Curtain up for ....
Bernd Ritschel, né en 1963 à Wolfratshausen, Haute-Bavière, en Allemagne, a voyagé sur les montagnes et les continents de cette terre depuis 25 ans. Il a fait de nombreuses expéditions dans l’Himalaya, l’Alaska, la Cordillère des Andes, l’Arctique à escalader des pics de plus de 7000 mètres d’altitude. L’enthousiaste alpiniste de l’extrême est maintenant un photographe professionnel dont la réussite est internationalement reconnue. De longues traversées comme le Skitransalp (2009) et la Croix des Dolomites (2010) lui ont permis de poursuivre sa passion pour les Alpes de manière plus intensive que jamais. Il a vécu à Kochel am See, Allemagne, avec sa femme Manuela et sa fille Clarissa pendant de nombreuses années.
« Mon appareil photo a été mon compagnon constant dans les montagnes depuis plus de 25 ans. Au début, je me concentrais principalement sur la documentation de nos ballades et des expéditions. Elle a été suivie par une phase de challenge, avec une photographie promotionnelle passionnante dans le cadre de missions. Toutefois, «les montagnes, à la lumière » continuera à faire une grande partie de mon travail photographique et à me lier étroitement à l’alpinisme de haute montagne-authentique, émotionnel, un retour aux sources. »
Plus de 80 expéditions l’ont conduit à travers 65 pays, sur presque toutes les montagnes sur la terre. Les résultats sont saisis dans 20 livres de la photographie, 5 manuels ou les guides, calendriers de nombreuses publications et entre autres dans presque tous les grands magazines de langue allemande.
Ses photos ont été imprimées dans de nombreux magazines renommés tels que Geo, Stern, Geo Saison, Abenteuer & Reisen, promos ADAC et la quasi-totalité des magazines du ski européen ou de montagne. Ils ont également été affichés dans plus d’une douzaine d’expositions à travers l’Europe centrale. Bernd Ritschel est maintenant l’un des photographes de montagne et de documentaires les plus célèbres d’Europe Centrale.
Scene 1 -Spring 2011-
Let me cut a long story short. Until the spring of 2011 I used to lug a heavy DLSR about, including a standard zoom lens, even in long alpine climbing routes. However, I yearned to have an alternative and finally at the Photokina in 2010 the photography world began to change. Fujifilm was risking a revolution. For decades in the collective memory of photographers Fujifilm had mostly stood for “Velvia”, the legendary slide film. But now, every photographer who I spoke to had not only seen the X100 but had also bought it. Soon, all of us had one and we were thrilled about two things in particular: the optical hybrid viewfinder and the unbelievably good image quality.
For me the X100 came out just at the right time. After over 20 years as a mountaineer photographer my back was playing me up and my shoulders ached. In the summer of 2011 a good friend of mine, Franz Forster, and I wanted to climb the Stockhorn-Bietschhorn ridge, a project that is longer and more strenuous than the well-known Eiger North Face. I soon realized that my chances were pretty low if I took my big DSLR with me. Even though the X100 was limited with regard to focal length, I was absolutely certain that it would be ideal for this extremely challenging three-day project. Like madmen, we trained for months and started off at the beginning of August completely euphoric. But we failed all the same – due to the weather on the one hand but also due to a lack of toughness. Nevertheless, the story and the images were extremely important for the National Geographic project “Wilde Alpen” (Wild Alps) that I was working on at the time. The images appeared in both the book and the show.
That’s when I fell in love with this camera. With its minimalistic approach, it helps me see really good photographs – and helps me work on them till they’re perfect.
Scene 2 -January 2012-
Since the X100 had now become my steady companion in high altitude mountains I was fascinated in the winter of 2012 when the XPro1 was introduced as an entire “X System”. I was particularly interested because I had just been offered a dream assignment: I was to accompany Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, the famous 8000 m mountaineer, and her husband Ralf Dujmovits on their trip to the Mount Everest region where I was to photograph them on Lobuche East, a 6119 m peak.
But at the same time I had serious doubts. For two of my other clients, Gore Tex and Lowa I had always used full frame cameras. Would they accept the much smaller APS-C frame size? Especially, as it was also an entirely new system.
In the end I made a very pragmatic decision. I simply took both systems with me. After all, I had a young, very fit assistant with me. And he had to have something to do ….
On location a few weeks later on a ridge above Namche Basar, I was feeling the effects of altitude and my lack of fitness. I was breathing heavily. In a small camera bag on the front of my body I was carrying an X-Pro1 with an XF18mm f2 R lens attached and the XF35mm f1.4 R and XF60mm f2.4 R Macro lenses. Although I was exhausted, I managed to get some good images. Speed was vital as we were now at 3700 m after hiking for hours and nobody wanted to hop around for the photographer. I was totally euphoric seeing how fast I was able to work with the X-Pro1. I rarely asked my assistant for the “big” camera. This scene was to be repeated for many days to come. With the X-Pro1 I succeeded in taking spontaneous and thus often excellent images and I only used the full frame camera during planned shootings.
