Posted on June 24, 2014
by Kristel Schneider
‘I like to surprise myself to avoid getting bored with my own pictures’
I am not sure anymore where I saw Misja’s work for the first time, in Dutch magazine Grasduinen (now Roots) or via the Argus photocontest, but I can still remember I was totally stunned by the color impact of her images. In my opinion Misja is one of the best close-up photographers in the Netherlands. The way she positions the tiny mushrooms, flowers and other subjects in the frames in combination of the natural color pallets is just fantastic. For those who do not know Misja Smits, I am very happy to introduce her to you on Visions and Nature. Enjoy and be inspired by her work!
Can you introduce yourself in a few lines, explain your background and how you got introduced to (nature) photography?
I was born in a little rural village (Liessel) in the Netherlands. After my secondary school I moved to the city of Nijmegen, where I still live so far. Photography has always been part of my life but it’s since 1993 when I started the study Photographic Design in the Hague that it really became important for me. After this study I started working as an employee in a photo store where nowadays photo finishing is my main task. Since 2002, when I met my boyfriend Edwin Giesbers, who is a professional nature photographer, I focused entirely on nature photography. During the last years I have shifted my attention more and more to macro subjects, such as toadstools, flowers and insects. I guess you can call me a semi professional photographer, because I always have had my job in the photo store and until now I have no plans to make my money completely from photography. It is my hobby, I have to admit it is a pretty persistent hobby, but I like it this way. The fact that I can do my own thing, without any pressure from outside, is one of the thing I like most about it. It gives me a kind of freedom in which I can develop myself in my own way and in which I can enjoy photography the most.
What originally triggered your interest in the ‘Small World’ and what fascinated you the most in these subjects ?
I guess what triggered me the most was the surprising effect of the macro lens. Of course there was also the interest in the tiny insects, flowers and toadstools and surely I loved to be out there all by myself or with my boyfriend to experience nature and its silence. However it was the thrill of the final image that attracted me the most. The macro lens was the perfect lens for me to create my own image, an image that could not be seen with the naked eye but only by looking through the macro lens. It gave me endless opportunities to play with sharpness versus un-sharpness, light versus shadow and to create my own color palettes.
When I look at your images I get a happy feeling, the way you put the subjects, color combinations in the frame are always in good harmony.
The color contrasts are well chosen in combination with a well balanced background and the depth of field. The ‘small world’ can sometimes even look smaller or bigger depending on the positioning of your subjects. When you go out in the field do you already have a combination/subject in mind or do you let yourself get inspired by nature? Do you use natural light in you photography or other tools ?
Thank you for your compliments!
All the things you mention like the placing of my subjects, the framing, the use of colors, the use of fore and background, are indeed very important for me. The subject is not just the main thing, it is always the entire picture that counts for me. This means hard work in the field, because my desired image almost never comes easy. Sometimes it also means quitting a certain subject, even after spending lots of time on it, because the entire picture just won’t do it for me in the end.
In the beginning I used to go into the fields without any idea or subject in mind. I just went ‘open minded’ and just ran against my subjects. This worked out perfectly for me until a few years ago. Then somehow I wanted more or something else and maybe I wasn’t satisfied with the images any more once I got home. Nowadays I go out more and more with a certain subject (plant or insect) in mind. This approach requires more research in advance. Most of the information (where the insect or the plant live, when the best season is to visit it, what the best time of the day is to approach it) I can get online and from colleague photographers. And then, when I am out in the field with my ‘wanted’ subject I let myself be inspired by nature and its environment to complete the total picture.
Very occasionally I not only have a certain subject in mind, but also a certain image. This is however a tricky approach, because when it works out fine everything is ok. But on the other hand if it doesn’t work out as I wanted it to it’s difficult to shift my attention to the idea of getting inspired by nature again.
It’s funny to see this transformation in my approach over the last years. By answering you I realize it. The thing is I never really made these choices consciously. Somehow I just follow my heart without thinking too much about why I do certain things.
