looking at my intimate landscape images one can say that I am not a large scale landscape photographer. On the contrary I tend to zoom in. Very often my eyes are attracted by a detail amidst a wider landscape. Combined with a certain atmosphere, depending on my mood, this can be colors, or light or just a nice form in nature. Then I translate this scene into a realistic, graphical or abstract image. For me, an intimate landscape is a combination of all the above, including the emotions I feel at the very moment I create that intimate shot.

To deepen the subject, I asked some of my fellow photographers to give their point of view on the matter. Hans Strand was the first to reply, and that was not a coincidence I think. A lot of Hans’s work is a very good example of intimate landscape photography. His latest book INTIMATE I features a great selection of intimate landscapes.


INTIMATE I – Hans Strand, Triplekite, 2015 (978-0-993589-1-6)

(View bigger: click on one of the images)

Intimate Landscapes images are more about reflection of the photographer way of seeing rather than the greatness of the subject. When horizons are excluded, nature is scaled down and the feeling of location is lost, then poetry can take over like a whispering that makes an impression, with ingredients of complexity and composition, rather than a dramatic large scale landscape in seductive light. Forest and trees are also favourite subjects who fits within the definition of intimate landscapes. Maybe it is the feeling of comfort I am getting from the trees around me, but working in a forest makes me both relaxed and concentrated. However the untamed chaos of a forest, needs a lot of analysing to come out as a well composed image…‘ – Hans Strand.

Kyle McDougall and Orsolya Haarberg also gave their thoughts about intimate landscape photography. For Orsolya intimate landscapes photographs are peaceful, calm images, they have a softness that comes from her personal use of colors.

Varanger-peninsula, Norway.

Varanger-peninsula, Norway.

‘The qualities are embodied by shades of grey, white and pastels which are the natural colours of the rocks, so I usually only need to find shape to the colours, as I did in the case the image blow. When you photograph intimate landscapes you use your camera to arrange nature’s elements to a structure that makes them meaningful. The only thing you need to do is to distil the essence of the scene and carefully compose your image. You to simplify things – frame a pattern, that you find the most powerful in a landscape, a single motive that attracts your eyes’ – Orsolya Haarberg.

Snæfellsnes-peninsula, Iceland

Snæfellsnes-peninsula, Iceland


Kyle refers to intimate landscapes as images that reveal particular features or details in nature that are not highly visible to the untrained eye. They reveal a slice of nature that can easily go unnoticed; rocks, leaves, trees or any collection of elements that are separated from the chaos by use of lines, colors, patterns and light. These images do not need to be strictly detail or macro shots, but rather can take a number of subjects and create a larger scene out of them. On the other hand, ‘grand landscapes” like waterfalls, mountains and dramatic coastlines all jump out of the page at first glance and typically are worked into wider compositions more easily.

‘ I think there’s huge benefits for photographers in creating these type of images. They certainly can be more challenging and require you to study the landscape in depth which can help you develop your creative eye. In my opinion, these types of images rely on the use of patterns and light. You need to study you surroundings and figure out the best way to’ organize the chaos’. Light and weather can play a huge role in this. For example, fog can simplify an otherwise busy forest scene and really create a surreal mood and help isolate subjects’ – Kyle McDougall.


As I’m starting preparing for my next workshop, the issue of intimate landscapes still hangs over my head and makes my programme a little more thrilling. What if intimate landscape photography was just a very personal, an almost intimate translation of the relationship a photographer has with the subject in his/her viewfinder? Intimacy as part of the creative process, intimacy as the last resort before pressing the shutter button. That can be a nice exercise for the participants of my next workshop to wrack their brains upon.

(Text and Images by Kristel Schneider with text adaption by Fabienne Rousseau)


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-Series: Orsolya Haarberg

Orsolya Haarberg

Interview Orsolya Haarberg
by Kristel Schneider

‘ Nature is pure spirit, it is the biggest artist. If you want to document its art, you have to see  Art in nature’

Brown algaes in sand and snow. Lofoten Islands, Norway.

2014, a brand new year and new resolutions abound, as always, sometimes never to see the light. Therefore, after a whole year dedicated to private commissions, I decided that 2014 was the year to follow up a project I had started in 2011, when I regularly published interviews of nature photographers whose work had an impact on my way to take photos and meant something to me. The 2014 Interview-Series will be, as my father would always put it, “the same but totally different” in the way that they will bring out the female photographers that have really inspired me over the years, and still do. And photographers I got introduced to, more recently.

Like the 2011-series , the new project will feature the photographers who, each in their own personal and specific approach, can be seen as landmarks in the world of nature photography.
The first one who nicely accepted to be part of the “Interview-Series” is Orsolya Haarberg, whose work I got introduced with, while browsing the results and prizes of the GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011. Back then, she got highly commended, in the “Plants” category, for a very strong graphical image picturing seaweed. Since then I have followed her work and she has definitely inspired me a lot in looking at the tiny details of the world around me.

