For some, landscape photography is a way of life. For Felix Röser, it hasn’t been easy paving his way in this genre, though it has led to a certain happiness that he has been unable to attain elsewhere.
Based in Germany, this humble photographer picked up his first camera at the age of 14 and went freelance in a professional capacity only a few years ago. An apprenticeship in commercial photography soon evolved into a deep passion for capturing nature around the world.
These days, Felix is an avid photo guide for Iceland Photo Tours, though he continues to explore the environment through his own experiences. We sat down with Felix to discuss how he ended up in Iceland, the virtues he had to learn as a landscape photographer, as well as the emotional inspiration behind his photographs.
Hello Felix! It seems that you’ve been on an interesting path to Iceland, first starting many years ago. Tell us a bit about how you came to fall in love with this beautiful country and its majestic nature.
Hi. Well yes, it was back in 2012 when I started my own business as a professional photographer. With the income from my first big job, I booked a flight to Iceland without knowing what I had to expect. I had seen a few pictures and heard a lot of cool stuff about Iceland so I wanted to go there. It soon became one of the best experiences of my life.
I traveled alone with my backpack all around the island for three weeks. I hitchhiked and took the bus to go from location to location. On my way, I met so many amazing people and of course, the landscape was so otherworldly and overwhelming. I had never seen anything like that before.
On my first day, I visited Seljalandsfoss waterfall at sunset and as I took the first pictures of it, I knew that I wanted to be a landscape photographer next to my business as a commercial photographer. I truly believe that this trip changed my life in so many good ways! So I have had a really deep and grateful relation to Iceland since then.
Had you had much photographic experience prior to departing on this trip from Germany?
I had experience in lots of different fields of photography such as portrait photography and commercial photography. Not so much in landscape photography, so it was quite challenging to have these beautiful places in front of my lens and not really knowing what I had to do to take a shot. But still, I managed to get some nice shots, and I even have some of those shots in my portfolio.
Northern Lights. Photo by: 'Felix Röser'.
Was there anything specific that you can remember that made you want to become a photographer, particularly one that specialises in landscapes?
As I mentioned before, it was that moment at Seljalandsfoss, when I looked through the pictures I had just shot and realised that it made me feel so ridiculously happy! But also, I love to be outside and enjoying nature in all kinds of ways. Kayaking, climbing, mountain-biking.
In Iceland, I realised that I could combine my love for nature and photography.
Describe a bit of the process of what you went through in your early years as a photographer to get noticed. Did you enter competitions? How did you start building your portfolio?
Yeah, it was tough in the beginning but I benefited a lot from what I call “the golden age of social media”. I was well-connected with lots of upcoming photographers within the German landscape photography scene, such as Stefan Hefele, Felix Inden and Dennis Polkläser, to name just a few of them.
That helped a lot being influenced by them, I got to know more and more people from the international photography scene as well.
Also, 500px was a huge help back in those days. I also entered competitions and got some features in important magazines.
Diamond Ice Beach. Photo by: 'Felix Röser'.
Tell us about some of the virtues that you had to learn as a landscape photographer.
If you love what you do for a living, this is the biggest gift you can ever get, I guess! I never have the feeling that I am wasting my time just to earn money, because I earn my money with something that makes me happy and relaxes me.
Of course, it is not always easy and I do not earn a lot, but that is not important! It is better to have a good life and to enjoy what you are doing than to have lots of money and be in a stressful environment. Money can’t buy true happiness.
Exactly what is it that you want to communicate to your audience with your photographs, and how do you actually get your work to do that?
In a formal way, I always try to create depth in my pictures with strong foreground elements and many layers to lead the viewer into the picture, to make them feel like they are getting sucked into the picture.
In an emotional way, I always try to create dreamy atmospheres with special mood lighting and vibrant colours. I want to raise awareness for the beauty of nature and that our world is a place we have to protect! If that works!? I hope so!
Aldeyjarfoss. Photo by: 'Felix Röser'.
Where do you find inspiration besides nature?
I love to see what other artists do, not only in photography but also from painters and sculptors. I think photographers can learn a lot from how painters see the world and how they compose pictures. It doesn’t matter if it is abstract art or realistic. The way they use colours and create depth on a two-dimensional medium is really inspiring. Artists that really have an impact on my work include Caspar David Friedrich, Werner Knaupp and Gerhard Richter.
Vestrahorn. Photo by: 'Felix Röser'.
Tell us about the photographic equipment that you have in your kit.
I have a Canon EOS 5D Mk IV and a variety of Canon L-Lenses. My favorite one is definitely the Canon 11-24mm for landscapes. I also use soft GND-Filters from NiSi in different intensities.
We all know that camera gear isn’t everything. How would you recommend that others improve in landscape photography?
It helps a lot if you look closely at pictures from photographers whom you admire. Try to analyse what makes these pictures special in terms of composition and colours. Then when you are on location, try to implement what you’ve learned from this analysis within your own compositions.
And the most important thing: Never be lazy on location and always try to find the best perspective possible. Don’t be satisfied too easily with your pictures.
Aurora Borealis. Photo by: 'Felix Röser'.
You’ve guided several photography workshops in Iceland now. What would you say are the key benefits and disadvantages of being part of the team at Iceland Photo Tours?
The best thing is that you meet so many incredible photographers and even guide workshops with them! You just never stop learning when you are open to new ideas and new people. Everyone on the team is a world-class photographer and everyone has got their own style that you can learn from.
Mmmh...Disadvantages!? Haven't found one so far :D
Seljalandsfoss. Photo by: 'Felix Röser'.
What has been your most memorable moment during an Iceland Photo Tours workshop and why?
It is difficult to say… there are lots of good memories! But one night we went out to Vestrahorn for the northern lights. We had been there for sunset too and had a really bad sandstorm there. So everybody was concerned about going back to that place and thought we were crazy.
We got out of the bus and the wind was icy and really strong. We walked out on the reflecting icefield right at the bottom of the mountain, set up our tripods and got ready to shoot.
Five minutes later, the Aurora showed up and everybody was cheering. With the wind and that otherworldly location at night, we felt like we were in the middle of a fantasy movie, all standing in line, resisting an evil force. It was a great memory to see all the happy faces back in the bus after the shooting.
Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks. Photo by: 'Felix Röser'.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received from one of your colleagues at Iceland Photo Tours?
“When you go for dinner in Höfn, take the fish and chips”! Thanks Raymond, it was delicious!!
Nowadays, it can be hard to get noticed in the field of photography. What advice do you have for someone who says they want to pursue a career photographing landscapes?
Well that is a tough question. I would say: Be patient, don’t try too hard. Try to connect with others, relax and have a good supportive background from your family and friends.
Smooth sands. Photo by: 'Felix Röser'.
Share with us some of your future plans and dreams.
For this summer, I will go on a road-trip around Europe together with my girlfriend. We organised a rooftop tent for my car and so we are able to stay wherever we want and discover a lot of places all around Europe.
And one of my dreams since my childhood is to see the Himalayas. I hope I can make this dream come true in the near future!
Join Felix on a photography adventure around Iceland! Check out our range of winter photography workshops.