1996: I was 15 years old and it was holiday season when I bought my first camera at a Russian 2nd hand market in Warsaw/Poland. Between fake golden Luftwaffe-Leicas and 8 mm film cameras, I found a hardly used Zorkij 4 with a Jupiter-8 50mm lens, which immediately caught my interest.
The old Russian man behind his small stand was prepared to negotiate, in the end my budget allowed me to buy an additional Jupiter-11 135mm lens. That was it – my cash was gone and I had my first camera system ready to go.
The Zorkij was a brick and not very well made, but it did it’s job and I loved it. This Soviet camera taught me all the basics and I even delved into taking long time exposures with it. This was the beginning of my photographing career and that´s probably where my passion for rangefinder cameras comes from.
Later my dad gave me a Nikon FM2 with electric winder and I quickly upgraded it with different lenses, a Metz 45CL-4 strobe and more. That was the time, I was about 16 years old, when I never left home without a camera in my hand.
RC-airplanes where another hobby of mine in those days, so it was just a matter of time when the question, how to get a decent camera up in the air, emerged.
In times of NiCd batteries, 35 Mhz analogue radio and the absence of multirotor aircrafts, this problem turned out to be quite difficult to solve and the first results were not very promising.
So I asked a friend who was a professional foil cutter to do me a favour and ordered my first spherical helium-filled captive balloon, which I replaced by two blimps shortly after. The camera was attached with a DIY frame to the balloon and an ordinary drill handled the rope drum. My biggest blimp had a volume of 18 cubic meters and carried a Canon EOS 1N in the end, which was triggered wirelessly by a Canon LC-3 remote. With this completely insane setup I completed my first assignments, being 18 years old. Interesting times! 🙂
After I got my High School Certificate in the millennium year, I accomplished my military service in the Austrian army as a tank driver and went to university afterwards. I studied international business economics in Vienna, but after three years I had to realize that this field will not have the power to keep me satisfied for the rest of my life. I worked on the side in a company which designed and built machines for the semiconductor industry for three years in order to find my own way. This was a decision which proved very useful a few years later.
Since I was a computer freak from the cradle, I decided to study computer science at the technical University of Vienna in 2004. Accompanying this major reorientation I did a job changeover too and started to work at a company which specialized on usability and interface design. I learned a lot from doing eyetracking studies, designing and editing webshops etc., but with the time I missed creativity and reality in the process. Especially in winter it was quite frustrating to arrive and leave the office in the dark, starring at a screen and working on virtual things the whole day.
So I founded my own company in the field of photo- and videography in 2006 and soon I was able to make a decent living by doing the things I loved from my childhood. I still retained my IT job on a part time basis to fill my time slots and earn more money, but I finally left the IT office in 2010.
2007 I started to fly RC models again just for recreation purposes and found out that technology did some major steps forward in the meantime. 2,4 Ghz transmitters began to show up and LiPo batteries started to replace NiMH cells. In 2008 I built my first multirotor and immediately recognized the new possibilities with this type of remote-controlled aircrafts. This was what I was waiting for, no captive balloons anymore, complete freedom in three axis, a vision formed in front of my eye!
I reoriented my company and started to build multirotors by myself, since the common available drones did not fit my purpose. My practical experience in machine engineering helped me a lot. I was always a perfectionist, driven by the desire to offer the best airborne picture quality on the market. Soon my Nikon D300 and my Canon EOS 5D mkII learned to fly, both were great cameras for this time. But did you think that was the end?
Of course not, in 2011 I was the first freak on this planet who mounted a mid-format Hasselblad H4D on a multirotor and worked with this setup professionally. Although the Hasselblad H4D delivered outstanding results, it was quite big and heavy. A year later I started a cooperation with Alpa and PhaseOne, and switched to a much lighter Alpa 12TC paired with a Phase One IQ180 mid-format digital back and Rodenstock fixed lenses. This was a setup which is hard to beat even today!
In 2012 I expanded the application portfolio again and started to offer Airborne mappings with drones. In 2013 my company was one of the first which offered Airborne laser scans by using remote controlled multirotors, in addition to the photogrammetric approach based on images.
On 31th December 2014 I had a skiing accident, followed by a surgery and a long time to get back on my feet. The rehabilitation and muscle regeneration took almost a year. My anger and frustration lead to severe marital problems and marked the beginning of over two years of monthly setbacks of any kind. I had a car accident, lost my grandparents, got a frightening diagnosis. I experienced my first multirotor crash with a prototype during the testing period, my new Landrover Discovery 4 got stolen, my cat died, etc.
This kind of sh*t happened every single month and nothing seemed to work like planned. I started to lose my confidence and fearfully waited for the next hit, which would knock me down again. This led to even more frustration, I felt trapped in a black hole.
In the first half of 2016 I finally decided to draw a line, break up with the past and find back to my roots. It was a hard decision to give up everything I did in the last years, but it felt relieving and right to do so. I also cut off contact to many people who disappointed me in the time where I needed them most, and I started to focus and prioritize the things I wanted to do, not what people expected me to do.
I feel very connected to Fuji’s mindset and that’s why I decided to share my experiences here on fujiuser.com
In 2015 I bought my first Fuji camera, the X100T, after having experience with different kind of camera systems. Until then I owned the Nikon D200, D300, D800, Canon EOS 5D mkII and mkIII, Panasonic GH2, GH3, GH4, Sony Alpha 6000, Hasselblad H3D and H4D, Alpa 12TC and Alpa 12FPS, several Gopros etc. But the Fuji X100T, with all its alleged limitations, was the camera which pushed my photographing skills and taught me to focus on the basics again.
I noticed that my mind has been contaminated by the consumer industry in the past years, and that I had often bought new gear just because of some suggested outstanding features which later turned out to be useless for me. On the contrary, those new functions often made the handling of the camera worse and killed my creativity over time. If I am confronted with too many options and possibilities, I spent much more time with decision making, trying different lenses, tuning the settings, etc. instead of doing what I am actually supposed to do – taking the image. Often the optimized photo turned out to be not a tad better than the image I had taken in the first attempt.
Today I am using the Fuji X-Pro 2 with a bunch of lenses and I love Fuji´s approach to focus on photography and its commitment to a gapless range of good fixed lenses. Since it reflects my experiences in the last years, I feel very connected to Fuji’s mindset and that’s why I decided to share my experiences here on fujiuser.com.
I am also deeply convinced that you can only be good in doing something and deliver outstanding results, when you love what you do. That’s the key and it does not matter what others are trying to tell you.
Sometimes it requires some patience and optimism to determine where you want to go, and it needs even more courage and commitment to follow your intuition.
But believe me, it’s worth it!