on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

A Mindful Approach to a Familiar Place

The story behind a picture

Peter Richter

As an amateur outdoor photographer living in Vienna, I enjoy spending a lot of time in nature and try to share my experiences. I first became familiar with analog black and white photography in my youth, and I was always interested in the whole process from image composition to finalising the print. Later on I turned to digital techniques and deepend my knowledge in image processing and printing. My work mainly consists of landscape images from Austria and other European countries. I focus on intimate landscape images, first of all trees and forests.


The reason why I decided to write "A Story Behind a Picture“ was my own surprise at one of my latest images from the Forest Quarter, an Austrian region that I am familiar with for more than forty years.

Forest Quarter is the northwestern part of the Austrian state of Lower Austria, bordering Bohemia in the Czech Republic to the north. Geologically it is part of the Bohemian Massif that stretches over most of the Czech Republic, eastern Germany, southern Poland and northern Austria. It consists of crystalline rocks which are older than the Permian (more than 300 million years old). Its bedrock of gneiss and granite is weathered to brown soil. The landscapes of this massif are mostly dominated by rolling hills. During my school days, I had the opportunity to spend time there for one or two weeks in the summer for several years. The extensively unspoilt nature in this place has drawn me back to this landscape after decades, now together with my wife.

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We often go on a long hike along the valley of Kamp river, a northern tributary of the Danube. Particularly in its upper course, there are remote areas where we like to relax and recharge. They work as “places of power“ for us. On a day in mid-April this year, we were still waiting for the colours of spring in the valley. After a rather cold period in late winter and early spring, there appeared only some tiny buds. Within the otherwise bare forest along the river bank, some trunks and branches overgrown with bright green moss were standing out.

After hiking for several hours, we took a rest at a river bend. We tried to take in all the sensations. Closing my eyes, I could experience the sound of the water approaching from the left and flowing further to the right. The smell of the humid and fresh air added to this impression. Opening my eyes again, I found a new way to look at a group of trees at the opposite river bank. Its trunks and branches made for a most interesting structure for me, which was still enhanced by the bright green of the moss, contrasted by the rather dark background at dusk.

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Trees are known to be connected by a complex underground system of their roots together with an extended interwoven mycelium, thereby allowing an exchange of nutrients as well as a sort of communication similar to a nervous system. And this kind of connectedness came into my mind when I had a look at the scene in front of us. The pattern with all the intertwined branches and twigs seemed to be full of action and dynamics.

Now there was the question of framing it aptly. In the first step, I decided on a 4:3 horizontal format, including only a small group of trees that represented the essence of this place in a convincing way for me. There are diverse diagonals formed by the trunks and branches, with the most prominent of them pointing to the lower right corner. I usually do not prefer to let diagonals lead the viewer exactly into one corner.

Trees are known to be connected by a complex underground system of their roots together with an extended interwoven mycelium, thereby allowing an exchange of nutrients as well as a sort of communication similar to a nervous system.

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Therefore in my first attempts, I choose a composition with this branch cutting the right edge just a bit above the lower corner. But that way was unsatisfying and meaningless for me.

I finally let the prominent diagonal lead exactly to the corner, which made for interesting and compelling dynamics to my eye, maybe due to the more unstable composition. The kind of dynamic balance now just made the difference, in my opinion.

That was a new aspect of this place for me, which I used to experience as tranquil and peaceful, but now full of action and tension. A mindful approach after slowing down and taking in all the sensations has opened a new way of looking at a familiar place.

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