For me, my work as a photographer is about more than capturing photos. It's about telling a story. Regardless if I'm creating photos for an outdoor brand or a tourist destination I want my work to say something, for the images to work together and be connected through storytelling.
I did not intentionally choose to become a nature photographer, nature chose me to capture her. I was a fashion and interior photographer that started to explore the outdoors in my spare time. And I brought my camera along just to capture memories. I fell in love with it and many years later I find myself working as an outdoor lifestyle photographer.
My camera is a travel companion as much as a tool of the trade. Which is why I need my gear to be light and small. When I am out working to capture images and tell a story, me and the client or my models are outside actually hiking, paddling, biking or foraging for berries and mushrooms. Enjoying what nature has to offer, as a part of our work.
I want to have my camera at hand and ready at all times, not just tucked away safely in my backpack. It's often hanging on my shoulder or slung across my body. I need a camera that allows me to partake in outdoor activities without weighing me down. That's how I am ready to capture all the small moments in between that help make a series a story.
This is what led me to sell off my bigger 35 mm system gear in exchange for lighter and smaller camera gear from Olympus and now the OM SYSTEM. Since then, my main camera has been the Olympus E-M5 Mark III but that might soon change. This autumn I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to use its younger sibling and successor, the OM SYSTEM OM-5.
Living slow and staying wild
I start my day by slipping into knitted socks and making a pot of coffee. The warmth of the cup warms my hands and helps me wake up. I might journal or draw for a bit, and then I light some candles in my home office and get to work. I spend the morning editing photos, emailing clients and planning for upcoming trips, lessons or photo shoots. Then I make some lunch and after being re-fuelled I don my foraging gear and head to the forest.
This forest is my backyard. It's a short walk from where I live in the north of Sweden, and this is where I come to get a screen break, recharge my batteries and get inspired. It's also where I do a lot of foraging for food. I love that I have nature on my doorstep and that I get to experience it through all of the seasons. Right now it's autumn and it is my absolute favorite.
Basket in hand, mushroom knife on my belt and a small pack with an extra layer, more coffee, some snacks, water, a first aid kit, my notebook and a compass are all I need to be out for a few hours. Oh, and my camera gear of course. It's so compact that I barely notice it, something that's so important to me as I move through the forest, off the beaten path through moss and ferns, scrambling over rocks and ducking under trees. That's where the mushrooms grow!
The weather can be a bit unpredictable during autumn, and I am often dealing with rain or heavy, wet fog. I love being out taking photos in that since it adds such a moody, mystical atmosphere to the forest. Plants and mushrooms really come alive with an extra glow when they're wet as well!
Since the OM-5 is weather-sealed I don't have to worry about the gear and as long as I dress properly I can head out no matter what the forecast says. When I am able to head outside with my camera and bushwhack through my forest I feel free and alive and my small gear makes sure I don't have to sacrifice my creativity.
This camera is incredibly small and lightweight, but on the inside it has everything I require to capture the magic around me. The built-in focus stacking is great to use when capturing small mushrooms. It ensures that everything is sharp, but I still get the soft, blurry background I love to really help the mushrooms pop. And since it's all stitched together in camera I have less work in front of a screen, which means I get more time in the forest!
As I come back home I have new photos I love and renewed energy for a few more hours of office work, as well as enough mushrooms for dinner or berries that I use to make jam, ferment or flavor my kombucha with. What more could one ask for?
Using the OM-5 in my own forest, it quickly became a new best friend for my local, close-to-home adventures. But earlier this year I also put it to the test in a very different environment.
From the rivers...
This summer I went on an amazing trip with friends which allowed me to test the new camera in an environment it really shines in. We headed to the most northern parts of Scandinavia to enjoy everything the northern nature had to offer: breath-taking views, rewarding hikes, never-ending summer nights and reindeer sightings.
One evening we headed to a small mountain lake. It was a short hike and with us we had food, fishing gear, clothes for layering with and of course photo gear to capture some memories. In the never-ending summer night that Scandinavia has to offer, we headed out onto the still waters and paddled a bit, enjoying the silence of the mountains.
Later in the evening Daniel and Pablo went fishing. The sun briefly lowered itself behind the mountains before starting to rise again. Summer nights in the north are quite extraordinary, something that you really can't imagine without experiencing them first-hand.
A fresh catch doesn't need much to make it taste delicious, so we made a fire and I simply prepped our fish with salt and fresh juniper. We let it slowly cook over the fire while enjoying the smell and the fact that smoke keeps the bugs at bay. Mosquitos are also a part of northern summer unless you get here in early June.
...to the mountains
The following day it was time for a new adventure. We travelled across the border to Norway, and in the afternoon we started hiking up a mountain. The plan was to enjoy the sunset from the mountaintop. It was really hot as the sun beat down on us. The beginning of the hike was steep, the path narrow and the rocks loose. It was a hard climb for me.
It's in situations like these I am especially grateful that my gear is so light. I knew it would be colder on the top, so I had made sure to pack layers of clothes, as well as food, water, a first aid kit, knife and compass. There’s no room for loads of camera equipment, but I had everything I needed to capture our experience and tell our story.
Now, as we all know, nature does not care about our intentions. She doesn't wait and she doesn’t always deliver what we want. This time we did not get a sunset from the top. It was windy, foggy and moody.
But in the fog and silence reindeer walked, wind whipped my hair and the force of nature felt strong. In the end that's still such an awesome thing to experience, and we did of course have a lot of fun together. The views were amazing and it's always such a good feeling to realize what your body can accomplish!
Surrounded by fog, my body aching and my mind wearily realizing that I also have to hike back down. But I also feel alive. I am here creating new memories with friends in a beautiful place. Pushing hard to earn the experiences as well as the images captured along the way. This is when I am the happiest.
Rania is an outdoor and lifestyle photographer based in the north of Sweden. Seven years ago she left the big city life and her dreams of fashion and interior photography behind. She sought something calmer and in the deep northern forests she found the quality of life she needed. After moving she stood on the porch with her morning coffee, watching the fog dance across the lake, and in the cold winter evenings she ran outside with her tripod to capture the northern lights. There and then something shifted in her, and she's been working as an outdoor and lifestyle photographer ever since. Today Rania works with clients to capture the outdoor lifestyle and products, and she works with local restaurants photographing their food and interior.
When she's not taking photos she's usually found in the climbing gym or playing board games with friends.
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