Most of the time I use natural light. I like sunny conditions, in which I keep my subject in the shade (in necessary with a white/light grey umbrella) and play with the fore and background that are (partly) lit by the sun. Sometimes, such is the case with tiny subjects such as hair moss or toadstools that are positioned low on the ground, I use a flashlight to put my subject in the spotlights. This is mostly the case in the evening or on cloudy dark days during low light situations.
In another interview I read that you like to keep surprising yourself and others. Can you explain in what way and why and if you think you manage to do so ?
I like to surprise myself to avoid getting bored with my own pictures. I like to surprise and challenge myself visually. This sometimes means taking a photo of a subject that I haven’t photographed before, but it can also mean approaching my subject in a way I didn’t do before. With a different approach I mean using a different technique or playing with a different fore and background, or by placing my subject much smaller or bigger in the frame. Actually anything that makes my images different than the ones I shot before. These differences can be very small or even invisible to an outsider but for me they can make the difference between a good and a lesser image of myself. I have succeeded when I experience the ‘wow’ effect. I am convinced I need to have these surprising ‘wow’ effects to grow in my photography and to not stand still.
What are your photography goals, destinations for 2014/2015 and what would you like to achieve ?
This may sound implausible, but apart from trying to challenge myself and hoping to be able to enjoy nature photography together with my boyfriend for as long as I live, I have no further photographic goals or destinations. Of course I do am very happy with all kind of things that cross my path, such as exhibitions, publications, selling pictures, winning awards and so on, but these are not my main goals. My main goal is very clear: to be able to enjoy nature photography.
Share with us one of your favorite personal photographs? And tell the story behind it?
This is a difficult one… But I have chosen for my picture called ‘Bride and Groom’.
I made this picture of two Edelweiss specimens in 2011 in The Hohe Tauern, a National Park in Austria. Two years before I was in Liechtenstein and I searched like crazy for these flowers. Unfortunately I couldn’t find them and now, in the Alps in Austria, I just bumped into them without really looking for them.
There’s something special about the Edelweiss. Once this alpine plant nearly was extinct. This was because of tourists gathered the plant, or because of locals used the plant as a medicine for stomach pain.Therefore, nowadays the plant is protected and can be found more easily.
In the early morning the flowers caught the first sunlight. I was extremely happy with the dewdrops that were left after a rainy night. The surrounding grass, which was covered with dew drops, was the perfect ‘decor’ for the two plants which were standing so tenderly next to each other. The background was colored in blue because it was still in the shadow. Somehow the two plants reminded me of a bride and groom. To emphasize the dreamy effect I used double exposure. Double exposure is a function in my Nikon body where the camera automatically merges two exposures which are made one after each other. During the first exposure I have focused on the two Edelweiss plants, while during the second one I have un-focused my subject by focusing a little bit more close to the lens, all without moving the camera.
Do you have any exhibitions or other events coming up?
In fact I do have an exhibition coming up, knowing in the Moormuseum in Geeste, Germany. The director had visited my exhibition in Stapelfeld earlier this year and has invited me for a future exhibition in his museum during the opening season next year. I am very happy to know that my 41 images will have a new destination to show off soon.
Furthermore soon a portfolio of my macro images will be published in a French magazine. I am very excited about this because it’s my first French publication. More information about these future projects will follow as soon as possible. Stay tuned for the last updates by following me on my Facebook and website.
Before the interview Misja had a look at Kristel’s website (www.kristelschneiderphotography.com) and picked out images that really popped out for her and she explains why:
I like Kristel’s graphic pictures of the trees in winter. Somehow you manage to capture the essence: graphic lines/forms and a winter feeling.
I think this picture is strong because of the oblique lines that draw the attention from the left bottom part to the right upper part of the picture. The abstract lines and forms of the vegetation are perfectly framed and contribute to an abstract character of the picture. The white color of the snow and the brown/red color of the vegetation are the only ones and give a certain balance to the picture.
Lovely creative play of sharp versus un-sharp, showing a strong picture doesn’t necessary have to be sharp. This photo stands out for me because of the daring to un-focus on the main subject and by doing so making the form of the flamingo even stronger. Then there is the great DOF created by the water reflections, which contributes to a pleasing fore and background. And the choice for black and white (which may be a natural effect of the silhouette conditions or may be transformed in post processing) seems to be the only right one. Great picture with great vision!
