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Fabian Oefner

Published by Diana Tula · September 7th 2012

To discover more about the living life behind a lens we started portrait interview series featuring 500px photographers. This week we’d like to introduce you to Fabian Oefner, talented Switzerland-based photographer whose work marries visual aesthetic and science.

Dancing Colors No.3 by Fabian Oefner
Dancing Colors No.3 by Fabian Oefner

Hello Fabian, tell us how and when did you start your photographic journey?
I come from a family with an artistic background, therefore I have always experimented with all different kinds of art forms at a very early stage. Photography turned out to be the form of art that I was most interested in. 

Today I have a photo studio in Switzerland, where I work on assignments for various industries and realize free projects. What you see on my 500px page are images from free projects.


There is a definitive style that carries through all your photographs. How would you describe it?
Most of my work has to do with bringing science and art together. I often use natural phenomena that appear in our daily lives, being it sound waves, that I used in "Dancing Colors" or iridescence, which is responsible for the stunning colors in soap bubbles.  What I am trying to achieve is to show these phenomena in an unseen and poetic way and therefore make the viewer pause for a moment and appreciate the magic that constantly surrounds us.

What/who inspires or influences you?
From a "subject" point of view, I am inspired and influenced by the world that surrounds me. I have a deep interest in all kinds of  fields of science and I try to read as much as possible about new findings and technologies. Every now and then I come across something that I feel is worth exploring further. When I start with a new subject I rarely know, how the final images will look like. After experimenting with it, I start to get a feeling for it and after a while an idea for images develops. 

Of course I am also inspired by the works of others. The other day I discovered the video "Yosemite HD" by Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty, which is absolutely outstanding. That doesn't influence my projects directly but seeing how beautifully this planet was created is a powerful source of inspiration.


Your photo subjects, be it a toy car, soap bubble or magnetic water colours are macro. What attracts you to such subjects?
I am not particularly interested in macro. This has more to do with the fact that it is easier to shoot these subjects in a "macro" version. But if somebody would like to provide their Ferrari 250 GTO to cover it in a gypsum shell, I am happy to do it :-)

Hatch 02
 by Fabian Oefner
Hatch 02   by Fabian Oefner

Using fibre glass lamp to create an illusion of nebulae or a bursting balloon to hold the shape of cornstarch. How do you come up with such creative solutions?
Such ideas are developed over quite a bit of time. As described above, I often do not know, what the final result will look like. The idea of the "nebulae" series developed when I was looking at the title of Stephen Hawking`s book "The universe in a nutshell". I thought why not take this title literally and try to create the illusion of a universe in a very small space. So I started to experiment with all different kinds of media to create that illusion. Finally I came up with using the fibre glass lamps to create the nebulae. Sometimes, after a project is finished, the technique to achieve the result seems fairly easy, but it goes a lot of research into it.


How do you achieve vibrant and clear colours in all of your photographs?
Having a color sensor in the camera helps quite a bit :-)  Seriously in some of the projects I cannot influence the colors, for example in the Soap Bubble series. But wherever I can control the colors, I think about them for a long time and experiment with many combinations before deciding on the final colors to be used.

Many of your photos are shot in studio. Could you share your lighting tips with us?
I use customized High Speed Flashes, that I modified to freeze the motion seen in my images. These units are capable of creating flashes at an extremely short duration. The drawback of these flashes is that, the shorter the duration the weaker the light output. Therefore I often use more than 6 units to get enough power from them. If you go to my "stories" section of my 500px site, you can see the setup used for the "dancing colors" series. 


What are your thoughts on post processing?
99.5 % of today`s images go through post processing before being published. In my case, it depends on the project, how heavily post processing is used. For example in the “millefiori” series, I barely touched the images coming from the camera, I just enhanced them in terms of sharpness and saturation. But the "Nebulae" images are created from dozens of individual images. It took longer to compose the final images than shooting the raw material.

Millefiori Nr. 02
 by Fabian Oefner
Millefiori Nr. 02 by Fabian Oefner

What camera/s do you shoot with and what is your favorite equipment?

For some of the projects I used a Hasselblad H4D, for others the Nikon D800. Most of the time I just use standard lenses, except for the "millefiori" project. Since the structures in these images are so small, I had to photograph them with a special microscope lens attached onto bellows. Although my images involve a great deal of technical gear, I am not very enthusiastic about the equipment. I just think of what’s best suited for the subject to photograph and then I use that, I don't really have a preference.


How do you market your work?
I use different kinds of channels. I was fortunate enough to be able to publish some of my work in renowned magazines all over the world like The New Scientist or Esquire. This is of course a great way to make yourself known to a larger audience. Nowadays I offer my works for sale in galleries, both physical and online ones.


What advice would you give to beginner photographers?
Try to find out what genre of photography you are most interested in and strive to improve your skills in this particular type of photography. I think it is very important to experiment with all different types of photography at the beginning of your career but at some point, you have to decide, which direction you want to go. Otherwise you risk the danger of dissipating your energies by trying to be good at everything.


Do you have any memorable stories to share from any of your photographic experiences?
A funny story happened to me the other day. I was working on a new project, where I use a lot of red paint in a very messy way. So I was working in the studio the whole day and when it got dark, I returned to my  apartment. On the way to my door I passed by my newly moved-in neighbor. I greeted her, but to my surprise she just looked at me in a mistrustful way. It was  when I entered my apartment and looked into the mirror, that it dawned on me, why she was a bit distrustful towards me: My clothes were covered with red splatters all over plus I was carrying a heavy tripod and a large, black bag...I haven't met here since. She probably still thinks her neighbor is either a trophy hunter or a serial killer :-)


Tell us 5 things about you that are unrelated to photography, which would introduce us to the person behind the lens.

  1. I love music, I go to loads of concerts each year. 
  2. I really like cooking, my dad used to work as a cook so I guess I inherited that passion from him.
  3. I speak five different languages, English, French, Italian, Spanish and German. But thats fairly common here in Switzerland. 
  4. Since I live in Switzerland I am a keen skier and mountaineer, I spend a lot of time in mountains.
  5. I travel a lot to get new inspiration. I just got back from the Himalayas, where I saw the highest mountains in the world, truly an awe-inspiring experience. 

Thanks to Fabian for being interviewed and to you for reading! Feel free to leave a comment or question to the photographer below, we love your feedback :)

P.S. Send your interview suggestions to


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Troy Graham  over 2 years ago
WATCH. I have seen the nebulae images before.
Beppe Bravi aka BraGiu  over 2 years ago
Grande lavoro Fabian, grazie per la condivisone! (sfrutto il tuo italiano ;))
Mark Wisecarver (inactive)  over 2 years ago
Wow, excellent article, Congrats Fabian!

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