I am very happy to say that DigitalFoto magazine published my interview and biography in their autumn edition, and moreover one of my underwater photograph is on the cover. What more can a photographer wish for. DigitalFoto magazine is the best guide to digital photography on the Croatian market and licensed edition of the British magazine Digital Camera. DigitalFoto magazine is designed for enthusiasts, amateurs, advanced amateurs and all lovers of photography, and teaches his readers take better pictures, regardless of prior knowledge and is intended for those who have (or plan to buy) digital camera.
World-renowned specialist for shooting extreme sports decided to share his thoughts with our readers, but also to show us a small part of his collection of truly spectacular photos…
– I finished Electrotechnical high school and don’t have behind me any other photographic diploma school or college, but this is just another proof of how specific photography is and how someone can succeed solely by their talent and love for what they do.
– As for the awards and accolades I just do not have any solely for the reason that I never submited any photos to either contest or competition in my career. The biggest reason for this is that I’ve always kept my personal attitude to photography, I work only for myself and not to compete with other photographers.
If someone is a specialist in photographing extreme sports, it is certainly Predrag Vuckovic, who has ‘other’ specialty in underwater photography. Vuckovic is one of the few international photographers of Red Bull Company, which allows him to capture some of the most extreme events and sports. Without false modesty, Predrag is a world renowned photographer who took pictures of Felix Baumgartner jumping from the edge of the space, and this is a story about extreme sports, unrealy beautiful photographs and techniques that Predrag used to make them. And of course, the story of photography and life experience from top professional photographer…
When and how did you discover your creative ‘wire’?
I’m into photography since childhood and I can freely say that I always had a camera that was part of my life. Various events and childhood trips always brought some of my beginner’s photos. As time went on, as with everything, I went forward, experimenting and exploring, and that creativity in some way was the signature of my photos.
How did you decide to seriously get involved in photography?
I’ve always approached photography seriously, and therefore is difficult to answer this question – but for sure it all started around 2000, when some of my photos appeared in local newspapers. Then I also began to invest money in my equipment and visible have progressed because the motivation for work and recording had become bigger. The highlight of my beginnings was in 2005 when I made the first photographs for Red Bull. The photos that I made back then were fully unusual to them, and no one had previously done anything like that. During major floods in Belgrade we organized wakeboard ride through flooded streets with the help of off-road vehicle. People were surprised and with disbelief watched the wakeboarders who surfed between cars and buses in the city streets. Photos that I captured then got published around the world, and Red Bull published those photos as one of their main story. Since then I have continued to photoshoot for Red Bull and that is why I always like to say that the floods ‘pushed’ my photographic career.
What are your first photos you manage to sell?
Initially, it was the last thing on my mind – my only goal was to make the unique and spectacular photos. It was only later that I began to think about selling photos, primarily because I was contacted by several magazines that tryed to get an exclusive and unique photographic material. Frankly, I do not remember what was the first image that I sold because several paid projects were going on at that same time. Neither then nor now I do not think about money while taking pictures – although I’m a pro, and make a living out of it, the passion and challenge of making the ultimate photo still prevails and after that the money comes by itself and I’m happy about that.
What photographic directions which you professionally and privately do are dearest to you? Why?
As we all know, the main genre of my photography is extreme sports, underwater photography and combinations of these together. I’ve been into many extreme sports for a long time and therefore it is one of the advantages when shooting just these types of photographs. Why? When photographing extreme sports, in my opinion, the most important is to understand that sport. I always point this out in the first place. Another important thing is the moment of image creation. It is important to capture the right moment so viewers can later convey the atmosphere from the image in the best possible way. When taking any such photographs, usually requires special skills and abilities that are associated with the environment you are in, whether it comes to hiking, diving, climbing or anything similar that is necessary for a good photograph.
You are scuba diving for a very long time and underwater photography is one of your specialties. What would you particularly point out?
