A passion for photography took SAP employee Jens Klettenheimer to the far end of the Arctic to the mystifying Aurora Borealis.
In his day job, you can see Jens Klettenheimer managing customers and other stakeholders in SAP Enterprise Analytics and spending long hours behind his laptop. When not working – Jens swaps his laptop for a large camera mounted on a tripod.
Jens was always keen on photography. He remembers his first camera he got at the age of eight and the films he made in the Super 8 film format. At that time, it wasn’t meant to be anything more than a hobby. He wanted to — and did — study mathematics in school.
Uncovering the Arctics
It all changed in 2003 with the emergence of digital photography and the upsurge of camera technologies. It dawned on Jens that the potential for creative imagery was going to explode and go far beyond people portraits and regular landscapes. Jens began a journey of exploration, and his interest started to grow exponentially — as did the urge to capture nature in more and more complex natural systems.
At one time, he discovered the arctic landscapes in Iceland and Lofoten in Norway. This discovery changed his life, and he made the Arctics the special focus of his photography career. He started travelling to those countries and shooting extensively. Apart from that, Jens studied the camera meticulously, attended workshops, and eventually became an expert on techniques and approaches specific for arctic photography. Now, he has a photography book entitled Iceland to his credit, and is regularly mentioned in social media and different photography journals. Notably, he has 75,000 followers at 500px.com, a well-known photography portal.
Chasing the Light
Today Jens shares his knowledge with other photography enthusiasts. He offers five to seven workshops and polar excursions for a small group of participants every year to see the northern light phenomenon for themselves.
The group drives and hikes to remote and pristine locations in Iceland and Lofoten to embrace nature in all its splendor. They learn how to compose the perfect image, use filters, get the best aurora absorption, how to post process the images – and of course spend hours capturing the lights and the landscapes.
But the arctics are not easy. Jens and his crew must be at set locations at precise times, before sunrise and sunset to get the best shots. They must endure subfreezing temperatures, face the icebergs and storms and continuously accommodate the changing light. Knowing this, it satisfies Jens that most of his participants are “repeaters” or recommendations from his participants.
About Iceland and Lofoten
Iceland, located right on the polar circle, is abundant with the diverse sceneries – ice, volcanos, glaciers, beaches, mountains and waterfalls. With only 334,000 inhabitants, it offers virgin locations to shoot in – undisturbed and untouched. Lofoten located in the Northern part of Norway (approx. 300 km north of polar circle) has many striking fjords and high mountains. Both countries are ideal to observe the outstanding Northern lights.
What is Aurora Borealis?
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres (source: Northern Lights Centre). The flickering and moving northern lights are mostly green in colour, with either a yellow or blue tinge.
”Photographing the Northern Lights is special due to its technical aspects, its artistry and its unpredictable weather. It needs a careful composition of imagery over a longer focus time concurrently controlling aperture, ISO settings and focal length. All of this makes for a difficult but rewarding challenge to master the light.” says Jens.
It’s a great joy to see the skills of his crew visibly improve through the course of one week, and their high levels of motivation. “This makes it a little less challenging”, smiles Jens.
Customer satisfaction is what Jens strives for in SAP too. Some of the people skills acquired in his workshops come in handy while dealing with critical customer situations at work. Correspondingly, the fresh perspective and energy he brings along when returning from such workshops makes his work more stimulating.
Worthwhile in Spite of Drawbacks
Photography is time consuming. Jens spends a lot of time travelling, losing precious vacation time that could have been with his family.
Spending long hours outdoors in unfamiliar surroundings is also at times risky. Workshop participants are urged to be very careful with their equipment. Jens remembers that at a recent workshop, a crew member was setting up his tripod close to glacier lagoon Jökulsárlon in Iceland when some strong waves smashed a huge junk of ice to the beach destroying all three legs of his tripod and hurt his leg – fortunately, it didn’t need a trip to the hospital. There’s at least one loss of equipment in the workshops – like broken lenses or broken filters or tilted tripods. None of this however deters Jens or his crew.
“Seeing the elusive Northern lights once with your eyes will change your life. The long experience with nature will amass you with abundant joy and will help you find your inner center,” says Jens.