A German photographer's long-standing love affair with Australia
At seven, when Ingo Oeland moved from a picturesque German town to a bustling city, he carried with him, wonderful childhood memories and an enduring love for nature. Years later, when he took to photography, he turned his gaze and lenses towards – but obviously – nature and landscape. Today, the German photographer effortlessly straddles and captures two different worlds; Germany’s stark, pristine surroundings and Australia’s chaotic bursts of brilliant colours and wildlife.
Ingo’s tryst with photography started on his first trip to Australia. An amateur photographer, he carried a compact camera that only allowed him to see the final pictures after they had been developed. Dishearted with the low quality of the photographs he took, Ingo decided to learn photography from a friend and fellow photographer. He later returned to Australia with an SLR and fell in love with the myriad hues that his lenses now allowed him to see. Thus, began a life long love affair between a German and a continent that lay far from his home.
TAL caught up with the photographer to learn why Australia attracts him so much, his trajectory as a photographer and his favourite photographs.
Before we delve deeper into your photographs, please tell us something about yourself, and why does landscape photography attract you so much?
I was born in a small rural German town and was surrounded by nature- vast forests, lakes, and hills - from a very young age.
My parents loved being outdoors too, and would often take me along with them on long nature walks. These frequent walks and close proximity to nature instilled in me a warm appreciation and fascination for the great outdoors.
When I was seven, my mother and I moved to a big industrial city, which came as a huge cultural shock to me. It was like living in a concrete jungle with no nature to enjoy. But my mom, whenever she could, would take me out on small excursions to nearby towns feeding my hunger for nature.
I still live in the same industrial area but have found a place surrounded by conservation areas. I spend much time in my backyard creating habitats for endangered and threatened species. This activity means a great deal to me.
Is photography a profession or hobby to you?
I often find myself asking this question too! What makes a photographer a professional? Is it the number of photos sold or the ability to narrate a story through the pictures that push a photographer beyond the amateur label?
When I view the images clicked by my fellow photographers, I feel their work is par excellence; they are the true professionals. But they do not sell many pictures; sometimes not any. Does their abysmal economic rating stop them from being called professional?
On the other hand, I sell images worldwide, but I refrain from calling myself a professional, as there is still so much I don’t know. I am in a constant state of learning and will do so till I live.
What prompted your journey as a photographer? And how did you learn the art?
It all started with my first trip to Australia some years back. I didn’t have a decent camera on me and carried a compact camera, which did not have the advantage of viewing images after clicking them.
When I had the pictures developed on my return to Germany, I was deepy disappointed at the low quality of the images. A photo I was particularly excited about was that of a small brown snake resting under some branches. But in the picture that I had taken the snake was wholly blurred and no one would have comprehended what the image was trying to communicate.
Then a friend who was working as a photographer encouraged me to invest in an SLR camera which would enable me to view the images I take in real time.
Interestingly, I have always wanted to avoid modern cameras and its multiple functions of apertures, focal points, exposure times, etc. But, my friend promised to teach me how to handle the camera, and soon enough, I got myself a good SLR camera with two lenses before my next trip.
In a short period, I learnt how to operate the camera and became one of those that carry an entire backpack full of camera gear.
What elements of a setting attract you to take its photos? What is the story and thought process behind the images you take? Is there an emotion you want your pictures to evoke in the viewer?
Honestly, I separate the images I take into two categories; one that catches my attention, and others that meets the demands of my publishers.
Personally, I am attracted to remote and quiet places, but my work as a freelance photographer demands that I spend time in busy and popular areas too. I do not find joy in spending more than a day or two in big cities to get decent pictures that meet my publishers’ demands. It is dull, but it is work and has to be done.
On the other hand, the photographs that make my soul feel happy are the ones I take of nature. I want to show the viewer, through my photos, how spectacular and beautiful our planet is, and how important it is to care for the latter.
The pictures I take are an extension of myself. Anyone who wants to know more about me just has to take a look at my images.
How did growing up in picturesque yet stark settings of Germany have an impact on your photography?
Germany has some splendid landscapes and historical buildings, but I must say it didn’t inspire my foray into photography. I loved exploring the sights Germany has to offer but never had any intentions of taking their pictures. The wish to do that came much later.
You keep visiting Australia to pursue your dream of being a nature/landscape photographer. What about the Australian landscape attracted you to it?
Though I live in Germany, I visit Australia quite frequently. I spent a couple of years in Australia, but I always like coming back to Germany.
