Ulrike Eisenmann combines her love for nature and passion for photography. Her landscape photographs always strive for an interesting light situation, colour combination and tend to be minimal.
Beside landscape photography, Ulrike also has a passion for floral shots. As she says: 'Flowers are my replacement drug, meaning when I do not have time to go out or the weather is too bad. She particularly likes tiny wild flowers because they are so variable in their shape, colours or development stages.
Discover this charming lady by wandering through her work and learn more about her.
Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs, dear Ulrike.
By education, I am a biologist and now work part time as patent attorney. I live in the South of Germany in a small town very close to lake Starnberg with my husband and my teenage daughter. I like outdoor sports a lot: all kind of water sports, e.g. swimming in the lake or kayaking but also cross-country skiing in the winter. Photography is for me more a passion than a hobby and I allocate most of my spare time to it. Luckily, the area where I live is beautiful and interesting and therefore, I do not have to travel a lot for taking photographs.
My personality might have an influence on my images: I am enthusiastic, emotional and curious and love variety as well as challenges. Fortunately, I like the early morning hours a lot and have no problems getting up very early, being always attracted to light, colour and the beauty of nature.
How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
My father took a lot of pictures with analogue as well as digital cameras and also showed me how to process B&W pictures in the dark chamber which actually was our little bathroom. Nevertheless, I did not find this interesting at all. But what impressed me a lot were the macro images in the journals he bought. I could not believe that so tiny things could be photographed so well. The desire to be creative has always been with me, leading to activities in painting (not really good, unfortunately), sewing, felting, gardening etc. but I found none of these as satisfying as taking photographs.
Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
Constructive feedback influences me most: What do others think of my photos, e.g. those voting on photo platforms or competitions, relatives, colleagues or my family? I also like 1x images a lot and often study them, surely influencing me unconsciously. The same might be true for paintings of Marc, Münter and Kandinsky from the painting group „Der Blaue Reiter“, who lived in Southern Bavaria too.
What first attracted you to photography?
Without a particular ambition, I always took holiday pictures with a point-and-shoot camera mostly for documentation. What I clearly remember is the deep disappointment studying later the results in the photo books, because it never transported the emotion and beauty of the moment it actually had in reality.
For 2016, we planned a trip to South Africa and I was very keen to take really good pictures while on safari, admiring intimate wildlife pictures a lot. Therefore, in a half day photo course I learned the basics with my first DSLR, a Nikon D80. From there on, I practically never stopped taking pictures, more or less on a daily basis and soon bought a full frame Nikon DSLR for the Africa trip, luckily being able to use some of the Nikon lenses my father owned. Now I love practically every aspect of photography.
Describe your overall photographic vision.
This is difficult to answer for me. In general, I try to catch a special moment. When I analyse my images, I clearly like most the ones that are unique with regard to the light, showing particular colours or colour combinations, which are somehow calm, cleaned-up and which tend to be minimal. Moreover, a particular toning is something I like to add sometimes for creating specific atmospheres. I also like long exposures, unusual views and perspectives as well as some surprising elements.
When I remember certain situations, I often have the particular light conditions in my mind – much more than e.g. corresponding faces, events or stories. This might be the reason why I try to photographically reproduce situations with a certain light condition and toning, representing the essence of scenes and moods which captured me, in particular in landscape photography. Hopefully, my pictures can transport some Zen atmosphere to the viewer.
Why are you so drawn by landscape photography and also by creatively edited florals?
First of all, staying in nature is something I enjoy a lot, practically I could stay outsides the whole day, getting lost in wild places and forgetting everything. Moreover, I live in an area which is so beautiful and variable: there are the large lakes, moorlands, landscape formed by former glaciers, wet unfertilized meadows, forests, protected areas but also mountains in a greater distance. Most photo spots can be easily reached on foot or by bike. Actually, also most of my published pictures, in contrast to the rejected ones, are taken not far from home.
