An idea becomes a passion – How the “neature images” developed

Anyone who takes the time to get really close to nature can gain their own intriguing impressions. Trees in particular offer endless potential for creative inspiration, precisely at the point where people and nature meet.

Be it forest workers, walkers or pathfinders who spray, paint or carve their eye-catching signals onto trees, or be it foresters or conservationists who leave their traces on the surface of the wood, or perhaps even trees as messengers for communicative people – interesting impressions can be found everywhere. They are often hidden, permanently changing, and create different images all the time depending on the light, weather, season and external influences.

I discover them, get really close to them with the camera, decide on the frame, the light, the perspective, the intensity and the format, but leave them entirely in their original state, just as people or nature left them a short or long time ago.

Tree pictures

I love walking through forests and do so often. They fill me with a sense of wellbeing, which I can only explain as coming from power, primitiveness and creative conception.

It was in 2010 when I was looking at a walkers’ route marker, which always appeared different even though it had been consistently painted or sprayed on the tree trunks with the same stencil and the same colour. The growth of these trees in their breadth and height, the structure of the bark, the wind, the sun, the rain, the influence of animals, etc. had, over the course of time, had an effect that appeared ever different on the same repeated intervention by humans in nature. Thus nature harbours its own creative power. The impression is greater the closer you get.

The next things to strike me were the markings made by foresters. They generally use bright colours from spray cans to leave their signals on trees: felling, sawing, protecting, driving along, storing, numbering, signalling, transporting, etc., be it on bark, cut faces or log piles. If then even more varied colours come together on interestingly structured or sawn wood surfaces, then things get really creative. Thus trees unwittingly become canvases for people who actually only wish to inform or indicate.

These “creations” have a magical attraction for me. In them, I discover a particular aesthetic, power of expression, creativity, individuality, symbolism or abstract beauty, and then I decide on the frame, the perspective or the incidence of light in order to capture it on camera. Sometimes the luminous colours make a subject too garish, sometimes weathering makes another too pale. In these cases I can work on the computer to adjust the light levels to create my ideal image, although I do so without ever changing the subject or editing the actual images themselves.

As time has gone on I have considerably expanded the spectrum of my subjects beyond the use of marker colours on trees. Even though I invariably keep my focus on the forest or the tree, the unwitting creative intervention of people can also have an influence on sawn surfaces, root structures, wood grain or breakage points. This sometimes creates exciting perspectives and subjects, which then become impressive images once processed. These are revealed to me sometimes as entirely abstract, and sometimes as very specific subjects depending on what I aim to discover in them. What is astonishing here is the apparently endless variety of possibilities that the meeting of man and nature offers. Just as astonishing are the very diverse preferences people have for the subjects. Whilst some feel particularly touched by exciting colours or abstract structures, others might prefer sweeping saw marks, figurative images or series of similar subjects. Here there is always plenty of space for ever more new images – provided that they are found and captured creatively.

Sand pictures

Impressions from sand
Just as with my “nahtur” images, here too anyone who takes the time to get up close to nature can gain intriguing impressions. It is only very close up, with specific light and a very precisely selected frame that familiar structures in the sand suddenly become abstract subjects, moulded sculptures or painted images.

Most subjects on the beach have a “half-life” of a few waves before they are washed away, or until the next tide obliterates them completely. So these are virtually always momentary snapshots. Thus the “sand trees” develop only during the ebb tide, when the remaining water finds its way through furrows to the sea. And the crabs that create the “sand spirals” and tiny balls of sand by digging out their holes must resign themselves to the fact that their little “works of art” will be a thing of the past come the next wave. Yet since the artistic structures are strongly anchored in the genes of these little creatures, every time they will create them anew. This represents my opportunity for observational photography, and my inspiration to find ever more natural phenomena on the beach, in the forest, and anywhere else within nature.


I am not a professional photographer. These are one-off, momentary snapshots, which are frequently taken in inaccessible places that would be hard to find a second time, taken without a tripod and with the advantage of the light exposure or the weather of that precise moment, making them as authentic as they were when I found them. The attractiveness of the subjects cannot be defined through the technical quality of the photos. Rather, the subjective, individual, somewhat emotional impression is crucial, regardless of whether the subject inspires the observer or leaves him/her cold.

Photo processing

The photo processing on the PC follows a clear maxim: the subject must not be changed! Adjustments can be made to the frame, contrast or intensity only where I believe this has a positive effect on the overall impression.    


Share with me your enthusiasm for creativity in nature and your perhaps accidental little works of art. They might exist as abstract subjects, or perhaps in concrete forms or structures, depending on how they reveal themselves to the individual observer. The potential is inexhaustible, yet a satisfying result is rare.

Hermann Ufer