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Wanderer above the sea of ​​fog:compositions after Caspar David Friedrich

Darstellung der Natur

The painter and draftsman Caspar David Friedrich is seen as the most important artist of early German Romanticism. During his lifetime he received frenetic encouragement, but also harsh criticism. His works were bought by the Prussian king and the Russian tsar, but he died in financial distress. The best-known oil paintings show an overwhelming and dramatized representation of nature, but the underlying motifs usually never existed in the form depicted. Caspar David Friedrich was a master of composition and of hidden messages, numerous works pursued political intentions.

Team von Fotografen

The experienced photographer Harald Kröher set out with a few like-minded people to internalize and interpret Friedrich's special image approach. The result was very atmospheric recordings. A sun-drenched beach or scenery with many people is not suitable for a photographic approach to Caspar David Friedrich. Untouched nature, clouds, twilight, fog and deserted are the right conditions. The artist described his superficially misanthropic attitude as follows:

you call me misanthrope
Because I avoid company.
you are wrong
I love her.
But in order not to hate people
Do I have to refrain from handling.

Some phases of his life were marked by deep depression, even by a death wish. He processed the disappointments with the people in his artistic examination of nature. But let's leave the theory behind and focus on the practical results of the photo excursion. Of course, the participants had their own cameras and lenses with them, the professional ones tripods andsquare filter by Rollei were very popular during the expedition.

Rollei Stativ und Rechteckfilter

The following photo was of course not the first shot of the shoot, but it shows the approach very nicely. Harald Kröher put his filters together as follows: First, apolarizing filter into the rollsquare filter mount deployed. Conveniently, the bracket sets already come with a high-quality CPLround filter at, so that the rails for thesquare filter can be used. Next comes aSoft Graduated Filter 0.9 from the bottom into the first bracket, then areverse 0.9 from above for cloud layer intensification. In addition, Harald Kröher mounted a 0.9soft filter from above, so that the hard transition of the reverse filter can be softened a little and the viewing slit can be precisely aligned with the castle.

Landschafts Fotografie

Of course, purists could argue that this photograph does not represent a real and unadulterated depiction of nature. But this was not Caspar David Friedrich's claim either. By the way, working out elements and conveying a certain mood in a photo is often more demanding for a photographer than creating a pure representation of reality. In addition to his city views, which can actually be precisely located, there are usually many preliminary sketches and elements for Friedrich's dramatic oil paintings. However, he composed these freely and according to his artistic needs. If people appeared in the corresponding works, none of the protagonists looked directly at the viewer; instead, people simply let nature affect them and often turned their imaginary backs on the painter. In this respect, whatever you like is allowed if you follow in the footsteps of the romanticist C. D. Friedrich, he himself even openly opposed the representatives of the new realism in old age. His own creativity, a specific statement and the free composition of motifs were more important to him than the pure depiction performance.g.


Another feature was the clean composition of foreground and background, exact proportions and very often a central perspective. The placement of light and shadow immediately directs the viewer's gaze to the most important element of the picture, the surroundings then appear almost subconsciously and create an overwhelming impression.

Felsen Landschaftsfotografie

Both rock images were photographed with the same filter combination. Harald Kröher sees hispolarizing filter as the decisive optical elements for the Caspar David Friedrich look. Here he has twoi cpls mounted on top of each other with a distance of 3 to 5 mm, simple adapter rings are ideal as variable spacers. Turning the upper polarizing filter changes the light temperature from 4,000 to around 7,000k and creates a matt luminance that is typical of Caspar David Friedrich's pictures.

Pilze Landschaftsfotografie

The attention to detail takes on a very important task with C.D.F., as it ensures that all motifs appear as if they could actually have existed. Therefore, you always work with a stable tripod, not least when filters are to be used. Caspar David Friedrich spent a great deal of time and effort on the careful composition, but always worked directly on the final canvas. In this way he was able to manage the balancing act between meticulous preparation and the liveliness of the images. Despite depressive phases and a very melancholic mood in his pictures, they never seem powerless or morbid.

