FeatureMerek Davis


FeatureMerek Davis

Rita Kluge (@kluge_photo) grabbed our attention some time ago with her diverse feed and wild pictures. Through her photography we caught glimpses of incredibe sunsets, surfers riding killer swells and all sorts of underwater creatures - just incredibly fascinating stuff! Her ability to use Mextures to enhance her photos and to colorize them in unique and beautiful ways has greatly impressed us. Because of these things we’ve spent the last several weeks chatting with her about everything from photography to sharks and we’ve compiled the conversation to share with all of you! portrait

They call me Rita or Reets since I moved to Oz in 2001 or Phil back in Germany. I am half Korean and half German.

I come from a very tiny town in north Germany, where I became a Physio which allowed me to travel a bit as I always had a job when coming back from a surf or snowboard trip.

The rural landscape and wildlife attracted me to come to Australia as I used to surf a lot and the Atlantic coast was just a bit freezing in Europe after a while. Discovering big sharks at my home beaches slowed down the surfing a fair bit. Maybe that's when I bought myself a Nikon - remembering that my dad used to do that. I loved to develop films and I'd be so excited to see what came out - a bit like using Mextures - it's that excitement of developing.

How did you first become interested in photography?

Although I grew up with my dad shooting photos, I didn’t keep it up after my parent's divorce. Horses were more my action. Only through Instagram, when my friend hosted an iPhone exhibition in June of 2013 (where I wasn’t allowed to use my Nikon) was when I really got into photography. Hunting for good pics and taking pics daily because I like competition. The exhibition was a great success and also fun so I kept it up. To get features from my perspective of art motivated me to post daily.


So what exactly is it that you do?  You’re always photographing the most amazing landscapes, oceans capes, sea life and surfers.

Well, I take photos daily whenever I can but I do have a business as a physiotherapist/osteopath wholistic healing. So I heal them quickly so I can spend most of my time in nature and find wicked wildlife and landscape combinations. That's what I really love to do. And I love the art in photography - the first part being composition and the second part being the editing. You can do so much and its fascinating.


How did you become interested in sharing your photos on the Instagram platform?

It was that invite to the ordinary extraordinary photo exhibition by 9 very artistic local women from the Sydney northern beaches. After I had accepted I found out that it was an iPhone only exhibition. They assured me that I would be fine and that I could get a wall full of iPhone shots shooting for the next 3 months. So I upgraded to the iPhone 5 and got started!

A friend, @young_ rabit, got me in to VSCO. Then I did a collab with @d_e_x who got me in to Mextures and Snapseed. These guys got me really addicted to creating more and more. Instagram opened up my interest in taking picturess again for sure. So many amazing photographers. It really amazed me that most of them actually were not professionals!

I think I am just a bit lucky to be able to get a little income out of my Instagram work in my early beginnings in the northern beaches community and because I really put myself out there. I used to be quite shy i guess that changed.

How lucky was I when I took my German/Korean brother to a wild dolphin swim where I wanted to try out my new Nikon and ended up capturing these amazing shots which were highly recommended to be entered to win some awards this year. And a company then paid me for 6 weekends to take dolphin fin shots for research purpose. Then a local company got me to do the same thing with whale migration just in the last 4 weeks. Instagram opened up all of these doors for me.


Your subjects tend to vary quite a bit but what does your editing process generally look like?

I have a little problem that I have discovered with social media like Instagram and Facebook and the professional photographers I encountered there. I was told more and more not to take picturess with my iPhone anymore and it was quite a transition to do so. So I only take iPhone pictures if my Nikon is on holidays - and that doesn’t happen that often anymore. So many doors have opened since I began shooting RAW.

So, my process is to take a RAW picture, use Lightroom for overall adjustments, export in to Photoshop to do some more polishing and to see how it looks square versus rectangle and then I email it to my iPhone. Sometimes I go straight to Mextures and sometimes I go back to Lightroom.

My favourite mextures overlays are those in the Landscape Enhance pack as some of you noticed perhaps. I may add 1 or 2 overlays from the Radiance pack and if light is needed from the top of the photography I do love the Franklin overlay in the Emulsion pack. It can be so epic. Then I put another layer of Landscape Enhance on it and voila. If a bit of texture is needed something from the Grunge pack gives it that painting look depending on how high you adjust the opacity. Then I use the polishing adjustments for things like exposure, contrast and sharpening.

I usually finish by exporting the picture into a copyright app.

