Photographers Spotlight : Peter Boehringer
Who is Peter Boehringer?
I am a German-Latino-Angle-Saxon person with a social, cultural, linguistic lifelong identity crisis. I was born in Germany. At age 5 my parents decided to move to Brazil with plans to stay there for some two years. Plans changed and I grew up in Rio de Janeiro. I left Brazil at age 28 with a completed medical education and post-graduate training. I moved on to Switzerland. I worked a decade in Switzerland, followed by a little bit less then a decade in California and finally a little bit more than a decade in New Mexico. It is hard for me to say where home is. Home is nowhere and everywhere. It is mostly where I am at the very moment, be it in the four corners States area (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah) or some foreign country when traveling. To make things even more complicated I have Southern Africa in the cross hairs to be my next living destination.
My present physical address is in the rural northwestern corner of New Mexico, as close as possible to the deserts of the Colorado Plateau. I work in Farmington as a hospital based physician, serving the diverse local European-Latino-Native American population. In my time off I explore and photograph the four corners area and I travel with my wife to various deserts in the world.
How did you discover your love for photography?
In short, before I was even born! My father bought a camera several days before I was born to document my birth and growth. Reportedly he was so enthusiastic about his new toy that he dragged my mother all around to photograph the town of Stuttgart. It is said that this physical effort induced and early labor. I must have shared my father’s enthusiasm and was eager to pose in front of his camera.
The long answer? I got my first camera at age 8. A simple plastic box, everything manual, including the progress of the film, leading to multiple involuntary double exposures. The following camera at age 14 was a huge leap. My grandmother gave me a SLR with a ground breaking built-in photometer. The dark room in my school allowed me to develop my own B&W images.
My photography passion had to take a break during my twenties and thirties. These were the years of professional growth and multiple relocations when I finally saw myself living at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California. In the meantime the photographic technology had revolutionized into the digital era. Learning these new concepts during long explorations around the Sierra Nevada was enticing and led the ground to advance finally to a true medium format, Phase One XT, three years ago.
You’ve lead many photography workshops, what part of the workshop brings you the most joy?
Actually all steps. From the moment of exploring the possibilities of creating a new workshop, the first interaction with people contacting with their questions about the workshop, being out there with the participants and helping them crafting their images and later at home seeing on my desktop what the participants created during the workshop and how they processed the image at home.
My workshops are designed to take people to the less beaten path places. As such it is most of the time an adventurous enterprise. It is a special joy to see the facial expression of doubt, as the very bumpy trail leads to a secluded area, mutating into a WOW expression when we finally arrive at our destination. Many times I’ve heard from participants to my workshops that I took them out of there comfort zone, but I have not heard once a regret about it. To the contrary, I have several participants who once exposed to the wilderness are eager to go back with me on another workshop. Taking people out there into the wilderness, showing how to manage it and returning safely home with unique photographs is all the joy of my workshops.
Do you have a favorite location for your landscape workshops?
My favorite location for a workshop is the place that is hard to reach, isolated, with scarce vegetation, challenging weather conditions and minimal to no present infrastructure. My Jeep has a small off-road trailer with a refrigerator, stove, warm water shower and a roof top tent. This allows me to go almost anywhere in the American Southwest and be at secluded places with a certain level of comfort and safety.
However, it is difficult to find people who share this love for the extreme. For example, I have been to places in Brazil, Bolivia, Botswana, Namibia, Oman which would be perfect destinations for a unique and unforgettable workshop, but there is merely no interest for such an adventure.
I compromise with landscape workshops in the four corners area and more recently with workshops in the touristic established parts of Namibia.
If you could go anywhere and photograph anything, where and what would that be?
Any desert in the world. Be it sand, rock, ice, flat, mountainous.
Lately my attention has been drawn to Central Asia. I am recently reading a lot about the Silk Road and countries such as Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. At the same time I am finishing up the transformation of my Defender 110 into an overland camper to be mobile and autonomous in such places. I envision starting such photographic travel in Turkey and slowly moving into the high deserts and mountain ranges following Alexander the Great’s path into the Pamir Mountains and the paths of the ancient merchant caravans of the Silk Road.
