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Choose your own adventure

The idea of isolation comes as comfort to some, whilst that very same notion invokes fear in others. David Schermann explores this in his series “Bigger Than Us”, prompting the viewer with little information, you are then left to your own imagination to dictate the narrative of this lonely traveller.

The prompt goes as follows: “Feeling alone, like a lonely astronaut who is stranded on an alien planet, wandering aimlessly around to discover the wonders of this planet.” He got the idea when stumbling upon a beautiful and vast landscape while hiking. In this day and age, David feels, people get more and more disconnected from these types of surroundings.

While David’s favorite subject to shoot is people, it is photographing nature that brings a sense of calm over him. “There is nothing more relaxing than going out in the woods on a foggy morning in autumn.”

That being said, “Bigger Than Us” was no walk in the park.

“We took a nine-hour train ride to the Austrian Alps and we had to somehow carry this old Russian pilot suit to the top of one of those mountains there. The suit and helmet weighs about 35kg.  We had huge hiking backpacks with us, my friend who is also the model, took the suit and I took the helmet and photo equipment with me. The ascent was really tough, but after 1600 metres in altitude we finally made it to the cabin. I was exhausted, but it was so worth it. The sun was setting and we really had an awesome view. The next day we created some very nice images.”

For shoots like these, David’s AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D is key, selected for its reliability and because it proves a great all-rounder.

David turns to music, more specifically lyrics, to inspire his works. Often influenced by a passage in a song, hones in on the emotions felt in these moments to build on his portfolio. The title of his “Bigger Than Us” series is the song title from the band ‘The White Lies’. Although the photo series has nothing in common with the meaning of the song itself, David had a connection with the feelings evoked with those specific words.

“Generally, this feeling of words or sentences brings me to the concept of my works. Like when I hear and read bigger than us, I imagine a vast landscape with a little person in it. Like nature as a whole is just bigger than us, not just in size, but as a whole.”

Currently the favourite of his own works is “Nature in My Blood”, a surreal snapshot of a person and nature coming together. Using two images, David’s process involves editing them to look seamlessly integrated before editing all other aspects.

Aside from nature, David has always been keen on shooting portraiture, purely because he thrives on meeting different and refreshing personalities. He believes that spontaneity is the crucial to a great portrait.

“One tip I heard some time ago and which I am still using to get some spontaneous shots or for people who are uncomfortable in front of the camera, is to order your model to look down, after counting to 3 to look up and then you take the photo. The model will not have time to focus on the fact that they are being photographed and wont focus on the camera. That way it does not look forced, you get some nice expressions and it is also funny.”

His process also comes with a side of spontaneity. After years behind the lens, David knows that the end result may not be what he originally envisaged, that is when his flexible work ethic allows his imagination to make the best of any given situation.

About David

David Schermann is a 23-year-old artist based in Austria. A full-time student, he spends his spare time exploring surrounding cityscapes, exotic scenes of nature and the human condition. In 2008, he got his first DSLR for Christmas, the Nikon D40X, which greatly fuelled his fire for photography.

About the gear

With outstanding NIKKOR optics and an ultra-fast f/1.4 maximum aperture, the AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D delivers superb resolution and color reproduction and a classic 50mm angle of view. Its manual aperture control ring enables smooth adjustments during Live View shooting. Fast enough for shooting in just about any light, it’s an ideal walk-around (multi-purpose) lens for photography and video recording.