Explore Germany's Black Forest with one of its greatest chroniclers, Klaus Echle
Born in in Germany’s Black Forest (in Oberwolfach, to be precise), Klaus Echle began taking photos at a young age, but it wasn’t necessarily preordained that he would become one of the most celebrated photographers of the region and its wildlife.
He started out life, in fact, as a cook. A self-described “pub kid,” he trained as a chef and worked for nearly a decade in the family restaurant business. Fate then intervened, twice.
His older brother took over the restaurant, freeing Echle to study for a forestry diploma and to find work as a forest ranger. Later, Echle’s wife and a friend convinced him to buy “proper camera equipment.” Since then, the photography awards have piled up. “I still like cooking at home, and my wife says I am a good cook,” he muses. “But the forestry profession and my work with nature is my passion.”
A Life in the Forest
Echle’s stated purpose is not to make beautiful pictures but to document behavioral patterns of animals, the endangerment of species and their habitats, and the relationship between human and animals. His approach is focused: He has spent extensive time documenting single species, among them wildcats, lynx, capercaillie (wood grouse), dormice, and bats. He has hand-fed orphaned dormice before releasing them and explored mining tunnels to find the habitats of bats.
In his near quarter-century as a forest ranger, he has seen changes, many not for the good. “Some areas have been taken out of use for commercial forestry, while others have been more intensively used, especially for recreation and sport,” he says. “There have been positive developments—some animal species have returned or increased in numbers, such as the three-toed woodpecker, the wildcat, the eagle owl, and also a few lynx have been seen.
“On a global level, the warming climate means that many animal species cannot escape to higher regions,” he says. “The Black Forest is at a middle elevation, and rises to only about 1,400 meters [4,600 feet]. This means that submontane animal and plant species such as the capercaillie may not have a long-term future there.”