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Flower Power: Photographer Bettina Güber

By Jordan Kushins

We walk through this world with our eyes wide open, but there are wonders—of the squint-so-you-can-see-it, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety—that require a special kind of focus. Photographer Bettina Güber has made a habit of paying close attention to the kinds of things that others might pass by, and preserving their subtle beauty with her trusty Nikon.

Güber, who lives in Krefeld, Germany, has built up a robust Behance portfolio of evocative images of the natural world (some of which she also offers on Adobe Stock), but she didn’t always think of herself as a creative person. She credits the confines of a desk job with giving her a nudge to develop her artistic talents. “I was an office clerk back in the 1990s, and my boss decided that we should make our own flyers and brochures. So I started learning the graphics software—but without any artistic approach,” she says. (These days, she makes a living primarily as a media designer, crafting advertisements and collateral for a company that sells automotive spare parts.)

A small selection of Güber’s work that she has made available on Adobe Stock.

BECOMING A PHOTOGRAPHER

Güber picked up photography, in 2009, only as a favor to a good pal. “I bought a camera for a friend’s wedding in Istanbul because I thought someone had to capture the event; it was the first time I’d taken photos, and they were far from spectacular,” she says. “After I returned, I put the camera back on the shelf—and forgot about it.”

As in this photo, Güber often takes a macro look at nature.

However, the experience stuck with her, and years later she decided to have another go. “I’m still wondering why I suddenly grabbed [the camera] again in 2012; there was no explicit trigger as far as I know.” But simply picking it up was, at that point, enough; she began to snap, with a serendipitous assist. “Right about then I also found my late father’s photo bag and a wonderful 105mm prime lens. I started experimenting in my backyard—not really knowing how to handle it—and was stunned. When I looked through that lens, there were all those amazing details we wouldn’t normally see. It was completely fascinating.”

A FOCUS ON NATURE

After a period of trial and error, she felt that her pictures of flowers and insects were turning out particularly well, and she’s since developed quite a knack for framing what she finds in the fresh air. “Nature is always powerful and beautiful. I love the mood, especially in spring and fall, but I also like how it changes through the seasons; sometimes it’s joyful; sometimes, mystical or magical; sometimes, dark and sad or melancholic,” she says.

As her skills have evolved, so has her approach to, and relationship with, her enduring subject matter. “Trees always have a story to tell,” she says of the narrative running through series like Baby, it’s cold outside. “These were taken on a very cold Sunday morning. The sun was shining, and all the trees and the ground were white, and the colors were out of this world,” she says. “It was one of those magic moments and looked surreal.” To play up this somewhat dreamlike state, she gave the striking silhouettes a bit of a makeover. “I’m a big fan of surreal photography and digital art, so every time it’s possible to edit an image like this, I take the opportunity,” she says. Güber used Adobe Photoshop’s Motion Blur filter in the lower part of one image and blended it softly into the rest, to otherworldly effect (far right, below).

Images from Güber’s series Baby, it’s cold outside.

It’s only one of her many favorite techniques in the program. “I’m a Photoshop addict and couldn’t live without it,” she says. “I experiment with textures a lot, which can completely change the mood and message, draw attention to certain details, or add some magic to an otherwise boring photo.” But she stresses the fact that it can’t make miracles. “Contrary to popular belief, you can’t ‘save’ a bad image by just covering it with a nice texture,” she says. “If you use them in the way I do, the original photo has to be of good quality.”

“I think the series Alter Friedhof, Bonn—which itself was quite an unusual project for me—describes best why I love using textures and how I use them,” says Güber. “I captured the funeral monuments at this famous old cemetery. The sculptors and artists tried to design them in a very realistic way back then—very impressive. But the photos I took were just ‘normal’ photos of monuments and tombstones. Textures breathed some life into them; the surrounding is faded out and the viewer’s attention is drawn to the faces and their expressions.”

Sometimes Güber uses digital tools to transform what she observes into something entirely new, by taking her subjects totally out of their element. “Flowers were my first love. Even decaying flowers are beautiful; sometimes I like them even more because of their fragility,” she says. “But it’s not easy to find new ways to show flowers—I think I’ve done them all by now.” To challenge herself, she created new, mandala-like blossoms by using the kaleidoscope effect in Pixelmator.

The three top images are from Güber’s Mandalas series; the three lower images are from her Kaleidoscope series.

A CREATIVE COMMUNITY

When she started uploading her photos to Behance, she began to gain attention from fellow photographers—and others. “Adobe took notice of my work on Behance,” she says. “A few weeks after getting in touch, they bought a license for one of my chrysanthemum photos and used it for the Adobe Lightroom startup screen.” They also invited her to be a part of the new Adobe Premium Collection of Adobe Stock assets. “[Stock] is a great place where I’ve already had some sales,” she says.

This Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC startup screen featured one of Güber’s flower photographs.

It’s a nice boost to a hobby that she hopes to one day turn into a full-time gig. In the meantime, she’s happy to share on Behance, and to be part of a global community. “Since I started with macro photography, I’ve become much more attentive,” she says. “I’d like to draw the viewer’s attention to details, and I’d like to motivate them to have a closer look at all things around them.”

See more of Bettina’s work on Behance and on Adobe Stock.