While others explore faraway lands, nature photographer Ales Krivec prefers to unearth the hidden beauty of his home in Slovenia. This talented artist is well-known for his dreamy style, characterised by enchanting glimpses into the woodlands, mountains and extraordinary landscapes of the Julian Alps.
This month, we had the opportunity to chat with Ales about how he came to be involved in photography, what inspires him to capture the world in images, as well as conservation and environmental awareness when practicing photography in new destinations.
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Hello Ales! Thank you for chatting with us. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? How did you get your start in photography? Was it always landscape work or did you get involved in any other genres?
I started with photography about 5 years ago when I bought my first DSLR. The reason why I started is probably a bit unusual. I develop WordPress Themes and that is my primary profession. I was buying images from different stock markets like Shutterstock to use in the Themes. One day, I thought it would be nice if I could make my own images and use them in my Themes. That's how I got into photography but this soon evolved from making just a few stock images to an obsession with landscape photography. I believe the theme which used only my landscape images turned out eventually to be great!
Alpine ibexes. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
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Do you prefer to photograph close to home or do you find faraway places more inspiring? Are there any special places that inspire you the most to create new work?
I am actually not a big fan of travel. The destinations are always great but the actual process of travelling tires me a bit. That is probably why all my images have been taken close to my home, mostly within the radius of only 30 kilometres from my house.
The Julian Alps are a special place for me, especially one mountain in particular, Mt. Bovski Gamsovec. It’s known for very diverse flora and fauna and a great view over the north wall of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Mt. Triglav. Each year, I hike to this mountain in early June to photograph Alpine ibexes, the true kings of Slovenia’s high mountains. Some of my favourite images have come from this place.
Prisojnik mountain in the Julian Alps of Slovenia. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
Are there any particular places that you have had to get to know better, before being able to capture them?
That would be the Italian Dolomites. The first time that I visited them a few years back, it was due mainly in part to the amazing mountain passes and roads that were perfect for cycling. It was a nice way to get familiar with all of those roads first on a bike and just enjoy the scenery. After that, I made several trips for photography to capture these amazing mountains.
You have an incredible portfolio of images from Slovenia. Can you talk a little about what draws you to photographing your own country, as well as a little about the journey involved in capturing these images?
I think Slovenia is a lot more diverse than my images tend to show. I focus mainly on the Alpine environment, since it's right next to my hometown. However, Slovenia also has a vineyard region, a small coast, Karst environment with a lot of caves and vast forests with a dense bear population (probably the highest number of bears in this part of Europe). So, the possibilities are endless, whether you are a landscape or a wildlife photographer.
Perhaps the biggest factor that can affect the type of images you capture is that in order to get any good views within the Julian Alps, you'll have to hike quite a bit in. It's the opposite to the Dolomites, where a lot of iconic locations are very easily reachable by car or cable car. In the Julian Alps, you have to first hike 1000-1500 vertical metres to reach the best locations. If you want to make images of Alpine ibexes in the first morning light, then you'll have to start hiking at about 3am when it’s still pitch dark.
Kriški podi. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
The difficulty involved in taking these images must make them all the more rewarding, particularly given that you have a very unique take on nature. Tell us a little about your photographic style and how you’ve managed to create your own unique look. How do you differentiate yourself from other photographers?
I think that this is pretty simple. Everyone who takes a lot of images and then processes them will eventually come to its own style. It’s just about taking thousands of images of different subjects and then taking the time to process them to your liking. And then through the years, your images will start to stand out a bit as your style is more developed.
I don’t really think that my work differentiates much from the others. We are all in love with nature in some way and try to capture its beauty in the best possible light.
Do you pre-visualise and plan your shoots down to the smallest detail, or do you prefer to create images spontaneously?
I do both, but I more often do things spontaneously. I will just pick a location in the evening and go there for the sunrise.
Some of the Milky Way images have been carefully planned, as you need to know the exact position of the stars according to your foreground subject.
There are a few locations in Slovenia that are often foggy in a perfect way, meaning that only the church on top of the hill will be above the fog, which is a perfect setup for great minimalistic images. So all you have to do to increase the chances of choosing the correct day is to pay attention to the weather forecast.
Birch in a blizzard. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
Have there been times that you’ve had to revisit your favourite places many times to achieve the required result? Can you tell us more about your method of working?