I see lots of pictures with this moving effect coming by but only few of them have the ‘wow’ effect on me. This one surely has it. The moving effect alone won’t do it. Here everything comes together in the right way: the form of the tree-trunk comes out great, the colors of the green leaves and the colors of the red/brown soil go very well together because they contrast. Also by the creative effect the light on the tree trunk and its roots is emphasized in a positive way. I like to see an experimental picture and surely when it pleases the eye!
Posted on March 19, 2014
Interview Cindy Jeannon
by Kristel Schneider
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.
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 Bleu‘ is 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.
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 darkness, Emptiness, 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:
Coming up next, in the “Interview-Series” : Andrea Gulickx, don’t miss it!
See other interviews here
Posted on January 17, 2012
The series of interviews with Nature Photographers is coming to an end and I thought with Jim Brandenburg I have a real Grand Finale.
When I first got in contact with Jim’s work I was still very young: I can remember that I was amazed by the images and it was via my parents that I had the opportunity to look in the National Geographic Magazines. It was much later that I connected, the images that had inspired me with the name Jim Brandenburg. And now when you read a lot about Nature Photography you know that Jim is a living legend and that he had inspired many other photographers all over the world.
I am very happy and honored to have this exclusive interview on Visions and Nature.
As for me it was a real personal joy to talk with Jim; he is the kind of person that speaks with so much enthusiasm and spirit that after hanging up the phone I immediately wanted to go out in Nature and take photos.
I Hope you feel the same after reading his interview that will be published in two Blog posts (part 1 and part 2).
Minnesota native Jim Brandenburg traveled the planet as a photographer with National Geographic magazine for over 3 decades resulting in 23 magazine stories, several television features and many National Geographic books.
Over the course of his career, Brandenburg received a multitude of prestigious national and international honors for his work. Four of Jim Brandenburg’s images have recently been chosen to be part of a unique collection that represents the “40 most important nature photographs of all times.
Brandenburg was the recipient of the World Achievement Award from the United Nations Environmental Programme in Stockholm, Sweden, in recognition of his using nature photography to raise public awareness for the environment.
Brandenburg has published many bestsellers including: Chased by the Light, Looking for the Summer,Brother Wolf, White Wolf and Minnesota Images of Home.
More information about Brandenburg can be found on his web page www.jimbrandenburg.com
Who is your inspiration?
That’s always a difficult question as so many things influence us, but I have always been interested in art ever since I was very young.
I think all kinds of art influence us. When I was a teenager I was quite successful as a musician – I played with the Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry. Then I studied art at the university and started painting. The French impressionists had a very powerful effect on me. In photography there is maybe one photographer who inspired or influenced me: Ernst Haas. It keeps surprising me how few people know him. The work of Ernst Haas is amazingly powerful and contemporary as if it had been shot today. He was the fist person to use 35 mm cameras for magazine photography. Color and B&W.He must be almost a hundred years old now. Remarkable talent!
Then there is a whole bunch of people that inspire me, amongst whom a lot of painters. There is no one in particular that really comes out powerfully but definitely hundreds who influenced me and will continue to do so.
What do you like or do not like about Nature Photography?
I came to photography because of nature, I was always extremely interested in nature. I painted it, and as a child I was a hunter. I grew up in a culture with a very deep hunting tradition. I hunted until I started caring and feeling about animals so much that in the end I did not understand why we had to kill them. So I traded my guns for cameras when I was 14 years old. It felt so natural to me. Since then I have been out every day to look at the tracks in the snow or to listen to the birds and look at the animals. Nature for me goes very deep. Nature Photography is my language; I speak it better than English. It is a very personal intimate thing to me on the other hand I do not understand people very well especially when the world gets crazier and crazier. Even if I like a lot of people, nature is a more consistent force. It is something we came out of millions and millions of year ago, and we have to cherish it. I am always surprised that so few people have a deeper passion for nature, and how much of the world never thinks about nature.