If I have the right feeling I'll actually go in to my saved formulas and see how they effect that particular photo and maybe change it up just a bit in the process. It does save a lot of time, but I usually love playing with my iPhone on my pictures. I do that instead of watching TV nowadays. Usually wrapped up in blankets before I go to my dreams or cocktails on tropical islands.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Speaking of formulas, do you have any that you would care to share with the Mextures crew?

I love to use formulas they are great for mocking around. Here are a few of my favorites:

Storm - Formula Code - LRSWYHY

Last Light 2 - Formula Code - WDLCYDK

Beneath the surface - Formula Code - MDGRIKH

Sunrise Humpback - Formula Code - HAAVLSZ

Avalanche - Formula Code - HFBNNCS


Do you have a favorite moment that you’ve captured thus far in your photography journey?

This was the beginning of January and my best shots that I've ever taken off a dolphin boat and swimming with wild dolphins. I was still wet - dripping in awe - and I hung over the railing to take some quick pictures not knowing much about how to do so and I got so lucky!

Being so close to wild dolphins in their natural habitat and capturing them moving in their beauty - that's what I love about it! The clarity amazed me as we had superb weather and a superpod of dolphins.

Dolphins bleu

Do you feel like Mextures offers anything unique to your editing process?

Mextures is such a fun app where anyone and everyone has a chance to show their art and creativity.

I love that there are all of these ready to go layers which you can then adjust according to your picture.

I really dig that you can use the polishing tools as well (exposure,contrast,sharpening, etc) as before I had to transfer it in to Snapseed to do so.

I’ve met so many fun, crazy creative people through this app which only makes it even more alive.


Do you have any goals or aspirations that you hope to accomplish through your photography or Instagram feed?

Not really. I would just be excited to share what I was seeing with the world because that's what Instagram is doing - bringing the whole world together with the goals of sharing what we see in front of us, maybe making a difference and even bringing awareness to endangered animals and, really, to the beauty of our world. Also, maybe to inspire some angry people to see and create beauty.

What first got you into shooting marine wildlife?

When I moved near the beach a year ago I started seeing lots of whales and dolphins and even a stranded leopard seal at my home beach. That's when it all started. The local paper started publishing these pictures which really created a lot of publicity for my 1st exhibition last September which I did for a charity in Cambodia. I really just love marine life.

I've really enjoyed helping out the people of Living Ocean. They are an organization that focuses on whale and share research as well as using less plastic in general to help protect our marine life. They are local people who really help marine life and raise awareness of our beautiful world.


Do like to listen to music while editing?

Yes! Here are some of my favorites:

Lorde Danny Ross (a local friend who played at my exhibition for free to help me out) Angus and Julia Stone (local band) Wild child Morcheeba Radiohead Metric Bon Iver Ben Harper Florence and the Machine Billy Holliday Chet Faker PJ Harvey Emiliana Torrini


what are the things that inspire your photography the most?

Nature and wildlife inspired me and made me grab a camera just to capture that moment so it doesn’t disappear. Especially with things that we can’t influence like the sun moving up to the sky and the color you witness for just that minute or so.

A wave rolling in, possibly with a human in it or a dolphin swimming by - just that second of timing is an incredible moment.

Or it could be a whale or dolphin just coming up next to you. It's this moment so hard to capture that you just want to soak it in forever. That is what drives me to photography these moments. So I can stop to look at it occasionally and maybe share it on Instagram and with others.

Nothing motivates me more than just the pureness of nature. I can't wait to open my shutters in the morning just to see what the sun is doing!


What about folks from Instagram? Has anyone from that community inspired you in any way?

I wasn’t really sure what or who was out there, but it started way back when I saw @victormunt's feed and his crazy Mextures edits. I actually contacted him to buy a print and wondered how famous he’d be. I still have the print standing there - a picture from NY. I just love the tones that Victor creates.

It's the same with Grizzy, I mean, @c_grizz. Just wicked Photoshop edits that amazed me.

Of course Ben (@figment_hf) because I just loved this bird picture of his and had to have a print of it.

Photographers like my friend Kane (@kaneskennar) who left an incredible photo at my office and introduced me to Nikon now I have one of my prints hanging next to his which is really surreal!

Also @chrisburkard, @mattdraperphotography, @petereastway and @craigparryphotography inspire me greatly in what I love to do now too.

I could go on with all of the people I follow. They all inspire me in endless ways!


Have a look at more of Rita’s awesome photography on Instagram or on her website!