Capturing Extremes: An Interview with Photographer Stefan Forster

Stefan Forster’s first hiking trip to the remote corners of Iceland in 2004 sparked his love of photography. Since then, the intrepid Swiss lensman has traversed the world’s most extreme terrains in the pursuit of powerful and unforgettable images. His recently published book, Chasing Light, showcases his electrifying shots of otherworldly landscapes in such destinations as Namibia, Tibet, Tasmania and Antarctica. When not traveling, Forster is based in northeastern Switzerland, where he founded an institute in 2008 that offers photography classes. Here, Stefan discusses his most intense expeditions, the changes he has witnessed in the earth’s environment and where he wants to travel next.

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What inspired you to first start taking photographs?

My career as a photographer grew out of my desire to save my memories from my first visit to Iceland. The beauty of its nature led me to photography, which has been the only way that I can preserve all the outstanding moments I have witnessed over the years.

Your photographs capture some of the world's most spectacular and untraveled landscapes. Which destinations inspire you the most? I like landscapes that are abandoned or untouched by humans. I love when I can feel the power of nature in the wind, rain, snow or extreme temperatures. The country that combines all these elements for me is Iceland.

Related: Iceland's Five Star Stunner: Deplar Farm

What was the genesis of Chasing Light, and how did you choose which photographs to include? When I started photographing, my goal was to create a huge portfolio from around the world. If teNeues [the publisher] had not contacted me, I would have extended this portfolio until I was satisfied with its content. As a perfectionist, I might never have reached this point, so I’m glad teNeues encouraged me to edit.

You have said that you don't enhance your photographs. How do you create such extraordinary images? What is your technical process?

The most important requirement for extraordinary photographs is time. I’ve visited most of the countries in the book many times, and I always go back to my most beloved spots, waiting for the perfect light. When I get my long-awaited shot, I edit it very accurately using RAW editors, without changing any colors or content. On my 62 trips around the world, I have taken 400,000 photographs, but only 160 of them are in Chasing Light.

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Which destinations are on your bucket list? I hope one day to be able to travel to places that are not safe at the moment: the deserts of Syria and Algeria, the mountains of Pakistan and the forests of Venezuela.

You have an interesting perspective on the earth’s landscapes and environment. What are the most dramatic transformations you have seen over the past 14 years?

I dislike being a called a photographer and instead call myself a protector of nature. Today, I am observing an extreme surge of travelers around the world, and photographers (especially Instagram photographers) are largely responsible for the tourist masses that currently flood the most remote regions. Special permits are required everywhere, and because of this tourist influx, access to them has become increasingly limited.

What are your most memorable experiences from your expeditions? I always remember hiking completely alone through untouched nature.

Related: The Top 10: World's Best Places to Hike

How do you believe the art of photography influences the human relationship with the natural world?

Through photography, people can see how amazing our planet is and try to protect it from exploitation... As a photographer, I want to show how important it is to care about our blue planet. We do only have one.

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