Everybody loves an overnight success story, and this one definitely falls into that category. The purchase of a new camera just over a year ago was the catalyst for Jan Kozak to start taking his photography more seriously. Days watching YouTube tutorials, and nights out shooting with friends paid off big time as his image will now be seen across the world as part of the Image Quest 2019.
To call his success ‘overnight’ should not take away from the perseverance, courage and willingness to take risks that landed him this shot. The only person that can tell the full story properly is Jan, so check out the interview below!
How does it feel to be a semi-finalist of the ‘Creative by Skylum’ category?
It’s absolutely amazing, if somebody had told me I would get this far when I first started considering entering the competition, I would have thought they are crazy. I’m happy to be a semi-finalist in the Creative by Skylum category. This alone is a huge success!
Did you have this composition in mind before shooting? Or did you see the frames and think of the idea afterwards?
I had the composition in my mind before shooting and I wanted to make a sequence photo but a little differently. When I saw this place for the first time I knew it was the right spot. The only time-consuming part was to set up the lights and flashes, everything else was relatively easy thanks to my friends’ help.
Did you climb the tree yourself to set up the camera?
Yes, I used a big ladder, and fixed the camera at about 7-meters high. When I went up the first time I couldn’t believe what I got myself into, but at the end of the shoot and after multiple trips up and down the ladder, it had become routine.
It was really tricky to fix the camera, I had to use a ratchet strap and attached a monopod to the tree. Once the camera was mounted on the monopod, I could no longer move it. In the end it was worth it, I got a nice view of all the jumps and the photo has a nice perspective.
I couldn't use the camera viewfinder, but from this high vantage point it wasn’t really needed. It was very easy to catch the right moment and some tricks we even shot on the first attempt. Out of 20 photos from the shoot I really only used 6 of them, which is nice for post-production.
How long does the editing process take for a shot like this?
Haha, it takes about half a day in the parking lot at Fort William! After a morning riding in the bike park I started editing. Why did I edit in a car-park? The photoshoot took place shortly before my vacation, so short on time I used the only location available… retrospectively it is a funny memory that only adds more to the photo.
Are you trained in post-production, or did you teach yourself?
Absolutely not. Everything I know about post production is self-taught, mostly from YouTube videos. Using editing software is nice but for me it's more important to do as much in-camera as possible during the shoot; nailing the lighting, using only necessary flash and hitting the right spots… without a good base there is no point in post-production.
How did you discover Red Bull Illume?
The first time I came across Red Bull Illume was on Instagram, I don’t know exactly when but it was a couple of years ago. I loved the photos I saw, but that’s about it. I never imagined being a part of that. Last year I bought my first camera – a Sony a7 III - and began shooting more. That autumn me and my friend Dan, a rider, made our first night photo shoot. When I read that the Image Quest 2019 was starting, I knew I wanted to participate.
You made it into the Top 25 of the Best of Instagram by SanDisk category, did this give you confidence to enter the main contest?
The Best of Instagram by SanDisk nomination happened unexpectedly, it was both surprising and very exciting! However, I knew long before that I wanted to enter the main contest.
What’s next for you, and where can we find more of your work?
I want to make some more night projects, find new locations give the photos a new perspective. For a long time now, I have been thinking about trying winter project but so far, I haven’t found the right opportunity. I’d like to travel more, especially with my camera.
To see more of Jan's work, check out his website and follow him on Instagram!