Business like Nature Photography has changed. It has become a bit bizarre. In the old days, when we were still using Kodachrome cameras, you really had to understand photography and be really good at it to survive. Nowadays, take someone with a moderate amount of talent but who has never made a picture in their lives before. They go to the camera store and buy even a cheap camera. In the same day that someone can make a magazine-worthy picture, if they have some sense of composition.
There are ten – even hundred – thousand photographers out there doing this and they have destroyed the Nature Photography business in terms of income. In terms of magazine photography, books and photo publishing, there are so many photographers that are willing to give their images away just to be published, just for the fun of it.
And I don’t say this with anger, just if you ask me what is the worst part in Nature Photography then this has totally changed my income and I had to think about changing my perspectives, doing other things next to it such as making movies. And of course I have nothing to complain about, I am the luckiest person in the world but for those young new talented photographers it will be almost impossible to make the same career or even make a good profit in Photography as I said.
Still the good thing about Nature Photography is that it brings happiness and joy. All these thousands of people are in contact with nature, they enjoy it and they love taking photos. That makes me happy.
Do you have any tips for Visions and Nature readers who would like to become professional nature photographers? Jim’s answer to this question and more will be published in: Interview with Jim Brandenburg (part 2).
Coming soon on Visions and Nature.
Posted on September 22, 2011
‘…more attracted by the bugs on the beautiful flowers than by the bride. ‘
Leon Baas at work
I started with photography 12 years ago. It then was nothing as it is now. It didn’t have any line in it and I would shoot everything my eyes saw. By doing this I learned more and more to look for details. My next step was wedding photography, which I did together with my wife. But to be honest my eyes were more attracted by the bugs on the beautiful flowers than by the bride. Luckily my wife made the wedding shots so we got away with it.
My interest in nature photography grew fast the following years, especially macro photography. I learned to look for the perfect compositions and lighting techniques. I pushed myself to high standards, which I couldn’t reach at the time. I just wanted to create the perfect lighting and exposure. – Leon.
Who is your inspiration?
I get my inspiration mainly from reading about a lot of old and new nature photography from which I have learned a lot of tricks. I learned a lot about photography by listening to other great photographers.
My toilet has been filled with a lot of photography books because this is the only place in my house I have nothing else to do except waiting for things to come. Your camera manual is the first book that will end up in a drawer. Now you know where you should put it instead.
What do you like about Nature Photography?
I love the amazing world of insects. It’s a hard world with no rules. Sorry, just one rule…eaten or be eaten. An always different world and that fascinates me every time. Again and again.
Photographs are Copyrighted © 2011, Leon Baas — All Rights Reserved
Are there things you don’t like about Nature Photography?
I prefer to work alone and do not like to be disturbed when I’m doing my work.
Do you have any tips for Visions and Nature readers who like macro photography ?
What are your specialities?i
I have specialised in making photos of insects in surreal areas. I try to achieve it by applying special exposures with special colored flashes, to make their world more dramatic. I also focus on habitat macro photography which shows insects in their habitat with an extreme depth of field.
Photographs are Copyrighted © 2011, Leon Baas — All Rights Reserved
Share with us one of your personal favourite photographs?
It is a photo with a take off from a ladybird. A photo with a moment that will never come back. I am really proud of this picture I have to say.
Photographs are Copyrighted © 2011, Leon Baas — All Rights Reserved
Describe how it was taken?
For this photo I used two coloured flashes. One for the background and one for the object. The background was a coloured canvas.
That day I was photographing mushrooms. I had everything ready when the ladybug climbed against the mushroom. An exciting time for me to watch. What I hoped for happened. And I’m still happy with the result.
You are now on Visions and Nature Blog, a Nature and Landscape Photography Blog from Kristel Schneider. Do you know her work?
I know Kristel as a serious photographer who does her work very good and thoroughly.I love her enthusiasm and surprising themes.
Posted on May 28, 2011
Nature photographer Mike Moats has interviewed me about Macro Photography for his Blog: Tiny Landscapes.
You can read the interview here.