Underwater photography is something that holds a special place in my artistic creation, because the underwater world is a different universe and the environment in which I feel very peaceful and relaxed, and where I always get a special inspiration. I’ve been diving professionally for about 20 years and I’m dive instructor also – so it is logical that little by little underwater photography was included in my professional life. Today I find totally unimaginable the situation where I would dive without my camera in an underwater housing.
You photographed Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian jumper who has set new standards of extreme sports. How much have you moved your horizons after the project ‘Red Bull Stratos’ in relation to extreme sports level in photography and how they are reflected?
Felix Baumgartner became the first person who broke the sound barrier during free fall from a height of 39 km. The entire crew has prepared for this event for one year, with two test jumps performed. The first jump from the height of 21 km, and the second from 29 km. Red Bull Stratos is a great historical event and something I will definitely remember for the rest of my life. I am extremely proud to have participated in the writing of a new chapter of human history through my photos. Needless to say that no other project I’ve ever worked on is not even close to this project. Just knowing that I was working on something that will forever be inscribed in the pages of history pushes the boundaries of thinking and creates a special and different approach to all future goals that I set before me, and my stories and photos that I had left behind me makes me very proud permanently.
Apart from Red Bull Stratos, what are your favorite projects that will forever be written in your career?
Each project in its own way has a specific and important meaning to me. This is one of the most difficult questions in the interviews. If I had to choose a few of them apart from Red Bull Stratos, it would certainly be the jump into an active volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula and Antarctic expeditions.
When I mention the project in Kamchatka, I realize that many of the photographers dream to be on a place like that and get such an important photographic task. The famous Russian BASE jumper took a leap into an active volcano Mutnovski, that is 2323 meters high. He is one of the best world’s flyers in the discipline Wingsuit flying and the man behind a multitude of unique projects that he performed single in the world – and this was one of those projects. Completely untouched nature and snowboard riding on the edge of active volcanoe are just a small part of this incredible photographic adventure. The pleasure is even greater when you see your photos on the cover pages of the world’s major agencies and in all top medias around the world.
Antarctic expedition is known as one of the toughest adventure and photoshooting that is permanently written in my career. Harsh conditions in Antarctica is very difficult to describe in words. The mere thought that you have to spend 35 days in an ordinary tent at temperatures from -30 C, without normal life conditions already speaks for itself. If we add to that constant physical activity in very extreme surroundings, just to stay warmed up and maintain own body temperature, then it goes to a new level of brutality. To all this, add the day without darkness for 24 hours, as it additionally mentally and physically exhausts you. The sum of all this actually makes only a small part of my Antarctic expedition. And where were you and what were you doing for 35 days, you realize just after returning to civilization and to normal life, and when you look at the photos that you have made in that surreal environment.
What else do you want to try in photography, and so far have not succeeded?
Regarding the plans for the new things I’ve got quite a lot of them, and thus there is still a lot of things that I plan and what stands in front of me as some kind of challenge. Of course, new ideas and new plans always come, and when I think about all this I just do not see the end of the new unique photographs I plan to make. I am convinced that many of these future projects will be again some kind of motivation and encouragement to many young photographers, as it is now.
Are you engaged in some professional associations? How much time it applies to what you want to achieve?
No, because my time does not allow it and because I could not be fully committed to it. I compensate that for my motivational lectures and workshops that I do around the world. I am sure that one of these workshops in the next period will be in Croatia, because I get a lot of calls from Croatia.
What piece of equipment would you single out as the most important. Which marked a turning point in your work or is your most precious in your daily work?
It’s hard to single out just one item, because in most cases single piece of equipment is inadequate for the right photoshooting. In any case, if I had to single out one piece of equipment, at this moment that would be my Subal underwater housing for the Nikon D4 camera. Why? Probably because lately I do a lot of work on developing some new techniques for photographing underwater and with water itself.
How much money (approximately) have you spent on equipment and could you be equally good photographer without major parts of it?
