Most important for me is not just to copy well known pictures. I am always trying to shoot new angles, new interpretations and never seen images. I am looking for my own and clear visual language which I am always trying to develop. Main goal is to show my emotions about a scenery. That’s why every trip gets its own special look, e.g. volcanoes a dark powerful look, Japan a very colorful one and Danakil desert in Ethiopia a very bright one. In the end every picture should tell a story without any need of explanation. In addition I don’t think a picture must be perfect in technical terms, more important is a clear message.
For me “documentary” doesn’t mean just to reproduce pure reality. For me it means to transport emotions, telling real life stories. I want to tell those stories as they are, I don’t like to produce them. Means for me no team, no posed pictures, only being silent observer and photographer.
First and only advice: be patient, be patient, be patient. O.k., it’s not the only one. Another one is to shoot not only one picture. Always try different angles, frames, times, e.g. my fav time is so called blue hour before sunrise / after sunset. And of course do use the minutes before sunset when the streaks of light are touching the landscape. Also shoot with different weather conditions. Often a clouded sky, bad weather conditions are more interesting instead of a just blue clear sky. When planning to take some pictures at night inform yourself about position of Milky Way and moon as also lunar phase depending on what you like to shoot. I also recommend taking at least one additional picture showing the context, overview, the scale of the scenery. This could be done with people within the landscape or any item anyone is aware of the size. In summary that means that in the end the secret of striking nature picture just is: Patience :-)
Same here, it concentrates on just one advice: Safety first! The basic priorities for photographing active volcanoes in a safe way are a sound knowledge of volcanic activity in combination with years of own experience or otherwise the presence of an experienced volcanologist. No less important are healthy self-assessment and compliance of justified, safe distances to danger zones plus a special protective equipment as helmets and gas masks. In addition, being a volcano photographer demands physical, psychological and technical skills. Long treks, heavy backpacks, limited food rations, steep summits with loose ground and sleepless nights and days while waiting on fireworks at the volcano itself are only some of the challenges.
Very important, always have your camera at hand and be prepared to shoot. And you should have or develop a feeling for upcoming interesting situations. Sometimes it’s worth to stay at a place and maybe even to change the itinerary. Flexibility is top priority! In addition don’t only focus on that ONE picture. Always also take a look aside to the (little but most interesting) stories along the wayside. In this connection ask yourself what people would like to know about your travel (e.g. people are not interested in 20 fascinating volcano shots, they prefer getting the “behind the scenes” story) or/and what you like to tell about. And most important be open minded. Talk to people, interact with them and the culture to get more than a standard book of pictures which you’ll get a thousand times in the internet.
Regarding trekking experience most challenging has been a hard 6-days trekking with severe weather conditions to reach active Tolbachik volcano in Kamchatka, East-Russia - worthwhile as this trip has been the beginning of my photographic business. Regarding physical demands most challenging has been the shooting of active Sakurajima volcano in Japan with its dirty thunderstorms. It took me five nights in a row without any sleep to capture one special picture – worthwhile as it meanwhile has won some awards :-) Regarding a story most challenging has been the report of a Japanese Fugu cook. It took my Japanese friend endless phone calls to finally find one Fugu cook allowing me to take pictures while dissecting and preparing this poisonous fish – worthwhile as it has been a really rare experience. Regarding an assignment it was the shooting of stunning landscape pictures with the new Olympus M1 Mark II camera this summer. I have been one of a very few photographers worldwide and therefore of course pressured myself – luckily have been able to bring some nice shots :-)
But I assume that all those challenges are nothing compared to my next project. I am going to climb the Volcanic Seven Summits, means highest volcano of every continent. I will start in January with Mount Sidley in Antarctica in a region that is less known than the surface of our moon.
As an Olympus visionary my actual gear list looks as follows:
I at least always have one camera to hand. The not used equipment I put just as it is in a normal rucksack, mostly protected by a waterproofed packsack. Quick access is most important to me. In the end my equipment just is my equipment and I do have no problem with my cameras looking like heavily used ones.
Regarding the volcano photography I do have a long bucket list with the most active and fascinating volcanoes on Earth :-) Regarding mountaineering/ trekking I do talk a lot to related people and do some web research to find new challenging projects. Regarding travel photography I always travel around a bit while visiting any volcano to get some impressions of the country, people and culture to decide if it’s a story worth. First step of a new project is a lot, means A LOT, of research: Talking to people, browsing web forums, reading books, looking for related websites to get a first idea about possible and interesting stories and locations. I am mind opened, polite and very curious :-) So I am contacting a lot of people all over the world who may help (THE advantage for me of the internet) and this way get one interesting contact after the other and get deeper and deeper into a new story.
I absolutely do prefer remote areas. Places which seems to be located on another planet. I am inspired by the wilderness, the beginning/ originality of nature, by devasted landscapes. I do prefer areas where to no other people go, which are requiring a challenging trekking to reach them.
I do promote my pictures/ stories/ multivision shows either via agency (e.g. in UK) or via direct marketing/ cold calls (e.g. in Germany). I also successfully took part at selected well known international competitions but am going to stop that now as I don’t think its worth the effort. I decided to use and invest this time more and more into Social Media like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. A huge amount of Likers and Followers could be worth a lot of money while looking for some Sponsoring. They are also potential participants for the workshops and photo tours I am planning to offer one day.
It is an important part of my photography and takes a lot of time. Means some times too much time for me. As I want to focus more on stories/ photography I am thinking about moving more of the promotional part to an agency – any related requests are welcome :-)
Thank you Adrian for taking the time to do this interview.
We are happy to welcome you on board among other photographers.
Your photography is very valuable in this community and very beneficial for our readers.