I recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Breitung, a landscape photographer from Germany. You may be familiar with Michael’s YouTube channel where he shares tutorials and tips from his photography trips in various parts of the world. Michael’s portfolio includes beautiful photos from Europe, North America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
I enjoyed getting to know more about Michael and his work, and I’m sure you will too.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with photography?
I’m a software engineer from Germany, currently working in the automotive industry. With landscape photography I started in late 2008. At first I had the desire to somehow document my travels. But I also wanted to finally create my own content for post processing. Because long before I started with photography I was a keen user of Photoshop – I think I started with Photoshop 6. This is also the reason why for me Photography and Post Processing are closely connected.
In the beginning I watched lots of tutorials and listened to podcasts about photography. My favourite resource back then was www.tmelive.com, which unfortunately no longer produces new content. But even from the older podcasts and daily critiques one can still learn a lot, which is what I did.
I also experimented with different fields of photography, trying product and studio photography. But in the end I decided to focus solely on landscape photography, which was the most fun and provided the best balance to my day job. Being out in nature is just a great way to relax for me.
How would you describe your photographic style?
I’d say my photography is colourful, full of details and has a bit of a painterly look to it. I always loved wide scenic landscapes, great sweeping vistas in which a viewer can get lost. Creating photos, which capture the atmosphere of a scene was always a goal of mine and I developed my style with that goal in mind.
What is the best advice you ever received from another photographer?
That first and foremost you should photograph for yourself and not to please an audience. I’m not sure where I heard or read it the first time but it’s actually very important.
I take photos, which I love to look at. If other people think they are too colourful, that’s ok. If my photos aren’t colourful enough to hit the first page on 500px, that’s also ok. What’s really important is that I have fun during the process of creating my photos and that they reflect some of that joy. If I can look at my older photos and they bring back fond memories, that’s what counts for me.
So that’s the foundation. Based upon it I try to market my photos and find an audience for them, but I would not change or compromise my style in order to grow that audience.
What is one important lesson you’ve learned through your own photography?
It took me some years to realize, but it’s not about the photos, it’s about the experiences. The quantity and quality of photos I get out of a trip should never define, if a trip was good or bad. Travelling, heading out into nature, hiking, camping – those are always great experiences.
But in the past the joy of travelling could sometimes be diminished, if, for example, I wasn’t able to take a spectacular photo for a few days or weeks. I sometimes get focused too much on results. This can be frustrating and that frustration ultimately blocks creativity.
It’s much better to just enjoy the time when you’re out chasing the light, even if you don’t catch it. This is something I constantly remind myself of, although it’s not always easy. But the more I travel, the more photos I take or don’t take, the easier it gets.
What are some of your favorite places to photograph in Germany?
I love the Alps. It’s a place where one can still experience nature in Germany, which is not always easy since large parts are densely populated and it’s often hard to find a subject without signs of civilization intruding your field of view.
The best thing about the Alps is that there are still countless views, which haven’t yet been photographed to death or at least aren’t popular on Instagram yet.
A place that has become very popular though, but is still one of my favourites, is Lake Gerold near Mittenwald. When I was there the first time eight years ago there weren’t that many photos of it on the internet. Now I see photos of that place even from international photographers. But for good reason.
Tell us a few dream locations that you would love to visit, but haven’t yet had the opportunity.
I certainly want to visit Patagonia, Iceland and Greenland someday. But currently I think they are too popular and crowded with landscape photographers. And I generally prefer to visit locations which aren’t trending too much. It’s actually getting harder and harder to find those nowadays.
I also fell in love with Australia last year. During a 6 months journey around the world we travelled along Australia’s east coast for 5 weeks. But there’s still so much to see and explore. So Australia’s South, West and Tasmania are definitely high on my list of dream locations.
How do you plan or scout for a trip or shoot?
I actually have a series of articles on my blog about my planning and scouting workflow when it comes to photographing seascapes (Photographing Seascapes Part 1, and Photographing Seascapes Part 2), But to put it in a nutshell, it always starts with inspiration, which I get from photos I see on the internet. For this I follow photographers on Facebook, 500px and Instagram. And when I see a photo I like I try to find out where it was taken.
I might use Google Earth or apps like Planit [iTunes Link, Google Play Link] then to pin down a location. Planit also helps to research the best time to photograph it, similar to Photographer’s Ephemeris, but with much more possibilities.
But what’s more important than planning for me is scouting. During my travels around the world, for example, I didn’t plan as usual. Often I didn’t know the spots for my photos beforehand. I did much more hiking and exploring and it then felt more rewarding when I was able to take a good photo.
What software do you use for post processing?
I prepare all my photos in Lightroom, export them to tiff and then spend most of the time working on them in Photoshop [editor’s note: see Michael’s tutorials here] I still use CS6, which was the last version you could actually buy. I haven’t yet felt the necessity to upgrade to the creative cloud.
Your YouTube videos seem to be pretty popular. What do you enjoy the most about creating educational content for photographers?
When I started with photography I learned a lot from tutorials. Then with time as I took decent photos myself and started to grow an audience, I often got questions about my processing, about technique or about equipment.
Writing the same answer emails again and again I figured it might be a good idea to simply record what I had learned and just link to it in the future. So first there was kind of a demand for it.
But as I recorded more and more videos it started becoming fun, same for my blog. The last months those videos themselves have become more and more of a creative outlet for me. Talking about the concepts I learned about photography the past 9 years and trying to create value with those videos is actually a good exercise and something I really enjoy. And I hope my viewers can get something out of it.
Aside from photography, what hobbies and interests do you have?
Travelling is my biggest interest. Last year my girlfriend and I travelled the world for six months and it was certainly not the last time we went vagabonding. Besides that I love to spent time in nature, be it to go hiking or to do sports.
I also like to read about and learn new things. When it comes to personal education we really live in a great time. It’s basically how I got started in photography.
Connect with Michael Breitung:
If you’d like to follow Michael or get in touch with him, please use these links.
Photos used in this post are © Michael Breitung, used with permission