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 Daisy Gilardini

Interview series
by Kristel Schneider

I remember I was moved by some of Diasy Gilardini’s images when I first saw them: two little Polar Bears curled up together, Harp Seal pups with fluffy white fur and breathtaking ‘cold’ landscapes.
Pure emotions and intimacy are the ingredients of Diasy’s work. You can feel her love for the subjects and her special bound with the Polar Regions. Maybe deep in her heart she became the vet she wanted to be, taking care of animals via awareness and fighting for what she believes is right, making people aware of how fragile nature and its habitats are.

Polar Bears hugging

‘ I always think of Antarctica as a Planet on our Planet. It looks like everything stopped at the time of creation. Everything is in harmony, pristine and pure.’

Daisy Gilardini

 Can you introduce yourself in a few lines, explain your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography? I am a Swiss certified expert in finance and accounting by training but my passion for travel, nature and wildlife made me change my career in 2006. Since then I have been a full-time professional photographer specialized in Polar Regions.

In another interview you said that on your 4th birthday you got a little white seal puppy toy and that you always wanted to see these seals in their own habitats. Can you explain what you felt when your dream came true?
After that first trip you visited the Polar Regions many times. What makes you go back there all the time?
Yes it all started long ago… I was only 4 years old when I received a little stuffed seal puppy toy as a gift from my Godparents. My Mom explained that the seal puppy was coming from a very cold place and that it lived on and under the Polar ice. I was mesmerized by those stories. Thereafter, I dreamed to be able to see them in their natural environment. It took me seven years to be able to save the money for a trip to Antarctica but that trip totally changed my life!

I still remember the first landing on Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands. With a lump in my throat I was shaking with the emotion to be surrounded by hundreds of Chinstrap penguins. That day I could not even take a picture and the few I shot were all blurred because of the shaking… 😉

Many times I tried to understand this irresistible attraction to the Poles, which I would define almost as an addiction or an obsession. These extreme adventures transport me out of my ordinary worldliness and lead me to discover my own primitive instincts. By returning to the foundation of existence, I feel comfortable by simply following the rhythm of nature, which inspires deep respect and awareness for the importance of these delicate wild areas. I always think of Antarctica as a Planet on our Planet. It looks like everything stopped at the time of creation. Everything is in harmony, pristine and pure.

Being in the moment, cut off from the hysteria and drama of our “modern” society, connecting with Mother Nature and feeling the oneness of the universe is what brings me back there year after year.


When I look at your images I get moved and I can almost feel the emotion you must have felt at the moment when you pressed the shutter button. I read that in the Polar Regions the animals are not afraid of humans so it is easier to approach them. But they are still wild animals. What do you do to make the animals feel comfortable with you so that you can capture such emotions ? Your  landscape images are magical and pure. I can imagine you need a lot of research and preparations for your trips. When you are at your location do you let nature speak by itself on the images or do you have certain scenes in your mind beforehand already ?

There is a huge difference in shooting wildlife in the Arctic compared to Antarctica. Up north the animals have been and still are hunted by the local communities, while in Antarctica animals don’t have any predators on land.
Penguins are extremely curious animals : if you sit down to their level and keep quiet they will often approach to check you out. You obviously would not like to have a polar bear approach you to check out his next meal!

I usually do not pre-visualize the images and simply let Nature speak to me: Be in the moment!
However, in the field and before an assignment I apply my five “golden rules”


    It sounds stupid but if you are not there you won’t be able to get the picture. This means that you have to do your homework in order to always know where the best spot is, and what the best time of the day is. I am on location ready to shoot usually one hour before sunrise and I stay one hour after sunset. In the middle of the day, when the light is harsh and the animals are less active, I either work on my images or have a nap and rest for the next shoot.
    In wildlife photography it is essential to know your subject in order to be able to anticipate behaviour and catch the magic moment. The perfect knowledge of your equipment will allow you to be fast enough to freeze the action with the right camera settings.
    The love and passion you will put into your photography will shine through your images.
    In wildlife photography there is a lot of frustration involved. You can spend hours and hours and even days and/or weeks, at the mercy of the most challenging weather conditions without getting the shot you are looking for. Patience is simply essential.
    Never give up! At the end you will succeed… if you are patient enough!


Wildlife photography and ethics do not always go hand and hand together.
People fake wildlife scenes to get the perfect picture or go to faraway places to take photos of animals in captivity or attract them to special feeding places. What are the limits for a photographer? Photocontests ban images that were taken in captivity, do you think the same must be done for images taken on ‘feeding places’ ?

I am a member of the International League of Conservation Photographer (iLCP).
The mission of the league is to further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography. Awe-inspiring photography is a powerful force for the environment, especially when paired with the collaboration of scientists and decision makers. As environmental photographers it is our duty to capture the beauty of places at risk and spread a message trough our images.

Nowadays wildlife and nature photography is an extremely competitive field where the word ethics sometimes (too often) get lost.
Ethical is an adjective describing something related to moral principles and we all know that those vary a lot depending on culture and locations.
Personally I put my ethics in front of everything and easily give up a shoot if I think is inappropriate.

No captive animals and/or baiting ever come into consideration in my work.

What are your photography goals, destinations for 2014/2015 and what would you like to achieve ?
I am currently working on a presentation/exhibit/book on the North America’s bears and the issues they are facing due to loss of habitat, pollution, climate change and hunting; I hope to start touring with it by spring 2015.

Meanwhile I am constantly working on the Polar Region project and will be spending some time in the Arctic in the summer and November/December down South.

Can you share with us one of your favorite personal photographs? And tell the story behind it?
One of my favorite images represents a heart-shaped iceberg shot during my first trip to Antarctica back in 1996. It really perfectly symbolizes my love for this marvelous white continent.
It feels like during my first trip there I left a piece of my heart down South and now, every year, I have to go back to check on it.


Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up?
The first few months of 2014 were really busy with talks and exhibits in Canada and Europe. I will dedicate the second half of the year working on my Polar project and new Bear show.

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

I love the intimacy of Kristel’s macro photographs. In particular “Dew drops” is an explosion of light, sparkle and joy.
A treat for the viewer’s eye.



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

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