I was really grateful for the “small” camera during the ascent up Lobuche. With difficult mixed climbing, snow-covered rock and very exposed terrain, I was simply glad that I had the lightweight Fujifilm camera with me.
My conclusion on quality: Irrelevant of whether the images were intended for a double-page spread in a catalogue or a magazine, everyone – clients and editors – were happy and satisfied with the quality of the images.
Scene 3 -Spring 2014-
Everything was fine. But there were even better things coming. The X-T1 had arrived. Naturally I had to try it out immediately. Why shouldn’t I do a quick bike and hike shooting tomorrow in the Ötztal Alps? Eight frames per second ought to be sufficient. The autofocus was new. I’d take Andi, an old friend and excellent mountain bike rider, with me to the Grieskogel mountain. We left at three in the morning, hiking initially in the light of our headlamps and then in the subtle light of the morning sunrise. On the summit ridge everything was covered in snow and ice – every boulder, every piece of rock and, unfortunately, the steel cables intended to help climbing on the hardest sections. As the sun rose I became heady while shooting images. We were surrounded by so many high peaks, including the 3700 m high Wildspitze in the south. I positioned Andi in every conceivable spot: on the ridge, on the summit, in the steep south face. Just an hour later I had shot all I wanted. After a quick snack we descended elated and full of energy.
Back in Hochsölden Andi changed his clothes and equipment. The next two hours were focused entirely on fast action sport. Andi rode on narrow single trails, on wide tracks in spectacular scenery, through airy larch woodlands and past weathered alm cabins. Yes, I was thrilled. The “new” camera is definitely fast enough.
Final scene -Autumn 2015-
The postman rang the bell at my house. The package I’d been waiting for had finally arrived. I ran into my office, opened the box and held something really “secret” in my hands: a prototype of the X-Pro2, which I was to test for a few days. It impressed me right away with its exquisite look and feel, professional design and virtually perfect technical specifications.
Quickly, I searched the internet and read the weather forecast for Obergurgl in Tyrol. In two days’ time there was a promise of a cloudless morning. I’d soon made my plans. I wanted to start shooting at sunrise on the summit ridge of the Wurmkogel mountain. That meant alpine climbing, an exposed ridge and emotions let loose on the summit. Then I made an important call to ask Tobi Heiss from Lenggries whether he had time for this shooting. His positive response was a relief as he is an excellent high-altitude mountaineer. On the next day we packed our mountaineering gear together, which was more than usual. Since we would be climbing on dangerous steep terrain, safety was a prime concern. We packed three ropes, ice climbing gear and crampons, slings and carabiners, ascenders, headlamps, down jackets and, in particular, warm boots for we would be working for hours in extremely chilly conditions up there.
In the evening we set off enthusiastically towards Obergurgl, the starting point for our planned photo session. Just before midnight we clambered into our warm down sleeping bags for a very short night. The alarm clock woke us at four in the morning. We quickly got ready drinking just a few sips of hot tea from our thermos flasks and putting on warm mountain clothing and our headlamps. Off we went. As planned, we reached the summit ridge of the Wurmkogel at 3000 m just as the sun started to rise. My small pocket thermometer indicated minus 18C. Despite chilly fingers we managed to set up belays and fixed our ropes. Shortly afterwards, I enjoyed hearing the shutter working in the X-Pro2. On this morning I used only three prime lenses: the Fujinon XF14mm f2.8 R, the XF23mm f1.4 R and the XF56mm f1.2 R.
Then I shot over 800 images, changed the lenses many times, inserted new batteries and drank some hot tea. And all that in fantastic light conditions. A thrilling experience.
In my opinion the new camera is an ingenious and absolutely professional tool.
Last but not least -March/April 2016-
When these words appear online in the Fujifilm X-Blog, I’ll already be in the Red Rocks in Nevada together with my assistant and mountaineering partner, Christain Speer. First, we’ll spend about a week working on a “Making of” video and taking images for my new book project. However, it’s the few spare days at the end of the trip that we are really looking forward to – when we can go climbing, just the two of us and just for fun. We’ll leave the big camera equipment in a hotel and I’ll just take the X100T with me. And then two passions can be fulfilled: climbing and photography.
Finally, I’d like to express my thanks to Fujifilm. First, for their courage to take the risk of designing such an innovative, new system and, secondly, for the absolutely professional quality of their products and their support for us photographers, which can hardly be topped. Keep it up!!