I have always loved being outdoors. In the winter, we would go skiing, and from spring through fall, we would follow the scent of mushrooms; my parents, my brother and I. Strolls along the shores of lake Thun. Nothing spectacular, a little swimming here, building a fire there. Sometimes we would catch fish, sometimes not.
Later on, the pull of the great outdoors grew even stronger. That was when I was in my mid-twenties, making money from the dying profession of signwriting, living on a remote plateau in the Bernese mountains. Whenever I could, I would go sauntering through the woods, stumbling down the canyon to the Sense river with its ice-cold water.
Some people wonder what I am actually looking for out there – my response is always the same: Nothing in particular, except for the mushrooms. I ramble around, I feel the need to explore places physically, to become one with my environment. I love to sleep under open skies. I’m more balanced out there, more focused. Everything feels more intense in the bush. It doesn’t matter where, whether it’s Switzerland, Iceland or Canada. I’ve visited the Yukon time and time again in the past ten years. Footprints in the snow, mist on the beach, the deep, red blood of an eviscerated moose. Something archaic happens to me in these places where everything is raw. Nobody can contact me, no headlines from wars will reach me, no stock market crashes or child-soldiers.
And yet I am not a recluse. I like the sizzling energy of New York, I like Zurich. I once lived in a “Plattenbau” on the outskirts of Leipzig – and it was fantastic. I like people, just not big crowds. I don’t like shopping malls, I don’t like escalators. Lots of plastic puts me off. I prefer stone, prefer wood. Someone close to me once called me “a man of the woods”. I think that’s a good description.
My camera is my companion, but I never go looking for pictures. I can sometimes be out for weeks without even thinking of photography. Even if a bear crosses my path I rarely get out my camera – there are so many pictures of bears already, I cannot bring myself to take more. That’s not what I want. My pictures just happen, when all of a sudden things come together. A moment. A feeling.
72 Days This is some of the summer and autumn equipment I store in my cabin in the Yukon. From there I head out on foot or with the canoe to set up camp in the woods or the mountains. Everything is more intense in the bush.
Biwak Even though temperatures can drop to 58 below, I love the Yukon winter. There are no bugs to bite you and no bears to look out for. I've had several experiences with grizzlies coming into my summer camp, so I sleep deeper when they're hibernating. The snow can also be helpful to navigate on foot during winter. In the summer, I'm limited to the animal trails as the smooth-looking meadows are almost always swampy and impassable.
Champagne The Canadian Alaska Highway was built during World War II to connect the lower 48 states with Alaska. When snow falls hard in the winter time, it can become an icefield within a few hours.
White When snow or fog reduces visibility, horizons and reference points disappear. This weather condition is called «Whiteout» and leaves you with almost no sense of orientation. To experience it is both disturbing and beautiful, you want to flee and stay at the same time.
White Peaceful and surreal at the same time. Twenty minutes after I took this shot, a storm hit my camp. It snowed all night and I had to keep shoveling the tent free.
Bear Glacier This picture was taken in 2013. When I returned nine years later the Glacier in British Columbia was not visible anymore from this particular angle.
Fireplace Cutting wood is one of my main winter preparations. It goes hand in hand with clearing the forest around the cabin, as a protection from wildfires in the next season. Huge piles like this are lit when snow covers the ground and a fire is safe.
Walden When no headlines reach you and nobody can contact you, books are important companions. I always take one along when I’m out, such as Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Sometimes I read only one or two pages in the morning and have the words in mind all day long.
Namaycush Fish is one of my favorite protein sources when I’m out—they're easy to catch and they don’t have to be gutted and skinned. You can buy the most expensive rod, find the perfect place, choose the perfect time—and yet there's no guarantee that you'll come away successful. This uncertainty mesmerizes me.
Granit Creek The lower temperatures drop during an indian summer night, the more colorful nature presents itself in the morning.
KM 208 Lots of water and willows make for ideal moose habitat. In the fall, I often come here to hear the cows calling the bulls. Imitating their sounds is essential for the hunt.
Coydern I believe hunting is the most honest way of consuming meat. In September, the moose come out in the open and we head out with a canoe and set up a bush camp. For one to two weeks, we only whisper, experiencing every sound and every movement. This intensity is what draws me to the Yukon.
Alces Alces When the beautiful creature finally lies beneath you, in this moment between life and death, doubt and pragatism - I feel humble.
Hunt Two men need around six hours to gut, skin and cut a full grown moose. It is a moment of great threat as as grizzlys and other predators can be attracted by the scent. Most incidents between humans and bears happen on the hunt
Salmon Glacier The colder it get’s, the clearer are the skies. In these nights the milky way can be seen and millions of stars as light pollution is still far a way from the northern wilderness.
Winter is Coming When the birds begin to migrate, the first snow cannot be far away. These Canada geese will spend the winter in the southern United States or Mexico.
Tatshenshini Alsek Park With the first snowfalls in autumn bears get ready for hibernation. Only a short time later the lands will be covered for at least five months.
Aerie Every year I hike to this nest of bald eagles on the shores of a huge lake. It is only three hours hike away from my cabin. In the nesting season I have to be careful as the birds become very territorial. Even if I move as slowly and silently as I can, the birds fly by and start checking me out even if I’m far away. Once they are gone I look for feathers or climb up - the view over the lake and the mountains behind is stunning.
People say that my pictures exude calmness, but for me they are full of life: I know their stories, I can remember where I stood to take them, what I could smell; I know if mosquitoes were eating me up or if a strong wind was blowing. Sometimes nothing happens for days on end. There is not a lot you can do about that. You cannot force nature, you just have to endure the silence. Wait. Be patient. In the meantime, I collect wood, build a fire, boil water and get myself ready for the night. I read a couple of pages of my book. I’ve even had to wait years for the right picture.
If fishing has taught me something, then it is this: You can buy the most expensive rod, choose the perfect bait, the perfect place, the perfect time and yet there is no guarantee that you will actually catch a fish. This uncertainty mesmerizes me.
This is what I try to capture in my pictures, the untamableness.