If you know that his picture Wanderer über den Nebelmeer was composed completely fictitious and precisely, you are surprised that very similar scenarios can actually be found and photographed. But this also speaks for the artistic talent of the painter and photographer.f.

Nebel Landschaftsfotografie

During the time of the Napoleonic occupation, Caspar David Friedrich particularly considered motifs of areas or buildings that clearly showed a national connection. This area therefore also includes old castles or similar buildings. If you then come across suitable ruins during the photo expedition, you are of course very happy to build them in.

Alte Burg Landschaftsfotografie

Fog, haze or hazy vision is perfect for the CDF look, as clearly differentiable image planes can be identified. The mountain ranges in the background almost look as if they were composed by the painter, so harmoniously do they support the contrasts around the central motif. It was handed down that Caspar David Friedrich only started with the preliminary drawings and the painting when the final motif was completely in front of his inner eye. The following statement by the artist also goes in this direction:

Close your physical eye so that you see your picture with the spiritual eye first. Then bring to light what you have seen in the dark so that it affects others from the outside in.

It was important to him that his pictures triggered emotions in the viewer. During the period of opposition to the Napoleonic occupation, rejection of everything French was to be created and reinforced, in other times he was also concerned with the majestic effects of nature, the dramaturgy of which he was certainly allowed to stage himself. For the photographic approach, situations or moods can therefore be exaggerated.

Alte Burg in der Dunkelheit

On the other hand, it should also be remembered that Caspar David Friedrich's imagery was both abused by nationalists and adapted by Hollywood directors for tragedy, war and science fiction films. In fact, many motifs now appear unreal due to this conditioning, although they have not been manipulated in any way and have not been seen with one's own eyes.

Fotografen an der Arbeit

During the excursion, the photographers around Harald Kröher only enjoyed the picturesque motifs, which they were able to photograph from a strategically favorable position. Tips and tricks were exchanged, new techniques and perspectives were learned. Especially the photography withFilter requires a structured approach when the possibilities of the optics have been playfully explored. Many filter effects are difficult or impossible to change or remove afterwards, so you should always work with exposure series for complicated challenges. Otherwise you get annoyed about missed opportunities and lighting moods. The exact position of the sun is what gives this picture its special charm, a few seconds before or after you find completely contrary light situations. Not only technical expertise is required here, but also a good gut feeling, which is usually fed by years of experience.

Lichtstrahlen Landschaftsfotografie

The clearly visible rays of light do not correspond to the usual depiction in Friedrich's pictures, but perhaps he would have worked with these glare effects if he had had analog or digital single-lens reflex cameras at his disposal at the time. Basically, thematic photo workshops or excursions are never about dull copying, but about inspiration and understanding the artistic process.
Sonnenstrahlen Landschaftsfotografie

The indirect representation of the sun's rays through the various layers of haze and the impression of a suction effect in the center of the image shows significantly more CDF influences on the composition of the recording. Intensified by the bright, almost luminous tips of the vegetation in the foreground.

Sonnenstrahlen Landschaftsfotografie

This picture also lives mainly from the right timing. Both in relation to the position of the sun and the light conditions then to be found. This photo could easily have sagged into the dark.n.

Bach Landschaftsfotografie

The combination of the very soft water with the high-contrast and detailed representation of the overgrown rock also qualifies this picture as a Caspar David Friedrich inspiration result.


Only a slight long-term exposure is needed to give this spectacular perspective a clear and very bright center of the image. The very linear and composition picks up on the existing vanishing lines and skilfully plays with the expectations of the viewer.

Sonnenstrahlen Landschaftsfotografie

It's a pity that a couple of small contrails from the planes nail this picture in our time. Otherwise the two towers and the beautifully washed out rocks in the foreground would also be a suitable scenery for a future Lord of the Rings film adaptation. Peter Jackson's sets are often reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich's atmospheres.h.

Nebel Landschaftsfotografie

With this extraordinary foggy mood we close the excursion into the visual world of Caspar David Friedrich. The renaissance of his artistic legacy continues to inspire painters, draftsmen and, of course, photographers more than 170 years after his death.

More from Harald Kröher


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