Big interview with Predrag Vuckovic from Nikon Pro Magazine for Europe’s Top Professional Photographers.
Red Bull has a strong, high-speed identity, thanks to tightly focused sponsorship. Nikon Pro meets one of its favourite photographers. Images like this one, which has been published in hundreds of magazines, are an important part of Red Bull’s marketing strategy. The company sells billions of units of energy drink per year with a daredevil image that appeals to a young, adventurous audience. As a former BMX champion and accomplished photographer, it seemed inevitable that Serbia’s Predrag Vuckovic would one day sign up.
Vuckovic has always been into extreme sports, from freestyle biking to snow and wakeboarding. We wondered how much his first-hand experience helped him when shooting these sports and anticipating the action. ‘It’s essential,’ he says. ‘You know the tricks they are going to do and what position you need to get into for the best shot. And for some assignments you might need to be able to snowboard to get there.’ One of Vuckovic’s recent assignments was the Red Bull Air Race in Rotterdam. ‘It’s an incredible event,’ he says. ‘The planes are going at breakneck speed and you have just a few moments to get dramatic pictures. It’s a real challenge.’ Each race is covered by four photographers – one in a helicopter, one on either side of the river and one in the spectator area. Vuckovic was shooting from the side, on top of a building, while operating a second remotecontrolled camera positioned under a nearby bridge. ‘The sequence I shot in Rotterdam really shows the possibilities of the D3, because the planes go so fast. With the camera’s high frame-rate, I was able to get the shots I wanted for the sequence. ‘The speed of a camera is very important for this type of photography and I was very happy when I first got my hands on it. The D3 is very easy to work with. And if you’re using a remote camera, it’s very important to have high fps because I always take a sequence and then choose the best one. ‘With so many frames per second, I can be sure that I get a perfect shot. Also the high ISO quality means that I can use faster shutter speeds to freeze the action.’
Vuckovic also holds professional diving qualifications; he often works in the water to get different angles of what’s happening on top. ‘I have changed all my underwater housings so that I can use my D3s underwater, because with the low light, I get much better results. The high ISO quality is very important for me, as well as the good resolution and colour gradation. The D3 is an incredible camera – everybody says the same. Now, after working with it, when I put another camera in my hand… well, I can’t tell you what I think. With action shots, Vuckovic likes to keep the image as realistic as possible, but when it comes to portraits he also likes to work with elaborate lighting set-ups, using up to six lamps to achieve a slightly surreal effect. ‘The colours of the D3 are really great,’ he says. ‘Also, the colours on the rear display are completely realistic – they match the scene exactly, which is very important for preparing the lighting.’ But this is where the manipulation ends: ‘I often work on the images in postproduction, but I would never put anything on that wasn’t there. Sometimes I stitch images together to make a sequence and show the movement in great detail.’
Subjects: Action and adventure sports, portraits CLIENTs : Red Bull, various magazines. What’s in the bag? ‘The equipment is exclusively Nikon. Two cameras D3 and one D300, AF DX Fisheye- Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED, AF Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D, AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G IF-ED, AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED, AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED, AF-S VR Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G IF-ED and three SB-800 Speedlights. Sea&Sea underwater housing for D3 with underwater flashes. Radio transmitters, pocket wizards and remote controls.’ Why Nikon? ‘To tell you the truth, when I started out with photography I didn’t know much about it, so I chose my first professional camera – the Nikon F3 – purely on its design. I have always been very happy with Nikon and with the D3 – everything about it is much better than any other camera in the world.‘