Tell us about the equipment you’ve used over the years and why you chose it?
As I mentioned earlier, I restarted with photography in 2006. I went digital and chose Nikon D200 as my first digital camera. Slowly but surely I upgraded through the years with progressively improving digital Nikon cameras, the last being Nikon D850. My Nikkor lenses had a fixed aperture f/2.8 and I particularly loved my tilt and shift lenses. The type of landscape photography I did required various Lee ND filters.
Creating my images in the wilderness is a life slowing down approach. Hectic daily life is put aside. I experience slowness and intensity of the moment. I scout the places to be photographed extensively. I need to see the landscape change with its various light conditions throughout the day, particularly early morning and late afternoon. My best images were created only after spending several hours at a place or even after returning several times to the same place. My tripod and the camera can stay for several hours at the very same spot until I have the feeling that I got the best out of a particular composition.
This almost obsessive approach to small, yet important details, sloth-like speed in front of the landscape and around my camera opened up my curiosity to medium format. My choice went for the Phase One XT system. The combination of its unparalleled image quality and its portability during my trips, including hikes and backpacking gave me the best in digital photography. Besides, its astounding dynamic range and some of its functions made the need of filters obsolete.
The transition from full frame to true medium format and switching my previous post-processing tools to Capture One Pro confronted me with a very steep learning curve. Holding my Phase One XT at the beginning was very intimidating. In the meantime it feels rather like an image crafting tool. I know that I have created images with my medium format which I would have never been able to do with my full format camera.
Looking back leaves me with the question of why I did not change to medium format much earlier. The launch of the Phase One XT system to the already existing Phase One XF came at the right time for my change. Carrying a Phase One XF in my backpack as I do it with the XT would have been impossible.
Is there a specific tool/feature you rely on time and time again, and why?
Excuse the comparison, but using a Phase One XT is like having a Jeep Wrangler for off-road and overland use. The Jeep has fantastic off road capabilities and yet it needs some upgrades for the final touch, like a lift and mud tires, just to mention some details. The Phase One XT has built in functions that are absolutely unique and allow me to take images in a new way. Three particular built-in functions come to special use: Shift to create panoramas and correct lens distortion, “Dual Exposure +” to open up dark areas which otherwise would be underexposed and end up with noise, and finally the absolutely stunning automatic “Frame Averaging” tool. The two latter functions made it obsolete to carry around ND grad and Big Stopper filters.
The three additional accessories to my camera, corresponding to the lifting and putting different tires on the Jeep are the B.O.B., Cambo compendium lens hood and a Tether Tools power bank. B.O.B. allows me to release the shutter without touching the camera and inducing unwanted tremors. The lens hood keeps the lens untouched from the sun avoiding any sorts of flare and diffuse light decreasing the image quality and finally the power bank gives me a significantly longer time to operate the camera uninterruptedly as the battery will not run out of juice, particularly not when the light is at its best and I might lose the long waited golden moment.
The beauty of the Phase One XT lays in the combination of top digital technology with most of its functions to be controlled manually. There is almost nothing automatic with the exception of the light meter reading and the capability to analyze my image with the 8 Exposure Zone which reminds me somewhat of Ansel Adams 10 Zone System.
Why did you choose Capture Integration as your equipment partner?
Previous to owning a Phase One the steps of gathering info about a camera system and finally buying it was always a very anonymous internet experience. Seeking information about Phase One and buying a Phase One XT system was a complete new experience. I had to send a contact email expressing my interest and almost minutes later I had a reply from some obscure person called Murray Elliott. Email exchanges were followed by phone calls and finally followed by Zoom meetings. The contact and exchange in ideas were professional and friendly. In the meantime I consider Murray as a very resourceful, helpful friend. This is true customer relationship at a level that goes along with the photographic gear I use.