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Landscape Photography Inspiration

German Landscape Photography Story

In this article, landscape photographer Mark Seawell shares his German landscape photography story; dicovering a passion for landscape photography and the unique nature of the German landscape. It first featured in Issue 29 of Light & Landscape Magazine.

My Unexpected Story

My unexpected photography story began in the rolling hills of Germany over a decade ago. I retired from the Air Force in 2005 while in England. My job took us briefly to Aviano, Italy and then to Germany where I worked at Ramstein Airbase, headquarters for the U.S. Air Force in Europe. My wife and quickly fell in love with the lush beauty of the German countryside and I decided to bring a camera along “for fun.” Little did I know that I had started a different journey that would span continents as I fell in love with the great beauty of the German countryside.

Morning light illuminates the misty land as summer ends - German landscape photography by Mark Seawell

Once I started bringing a camera for our walks, my interest in German landscape photography quickly grew and I wanted to know more. My background is technical by nature so reading about aperture, shutter speed and ISO came naturally to me. I learned about the golden hour, the rule of thirds and other technical aspects. I purchased my daughter’s Panasonic FZ-28 (too large for her purse) and roamed the German countryside close to Kaiserslautern in the world’s oldest VW Golf. In the beginning I always shot alone and enjoyed the solitude. I believe anything worth knowing is learned in solitude and I taught myself everything I could about capturing the land. 

The leading lines of a train track shrouded in mist - German landscape photography by Mark Seawell.

Study the Greats

In his time, my father was an avid golfer and a very gifted one. My love of knowledge came from him and one of his favorite sayings was “If you want to be great at anything, study the greats.” And that is how I stumbled across someone who would be my spiritual mentor in photography. Ansel Adams provided me much insight. It wasn’t just his pictures that I found inspirational but also his thoughts on the land and beyond. He taught me to appreciate the subtle nuance of black and white photography. Through his example, I learned that shades of grey can be just as beautiful, if not more, than color. Instead of learning just photography, Ansel’s examples taught me art, the courageous step away from the reproduction of physical reality to the elevation of the inner spirit.

Fockenberg-Limbach, Germany, as morning light arrives in full glory.

As my German landscape photography journey continued, I began to look at the world in a different light. The land began to reach out to me as I reached out to it, listening as it slowly revealed the inner beauty of the moment. The quiet storm of the rolling hills had a beauty all their own. My eyes started looking for the light and the elements that shaped it. I observed clouds floating above and the branches below. I looked for the winding roads in shadow or the train tracks that led to eternity. I listened for the light of morning and the shade of dusk but in the end it was all about the light, the inner light that provided fuel my for creativity.

Early morning and the mist covers a lone tree on the road to Reuschbach, Germany.

Artists Create

On the road of discovery another, deeper transformation took place, a metamorphosis of the mind. My goals changed from capturing a pretty landscape to capturing the spiritual essence of that moment, framed by the light. Light is the canvas on which we paint, the framework of all, and our creations exist within that body, this is inescapable and immutable law. Whether the photographer is inspired by the human landscape of the body or the beauty of the land, the elevation from photographer to artist must take place from within. Photographers capture a moment but artists strive to create inspirational beauty from that moment. My time chasing the light in the hills of Germany taught me that and it was a hard lesson to master.

Clouds obsure the German countryside around Haschbach on a moody Sunday morning - German landscape photography by Mark Seawell.

As the years rolled by my journey from photography to artist gradually grew. Germany was my canvas and I knew what I was looking for and what I wanted to say through my art. The photographer within was nothing more than a means to an end to for the expression of the artist. The land, this German landscape I loved so much had become a part of me. The mystery of a church steeple shrouded in mist with heavenly light pouring down from the skies above touched my soul.

A summer storm approaches the wheat fields in the hills above Kollweiler, Germany.

A New Canvas

They say that all good things come to an end. For us, the end came in the summer of 2014 when our time in Germany was up. After nine years at Ramstein Airbase and twenty two years abroad, we returned to where my journey in the military began, the wide open spaces of the west. But instead of northern California, where my career started, our new home would be northern Utah and the city of Ogden.

When I look back on the beginning of my German photography journey, the misty hills of Germany will forever hold a place in my heart. But now, a new canvas beckons and the wide open spaces of the American west are calling with exciting possibilities.

Light rains down on a lone tree in the fields of Steinwenden Germany on a lonely road.

“A world gone mad. It wears down the heart and empties out the soul leaving nothing but a numb feeling of hopelessness and despair. We look to the news and it is all bad. Turn off your computers, your phones and your fears and seek refuge in the colors of Autumn, the solitude of Winter, the hope of Spring and the warmth of Summer. Grab your hiking shoes and walk a beautiful shore. Grab your hiking shoes and climb that awesome mountain. This is where you’ll find me walking the path.” Mark Seawell

Mark Seawell

I am a semi-professional photographer of 13 years. My photography began in the rolling hills close to Ramstein Air Base in Germany where I worked after retiring from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years of service. We moved to Germany in 2005 and enjoyed our walks in the countryside of this immaculate land. One day I decided to bring a camera along to snap pictures of our journey and from moment I was hooked. The area where I lived didn’t have booming mountains or rivers but it did have a quiet beauty easily missed if one didn’t pay attention. My wife and I eventually opened a photography business while in Germany, selling to both Americans and Germans. I also started teaching workshops to lovers of the land in the area where we lived. I used Panasonic Micro Four Thirds from the beginning and recently started using Olympus and Panasonic. All the images in this article were taken only with Panasonic, from the G1 through the GX7.

www.instagram.com/markseawellphotography

A profile photo of landscape photographer Mark Seawell.