Meet Our Staff: Kristel Schneider

Here at Nature First, we have a wonderful community consisting of people that care deeply about protecting the wilds we love, and who work hard to make this alliance possible. Kristel Schneider started as the first Advocate for the Netherlands and Belgium and is now our Community Advocate Director. You can find her passionately working behind the scenes, connecting members and countries, and bringing us all together for this exciting cause.

I had the exciting chance to ask about her background to get to know her better and understand what she does for Nature First…

Jennifer: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get into nature photography? 

Kristel:  I was born in The Netherlands and lived a big part of my adult life in Amsterdam. I studied Human Resource Management and Communication and worked the last six years of my other professional career as a Communication Adviser for a Pharmaceutical Company. My photography back then was mainly ‘street-photography.’ This all changed when I started taking painting classes in Amsterdam, my hometown. Unfortunately, I soon realized that I could not draw very well, and let’s say I became an abstract painter very fast. The good thing about it was that it had a big influence on my photography. I started looking at other subjects, more in detail and I became drawn to structures and textures. Call it the seeding moment of my abstract photography. The moment that changed everything in my life, and as a consequence, my photography too, was when I moved from the Netherlands to France, from the big city to the countryside. The year I became forty, I decided to give up my communication job to focus totally on my passion, photography. After two years, I became a fulltime art & nature photographer and workshops/photo tours instructor. Fortunate to see my work published and able to present my work all over Europe and even further. And even in difficult times like this, I never regret taking that decision to ‘change my life’. 

Jennifer: Tell us a little about your photography style and the subjects you enjoy shooting. 

Kristel: Over the last couple of years, I have explored a lot of different techniques and notice I translate my own personal feelings to Nature into my work. A big influence on my creative process and the decision on what type of approach to take depends, next to light and the weather conditions, even more on my personal mood at that moment. You can say I am more an in-between season photographer. When Nature shows the beginning or the end of a season. You can often find me inspired by the intimate scenes, nature details, or just some graphical textures. I love the colors contrast during these in-between seasons with leave buds just opening, creating a pink or red glow in a valley or the first fresh greens with some late snowfall reflecting in a water stream. What can get me excited is the combination of heavy wind mixed with snowfall. My abstract part of the brain immediately sets off. When I work on a project, I like to shoot local and choose subjects that are common to us and close to the heart. I try to make people look at their direct surroundings differently, that natural beauty is all around is. With my first project ‘Variations in Trees,’ I worked for almost five years in my new adopted region, creating compositions of common trees. It resulted in two exhibitions and a book. For my new project, I just started before the Covid-19 virus hit us, I chose again a common and local subject. This time a different approach than with the trees project. More planning and scouting but still letting Nature inspire me. I will share more about the new project, when I am a little bit further along. 

“When Nature shows the beginning or the end of a season. You can often find me inspired by the intimate scenes, nature details, or just some graphical textures.

Jennifer: What led you to be a Nature First advocate? Why is Nature First important to you? 

Kristel:  After reading about Nature First, I signed up as a member last year. Responsible Nature photography is a global and complex issue. We cannot resolve it with just one simple action. As a professional photographer and workshop/photo-tour instructor, I can see the rapid change in my working field. Our natural world has inspired many photographers to go out, to connect, and to be creative. This clearly has changed the nature photography arena, not only by the damage our massive presence causes Nature but also by the way we behave. The need for pretty pictures, hunting ‘likes’ on Facebook and Instagram, the copy- cat images of popular destinations, and the need to be the first in posting a rare location. Some photographers go to ever greater extremes to get images of wild places, tearing out vegetation, jumping fences onto bird breeding grounds, disturbing wildlife… the list goes on. All this for beautiful nature photos? This made me want to do more than just put my name on a members’ list. As a professional photographer, I think we all have an important role. Promoting these Nature First principles and implementing them in our work is a first step, but this alone is not enough. We must raise a sense of awareness by educating others about the importance of good stewardship and by showing that it is possible to make images of Nature without destroying it. Hopefully, in the future, we can make responsible photography ‘THE STANDARD’ in nature photography. 

