First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with photography?
I’m Felix, a photographer based in Köln (Cologne), Germany. I always have a hard time describing myself but let’s say I’m a lover of life, travel and this special feeling that you only get when you find yourself exposed to the elements somewhere in a remote place, far away from this overcrowded society that I normally live in.
I got into photography through my wife Maria, who is actually a great macro and still-life photographer. I had a point and shoot camera early on but my results were definitely not worth it to be called photography.
In 2011 we were roaming around Paris- basically, she was stopping everywhere shooting street photography and I was getting bored of just walking aside and eventually buying some of those delicious sweets they sell everywhere there. She asked me if I wanted to have her older camera, a Pentax IstDL with the kit lens and I was like: why not…
I quickly felt that I had found something that I was really starting to enjoy. We had been on the Lofoten Islands in Norway for backpacking and hiking a year earlier and I instantly started thinking about going back and digging myself into landscape photography. The thing with me is: Give me something that really interests me and I will quickly get obsessed with it. After collecting stamps and my phase of semi- professional cycling, photography turned out to be a game changer (and life changer) for me and here we are enjoying this interview.
You describe your photography as Emotional Landscape Photography. Can you explain what you mean with this?
The more I think about why I started to call it like this, the more problems have explaining it. After a while of practicing landscape photography, I started to get overwhelmed by all those incredibly nice images I was seeing in the different online communities. This made me doubt myself and my images but at the same time, I realized that from all these bazillions of images I was seeing on a daily basis, only some were really touching me. Those were not necessarily the prettiest images but some were just transporting more emotions than others.
So the emotional means that I always strive to show images which create some kind of reaction in the viewer- I want them to feel something. This can be a good feeling or a bad one, feeling cozy or feeling cold and threatened- but generally, I’m only happy with one of my images, if it is a little more than just pretty.
Those who are familiar with your work know that you focus a lot on Arctic places. What is it that attracts you to these remote places with harsh weather?
I think this goes back to my infancy when I lived in Chile for around 6 years. I went on a lot of long-term trips through all the majestic landscapes of Chile and Argentina with my parents in our VW van. All the memories that I still have now 15 years later are those where we were camping in wild weather, sitting together around a bonfire and not those perfect summer days without a single cloud in the sky. Let’s say I really love to feel the energy of the weather, it makes you realize how small and unimportant you are in front of these raw forces and in the end these conditions really inspire me to go crafting images.
The Arctic offers all of this combined with a wonderfully rugged and unique geography- the perfect combination if you ask me.
As I live in a city with a little over one million inhabitants, I guess that this contrast to my normal life is also important. When I sit in the sinking airplane and those vast and wild fjords and mountains unfold under me, this incredibly positive feeling of excitement grows in me.
Only talking about this gives me goosebumps!
What’s your thought on Social Media as a marketing platform for photographers? Is it important for you?
Social media is turning into a love/hate relationship for me the longer I am part of it. I love the fact that I can meet great people like you and others online and then quickly evolve friendships, which then lead to fun photography trips and even business relationships. I also love the interaction with my followers and it’s actually a great source of inspiration as well.
I also like the fact that one can use it as a great marketing tool to build your own name in the scene, create your own brand and then also selling your prints, workshops and whatnot.
What I’m starting to dislike is a competitive feeling that is rising lately. To be on top you have to spend a big chunk of time unless you are one of the “chosen few”. With this I mean those guys who simply stand out so much with their work that they just drop images online and then the internet explodes. Social media can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you are on a run but things can turn and start to draw all the positive energy from you and that is not a good breeding ground for creativity to say the least. It took me a while to get used to it- having a really exciting offline life really helps here.
After all these thoughts I have to conclude: Yes, it’s important for me as a photographer as it allows me to reach an incredible amount of people with my images and the positive sides overweigh the negatives by far.
You have a great collection of images from your hometown Cologne. How is it to photograph the “concrete jungle” compared to the remote Arctic? Are there any similarities at all?
It took me a while to realize but there are many similarities in cityscapes and landscapes if you approach them in a similar way.
For me, it was very helpful to have the city around me. Of course, I was not able to travel somewhere every time I wanted to photograph landscapes because I simply had no time and money for it. However, I didn’t want to reduce my shooting time to only a few days each month, so I looked for overlaps between both disciplines and realized that it’s not a big difference. As you might know, for a long time I was an absolute ultra-wide angle maniac. My Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 was used as a 14mm prime most of the time. Shooting so wide forces you to find an interesting foreground to work with but an image also needs a middleground and even more important a complementing background.
To learn about compositions you don’t need to have the majestic Olstind as a background and some gorgeous cabins in front; a cathedral works the same as a mountain and even in the most crowded city one can normally find some parks or ponds to practice at. For me, my mekka was the Rhein river, which i portrayed in different ways trying to put it in a relationship with interesting features of the city.
All this sounds really good but in the end, I would go for mountains every day of the week.
But the main tenor of this is that wherever you live, you should use what you have in reach to practice and evolve if that is what you want.
Personally, I went out shooting at least 3 or 4 times every week and I believe that is the only way to improve quickly. Watching tutorials is a great addition to this but the most important thing is: Get out and enjoy your passion for photography!
