Outdoor Photography

Q: Where are you from? Where do you live now?

A: I was born in Hamburg/Germany, and I live in Wiesbaden now.

Q: What is your full-time profession?

A: Camerman

Q: How long have you been involved in photography?

A: 20 years with some breaks along the way.

Q: How did you get into photography? Tell us the whole story.

A: I studied Communication-Design in 1999 and photography was my primary subject from the beginning. Besides daytime shoots in all their styles, night photography got me hooked from the start. But the light painting style at that time looked more like waving sparklers in front of analog photo-paper in the darkroom, before putting it in the liquid developer. It was trial and error, and the results were purely accidental. But it was great fun.

Outdoor and Street Photography with Lume Cubes

Q: Do you describe yourself as a certain type of photographer?

A: Well, photographer by definition means light-writer, so in one sense I’m the most classic photographer you can find. My shoots are very planned, from checking moon phases to Google Earth research… I’m very German in this manner.

Q: What's in your camera bag right now? 

A: Canon 6D, 18mm Zeiss Distagon lens, headlight, 4 Lume Cubes, and a DJI Phantom 4 drone.

Q: How did you start with your journey with painting with light?

A: After my attempts in 2000, I bought my first digital DSLR in 2009, a Lumix GH1, which I bought more for filming, but by accident, light painting came back to my mind. Now that I was able to immediately see the result, I wanted to take it one step further and create real light objects. New light technologies, from LED pens to light-wires to pyro stuff… they are all nice toys to play around and get addicted.

Q: What has helped you develop your sense of style with your light-painting?

A: The sense of seeing a torch (flashlight) as a brush to add light into the darkness during long exposures. My light painted objects at some point were so thin and fragile, that they didn’t work well with their surroundings anymore. Without reflections, the objects looked flat and dead. So I light-brushed the ambiance and environment with a torch and color filter as if the object shines itself. That’s what gives the pictures some of their magic.

Q: You create some of your work documenting and transforming how viewers experience street art or graffiti - Why is this an important subject for you?

A: I was never active in the graffiti scene, but I really like that uncensored and direct art form that is free to experience for anyone. And since it’s a vanishing art, often times the photo is the only evidence of the art. There is a top-notch graffiti/streetart scene here where I live, which inspired me to combine these two art forms. It was love on both aspects – process and subject. This has kept me creative for many years.

Q: How did you come up with the idea of painting with light with drones? 

A: It was a bit like with my first DSLR, I bought my first drone more for filming, but then I stumbled across Lume Cube and saw the potential… that little flying cube is giving me the possibility to bring my lighting imagination to reality. It’s an absolutely new level. Like it has always been, new technology enables new art forms.

Q: Can you describe your Chernobyl Project? Are there any favorite images you can share that are especially rewarding?

A: The Swiss graffiti artist duo Bane&Pest invited me to document their work in the abandoned city of Pripyat. I was 8 years old when the Chernobyl disaster happened, and I remember with great clarity.

Bane and Pest Pripyat Chernobyl Project

The main topic of Bane&Pest was how nature recovered and takes back its territory. Trees grow in the damaged buildings and animals take over the city. Wolves, bears, deer are all living there today and can handle the radiation. When we were shooting the pics one night at the amusement park, suddenly I heard loud, scary clattering. It was a couple of wild horses walking by to see what we were up to.

It was the first time, that I flew my Lume Cubes in a real project, and the graffiti artists already have chosen the locations they wanted to use, so I worked on lighting the environment by drone.

In reality, it wasn’t as easy as I had expected. The mix of strong winds and strong vodka, and that the compass of the drone couldn’t be calibrated, made it very difficult to control the drone in the dark. In the image above you see these big trees. The wind pushed my drone into the dark one in the middle. It was at least a 10m (30 ft) fall and it looked quite spectacular how the Lume Cubes were lighting the tree while falling down from branch to branch. Incredible that after a quick repair to the drone and the Lume Cubes were ready to go back in the air! Chernobyl for me is the bridge from my graffiti photography to drone-lighting photography.

Q: Can you describe your most recent project in Iceland?

A: After my first shots lighting trees and castles, I thought an iceberg would be the perfect object to light with this technique. Because of the size and reflections, and also because you can’t put a light over a floating iceberg any other way – you can’t fake it. So I just had to try it.

When I arrived at the glacier lagoon, I was the only person around, with only the sound of cracking ice. My drone and the Lume Cubes worked perfectly, even in sub-zero temperatures. So I had goosebumps when I saw the light flying over the ice! And I was even happier seeing the first photo on the display.

Glacier Ice with Lume Cube

What is very tricky when shooting an iceberg during a long exposure, is that the iceberg is slowly floating and moving. That’s what surprised me on my first shots, cause the iceberg was a bit blurry. So I had to shorten the exposure and wait for calm moments. I could hear the ice moving and cracking, the lagoon is connected to the sea and high tide was coming. There are some calm moments mixed in during the tide movements, so I found a way to get sharp shots. All the effort to get the shots was worth the results!

Q: Do you have any advice for someone just starting out in photography or light painting?

A: ISO 100, f/11 and shutter speed of 20 seconds. Go out around dusk or dawn, and be aware of your white balance. And do it for fun!

Q: What's your favorite quote? 

A: The best picture I have taken is the one I’m going to take tomorrow.

Q: Can you describe how you made your favorite image with Lume Cube?

A: Don`t know yet, I will take it tomorrow!
Well, camera settings as described above, while hovering the drone out of frame with both Lume Cubes on full power, I started the exposure and flew slowly from left to right, up and down over the iceberg, which is at least 20 meters (65 feet) wide and10 meters (32 feet) high. I taped the blinking lights of the drone black and needed a few attempts to get the right angle of the Lume Cubes.

Q: Describe Lume Cube in 5 words or less.

A: Light-painting tool 2.0