I did think of moving to Australia, but there are so many outstanding landscapes and nature photographers there, and there was no need for one more.
One of the factors that attracted me to Australia is its incredibly diverse wildlife! People are either scared or curious about anything foreign, and I was the latter. Australia is so different from Germany! I am fascinated by the Outback. Endless plains, the beautiful just out of reach of the horizon, minimal population; you don’t find these experiences in Europe.
From a photographer’s point of view, how different is Australia as a nature\landscape inspiration compared to Germany? And, would you ever choose between the two?
One of the most significant differences between Australia and Germany are the colours! Australia’s natural beauty offers a breathtaking and spectacular colour range from lush green to red sands, making it a stellar photography subject.
Many of my German friends often ask me if the colours in my photos of Australia are real or edited! They can’t fathom any place being so rich in such intense colours. Some of them have even accompanied me to Australia just to witness the vivid landscape imagery first hand.
It may sound strange, but sometimes I feel I know more about the Australian landscape than Germany. I don’t think I will ever stop visiting Australia.
Has any picture been challenging to take and touched you emotionally?
An image I took of Uluru during my last visit to Australia will always be special to me. I visited the site many times before, and every time it would offer something unique to view. But I longed to see the monolith structure while raining, imagining the sight would be spectacular!
Then, unexpectedly, my dream came true last spring. On a bright and sunny day, out of the blue, a thunderstorm rolled in quickly from the west. Thunder, lightning, pouring rain and the majestic Uluru! The storm moved on quickly gracing us with a truly indescribable vision- red rock, post-storm light bathed in a dazzling rainbow. I was so stunned. I almost forgot to take a picture!
Uluru has always been special to me and getting a view like that was an unforgettable gift.
Which photographer's work has influenced you the most and why?
No one photographer has inspired me. I have learnt and been inspired by many different amazing photographers’ works. I always highly appreciate the ones sharing their knowledge with others as we all learn from each other.
I am not a big fan of those who shy away from sharing their work or knowledge with fellow photographers. In my opinion, we all will get much more when we share and work together instead of trying to keep others out.
What kind of challenges do you face as a nature photographer? And how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is always to get the best out of the existing conditions. I have limited time on trips, and the weather does not care what I’d like to have. Sometimes I may have had to leave the spot with nothing worthwhile, while other times I may have got a marvellous shot, and experienced something I had never before.
Photography has taught me a lot about life, like patience, and how integral it is to a good photographer. It has also taught me to accept things I cannot change.
Which are the other countries you would like to explore in the future, and why?
I am currently working on a project based out of Iceland, and that would take some years to complete. I enjoy exploring my projects in depth to learn about it better and to come up with a product that is unique and different. That is why I visit a place more than once in a bid to learn more about it. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to choose the kind of work I would like to do.
What has been the most challenging photography assignment you have ever undertaken? And why?
My most challenging work was being a photography guide for three winners of Tourism Victoria and South Australia. It was a completely new role for me to manoeuvre, and had to utilise my knowledge to guide others. Though the stint was successful I have stayed away from similar workshops as they can be quite difficult. I have been asked many times to reconsider my decision; maybe I will soon.
Do you find the profession economically viable in today's world of smartphones? What advice would you give to young up and coming photographers who are struggling to make enough money to pursue this profession?
It is getting harder to sell images! The market is full of photographs, and social media presence has lead to oversaturation of pictures. Fortunately, there are still publishers and companies looking for good quality and high-resolution photography. But one thing hasn’t changed as much, and that is travel and nature photography!
It’s a frequent question up and coming photographers ask, how to become a travel/nature/landscape photographer? And, I often find myself telling them it is not an easy genre. Many aspiring photographers wrongly assume that this genre of photography comprises just having fun while travelling the world. Nothing could be further from the truth! Of course, you travel, but to get a good picture one has to weather numerous storms both literally and metaphorically; stand in one place for hours or days at an end. And, after you have taken your preferred shot, you will spend hours in front of your computer editing them. That’s the real work!
My advice is to be focused on a topic or theme. Work hard and create a name for yourself in the niche of photography you prefer, then the work becomes slightly easier.
Where can one see the display of your photographs? Do you do commission work?
Since I work as a freelancer, most of my work is available to be viewed on my social network or website. Depending on the enquiries I might do commission work too.
To buy prints or commission work, follow the photographer on his Instagram,
or log onto his website