Photographer Spotlight: Interview with Manuel Martin

Rating: 5.00 based on 5 Ratings
  By Julian Rad
Photographer Spotlight: Interview with Manuel Martin

Welcome to another episode of Photographer Spotlight. Today I’d like to introduce Manuel Martin from Switzerland to you, who shows magnificent & astonishing landscape images. Step inside the world of Manuel Martin and learn all his tips and tricks!

1) Tell us about yourself, where are you from? How, when and why did you get into photography?

I was born the 21st September 1972 in Winterthur, a picturesque city in Switzerland surrounded by forests. I could tell you – like many famous photographers – that photography fascinated me since my childhood, the truth is that it had never ever interested me until one cold day in December of 2011. I remember that dark day vividly as if it had been yesterday. It was my little daughter’s birthday and outside, it was raining and snowing at the same time – bad light conditions. As certainly almost every dad does, I had bought one of these snapshot cameras to capture those important little moments in the life of the loved ones. The entire family was standing in front of the birthday cake and I took my little camera out and tried to photograph that scene to death. Obviously, the cam was set to automatic since I had no idea how a camera works. Of course, I desperately searched for this one little button called “Make a stunner” but I only found the automatic button. I am still today looking for a camera with this imaginary button, so if anyone ever stumbles across one, feel free to contact me (lol).

Well, imagine the behavior of my snapshot cam in such low light conditions, and imagine the result! I flashed the entire family like a madman and, which is worse, they all looked like the “Adams Family” on the pictures, all pale due to the flash, looking like monsters. Next, I took more shots, this time without the flash. Also not a good idea, actually, more like a catastrophe (lol). So that’s when I decided to learn everything I possibly could about photography so that I would never live this situation again. Over the years, I learned a lot about composition from the myriads of books I read. As I love to hike with our dog Giorgio (a Collie who accompanied me in 99% of all the shots I have made so far), my love for landscape photography was slowly set on fire. It was only in 2015 when my interest became a passion. That year, I discovered some great photographers and their techniques, and this really changed my view about landscape photography. But I will talk about this in the following questions.

Well, in my last post I mentioned that I not only should make shots at sunrise and sunset … and this is so true but … he he he … the sunrise was indeed very epic and fabulous the morning I made this image here. At first, I was a little worried because there was no cloud in sight that morning. But when finally that light came … ho ho ho … what a sunrise. For sure I was prepared for everything and was waiting a long time in the dark and cold … but finally, I was rewarded with this! What an area here at one of my preferred spots in the mountains. I can always find something new in terms of composition … there are so many possibilities here. It is not surprising that I always visit this place again and again. I hope you enjoy this vista and vision here!

2) How much time do you spend on photography on average?

To be short … way too little! I could spend my entire time with photography, but as I am not a professional photographer, I have to work for a living. Then, there’s also my family and this and that … but I try to reserve the little time that I have for my passion.

What should I say … well, it was really an adventure to get at this place. Due to heavy rainfalls, all the hiking paths to get up the mountain were destroyed or even worse … they completely disappeared because there were also some landslides. Therefore it was at some points a sort of try and error to get the right way up in the middle of the night. But I had time … enough time to take everything very easy. And after many hiking hours … I saw only rocks and stones … what a surprise … I reached this high plateau. Flowers and grass everywhere! You should have seen my face … I laughed like a madman. How beautiful everything was and I decided to stay at this place and to wait for the sunrise. And of course, I made also this shot here 😉

3) Which gear do you mainly use / What is typically in your camera bag?

My entire household! No, seriously, my Nikon D810 is always with me, then a super wide 14-24mm lens and a 24-70mm lens. Then I carry a Really Right Stuff Tripod (RRS) with a BH-55 Ballhead, a polarizer and ND filters by Lucroit, a remote controller, a ton of spare batteries, memory cards, waterproof equipment, some warm layers and changing clothes, gloves, a cap, sometimes also trekking poles, a head light, something to clean up my lenses, water, snacks etc. Mostly I feel like a donkey going up a mountain with all that stuff. I wish I had a teleporter from Star Trek to be transported to the desired location in just a minute.

A shot from my last trip to the Swiss Alps, where I was looking for wonderful spots and hoping that the sunrise would give me epic moments. And while I was waiting for the sunrise and everything was quiet and tranquil, nature gave me the sensation of being completely alone in this wonderful world. Just at this moment, I had the strong feeling that everything was in balance and I could enjoy the wonders of this world! Such moment is like to encounter a huge sleeping dragon, who reveals his beauty only in a single moment. I hope you enjoy this moment here as well.