I invest a lot in the equipment and I will always do because I want to have a variety of opportunities for a variety of photoshootings. How much money I invested? That no one knows, because I invest my whole life and whole career. I believe that each investment always comes back and everyone who has opportunities for improvement of equipment, which is not easy nowdays, should think that way. I firmly stand behind the belief that the equipment does not make a good photographer, but sure is a lot of help. Also, although many people may have the equipment, the way the photographer looks at things around simply can not be payed nor bought.
What camera and lens you use most and why? What are your other favorites?
Ever since I can remember my photography brand is Nikon. Logically, the current favorite camera to me is their flagship D4 and that camera I simply adore. Its speed and capabilities in low light environments are the biggest reason for that. Apart from it I use Nikon D800 and Nikon D600, which I use for various situations in which I need smaller cameras when speed is not crucial, or if I need higher resolution photos. Mostly I would love to carry all of these appliances with me and do not have to think on the day of the shooting what will suit me the most…
What is Photoshop to you and can you work without it? Do you use it extensively or only occasionally?
Photoshop (or similar software) simply must be a tool for every photographer who specializes in digital photography. To me is completely unimaginable that anyone nowadays uses a digital camera without using any of the tools for image processing. I am a supporter of good processing in Photoshop, but only to the limits of reality. People should have a limit to which must go and that should not be exceeded regarding Photoshop. Errors of this kind can be best observed in young photographers or those with less experience. I also believe that the basis of using Photoshop should be color correction, rather than adding non-existent things, drawings or modify existing images beyond recognition. In my case Photoshop and Bridge are two digital tools that I use the most when it comes to photo editing, selection and archiving images with all the necessary information.
What else would you like to do in life, and that is not directly connected with photography?
I came to this psychological moment in which simply everything I do and everything I would like to work is associated with photography. All activities and all of my work that I do, as well as private life, I see through the lens of the camera and with different eyes.
What are your strongest photographic capabilities?
I think I have a unique style that shows through my photos. As perhaps one of the strongest sides, I could single out the uniqueness in which I do not copy anyone else’s work, but I create photos through my view of the same things as others see it, but with different eyes.
What makes you better (no false modesty) of other photographers who are doing similar things?
I think what singles me out from the majority of the world’s photographers is my extensive experience in extreme sports, knowledge and special skills, that allows me to easily come to places that are not accessible to ordinary people. Simply, the adrenaline and the opportunity to do something that others can not in extreme sports, always pulls me forward, so I could push the boundaries to photography a little bit more.
Is photography still the love of your childhood or it became pure profession?
I fell in love with photography as a child, and I always carried a small camera that my older brother gave me. I loved to photograph everything that had seemed important, I wanted to record every interesting moment. After that I developed all the photos and arranged them into albums, so I was later be able to remember everything I experienced. As I grew up, photography increasingly fascinated me and I could not go anywhere without my camera. In my career so far I’ve photographed over 350 different sporting events in over 60 countries, so a boy’s love is still present, but it reflects to the serious work.
If I no longer have that love in me, my photos would not look the way they do, nor I could do this job with such desire.
The most important photographic advice for our readers?
Photos do not come by themselves, but for each of them you must seriously work – from the initial idea, good planning, the right equipment selection and final realization. Each of these segments is of important significance and will much affect the final photograph. Usually, when I photograph I know in advance how these photo will look like before it even occurs. So my advice to all readers is simple – try the same approach and see how the end result will be positive. Also, be sure to be aware of your capabilities and limitations and do not go over the allowed limits! In addition, it is important that everyone tries to find their own unique style and way of working, without copying others. It’s OK to study the work of other photographers, but they should serve as inspiration and motivation, not as a basis for copying!
What else do you want to say about youself and your work, and can you tell me some of your plans for the future?
Each of my journey and every event is backed by my photos and carries my unique and special story, so it is actually impossible to single out just one. Many of them are linked to environment in which I worked, or a place I’ve traveled to, special people or customs or some small details that as a photographer I can remember, way that only I know of. Concerning the plans for the future I have a lot of them and most of them refer to the new photographic techniques which I work on very much.