Born in Munich, Michael Kagerer is a self-described adventure addict. While he’s currently working toward his bachelor’s in business management, Kagerer’s true calling is photography. After a six-month New Zealand road trip that saw him sleeping in his car, Kagerer realized that capturing his adventures in photographs was not only fun, it yielded some stunning results, too.
While he doesn’t specialize in a particular subject matter, most of Kagerer’s work is in landscapes, particularly forests, as they encapsulate his love of ranging green tones. Commissioned by clients like Mercedes Benz, Canada Goose, Huawei, Chopard, Jack Wolfskin, and Mega Gear, Kagerer’s ability to capture an object in the moody and evocative tones of the natural world is clearly a desired commodity. After all, Mother Nature is the best canvas for any artist’s brush—or camera.
Sasha Frate: When narrowing the focus on the micro elements of nature contrasted with the macro components of stunning landscapes, how do you see this perspective in terms of the various symbiotic relationships of all living things on this planet?
Michael Kagerer: Many photographers seek the big image with high mountains, endless oceans, or never- ending forest scenes. Those things are pretty, of course, but many photographers forget that they already missed so much on their journey toward those locations. I always hold myself back from rushing forward to those famous spots and instead focus myself more on my surroundings. That’s why you can find a lot of macro plants on my profile. Every planned trip with planned locations and images leads to many more unplanned moments and captures on the path towards my final travel destination. And those finds are the special ones!
SF: What is one of your memorable “found moments” on your adventures and encounters with wildlife?
MK: When I started with photography, I wasn’t well equipped for wildlife photography. I had to improve and bring a lot patience, for instance, to get close enough to a deer to get a good picture (even without a very expensive professional lens!). After a couple of days, I finally managed to get into position next to a deer not far from my hometown. My lens didn’t even have automatic focus and I only had a few moments to get the shot into focus. I guess it was a lot of luck, but I did it! Many of my newer animal pictures were taken in wildlife parks as the animals there are not that shy and it’s much easier to practice getting good-quality animal pictures. My favorite moment was probably when I hiked up to a hut in the Mount Cook valley in New Zealand. I was suddenly hit by a snowstorm and when I searched for a spot to hide and take a rest, some Kea birds joined me! Those were super majestic, and I could feel their free spirit! (Even though they probably just wanted to steal my last pieces of bread.) You don’t often see those guys, and I always wanted to see them, so this was quite special.
SF: You’ve described one of your favorite shots on salt flats as sparking the imagination of our future and what it would be like to have a photographer collective called “spaceroamers” who would “be able to explore random planets spontaneously with friends in the holidays.” How do you see this notion of “nothing is impossible”, and how do you imagine our future in unique and incredible ways? Why is it valuable for people to envision the possibility of change at any level?
MK: Yes, I’ve always found myself getting stuck into thinking of the future of our world. I then project different scenarios I see now on future developments. I really imagined people exploring different planets in no time just for some cool pictures; almost like going for an afternoon walk to the next lake. This sounds super weird, but what if you told our grandmas back in their youths that people would someday share travel pictures on social media, we’d all have smartphones in our pockets, and that it is indeed possible for many young people to travel the world while still going to school? Nothing is impossible. We all should really think about that and try more new things. No risk—no fun.
SF: Jamais Cascio once said, “Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.” You work with and capture intimate nature scenes, adding rich tones to your images that really convey the lush, wild, and peaceful elements of nature. Throughout your travels, adventures, and photography work, how might you describe your observation of nature, the planet, and perhaps also humanity as being resilient?
People change with every generation. Everyone is following various trends of his own generation. Nature isn’t: nature always repeats the same processes over the months. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t change—I love to see my favorite spots at different times of the year. Sometimes those places can feel like completely different ones in winter than they did in summer. It’s interesting how every generation enjoys this change in a different way.
I’m trying to simply enjoy the views like my grandparents did and not just take the picture for socials and then leave the place.
SF: When you say, “less is more” and “the creative process depends on your mindset”, why do you believe this and how would you describe this type of mindset?
MK: I really like minimal scenarios, which draw the attention to one single element. I’m also a very organized person and I don’t like having a mess in my room. If there is too much around me, I can’t focus. There are many inspiring photographers who are almost perfect in minimalism, and I really look up to those people. My creative process starts when I put my hands on my camera and focus on that single leaf with that single raindrop almost falling down from it. If there is anything in the background taking away the focus of my object, I don’t feel comfortable with it. The creativity continues on my desk where I change those pictures to more minimal ones. I do this when I was not able to get the perfect separation of single objects in my pictures. For instance, I captured a picture of a bridge with some forests around it. Using my editing software, I brought the bridge to the middle and made the forests around it as clean as possible to ensure the attention is always on the bridge.
SF: How would you describe the feeling of experiencing “Bambi in real life” compared to our often-disconnected experience with nature “from a distance”?
Some moments that I witnessed were almost straight from a fantasy book! It’s special to get thrown into such a scenario by nature, and it’s so much better than watching a movie or reading a book. Unfortunately, those perfect moments are super rare.
SF: Most of your journeys have “social distancing” built into them: visiting remote locations, wandering among mountain peaks and forest lands, and experiencing hidden gems you discover along the way. Can you share some of your top places for travel that are off the beaten path and more likely to have creature encounters than human encounters?
MK: All I can say is do some of the great walks in New Zealand!
SF: You’ve had a lot of encounters with wild cats in the forests of Europe. In which countries/places have you had these experiences, and can you share how you manage to so often encounter and capture these stealthy and elusive creatures?
MK: Those are not truly wild—most of those lynxes were photographed in wildlife parks in Bavaria or the Czech Republic.
SF: Dark and moody tones are conveyed in your photographic scenes. Why do you prefer this approach/style?
MK: Yes, I always preferred dark and moody scenes. As a child, I loved the night and unique weather like storms or the morning fog, simply because it’s not there every day—it’s special to me.
SF: What places have evoked the greatest sense of freedom for you when you’ve spent time there?
MK: Definitely New Zealand. I can’t name a specific spot but the whole trip there was one big adventure full of freedom. Living in a car means waking up wherever you like and being able to drive everywhere whenever you like to.
SF: From a local’s perspective and native of Germany, what are some of your favorite spots, and what do you love about them?
I do recommend visiting lake Königssee. Take the boat toward lake Obersee and walk around this second lake: it’s a super special place. (Unfortunately, there are many tourists on those boats!) An alternative is lake Eibsee, which is also quite beautiful!