Nicola Odemann’s Photos Reimagine the Shapes a Mountain Can Take

The young German photographer stuns with a unique eye for shape and texture


Nicola Odemann’s photos aren’t shots of mountains, trails, and landscapes as much as they are studies of light, shape, texture and movement. There’s something painterly and abstract about her film photos, which she shoots on a Nikon F65 and has developed at a photo lab in her small hometown in southern Germany. The 25 year old grew up at the foot of the Alps, and the mountains have always figured large in her life.

“There is nothing I love more than to hike through nature for a few days and to just get lost in the simplicity of life. In the city you are someone. In nature, you are just human,” says Odemann. “I feel more connected with myself and this world and what it means to live in it when I’m in the outdoors than anywhere else. That’s what gets me out there.”

Odemann isn’t a full-time photographer; the recent graduate has been working as a schoolteacher at a special needs school and using her time off to travel the world, and in particular to mountainous places. The attention her photos get—from magazines and collectors buying her work to exhibiting her work in her first group show, at the Brassaqe Photographique in Brussels—is all a bonus. She’s just capturing her favorite moments and places, and they happen to be pretty stunning.

“I just wanted to capture all this beauty surrounding me on my trips to nature either at home or at travels abroad,” says Odemann. “I think I really started taking photography seriously when I was 16 and when my dad gave me his old, analogue camera which I still use now. It enables me to capture feelings and to make them and the memories tied to them infinite.”

Below, Odemann tells us about some of her favorite images.

The evening when I took this photo, we were staying at a camping ground a few hundred meters away from the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall. We had just finished dinner when I looked outside our tent and saw the sun was about to set with the sky already shining in the most beautiful orange and red tones. I just grabbed my camera and quickly ran towards the waterfall. The sun set on my right as it illuminated mountains and waterfalls on my left in red and orange. I ran alongside the street with cars passing me by and the people in it staring at me strangely. But I felt so free and couldn’t help but smiling as I ran towards the waterfall with my camera in my hand.

When I was in Iceland this year we did a three-day hike in the highlands. This third day was supposed to be the most beautiful one but once we reached the geothermal area it started to rain heavily. This was the last photo I took for many hours as the rain/hail/snow and the slippery and steep path kept us quite distracted. I initially felt angry about missing the opportunity to capture this incredible place on film back when we were hiking. In retrospect, though, I have to say that this day is actually my favorite Iceland memory now precisely because of the harsh conditions. I guess nothing is ever as bad as it might seem. At least not when hiking through a hail storm in Iceland.

This was the view we got when reaching the summit of a mountain in my favorite region in South Tyrol, Italy. We had started very early before sunrise because this mountain is known for always having a “hat” of clouds on its summit during the day. The whole time we hiked up there it was super sunny but shortly before we reached the top clouds came up from down the valley. Once we reached the top we were surrounded by clouds but maybe the clouds felt sorry for us because for a few minutes this “window” opened up and gave us the well deserved view after all.

This must be the favorite spot I ever had breakfast on. A few years ago my sister crossed the Alps on foot with some friends and I joined them to hike through the northern part of the Dolomites with them. This morning we had stayed at a beautiful hut on top of Sella plateau and woke up before sunrise to hike to the top of this mountain to see the sunrise. It was an incredible experience and to sit there and watch down on a sea of mountains felt so intense that I can still feel the happiness of that moment now.

I took this photo when hiking at a valley about one hour away from where I live. Although I have been to that place quite a few times, I had never seen the waterfall before which surprised me a lot. We stood there and took a photo when shortly thereafter the light changed its path and made the waterfall completely invisible again. I just went there again a week or so ago but couldn’t find it anymore. Looks like it’s really only visible at a certain time of the day when the light comes from a certain direction which is kind of cool I think.

When I was in Oman with my three sisters we crossed a very steep mountain pass. We hadn’t planned to go up there as our prior researches had revealed that it is very steep and narrow without any guardrail on the whole way which made us hesitate. When we visited a small fort near the mountain pass, however, we spoke to some Omani who told us that it is totally possible and that we should definitely try. And so we did. The “road” was often hard to identify as such as it often led through a dry riverbed but it was so, so incredible! The views were magnificent and luckily we had almost no oncoming traffic. When we reached the top, we set up our camp and had an unforgettable night under a star sprinkled sky.

I took this photo when I was hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal a couple of years ago. On this day we had to cross the Thorong-La pass (5416m) and I had been sick and hadn’t eaten for almost two days when we started our ascent. We started at 4 a.m. in the morning. The sky was black and full of stars but I couldn’t enjoy the sight as I felt so weak and blindly followed the people in front of me instead. The one-hour ascent to a little tea house along the way was physically the most demanding thing I have ever done. At one time I felt so dizzy that I had to sit down and I just couldn’t imagine going further, or back, anymore.

I don’t remember how I got up again, maybe it was one guy telling me that it wasn’t far anymore and that I would be able to get some hot tea at the tea house. I continued hiking, step after step. At every step I would think: One step for my sister, one step for my mother, one step for my father, and on and on, one step for every person I loved.

When we finally reached the tea house I was so exhausted. I had some porridge but had to throw up again, so I only had some tea. However, the sun had finally risen and the darkness was replaced with the most amazing scenery I have ever laid eyes on. Snowy peaks, a cloudless and dark blue sky and the knowledge that we were in the middle of the Himalayas. Something changed when I saw all of this. I was still feeling very sick but there was a stronger feeling taking control of me now which was utter appreciation of the privilege to be here now. I started to feel like myself again as we continued our ascent and I started to take photos again trying to capture all of this glory surrounding us. It is strange to think how utter despair and glorious triumph can be so close together but when we finally reached the pass despite the conditions I felt so proud. I love all of the photos from this day so much because they are a reminder that every low is followed by beauty and triumph and wonder.

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Comments
  • Jeff Fujita
    Reply

    Brava to Nicola Odemann for her memorable photographs. Some of them remind me of a snow globe scene blown up to real scale. Thank you for the stories that go into producing her photographs. I would feel proud, too, if I produced such memories.

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