1 Q: Can you introduce yourself in a few lines, explain your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography?
I was born in Hungary in 1977. Graduated as landscape architect and started my PhD studies in wildlife management before I turned full-time nature photographer at the age of 28. My mother played an important part in why nature photography became my hobby in the late ‘90s. I was drawing and painting a lot because of my studies, and she thought I might be interested in photography as well. She got her brother’s used Minolta camera for me – this is when my photographer career began…

2 Q: Your projects usually take place in the North Cape area. What originally triggered your interest for this region? In the beginning I did nature photography in my home country, and I never thought that photography could become my profession – in Hungary you cannot make a living from image sale as a nature photographer. I travelled to Norway because of my PhD studies – this is how I met Erlend Haarberg, my husband. He had already been an established nature photographer at that time and we thought we would try to make a living as freelance nature photographers together. We gave ourselves 3 years to try if it worked. This has happened 8 years ago, and we do better than ever

In Norway you can sell images mostly about Norway, so it makes sense for us to focus on photographing Norwegian landscapes and wildlife. On the other hand, Norway is a dream for a nature photographer. You can find wild landscapes, interesting wildlife, and you can move and work freely in the country. I really appreciate this as I grew up in Hungary, where you are much more limited in entering and photographing either state-owned protected areas or private lands.

But you are right – I am most interested in photographing the northernmost regions of Norway. I love open scenes, where the Earth meets the sky on the horizon: the sea and the barren landscapes. I also like snow-covered landscapes, and the long winters in the north give plentiful opportunities to photograph in such conditions.


3Q: In 2012 National Geographic Magazine sent you and Erlend Haarberg on an assignment to photograph the unique coast of Norway.
Can you tell the readers how you prepared yourself for such an assignment and how you organized it all? I mean, how do you spread the work between you two ; do you mainly focus on the subjects you like the most then,as individuals, or do you really work as a team on all the subjects? I often see publications under your both names, do you also work on assignments on your own?

We work as a team, which means that we usually have common projects and most of the time we travel together, but we work on our own. We like each others company a lot, we inspire and support each other, and traveling together reduces our travel expenses. When we arrive to a location where we want to work a longer period, we explore the area separately and find different topics to photograph. It may also happen that we photograph at the same spot because one single topic has the best potential, but even then we do not return with the same images. So our work is complementary.

When you see publications credited to both of us (like in NGM), it means that the article contains images that are both Erlend’s and mine.

Regarding the Norway story, we had a list of places to photograph. In case we had several potential topics to photograph at a certain time of the year (like in the best autumn weeks), we split up and traveled alone.


4Q: When I look at your images my personal favorites are the intimate landscapes with beautiful details. You have a way of capturing structures and details from a landscape that will be overlooked by many people. Do you think a person must have a feeling for art or graphics to translate the landscape scene into an intimate image?
Nature is pure spirit, it is the biggest artist. If you want to document its art, yes, you have to see Art in nature. You must have the ability to see a level of harmony in chaos. I spend a lot of time in nature to find new and interesting subjects, and once something catches my eye I do not stop until the captured image is balanced, the scene is simplified to its essence and keeps surprising me even after looking at it again and again.

5Q: What are your personal photography goals for 2014 and what would you like to achieve in photography in the long term?
I would like to always have the freedom to discover landscape and wildlife that I can transform into good images. And I would like to continue working on well-defined long term projects. This is my personal goal for 2014 and in the long term.

6Q 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.

I would like to share a landscape photograph as one of my personal favorites. I like it when a landscape image is complex and when several things are going on at the same time. Apart from an interesting scene, good – mostly natural – light and good composition, you also need a little extra that makes the image unrepeatable… It is difficult, and digital revolution did not help at all to make it easier.

Therefore I would like to share the story of my image about the Hverfjall crater, which is a very good example to show you the challenges in landscape photography.

The Hverfjall crater in early spring with full Moon, Iceland.

Hverfjall in Iceland is a well-known landmark that is rather difficult to photograph. The beautiful shape of the crater is visible from a certain direction only, and as there are villages, farm houses and electric lines close to the volcano, it is better to photograph it from a distance. I finally found the right angle, but a lot of other things needed to be fulfilled.
First of all, the beautiful structure of the outer slopes of the crater is visible only when it is covered by a thin layer of snow. In January and February 2011, there were no such conditions, winter set in in the middle of March.
If I wanted to photograph the crater with the Moon, I needed the Moon rising at the right place, which narrowed down my possibilities to a single day in 2011: the 18th of March. A clear day, of course, otherwise the Moon was not visible.
And I needed a foreground. There was a thin layer of ice on lake Myvatn, but it wasn’t really interesting enough, so the question of the foreground was still open when I left my base to take the image I wanted. It was overcast, but I was optimistic…
And when I arrived to the spot I had previously chosen, the wind rose and quickly blew the clouds away. At some places, the ice covering the lake was so thin, that the wind broke it and water could reach the surface of the ice through some hair-thin holes. The water captured the snow which was carried away by the strong wind during the hours I was taking photos. The white stripes of snow on the foreground literally built up before my eyes during the time span of one or two hours!
I had to leave quickly after I took the image, because right behind me there was a wall of snow blown by the storm, and I had a one-hour ski-trip crossing half-frozen lakes in the darkness, back to the car. It was a truly memorable moment…

7Q Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up ?
In March 2014 I will have an exhibition and a picture show at the Norwegian Nature Photo Festival in Ski and another lecture in Sweden one week earlier.
I try not to commit myself to too many events before late October (a peak in the festival season) so that I have enough freedom to do my planned field work when conditions are best.

Orsolya had a look at Kristel’s website ( and picked out some images that really popped out for her. She explains why.

Most of these images were taken during the transition from autumn to winter or from winter to spring which are very exciting times for photography. In these periods it is not the green colours that dominate the landscape but different shades of grey vivified by some yellows from the late autumn or early spring days. These low-key colours are very pleasant for my eyes. I also found the subject and the composition very interesting on all the selected photographs.

Orsolya’s picks  from Kristel’s images:

Coming up next, in the “Interview-Series” : Alessandra Meniconzi, don’t miss it!

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