A brilliant wildlife and landscape photographer, Rosing abruptly switched careers in mid-life to pursue his passion for polar bears and capturing the wonders of the Arctic and northern regions of Europe. Widely acclaimed for his technically exquisite and superbly composed images, his work has graced the pages of such internationally renowned publications as National Geographic and GEO and he has published a series of outstanding coffee table books that have become best-sellers. Here, in his own thoughtfully understated words, is the inspring story of the remarkable transformation of this dedicated Leica photographer.
Q: What camera and equipment do you use?
A: For over 20 years I have used the Leica R system (R6, R6.2, R7, R8 and now the R9) with all the available R lenses I need for my work. Since early 2010 I have also been using the Leica digital S system, now with four lenses. I still like to use film (Fujichrome Velvia 50) for stationary subjects and landscapes and most of the time I shoot each subject with both systems — film and digital.
Q: How would you describe your photography? What is your motivation or what are you trying to achieve in general terms with your photography?
A: I am an “eye” person and I look for structures, forms and colors in nature. I used to be a 100% wildlife photographer, but recently I find myself doing more landscape photography. Technically, I try to reach the highest quality level possible. I also strive to be as honest and authentic as possible. No technical altering (with digital images this is almost impossible). I do not like computer work at all. It’s a waste of time, but most people have no choice anymore.
Q: Were you a serious enthusiast before going pro? What made you decide to go pro?
A: I always wanted to do what I’m doing now, but I just could not afford it. Then, in 1992, I came to a decision point and pretty quickly made the move to quit my old job as a nurse in a hospital. I have never regreted this step. Since that time I’ve traveled to the Arctic and many other places and met many fascinating people.
Q: When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression, an art form, a profession?
A: I took my first pictures as a teenager and in my early 20s. When I had my first image published in 1980 I felt like a king. I discovered that the world looks very different through different lenses. I started with presentations in old peoples’ homes and in schools and they were very well received. In terms of my photography, I started loving the North and its wonderful light.
Q: Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor or were you self-taught. Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?
A: I am self-taught. I have looked up to many photographers and have been inspired by their great work. They include Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe, Jim Brandenburg, Hans Reinhard, Fritz Pölking, Sebastio Salgado, Robert Mapplethorp, Tom Mangelson, Fred Bruemmer and Tom Ulrich. These are people who set some of the milestones in contemporary photography — the White Wolf story by Jim Brandenburg, the Okavango story and many more by Frans Lanting, the amazing polar bear photography by Tom Ulrich and Tom Mangelson. Hans Reinhard did outstanding work with urban wildlife and much more. Fritz Pölking was the mentor of many of today’s German wildlife photographers. I joined photography associations such as the GDT (German wildlife photography association), NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) and DGPH (German Society for Photography) to meet my heroes and to learn from them.
Q: What genre(s) are your photos?
A: My field is nature photography in the widest meaning of that term. I’ve been working on remote and wilderness areas in Germany for the past three years. For over 20 years I worked on “The World of the Polar Bear” in the Canadian Arctic and Spitsbergen in Norway. So far I have published more than ten coffee table books, did many stories for National Geographic USA and Germany and also GEO. I like to work on long-term special subjects. I’m not a hunter with a camera and I’m definitely not a machine-gun photographer. Also, I’m not so much a competion photographer anymore, especially since everything has gone digital.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica? What special characteristics do the Leica cameras and lenses you use have that help you in executing your kind of work?
A: In 1989 I switched from Canon to Leica when Canon introduced the EOS system and Leica brought out the R6. I immediately fell in love with the purist Leica camera and the amazing quality of its lenses. I am still convinced that my decision was the right one even after all these years. No camera has a mythos like Leica and no other camera company allows you to meet the people behind the brand. No other camera has the status of a Leica and no other camera brand has better lenses. The vivid color reproduction and the brillance of the images resulting from the typical “Leica melt” in the workflow of analog images is just unbeatable and happily this will continue to be true in the digital world of the S2.
Q. What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?
A. It’s my life. It opens the world to magic, wonders, wilderness, very interesting people. It has immeasurably enhanced the richness of my life.
Q: What do you think your latest book or published portfolio communicates to viewers and have you had any feedback on it?
A: I’m pleased to say that my book “Wild Germany” has become a bestseller and is in the 7th print-run after two years. I get exciting e-mails and many compliments on the photography. People are very happy after viewing my slide show presentations on polar bears and the Germany show.
With photography we can expand our concsiousness and we can spark emotions. But the first step to success is a lot of hard work, knowledge, luck and sticking to your goals. To be a good nature and wildlife photographer, you need a lot of persistance, knowledge and a first-rate camera system. I’ve been very fortunate to have the right temperament, the passion and, of course, the Leica.
Thank you Mr. Rosing!
-Leica Internet Team
You can see more of Norbert Rosing’s photography on his website www.rosing.de.