Yes, I often visit the same places again and again. I used to go to Lake Bled a lot when I was still in the early process of learning photography. It’s an iconic place that always has a lot to offer but lately, it has become very crowded with tourists, so I don’t go there anymore.
I also visit the same mountains a few times a year in search of mountain wildlife, which is hard to find and photograph, so the only option you have is to go there often.
And those churches on top of the hills I mentioned earlier are also a place worth revisiting many times as the images can be really amazing in perfect conditions.
What do you want to achieve with your photography? Of your images, which one would you say best exemplifies that goal as a whole? How does it do that?
I think my favourite images are those of wildlife in the high mountains. I think these best represent what I really want to photograph the most and show to the rest of the world.
Mountain goat. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
What challenges you most these days with shooting? From the world of photography, what keeps you motivated or inspired?
The biggest challenge is shooting wildlife in the mountains in winter conditions. I don’t have any really great winter images of the ibexes yet and it is my goal for the future.
I don’t need any special motivation as photography is something I really like to do. I guess the only extra push comes from my yearly calendar because it’s nice to connect your best 12 images of the year into a calendar that tells a short story of the whole year.
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Do you prefer working to a particular project, series or theme, or do you find that creating individual images is more rewarding?
I always work towards individual images. The only good series I have are from when the conditions were so unique that I was able to make several good images that tell the story of a particular morning, evening and night.
Magical morning. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
For photographers who are trying to get their work seen and to establish a portfolio, what advice would you give?
I worked a lot on my Facebook and Instagram pages, even with some sponsored content, which helped me show my images to more people. The audience I have is not huge but it’s enough to get valuable feedback, especially on Facebook where I have a bigger audience.
I like a website called 1X, which is a curated gallery and only the best images are accepted. This has helped me to improve a lot and it’s a good feeling when a few of your images are finally accepted for display.
The only advice I can give is to publish regularly, but only the best content. I think sponsored promotions can also be a good way to show off your content to more people. It just has to be focused and done well with quality content, so that users don’t take it like some kind of annoying advertisement.
Daffodil garden. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
In this day and age, the preservation of the environment is becoming a bigger concern. As photography is an influential medium, do you use the power of your photographs to promote conservation and environmental awareness? Do you have any thoughts about how photographers, in general, can become more involved in this important matter?
In the Julian Alps, this problem only become apparent in the last few years. Only 10 years ago, foreign tourists in our Alps were pretty scarce. Our mountain wildlife is already pretty adapted to people, so you can get really close to Alpine ibexes (mountain goats are more careful), but the sudden increase of hikers is surely bothering them a bit.
Currently, I think the biggest problem is that some rules in the Triglav National Park are not enforced properly. For instance, you're not allowed to swim in the mountain lakes or to fly a drone in the park. However, tourists still do all those things and its mostly because they are not informed properly of what they can and can’t do in the park. Perhaps as photographers, we could do more to promote awareness by including simple descriptions with our images. For instance, next to the image of the lake, I could write a caption about how swimming in the lake is not allowed due to its very sensitive ecosystem. This might help others to understand the area and to become proactively involved in its conservation.
St Thomas Church. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
Let’s look a little at the business aspect of photography. Besides social media, how do you market your photography?
I think social media covers over 90% of my marketing. Most people will see my images via Instagram and Facebook. I occasionally write a short photo story on my website and while some visitors will also come from Google, the majority is still from social media.
I sell my calendar on Etsy also and while it will generate a few sales, the majority comes from Facebook.
Websites like 1x, 500px and Juzaphoto are great for showing your work to the other photographers and it’s really nice to receive their feedback.
Winter sky. Photo by: 'Ales Krivec'.
Do you have any plans for exhibitions, books or any interesting projects coming in the near future? Can you tell us a bit more about your artistic plans for the next couple of years?
I just had my first solo exhibition this year and I plan to have another one in the next two years. I have an idea to create a publication of 101 black and white images, since I really like this type of photography and I think it’s still more than viable to do.
Probably the biggest project will always be the calendar, but not just for the purpose of making a product and selling it – more that it motivates me to make a selection of my best images of the year. It’s always fun to first select about 50 images and then compare them and evaluate them, before making the final list of 12 images, that represent each year in the best way.
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