Jürgen Lobert – a chemist with a camera explores the night world

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By Peg Lopata, Contributing writer

Jürgen Lobert
Photo/submitted

Medway – Jürgen Lobert is a night and day man, a man of two lives. His daytime occupation is as a research scientist. His night life is an exploration using long exposure and infrared photography to capture the night’s beauty. 

“I want to go beyond simply documenting something that is already there,” he explained. 

Teaching these techniques is also part of his life as an artist.  

Using long exposure photography, Lobert captures the feeling of time moving, and the nuances of shadow and the brilliant colors of lights at night. He transforms dull and ugly daylight scenes into vivid nighttime landscapes.

He said, “I’m inspired to this kind of photography because I’m intrigued to create views of what we cannot see with our eyes.”  

As both scientist and artist he makes this possible. 

Photo/Jürgen Lobert

Lobert has had a long career in the environmental sciences publishing some 40 technical papers.  Born and raised in Frankfurt Germany, he has a Ph.D in chemistry and has worked for various academic institutions, such as the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany, and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif. In 2003, he moved to Massachusetts for a job with Entegris, Inc., a company that is in contamination control for the semiconductor industry.

Photography caught his attention in his teen years. Later, career travels to such places as the Ivory Coast, Australia, and Antarctica deepened his interest in photography. 

But, he explained, “I didn’t really embrace photography until I took a workshop at the New England School of Photography (NESOP) in 2011 to learn the art of night photography. That kicked loose a lot of hidden interest and talent. I fully embraced it as a new hobby because the teacher used Adobe Lightroom software, which is really easy to use. That was the tool I had needed to expertly edit photos to make them look the way I wanted. Two years later, I started to give presentations about night photography at camera clubs, later, at conferences and in 2017 started to teach the very workshop that got me started at NESOP.”

Photo/Jürgen Lobert

Lobert is drawn to night photography because as he said, “The play of light and shadows at night is very transformational.” 

He favors abandoned locales and industrial places.  

“The mundane can surprise you,” he noted. “I teach that even garbage can look good at night.”  The metamorphosis is much like a chemical reaction. 

“In industrial places, which we find noisy, smelly, and unsightly during the day, by night they magically turn into something like a tourist attraction with intense mixed lighting, starbursts and shadows.  It all makes for an impressive display,” he said. 

Lobert shares his love of his art via his Facebook pages, Instagram, a blog, a meetup group, and his website leyetscapes.com.  He also judges photo competitions at camera clubs to give back to the photographic community.  

Photo/Jürgen Lobert

“I found the feedback from competition judges that I had received was useful for my own growth and thought that I could contribute by sharing my experience and photographic approach with others.

“Judging other people’s photos is a very humbling and challenging experience. Even if a judge is trying to keep it objective, judging is somewhat inherently subjective. I try to keep my judging to the technical and compositional aspects and to gauge the photo’s impact. Nobody cares if you like a photo or not. They want to know if they succeeded in creating a good photo. I always joke that if you submit a photo to four different judges, you get five different scores.”  

Photo/Jürgen Lobert

Though photography is Lobert’s creative outlet, it was in academia that he learned to be an explorer no matter what he did.

“My Ph.D. advisor, Paul Crutzen, taught me to question everything and to keep exploring even the most unlikely scenarios,” he said. “This type of fundamental curiosity has never left me.”  

So Lobert continues to grow as a photographer because he’s driven to explore, but he admits he has also developed keener eyes.  Years looking through a camera lens has sharpened his vision.  

“Being a photographer has made me a vastly more aware and observant person,” he said. “I see more art in everyday life, be it a certain way that products are displayed, to how a meal is presented, or how people go about their lives and work.”  

This expansive perspective continues to inform Lobert, the chemist wandering about at night in lonely places with a camera, ready to reveal nighttime’s hidden beauty. 

Photos/Jürgen Lobert