Jennifer: As our Nature First Community Advocate Director, you communicate with other Nature First members from all over the world. It must be exciting to see the camaraderie form over a common goal to preserve our wild places. What do you enjoy most about interacting with these other members?

Kristel:  After becoming an active member of Nature First, in the role of Community Advocate for Netherlands and Belgium and now in my new role as Community Advocate Director, I see clearer the mission & vision, and importance of the Nature First movement. I talk a lot with photography colleagues and nature lovers from around the world now, who all want to become more actively involved and join our Advocate program. These talks make me really excited about us taking back the protective and preservative role we used to have in Nature Photography. I also realize that this takes time, but by uniting regions, nations, and even continents, we can inspire, educate, and unite everyone making photographs and videos in Nature in a responsible way. 

“I talk a lot with photography colleagues and nature lovers from around the world now, who all want to become more actively involved and join our Advocate program.

Jennifer: When communicating with other members from other countries, are they voicing similar concerns about the damage occurring to their wild places, as we see in our own countries? 

Kristel:  Unfortunately, yes, it does not matter if I talk to a member from Chile, Argentina, Romania, France, or the US. They are all mentioning the same type of issues. Crowds of photographers that line up where a special animal has been spotted, trampled wildflower beds, litter everywhere in Nature, not knowing or respecting regional park rules or even laws or a general lack of respect by just not caring. Often just for that one moment of fame or recognition, getting the ‘likes’ or that ‘winning’ image. Members who want to join the Advocate program want to try to change this behavior by making people aware of their impact by educating people about the places that they love. Because they all realize that if we don’t change our ways, we maybe will not have a second chance. I also want to mention that these members take on a challenging role, with moments of celebrations and, in the beginning, maybe setbacks and disappointments. They all voluntarily invest 3-5 hours per week in Nature First, next to their busy job and daily life. This is also one of the reasons why things take time, and some members can be inpatient, but let’s realize that with all our little baby steps, we can make one big step forward towards our goals.

Jennifer: What do you see as some goals you would like to reach this year with the Advocate program? 

Kristel:  This year will be a very challenging year for us due to the pandemic. While some of us are enjoying Nature again, others must stay home for the virus. This is not an ideal situation to put your mindset on promoting Nature First in a region. Having said that, people also had the time now to think about those issues that are important to them in life, and luckily, we see our member numbers rising around the world. I continue to get more questions about the Advocate Program and request to get involved. Over the last couple of months, I have welcomed many new advocates from different parts of the world, like Slovenia, Chile, US Northeast, US Midwest, Italy, Romania, Poland and the Chinese speaking community. I also found a replacement for me in that role for the Netherlands and Belgium. The goal is to grow our advocate program to 30 nations. I have not put a date on this, but I hope to have more nations on the list by the end of the year. I see now that some Community Advocates who work alone struggle with their time and find it difficult to develop ideas, get more local members, or spread the Nature First ideas in their region. Therefore, I am trying to motivate Community Advocates to set up a local team, as we have in the Netherlands, France, Italy, and the Chinese speaking community. This way, they can combine efforts and ideas to come up with their local Nature First plans. I also like to see local members reach out to the Advocate Program when they want to become more actively involved but do not see themselves leading a small team or being so much in the spotlight. We have so much diversity in backgrounds, work, and experiences within our member community that it would be great to have them join the Community Advocates. Our Roadmap has many great ideas, like facilitating the creation of regional and genre-specific principles. Here I see an important role for Community Advocates and their local teams. All this takes time, research, and effort. As I said above, little baby steps can make one big step, and let’s take the time we need so that hopefully, we can make responsible photography the standard again in nature photography in the near future. 

Kristel’s enthusiasm for Nature First is what this alliance is all about: rallying together to help be better ambassadors to the places we love and photograph, so future generations of photographers can connect and interact with Nature.

Kristel is also an accomplished photographer, and she leads tours and workshops. Her photography is very inspiring, and her body of work exemplifies the quiet beauty of Nature. To connect with Kristel and to see her work, visit

Thank you, Kristel, for all that you do for Nature First, and taking some time to talk with me!