A LIFE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY AND NATURE

The story of my photography begins in Iceland. At age eighteen, I decided to hike alone across the country’s southern plateau. At the time, my peers thought I must have been out of my mind. I paid for the camera I used on this trip with proceeds from the 1rst image I sold to daily newspapers and specialty journals in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and the United States.

The year before, I had managed to capture an image of a rare occurrence of ball lightning; it was more by accident than cunning. I was standing as I always do during thunderstorms at the skylight, trying to shoot the lightning, when suddenly a massive bolt lit up the sky. A sphere formed in its center that hovered for a few seconds, beaming with light, only to vanish with a dull report like nothing I’d ever heard. Not knowing what I had photographed, I posted the picture to a storm watchers’ forum. Within hours I had heard from Dr. Alexander Keul, a leading ball lightning researcher. A er various inquiries, all of which confirmed the authenticity of the photo, the image was t for publication. The sale raised enough money for my first camera. I was ready to go to Iceland. All told I covered 189 km (118 mi.) with a pack that weighed in at 36 kg (80 lbs.), loaded with thirteen days’ provisions, a tent, a sleeping bag, cooking gear, and other means of survival in Iceland. I discovered my love of nature and photography. Most people’s brains—mine included—are not set up to retain a beautiful experience or a fascinating landscape, no matter how impressive, in the form of a palpable memory. My first camera changed this for me. Its images let me transport myself back to moments I want to be able to recall for as long as I live. My photography expeditions accumulated in the following years: I paddled by kayak along the west coast of Greenland; camped in the forests of Alaska and Canada; climbed volcanoes without permission; waited, shivering with frost, for months to see an aurora; and kayaked through the dark among the alligators of Louisiana’s swamps.

At all times I hauled my photography gear, which expanded with every trip. Without the images to document what I’d done, the stories would have been just that: stories. While I was busy building up my portfolio, I founded a center for photography classes and expeditions in Wil, Switzerland. My wife, Iris, manages the entire travel agency and administers the courses, and together we teach more than seven hundred annual participants, about one hundred of whom accompany our guided photography tours of Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Canada, Namibia, Scotland, Norway, and many other destinations. From the very beginning, my photography was meant to record nature at its most beautiful moments. If at sunset the sky wasn’t glowing red, then I would come calling until it did. I refuse to engage in any practice of manipulating photographs. The world such as it is already treats us to surreal colors and moods of light. Coming along after the fact and intensifying them is ethically unsound. The true heroine of all the images shown on my website is therefore nature itself, rather than the photographer. My task is merely to demonstrate to all beholders the wonders of our planet, and to show what needs protecting.