With pleasure I present the interview for 360° Magazine, Autumn 2014 edition – Bulgarian magazine for extreme sports, leisure and alternative lifestyles.
The concept of 360° Magazine is to promote extreme sports and active lifestyle – increasingly important part of modern lifestyle with special emphasis on environmental awareness and responsible attitude towards nature and the world around us. Recently, significantly increasing the percentage of people who prefer to spend their time outdoors, exercising, and seeking alternatives to existing sports. More and more and the facilities that allow us to practice their favorite sport in urban settings. Increased sales of specialized sports equipment and accessories, which is a sure sign of increased interest in various sports. These trends suggest the existence of media that comment on the familiar and not so popular extreme sports to educate an adequate attitude to nature and offers a carefully selected information about the latest events, people and products in their respective fields.
Predrag Vuckovic: the world of extreme captured
Whilst we were selecting candidates for our joint project with Red Bull JOURNEYversity, we decided to turn to one of the best extreme photographers in the world, Predrag Vuckovic, to learn more about the intersections between the adrenaline and the photographic image. We’re sure that you’re familiar with his pictures – at least from his unique picture of Veso Ovcharov, our Spring 2013 cover. Besides, Predrag was one of the three photographers chosen to shoot Felix Baumgartner jumping from the edge of the stratosphere. But his career in the world of extreme started on the other side of the lens – before photography, Predrag was doing a lot of extreme sports himself, being most devoted to freestyle BMX riding. In between competitions (his best result is seventh in the World Championships), travelling all over the world and the unique performances of his friends, he decided that he’d like to share that emotion with all the other people. So that’s how it all started – with an ordinary camera and a lot of desire to fill his pictures with the atmosphere of the extreme scene. Today his whole life is devoted to the world of adrenaline, no matter where on Earth it’s happening – just while we were doing this interview, Predrag changed three locations, LA, Belgrade (where he is from originally) and Monza, Italy, where he was shooting F1. So we’re really glad he managed to find the time to share us some of his experience and the amazing world happening in front of his lens.
What does it takes to become a good extreme sports photographer?
The main thing is that you understand completely the sport that you are shooting and that you know in every moment what, when and where will happen. Also, good communication with the athlete you are working with has great importance. And on the end, maybe most important is that the photographer has special skills to be able to reach the unreachable places and to follow the athlete sometimes in extreme conditions.
Together with Red Bull we are launching a campaign called ‘JOURNEY versity’ (journey+journalism+university) which aims to create journalists, photographers and filmmakers specialized in extreme sports coverage. What is the most important thing a young and fairly novice photographer has to keep in mind when trying to recreate the atmosphere of the extreme scene? Any tips you’d like to share?
They should capture and transfer the reality into the picture so that the viewer could have the most realistic image of what truly happened. Also, it has to be mentioned that the safety of the athlete and the photographer has to be on first place.
The fact that you’ve practiced a lot of the sports you’re shooting – how does it help you?
I’m into extreme sports all my life and those skills are in fact my advantage in regards to the other photographers.
What is a perfect shot for you?
If we are talking about extreme sports – the perfect shot is the perfect moment. If we add to that a unique location then that is what every photographer wishes for.
In the air, under the water, on the ground – do you have any preferences where to shoot? And which setting is the hardest?
It all depends on the sport that you are shooting, but all of the above could be equally interesting. Which setting is the hardest usually depends on the different styles of each photographer. In my case the water is always the biggest challenge.
You have been diving for a long time – what is it that attracts you down under?
As a scuba diving instructor for almost 20 years and an underwater photographer for more than 10 years, it is always something different that attracts you. Most of things that I am shooting on the ground are fast and full of adrenaline, while the underwater world is quiet, peaceful and pretty slow.
What are the main differences when you’re shooting under- and above water?
That kind of photo shoot is one of my specialties. I’m working so much on it and try to develop some new techniques so that I could capture unique moments between two worlds – air and water. In the future it will surely come to some never seen before pictures.
How do you prepare for a project?
Every photo shoot that I do is an unique story that should be told in a specific way that only a photographer and his eyes could see it. The final result of a photo shooting depends a lot on the location and many of those places carry their own special story that I always try to represent in the right way through the photos. I usually first check the location for shooting and depending of it I choose the right equipment. In most of the cases, before I start with shooting I already have imagined the photo in my mind. I always like to say that a perfect picture never comes by itself because you have to search for it and work on it.
Tell us a bit more about the Stratos project? How did it feel to be one of the three photographers chosen to be a part of it?
On 14 October 2012, Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power in his descent, by skydiving an estimated 39 km. “Training was the biggest issue for this project as we had to pre-empt the jump and know exactly where we were to photograph from,” he recalled. For an year, the team practiced on how they would make pictures while the jump was executed. Two test jumps were also done. While the first jump was from 21km, the second jump took place from 29 km.
Historical event as huge as the Red Bull Stratos – Mission To The Edge Of Space, is something that I will surely remember for the rest of my life. I am very proud that I participated in writing the new chapter of human history through my photographs. Needless to say, no other assignment I ever do is ever going to be close to this project.
You get to travel the world constantly and get involved with inspiring people doing amazing stuff all the time. Sounds like a dream job and lifestyle to us. Are there any cons?
The biggest cons of my job are airports, airplanes, long flights, different time zones and all that comes in that package. Sometimes I don’t know in which part of the world I am because few days before I was somewhere else. It makes me tired very often, but I can’t complain that much because in the end this is really my dream job. I’m always trying to stay positive and I like to say: “The more you sleep, the more tired you would be!” – I completely believe in that. I try to get enough sleep, but only to recharge my batteries for a new trip.
We can say that you’ve achieved a lot – starting as an amateur and becoming one of the best. How do you see yourself in the future?
I will surely get my photography on a higher level with many more ideas and techniques that I already have in mind. I will continue to make pictures that motivate other photographers and I will try to keep the highest level of inspiration. After that my way in the future will be concentrated on workshops all around the world as I already started on transferring my knowledge and experiences to young photographers.
Is there anything else – besides shooting and extreme sports – you would like to do?
I would like to continue enjoying my life in every possible way – just as I already do in every moment!
Text: Diana Petrova
Photo: Predrag Vuckovic