A delicate world is often captured and discovered through the lens of Sarah (@ranasabw). The most of intricate of subjects are frozen in time and in color bathed in the softest of lights. This perspective of the miniature world living and breathing beneath our feet is what first attracted us to Sarah’s work. With a gift for noticing and photographing the most subtle of details, her photographs draw us to a place of peace and quiet. A place of awe and of reflection. With these things at the heart of our conversation, we spoke with Sarah over the holidays about her pictures and what drew her to them. Have a read if you’d like!
Hi! My name is Sarah Aspenbach, but some might know be better as Ranasa, as this was the username I chose two years ago when I stated to post pictures on Instagram. I'm from Germany and live there in a rural region called Münsterland. At the begining of the century, when there was a big hype over multimedia and websites, I began to work with a startup and learned to work with tools like Photoshop as well as creating interactive websites using Flash or Java. Currently, I work as a consulant for software projects.
When I'm not working, my two little boys who receive my attention and most of my spare time. When I have time for myself, I love to listen to music. I love music that gives me energy or that I can drown in, and in my case this is post punk or shoegaze. Or I go out and take pictures, alone, lying on the gound and looking at what's around me.
What was it that initially attracted you to photography?
I got my first camera when I was seven, 40 years ago. One of my first pictures was of some daisies on the ground as well as my shadow and the shadow of my grandpa. For me, taking pictures was always a method of preserving memories - things like the places I visited or the memories of beloved people in my life. I always loved to look through old pictures with my grandma and mom - to see where they lived and what it looked like in their youth. I really hope that my kids will love to do this together with me some day. Besides taking more creative pictures now, preserving memories is still the main thing that I use my camera for.
Much of your work focuses on very detailed and delicate subjects. What led you to focus in on that particular subject type?
I wanted to develop my photography outside of just taking landscape pictures and there were these macro captures that I saw… well, in the end, I'm not good at taking macros. But I loved how different it felt to take these pictures. You have to search a bit - to look closer until you find something you want to capture, get near, maybe sit before, hold your breath... I became so concentrated that I forgot what was around me. I didn't notice the mud or that the grass was wet. I love that feeling and think I get the best captures in these moments. And, because macro didn't really work well for me, I took a small step back. I love capturing pictures in this way. A way that shows mood and focuses on one particular subject.
What does your editing approach generally look like?
I always try to establish a certain process, but in the end I always fail. I don't write down what I'm doing and most of the time I'm not able to recreate my own pictures and when I try to recreate my edits to a certain extent I typically realize that I edited it too much. But the first step is always to make my pictures darker by changing the contrast level. The second step is to discover whether or not some of my favorite overlays will enhace my pictures. I usually use the Atmospheric or Emulsion packs and combine them with some of my own blurry captures. I try to enhance the lighter and the darker parts in my pictures that way. Sometimes I end up with five layers. This is the chaotic part of my process. I don't want for my pictures to look too colorful, but I’m often surprised to find that some of the more colorful overlays just enhance the picture in a great way without looking artificial. If I'm satisfied with the result, I look at the picture on my computer and try to remove unwanted parts. Then I move the picture back on to my mobile. While gardiants look fine on my computer, they may not look good on my mobile, so I correct these things.
Do you feel like Mextures offers anything unique to your editing process?
Yes! There are other apps that offer filters and effects, but you don't get the same flexiblity elsewere. Combining effects in so many different ways is so easy and the effects are so unique and the results are so different. Of course, there are pictures that you see and at first glance you can tell that they were edited with Mextures, but because the artist wanted it that way and they look awesome. And there are also pictures that use the effects in a very reserved manner which forces me to take a closer look at the picture to see how they may have edited it. And they want me to find out how they did this. Things like this and the @mexturescollective where people use the same pictures and show their unique results have had a lasting effect on the way that I edit pictures.
With a new year for photographing and editing here, is there anything you really hope to accomplish or any way you hope to grow when it comes to your work?
I always want to develop my skills and there is still so much to learn. Staying in your comfort zone doesn't let you develop, so yes, I think about taking a step back, to capture more of the landscape, but still with a moody feeling and without losing the focus on simple things. And I want to get rid of my dependency of the weather, especially in winter. There is so much less time to take pictures. So I’ve begun to take a closer look at some really lovely, moody still-life pictures that I can take at home. Currently they're not worth showing to someone. I think I need more decorative stuff.
I'm quite happy with the way I edit on my mobile but my pictures aren't organzied very well. I’m thinking about taking a closer look at Lightroom as I often read about it. But that's just an idea.
Who are the people who have most inspired you and your work?
There are many really great artists out there and they influence my work every day. So to mention just a few ...
When I think of serene Mextures-edited macros, the first name I think of is @anna28h. I love her gallery. Every single picture is so wonderful. I get a lot of inspiration from her work. I also love the pictures of @katja_mairan and @suippaq for the same reason.
I love to listen to music, dark and ambient, and maybe I'm kind of old fashioned but I still buy physical records and not just as a digital download. I love to go through the booklets. Most of the artists I listen to use it as a form of art in addition to their music. The pictures of @aira37 and @tim_hf would fit perfectly there. The mood they create is awesome.
Besides nature pictures, I sometimes take my camera and a remote control and put the lenses in my direction. For a long time, @kry_lalala has had the biggest influence on how I take these pictures.
Browse through more of Sarah’s incredible art here!