4) Do you have guiding principles that you follow when you’re taking pictures?

Yes, and that’s composition. I think the composition is the most difficult but also the most interesting part of a location. I always try to find new possibilities for a good composition, because, in combination with the post-processing of the image, this is exactly how your image stands out from other pictures. At famous or well-known locations, this impact is even stronger.
How can your image and how can you as a photographer be distinguished from many other images and photographers? I think you can only do that through these two components! I always try to beat the location sometime before I make the final shot. This gives me time to look around for wonderful foregrounds that I can implement in my images.
I also always try different angles until I’m happy with what I see through the viewfinder. Concerning the viewfinder, I also change my eye. What I mean is that I look through the viewfinder with my right eye and then I change it to the left eye only to leave my comfort zone and force my brain to see and to compose differently until I’m overall happy.

Last year I found this place during a hike and despite I already made some shots that time it was clear to me that this year I would revisit this area in Autumn. And in fact, two weeks ago I was there again, in this beautiful valley between forests that showed their autumn dress in all their splendor. Those who follow me on FB could see a video I made two weeks ago in the early morning hours where I was playing with my dog Giorgio while I waited for the sunrise. The cool thing was that I found this huge stone which I could use in my foreground composition to align it with the first rays of the morning light. And in fact, it worked what made me very happy.

5) How important is post-processing for you? Can you tell us what kind of postprocessing you typically do?

Post-processing is as important as being at the location and trying to make the right shot. For me, it has the same weight as all the process steps when taking an image. I always try to make the shot perfect only to avoid the work in post-production due to a bad shot on the field.
But nowadays, in the era of digital photography, this is a step in which your work can stand out from other works with a special look, thus making the image unique. I mainly work with Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, and I also have various plug-ins.
I try to emphasize the light parts, the shadow parts giving them some structure, and I try to balance all the tones into a harmony of tonalities. I often use the techniques known as “Exposure Blending”, “Focus Stacking”, “Focal Length Blending” and so on, and I always merge all parts together manually since I don’t like to give the processing parts to an automated software-process.

Well … you see here a shot I made this Autumn season during one of my hikes. In this valley, I found so many spots last year … like some small but picturesque waterfalls, amazing forest places and not to forget a wonderful riverbed just one kilometer in direction of that mountain in my image here. And like one year ago I made a lot of shots this year as well and for sure I will return in autumn next year. I hope you like my vision here.

6) What’s the favorite photo you took and why?

This is really difficult to say. Every single photo I made contains a little story that not everyone knows, like the scouting for the location, the hike to the place, the circumstances I found at the location, the light etc. It is very emotional for me. But if I have to choose, then it would be the shot with the name “Source of Life”. It’s a location at the edges of the area called “Alpstein”. A double-waterfall that you can easily reach during a short walk. The view to this double-cascade seen from the inside of a cavern is fantastic and very picturesque.
The difficulty of this spot was not the path to this iconic place, but the extreme dynamic range of the scene combined with the exact exposure time to capture the unique waves which were formed in the waterfall basin. For the cave parts in the image and the two waterfalls outside the cave, I chose to make a focus-stacking to capture everything sharp from front to back.

Then came the difficult part, and this was the waves of the cascade basin. I observed the waterfall for more than one hour and noticed that every 5 to 10 minutes the amount of water coming down the cascade changed a little bit. This sudden change in the amount of water caused certain water waves in the pool in front of me. And this was exactly what I wanted to capture. I had to make a ton of shots with different exposures with dead waiting times until the next change of water amount until I finally got the one shot with the right exposure time. In post-processing, I combined all the pieces together into one single image, which made me very proud and which I know, with the actual technology, would be impossible to make in one single shot.

This is a place I’ve seen so many times in the galleries of other Swiss photographers. And I was never there!!! Well, I have now changed this situation. Now I am also a member of those who visited and photographed this place as well he he he! And I must admit … what a place and what a power you can feel standing in front of such a scene. I have read many stories from the source of life … from adventurers who were looking for such a place in the jungle and all of them disappeared on their quest. When I was standing in front of this cascade I could really understand and feel how such legends could arise!

7) What’s the most challenging part of being a nature/landscape photographer

First: To find time to get out to photograph. Time is right now one of the most important assets I have.

Second: To get exposure on the social media channels.