Drone photography is becoming increasingly popular amongst landscape photographers. What’s your take on it? Do you think it’s important to jump on the bandwagon now?
Drone photography is definitly something that had been teasing me for a long time. I even asissted a professional drone videographer many times several years ago when drones were still only used by few people building them themselves step by step. However, I never really jumped aboard as there were no affordable ways of getting an acceptable image quality. When I saw the release of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro i was sold though and ordered it as soon as I could. After using it for some months I must say that the PRO was maybe a little exagerated by the smart PR team at DJI. While there are still many issues with this tiny flying camera, I have been abled to print tack sharp DIN A2 files though and believe that i can go even a little bigger with a dedicated sharpening and interpolation workflow.
Regarding jumping on the bandwagon I think that everyone has seen enough drone photography to know if he finds that interesting or not. If it inspires you then try it. Try to be original as well, because it’s already a very repetitive photographic discipline if you look on Instagram or such. I would love it to see some more creative use of drones and not only always the same motives from the same angles.
What/Who inspires you?
Inspiration can lay everywhere, you just have to allow it to happen. Personally, I draw a lot of inspiration from simply being outside feeling the places that I visit and then reacting to them. I also feel inspired by music- even if I’m extremely tired and planning to go to bed soon. If I listen to the right music and just have a look at one of my image folders, you’ll likely find me in my studio processing or printing stuff 4 hours later. Eye circles included…
I also draw a lot of inspiration from other photographers but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will try to produce similar imagery. It’s more that I feel inspired by the different approaches I see by their passion.
To drop some names I definitely like Hans Strand‘s body of work; his very sophisticated eye for compositions and the ability to create visual order in a totally chaotic scene is very inspiring. Also seeing the way he portrayed many of the big iconic locations of this world even decades before this whole digital photography boom started. I think what inspires me most about him is that he is really one of those photographers that live this passion to the fullest for many years and that makes me hope that I will still be at it with the same passion I have now even in 30 years.
Stian Klo from Norway is another one of my big inspirations and I’m happy to be able to call him a good friend. From him, I especially draw energy and inspiration on these days where I doubt my own work and feel like it’s all getting a little bit pointless. His ability to reinvent himself over and over again and never remain caught up in his own cliché is truly inspiring.
Kilian Schönberger from Germany is another example of someone who inspires me. His body of work is unique in a world of repetitive imagery and no one portrays the intricate beauty of German landscapes like he does.
My friend Albert Dros from the Netherlands also always inspires me with his very special perfectionist approach to photography. I mean that guy is almost scaring me! He tells me about his plan of shooting a volcano erupting under a blazing milky way, flies to Guatemala and nails it! The fun thing is that I knew he would succeed before he started his trip. If you work hard for things and push the boundaries always just going all-in anything can happen.
Since coming across his aerial work, I also really enjoy the works of Tobias Hägg. The way he sees this world from above is outstanding and his processing is always an inspiration. The tones, textures and composition melt together to pieces of art.
Ryan Dyar, Daniel Kordan, David Thompson, Dennis Polkläser, Iurie Belegurschi, Guy Tal, Max Muench, Hannes Becker; have a look at their work and you will see that I feel inspired by many different styles and basically by people who strive to produce unique imagery instead of simply reproducing well-working images.
After thinking about all these inspirational people, I think I feel more inspired by the interaction with photographers rather than by looking at some other photographers images. What really inspires me is getting to know the person behind that camera that produces so cool images!
What 3 tips would you give to someone who’s just getting started with photography?
1. Forget about social media when you start out
I do Q&A sessions regularly on my Instagram feed and the number of people asking me about how to get followers and grow an active online community is insane. I often take a look at the work of these people and quickly see that they literally just began photographing. Instead of reading books about composition and going out as much as they can, they are already there trying to build up their social media.
So, when you are just starting out, invest your time in exploring your passion for photography and then work on improving it. Over time this will make you grow as an artist and most of the time likes and followers will come along if you present your work and engage with people.
2. Feel the passion
Great images come hand in hand with being passionate about what you do most of the time. Don’t let anything (or anyone) distract you. Feel what you do and do what you feel!
3. Find yourself
When you start with photography you should experiment with the big world of photographic options. Photograph flowers, portraits, try street photography and venture out on a road trip to chase landscapes or architecture. The more stuff you try, the more you will find your own niche and voice.What’s next for Felix Inden?
What’s next for Felix Inden?
Interesting question! This year will be mostly a family year for me. I’ll soon be a father of two little sons and will travel less than usual, at least until this autumn, to live this phase to it’s fullest and to be there for my wife and kids. In the meantime, I will also focus on intensifying my offline relationships by growing my commercial architecture photography business and continue sturdening the pillars of my business.
I will also focus on doing some roadtrips to chase imagery around Germany and the neighbourhood as that is something I can easily do without leaving home for longer than some days. Besides, my portfolio lacks of it!
At some point in autumn, I have many different options to consider and I still haven’t really decided on what to do. I’m feeling like going somewhere I have never been and not studying too much about that area in advance. Somehow I feel I want to explore something for myself without beeing influenced by others work.