In landscape photography I love that it is so surprising how an area you know by heart could change in light, colour, and mood from day to day or even from minute to minute, allowing to revisit certain places again and again without being bored.
One example is shown below: this usually is a rather uninteresting place in a parc but that morning, when I cycled to work I stopped there because of the mist and sun rays passing the trees.
For me, one of the most fulfilling aspects of landscape photography is to observe, to explore and being absorbed by the environment, e.g. feeling the mist or warm sun beams on the skin, hearing the falling leaves, smelling wet grass and fungi, sensing wet feet or even cold fingers. I usually do not complain when I get completely wet only because I wanted to be closer to a branch in the river. In particular, I enjoy being alone at a secret place and consider it a success if the viewer can at least feel part of my emotion when taken the photograph. Freeman Patterson, a Canadian Nature photographer expresses this better than I can do:
„Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being. It means looking beyond the labels of things and discovering the remarkable world around you."
The other aspect I love is how I get thrown back into the scenery when I process landscape images on the computer. In some instances, however, I like to add an artistic expression for a specific mood. Moreover, taking pictures on a daily basis increased my sensitivity towards the environment and changed my perception a lot, e.g. by noticing something which I would have normally walked by, like certain fish in the shallow regions of the lake, lady slipper orchids, reflections on the beach or observing of how the position of the sun is affected by the season.
The hunt for the special moment is something I really enjoy: it often happens that I am running towards a spot, adjusting ISO and aperture at the same time, trying to attach the polarizer and filter holder, just because of the light passing through the cloud or trees or just to be not too late for the special moment with for example the hoar frost on the reed or the reflection of jet trails. Being hours in nature while taking pictures is one of the few activities where my brain shuts down, forgetting everything and allowing to reach the so-called “flow” status.
Concerning edited floral shots: Flowers are my replacement drug, meaning when I do not have time to go out or the weather is too bad, flower photography is the solution, also because I can take pictures from flowers in my garden or in the meadows or forests in the vicinity. Moreover, I like tiny wild flowers a lot because they are so variable in their shape, colours or development stages and because I always was involved in some botanical activities since my time at the university.
In particular, I get enthusiastic if I can reveal an interesting aspect of the flower, e.g. by using selective focus and a wide-open aperture to draw the viewer’s attention to the most interesting part. Also, lens-baby lenses often help me to point this out.
What is more important to you, the mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
In landscape photography, it is clearly the mood for me. Although I value pictures of high technical quality, I am not a tech freak and tend to omit the cable release shutter or tripod if the shutter speed is high enough in my view. Luckily, my techy husband explains a lot and helps me in the decisions to buy a certain lens. However, I want to improve in this regard, e.g. trying to involve some focus stacking in landscape photography and also to get a little bit more comfortable with the more hidden functions in Photoshop. Still, in my view using filters or some investment in the camera equipment led to some improvement of my photographs. However, I also have a few published pictures taken “only” with a compact camera, e. g. this one or “Pertisau” above.
Therefore, if I have to choose to go back to the car to fetch my tripod or to catch the rays of light in the fading mist, I clearly would be in favour of the latter possibility. Instead of using a tripod all the time, I like to go up and down, turn left and right, go back and forth just to find the right position. Then, I tend forget my tripod, laying somewhere in the grass.
With floral shots it is not so much the mood which is important for me but more the story, like showing the fading of flowers or their effort to grow towards the light.
Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
I am more a spontaneous person. When I see something beautiful or interesting, I like to catch the moment immediately. When I have a look out of the window in the morning, I can anticipate how the clouds, mist, or sun will look like at the lake, all my planning is then to decide if I either sleep another hour or to hurry up.