No matter what you think … what you see here is one single shot I made one night in mid-July at this wonderful location in the middle of the Swiss Alps. But I was not alone with my dog, no … this time I had the privilege to have a guest with me. Already on my way up the mountain in the dark, I noticed that there was something or someone following me. And after some time I saw it … ha ha ha … a Fox! A beautiful Fox was following me. He walked at more or less 50 Meters distance on my left side. And even when I was shooting … he was on my left at the mentioned distance! And from time to time I illumined the area where I thought he was and saw him sitting completely calm and tranquil and enjoying the night with me. For me a wonderful experience and something really special … like a gift 😉

8) Do you have general advice and tips for other landscape photographers?

Never, and I mean never ever stop learning and improving your skills in every aspect of photography. Be curious and playful like a child. Always try new things. Stay humble and always be polite to everyone, listen and observe.
Never be discouraged (likes in social media are not a guideline for quality) and always do what your heart tells you, because you will only make a good work with passion, and passion comes from the heart. Try to develop your own style and stick with it and make changes to it with time.
Photography is not a 100-meter race, it’s a marathon, and you will need your time to become better and better over time.

Well, for sure another shot I made during my stay in the mountains this summer! I was fascinated about how the sunrise could illuminate only some parts of the mountains on the right in the distance. For me, a place and moment to remember and I hope you enjoy this vision as well.

9) Who or what inspires you to do what you do and why?

I’m an admirer of many great photographers and it is impossible to list all of them here, so I limit myself to those who influenced my own skills. The first two of them are Sean Bagshaw and Tony Kuyper. I stumbled across them after I heard about “Luminosity Mask” for the first time in my life. I had no idea what this is and suddenly, after some research, a door opened into an incredibly diverse new photographic world. I learned so much during the first stages of my own path, and despite them not knowing me I am very grateful to them for teaching me and opening up this new world to me. Then Ryan Dyar and Ted Gore, of course. Their work is so colorful and incredibly special. At this stage of my own learning path, I heard about going for the dark mood and light painting in deep for the first time. Later, Alex Noriega taught me how to correctly understand the behavior of light.

I remember that exciting time as if it was yesterday. His work is so clean and just perfect. And finally, Enrico Fossati. He is a magician. If you look at his work, you are transported into a fantasy world. You know that his work is really outstanding and special but, at the same time, you lose the sense of presence and you feel that you are transported into a parallel world that is transformed into reality. In my opinion, his understanding of light is really different and unique and I dare to say he could take a picture of a stone and this stone would turn into life in the image.

But inspiration comes also from paintings of some painters from the past. Yes, I heard about painters from the photographers mentioned above, and when I read the recommendation to look at such paintings, I thought “What? Why should I look at this old stuff?!” But seriously, long time before photography existed, painters all over the world already dealt with composition, light, and colors. We are thinking that we invented all this stuff with photography, but the truth is that those painters were the forerunners of what we photographers do today with our pictures. And what’s even more, those painters are, still today, masters of light. I saw old pictures from Albert Bierstadt, and you know what? The more I studied those works, the more sense they made! The behavior of light, the colors and the framing they chose are marvelous, really an inspiration!

I couldn’t wait to finally revisit this fabulous but small waterfall after one year wait. It all looked exactly like last year. It was as if time stopped here and far and wide no soul in sight which was very cool. I love this wonderful royal paradise … also because in the social networks I haver never seen a picture of this youthful spectacle of water. It was unbelievable how everything looked yellowish and autumnal. From time to time nature brings these little wonders to me and I feel like a little child with a gift in my hands. I know, for many out there it may not be the spectacular wonder of the world that you absolutely must have in a portfolio. But right now this one here is my little wonder of the world 😉

10) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

Everything, he, he, he.

Finally, I could visit again this place here. A place that I found many years ago and which I love so much. And it was so cool to find everything as it was like that time I found this place for the first time. But for the first time, I made a shot in summer and not in autumn. And it was cool to see completely different tones and colors compared to the last time! I hope you enjoy the vision here.

11) Is there anything else you want to say?

If you want to see more works from me, just visit my Facebook page or my Instagram account as I’m posting there on a regular basis.

Find Manuel Martin on the Web:



Rating: 5.00 based on 5 Ratings
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Julian Rad is a self-taught award-winning wildlife photographer, who was born in Vienna, Austria in 1991. When he bought his first camera at the age of 20, he found an expression for the fascination he had about nature & wildlife. He already had many publications in national and internation magazines and newspapers (New York Post, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Times, GEO, Digital Photographer Magazine...). He has won several photo competitions such as the comedy wildlife photography awards in 2015.

Comments (1)

  1. Daniel Kukan Guest

    MM is truely very dedicated and passionate about all his actions in life. He is a humble and in various aspects very talented person. His willingness to never stop learning is just admirable. I am very proud of knowing Manuel!