Preserving the World’s Beauty through Photography – An Interview with Wiebke Schroeder

Wiebke Schröder is a Germany-based photographer specialising in landscape photography. She runs her website under her trail name, Lille Ulven (The little wolf). Though she relies on her degree in computer science for her income, photography is never far from her mind. She has exhibited her work widely, as well as featuring in multiple magazines. An enthusiastic cyclist, she has travelled the world with two wheels and a heavy backpack full of cameras, capturing the moment with her lens. 

I spoke with Wiebke to find out more about her beautiful images.  

What got you into photography?

I got my hands on my grandparents’ old camera at age five. Unfortunately, said camera required me to paint the ‘photos’ myself. For my following birthday, my parents gifted me a pocket camera – back in the days of analogue photography. From then onwards, a camera would follow me on every journey.

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 Photo by Wiebke Schroeder – Vestrahorn, Iceland, at sunrise.

Do you have a favourite genre of photography and why? Tell me a bit more about what you shoot.

I am primarily a landscape photographer with some macro, architecture and night sky photos. Since I consider myself an introvert, talking to strangers about how to pose for a photograph is way beyond my comfort zone. So, waiting for the best possible light during the short timeframes that I am at a location, or making the best of it when I get there, is more natural. 

What kind of influences do you draw inspiration from?

Inspiration comes in many forms, from TV documentaries to coffee-table books and travel guides, social media, and the small photo club I am a member of. Of course, there is also the more personal inspiration from kindness to people who make the best out of any situation. 

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Photo by Wiebke Schroeder – Dyavolski Most (Devil’s Bridge) in the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains converted to a Cyanotype.

Do you have any favourite photographers or creative influences that have informed your photographic style, and why?

I have a few photographers whose work I like, including the big names in landscape photography, Ansel Adams and Art Wolfe, and the nature photographer Paul Nicklen – though I don’t see myself diving in the Arctic anytime! However, my most significant influence, in style and on a personal basis, would be Ivo Danchev, with his preservative photography of the Bulgarian traditions and nature. Going on photo tours with him was as if all the pieces fell into the right places at once.  

What kit do you shoot with, and what’s your favourite bit of kit?

Currently, it is a Canon 5D Mark IV with a 16-35mm f2.8, a 24-70mm f4, a 70-200 f4 and a 100-400mm f4.5-5.6.

My favourite piece of kit is always the one that helps capture my idea at the time. I should mention my new hiking backpack as well; after all, it’s the one piece of kit that has been making my days a lot easier. Whatever distinctive photo backpacks I used previously were never 100% right. Either they got too heavy from the gear I wanted to carry, could not fit it all in, or had no room left for something to eat and spare clothing. Something was always wrong, and more often than I can count, more than one thing was not to my liking. I recently purchased a Vaude Asynchrone 48+8l backpack and it is ticking all my boxes for a great piece of kit.

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Photo by Wiebke Schroeder – Oil in water with a colour gradient as the background.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am preparing for my solo exhibition, “Unknown Bulgaria,” at the Kulturgut Ehmken Hoff in Dörverden, Germany in October this year. Preparing that exhibition, combined with a day job as a database developer, does not leave much time to go on new photoshoots. However, there is a tour to Madeira in planning for later this year. And early next year, I will finally be able to return to Bulgaria. As far as I know, the plans for the Bulgaria trip will include some portraiture; however, since I don’t speak Bulgarian, I will consider it a new form of landscape photography! 

What would you say is your goal with your photography?

I would love for my photography to fund itself and, while doing so, contribute to preserving the world’s beauty.

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Photo by Wiebke Schroeder – Lighthouse of Pilsum (Easter Frisia, Germany), also known as the Otto Lighthouse after a German comedian.

As a female photographer, do you feel that you face any particular challenges? Do you feel that the industry is favourable towards women, or would you like to see any changes?

One should not look at the photography industry as one united industry across all types of photography. In some areas of photography like wedding, portraiture, family, newborn, pet and event photography, there are more females than men, and some of the known stars would be Annie Leibovitz and Anne Geddes, for example.

However, I would not be able to name a single famous female photographer when it comes to landscape photography. This lack of female photographers in landscape photography is not solely the industry’s fault. 

Let’s face it: photographing outside in some dark areas is unsafe for women. So, fewer women than men would be going down that route, which means fewer women than men will get their work displayed in magazines and galleries. Additionally, women tend to stand in their own way. Let me give some examples of this. Most women would only consider themselves experts in a subject after being able to cover some 90% of it, whereas men often consider themselves experts, knowing only about 5% of it. Additionally, many women believe they can only submit their work if it is flawless. With that combination, out of 1,000 submitted photographs, women will only have captured a minority. 

I read a letter to the editor of a photo magazine some years ago, where a woman complained that the winners of the magazine competition were primarily men and, hence, she would no longer participate. If said magazine receives 10,000 photos per competition and only 100 are from women, the chances that a woman will win are slim. However, if we do not contribute because ‘women never win’, they will never win because their work is not there.

There is, of course, also the fact that some men will only promote other men. However, you will often find that women also choose to promote men when they reach that position. So, unless women start the same type of networking and promoting amongst other women and stop the catfights, there will never be a change. We have made a good start with groups like SheClicks, She Snaps, Nikon Female Faces and hopefully more that I have yet to learn about. 

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Photo by Wiebke Schroeder – Sunset over Rømø, Denmark.

What advice would you give to budding photographers?

First and foremost, learn how to use your camera in manual mode (including aperture priority and time / shutter priority) instead of relying on the pre-programmed landscape/portrait/macro modes. Once you know how to use your camera in manual mode, your images will improve because you can put your spin on the outcome and develop your unique style. The best thing I did for myself was to get a camera without landscape/portrait/macro mode because it forced me to go manual.

Secondly, keep submitting your work even if the last ten winners were all men. A serious competition judging panel should look at the work submitted first. They will not check the first names of the photographers and throw all photographs from female-sounding photographers out. So, you have a chance as long as you submit your work. However, if you do not submit your work, you won’t be able to win. 

Thirdly, help other female photographers by offering constructive criticism (when asked for it), guidance, encouragement, and promotion when you get to that position. 

And remember, if any man tells you that you cannot do something because of your gender, it is not that you cannot do it because of your gender. It is because they are afraid you’d be better at it than they are. 

View more of Wiebke’s work at her website or follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Photographer, Wiebke Schroeder
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