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Colour conversation with wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast, Claudia Steuber

We love it when we come across inspiring women whose work and interests are reflected in the colours they wear. Here, German-born Claudia Steuber, a nature enthusiast and wildlife photographer in the United Arab Emirates, tells us how wearing her Autumn colours helps her to get closer to nature.

Your work sounds fascinating. Can you tell us how it came about and what it entails?

My husband’s work brought us to the UAE. I’ve always been an outdoorsy person – nature, wildlife and being around dogs and horses has always been a big part of my life – but it was a challenge to adjust to the extreme temperatures of life on the margins of the Rub’ Al Khali desert. Having a scientific background as a geologist, I wanted to learn how nature works in this hyper-arid environment, where it’s possible to get blisters walking barefoot in the sand. This was how everything started, and I’ve found out so much more than I ever expected. Now I try to help connect people with nature and support nature education and documentation wherever I can. 

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Claudia wearing a Rust Cotton Jersey Shirt with a Sleeveless V in Rust and a Laguna Florence Infinity Scarf

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How did you come to develop a passion for nature and wildlife photography?

Since my early childhood I’ve loved observing and exploring nature – I can spend hours studying it. Nature gives us so many opportunities to learn and experience amazing moments in our lives.

Instead of having a big party for my “big birthday”, I got my first professional Canon camera. Before I would experience the colours of thin sections of rock samples through a microscope – now my camera works like a microscope for me.

Do you have a favourite subject?

My favourite subjects are always the ones offered up by the environment I’m in at the time. It might be a lizard, an insect or a dune formation in the desert, or an Artic tern, glacier, volcano or humpback whale in Iceland. When we look closer at nature every moment is different, and you have exactly that second to take the shot. Capturing wildlife in motion is really difficult because it changes so quickly. 

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Your love of nature shines through in the choice of Autumn colours you wear. What are the shades you embrace most?

I’ve always liked warm, earthy colours – all the colours you find in a forest in autumn, such as browns, greens, rusty oranges, mustard, saffron yellows, together with autumn reds.

How did you come to have your colours analysed and what has it meant to you?

Actually, my American friend asked me to join her. I went with my daughter and we all had great fun and enjoyed how we changed with the different coloured drapes like a chameleon. By finding out I’m a vibrant Autumn I’ve become more confident about wearing brighter colours.

Has knowing your best colours helped with your work?

When I do any kind of fieldwork, I always try to wear colours that blend well with the environment – here it’s sand, camel tones and dark green, and in Abu Dhabi’s Liwa desert, it’s rust. We are often at sea on a boat, so I find I have been wearing more Autumn blue tones.

I think colour analysis has made me more aware of how plants and animals use colour in the natural world – the closed wings of the butterfly, for example, giving perfect camouflage and protection; the open wings showing the brightest colours. I’ve been surprised how here in the UAE we can have such a rich palette of bird and insect species in one of the harshest climates on the planet.

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Does living in a hot climate mean you tend towards the brighter, more vibrant end of your palette?

Interesting question – yes, I think it does, as I recognise that people in Iceland often prefer cooler, bluer colours, while those in the tropics and subtropics often prefer more vibrant, warm colours. I must admit I like to play with colours and use them as an energizer. When the temperature is above 40C and I start to feel a bit tired, wearing bright colours can help.

Which are your favourite Kettlewell styles?

For me, Kettlewell offers different styles for different purposes. For casualwear, I really like the Lulu Layered Top and have it in many colours; I’ll wear it with the Alexa or the Rachel Jacket in Sienna. I tend not to pack the Lulu for my travels as it’s thicker and I find it takes longer to dry, but I really like wearing it, as well as the Tulip Swing Top in the Autumn colours. For everyday wear, the Charli Linen Top, Lace Edge Tee, Breton stripes, Cara V and Sleeveless V are among my favourites. I find the Eliza Top a bit thicker and I’ll wear it more towards the start of winter.

