Hasselblad Heroine 2023
THE ENVISIONED THEME: EXPLORING THE INTERSECTION OF LIGHT AND EMOTION
Landscape and nature photographer Chalana Smissaert’s story intertwines her love for the natural world with her passion for photography.
THE JOURNEY TO NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER
Based in 's-Hertogenbosch of the Netherlands, Chalana's photography journey commenced in 2019 when, driven by a desire for better-quality travel photos during her trip to Indonesia, she started to deep-dive into the world of photography.
“At that time, I knew nothing about photography. In a later period, I found it a shame not to make full use of the capabilities of this camera. So, I started learning the basic camera techniques. I quickly got to know the landscape photography community and was inspired by many other nature photographers. A world opened for me.”
As she dived deeper, she drew inspiration from the work of those fellow nature photographers and it was here that her passion was kindled - leading her to embark on a mission to absorb everything she could about landscape photography.
CRAFTING A DISTINCTIVE STYLE
Chalana's photography is distinguished by her unwavering focus on light and mood. She skilfully utilizes contrasts in her compositions—playing with the interplay of light and shadow, warm and cool tones, and the textures, patterns, and shapes found in nature. This approach infuses depth and emotion into her photographs.
In her work, colour takes centre stage, evoking emotions ranging from the brilliance of a sunrise to the vivid hues of a close-up flower. Chalana employs dynamic elements such as the motion of waves and clouds to inject vitality and movement into her scenes. She also harnesses the ethereal quality of fog to create an aura of tranquility and serenity, inviting viewers to escape the cacophony of daily life.
NATURE: THE ULTIMATE MUSE
Nature's influence on Chalana's creative process runs deep. Her mission as a photographer is to encapsulate the scenic landscapes of the Netherlands and beyond. In her eyes, landscape photography serves as a gateway to experiencing the world in a profoundly enriching manner.
“I have always been a city girl. When I first started working with a camera, I realized that the horizon is much wider. In today's overstimulating society, we are increasingly inundated with digital stimulation, which means we hardly pay attention to the reality of life and do not enjoy the moment itself.
“Landscape photography changed that. Nature has an enormous power to contribute to people's health. I now like to combine this nature experience with landscape photography to have a reason to go outside.”
HOW TO GET INTO LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY?
After honing her craft, Chalana offers the following tips for beginners looking to get into landscape photography.
“Effective utilization of light is crucial. Identifying the best light conditions, whether it's the soft glow of dawn or the warm embrace of sunset, allows photographers to create compelling contrasts and mood in their images.“
“Secondly, weather awareness. Learning about various weather conditions is vital for landscape photography. Conditions such as fog, afterglows, and unique lighting can be harnessed to craft distinctive and mood-enhancing photographs.“
“And thirdly, post-processing proficiency: Shooting in RAW format necessitates post-processing to bring out the full potential of photographs. Chalana encourages photographers to become adept in post-processing to enhance the visual impact and develop their own unique styles.”
PURPLE HEATHS AND THE MYSTICAL SPEULDERBOS
Chalana's portfolio includes captivating series that capture the enchanting transformation of Dutch heaths in August when they burst into vivid purple blooms. This seasonal phenomenon inspired her to combine the striking purple heaths with misty mornings to evoke a fairytale atmosphere.
Another of her projects led her to the Speulderbos, often referred to as the "Dancing Tree Forest" due to its whimsically contorted trees. Here, Chalana sought to amplify the forest's mystique by photographing it in fog. The fog obscured visibility, lending an air of mystery to the winding trees and forest paths, blurring the lines between the seen and the unseen.
Chalana's recipe for capturing these remarkable scenes is rooted in careful planning. She emphasizes the importance of timing and being in the right place at the right moment, often rising early to seize the golden hours of sunrise and predict the arrival of fog for her forest photography.
Through her work, Chalana hopes to inspire people to embrace and explore the natural world. Her photographs aim to alleviate the discomfort that some individuals associate with nature—whether it's the presence of insects, adverse weather conditions, or the absence of modern comforts. She endeavours to eliminate these barriers, making it easier for people to connect with nature and discover its wonders.
ADVICE FOR ASPIRING PHOTOGRAPHERS
For aspiring female photographers, Chalana offers words of encouragement:
“Always keep your growth mindset high. Continue to see opportunities and possibilities in every situation. Continue to be challenging yourself and be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Always keep learning new things to level up your skills.”
While she remains tight-lipped about her upcoming projects, one can be certain that Chalana’s work will continue to inspire, creating a moments of serenity in our fast-paced world. In her hands, the camera becomes a conduit to the timeless beauty of the natural world, a reminder to pause, breathe, and appreciate the world around us.