Luckily, on my way to work I pass several photo spots, constantly checking whether it is worth to stop or not. Seldom, I broadly plan to take some pictures at specific conditions, e.g. when the lake is frozen or misty, the tide is low or on golden October days for example. Then it helps that while driving around, I constantly scout the region for interesting aspects, leading to my constantly growing personal location scout map I keep in mind.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I use the following cameras in the order of usage: Nikon Z7, Leica C-Lux (only recently bought for special environments), I phone 8 and Nikon D750. The lenses I use are typically from Nikon (e.g. Z 24-70 mm f/4 S, Z 14-30 mm f/4 S, AF-S 70-200 mm f/4, 105 mm Macro), plus some other lenses such as the Sigma 150 mm Macro lens, Lens baby lenses (Sol, Composer, Velvet 85 mm, Sweet 50) and some old lenses like the Meyer-Optik Görlitz Domiplan and Oristan, supplemented by a Gitzo bag and tripod, Lee and NISI filter.
What software do you use to process your images?
Since I only shoot in raw format, I use Lightroom Classic for basic adjustments and often Photoshop afterwards e.g. for local adjustments, sharpening and the removal of spots and tiny disturbing elements. Color Efex and Silver Efex from the NIK collection are tools I also use for further editing steps. Sometimes I work withTopaz, mainly for adding a painterly look and/or to add textures and rarely Luminar 3 or apps developed for mobiles only are used.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in landscape photography or florals and how do you get started?
Take more than less photos, analyse them all, be self-critical, ask yourself would you like to view this picture for a longer period, for example on a calendar sheet?
Ask others for their opinions, use photo platforms, take part in photo competitions, let your pictures curates or criticized by 1x, ask family members, friends or colleagues at work for their input. Personally, the curation votes in connection with „published“ or „rejected“ votes by 1x are for me the best feedback I can get and simply thereby, in my opinion, you can improve your pictures. I also learned a lot via workshops, online courses, reading books or journals and also viewing YouTube tutorials.
Maybe the most I learned is from studying the impressive pictures on 1X, by which I gained a diffuse general mindset of very attractive photographs. Moreover, curating pictures of others, in my view, sharpens your view for good/bad shots a lot since it can be easier to criticise other compositions than own ones.
Also, I find it quite useful to choose a certain spot, stick to it and take photographs regularly during different seasons, whether and light conditions.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
To be honest the influence is pretty unconscious: I guess that the images which I like generate a diffuse pattern which I follow somehow. Generally, I do not want to reproduce other styles and this is also the reason why so far, I did not study famous photographers bios or portfolios in depth. I know if I would compose music, I would automatically introduce known motifs from songs I heard into the composition.
Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
No, there is none, that a remember, which have had a particular noticeable influence on me.
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I would like to improve in quickly deciding about the best place to shoot. Moreover, I am attracted to drone photography, very much admiring drone images on 1x, like those of Jie Fischer (jie). But at the same time, I am repelled by the needed bureaucracy. One of my current ideas is to offer a course for pupils to learn taking more interesting shots with their mobiles. Generally, I always like to experiment, testing old lenses for their effects, playing with edits, shooting unusual things.
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
I like “Pastel winter” a lot: Somewhat unusually for me, I did some extra planning for this. It was a very cold period in February, leading to frozen areas in the shallow regions of lake Starnberg. I was in advance checking where the sun rises exactly in connection with the pods and then just waiting until the weather forecast predicted a clear sky and then woke up early enough to have setup the camera on the tripod at the right position and time and also being sure that the ice will really support the setup and me. The cold was actually hurting when I was waiting for the most beautiful light and colours and my fingertips nearly froze. The calm atmosphere and pastel colours are something I like on this image, as well as the contrast between the wood and ice texture; moreover, I can hear the cracking of ice, the wide-angle allowed me to be so close to the ice.
Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I like 1x a lot, much more than other platforms where the voters know the names of the photographers. So there is a lot of buddy voting. The blinded approach is something scientists really favour ;-). Moreover, there are so many inspiring photographers whom you get to know a little bit more, e.g. via these interviews. Thank you so much, dear Yvette, for providing me the opportunity for this interview, which is a real honour for me. I found it a pleasure to be forced to analyse myself and the images I shot.