When it comes to jackets, I like the Chloe, Short Cascade and Shawl Wrap (both the long and short versions). I don’t normally wear shirts but I love the Cotton Jersey Shirt – it works really well as a jacket with the Sleeveless V. The sleeveless V also looks good together with the Short Cascade.

For lazy days at home I love wearing the Super Soft Sweatshirt and the Hetta Pima. On cold desert nights – and Icelandic summers too – I’ll wear the Evie Sweater together with a Hetta Pima Tee, or a Monaco Stripe. On less chilly days, it’s the Verona V-neck together with Charli Linen Top. And finally, on grey winter days back in Germany, the Ziggy is the perfect piece of clothing – not too thick and not too clingy.

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What are the most inspiring places in the world you’ve visited?

Iceland is one of my favourite places on the planet – it has a fascinating geological history, and you can see the immense force of nature everywhere. I really like the combination of fire and Ice, and to be somewhere where nature is stronger than mankind. The clearness of the air makes all the colours much clearer, and the contrast can be extreme. There is always a rainbow somewhere in Iceland, and around the waterfalls you can sometimes find a double one. The many semi-wild herds of Icelandic horses have the largest variance of colours of all breeds. 

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Another of my favourite places is Oman. While I prefer to spend as much time as possible in nature, I also like to walk through the old souk, where traders sell colourful scarves from India and Kashmir, and visit the old towns away from the tourist sites, where you can smell cardamom as people prepare the traditional halwa pudding and burn frankincense.

The Liwa desert of Abu Dhabi with its rusty red sand dune formations is another really magic place. When you are in the desert you have the feeling the world around you does not exist – it is the best place if you want experience silence.

Ultimately, though, any place in the world where I can experience nature is the biggest inspiration for me. 

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Some colour inspirations using Claudia's images:

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Some of Claudia's favourite styles:

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Macademia Lulu Layered Top | Jelly Bean Supersoft Sweatshirt | Amber Hetta Pima Tee | Cassis Ziggy Sweater 

Soft Blackberry Chloe Jacket | Laguna Cotton Jersey Shirt | Laguna Sleeveless V | Sienna Rachel Jacket

Natalie on Mar 07, 2021 11:06 AM

A really great interview and article, with amazing photos! I love the colour combination inspirations from Claudia's photos.

Having Kettlewell here in Dubai is a blessing, and Claudia looks great in her Autumn colours!

Karen Bullinaire on Feb 21, 2021 5:24 PM

Such an interesting and informative interview. Reminding how our colours are part of nature. What a fabulous job and lifestyle. Loved the bit about wearing colours to blend in with the environment.

Karen Bullinaire on Feb 21, 2021 5:24 PM

Such an interesting and informative interview. Reminding how our colours are part of nature. What a fabulous job and lifestyle. Loved the bit about wearing colours to blend in with the environment.

Josephine on Feb 20, 2021 8:30 PM

Such an interesting post and a fascinating part of the world. I enjoyed being taken back to the Middle East where I grew up (Kuwait) and where I raised my family for four years (Sharjah UAE).

Chris Pole on Feb 20, 2021 12:17 PM

Lovely article. My favourite place Iceland, great pictures!

Helen Bardsley on Feb 20, 2021 11:38 AM

What a lovely, interesting article. I really enjoyed it.

Olof Helga Sigurdardottir on Feb 19, 2021 11:16 PM

What a great interview, amazing photos and a really interesting job. Of course as a Icelandic I love it when people like my country. And I chuckled when she said Icelanders wear a lot of blue, my favorite colour is blue in all its shades and most of the clothes from Kettlewell I have bought are blue. But it did surprise me because I think the black colour is much more popular here.

Helen H on Feb 19, 2021 8:42 PM

Brilliant interview with such inspiring images. Great to see how Claudia is "living her palette" and doing such an interesting job. I always enjoy your blogs about creative people - so much better than all the self-admiring stuff we see everywhere. The images must be colour combination heaven for Jo!

PS I think Claudia has almost as many Kettlewells as me...