Your first ‘pro’ job wasn’t pro at all!
I injured myself during a windsurfing competition. Since all the action was out in the sea, the only option to get close was in the media boat. So I borrowed a camera from a friend, and said that I am shooting for an Estonian newspaper. Not really true. The first day it was more about enjoying action on the water, but in the end it was all about getting some stunning photos. I started to love it and decided to get deeper into it. I enrolled in art school and shot everything from politics to plants!
What’s your favorite image you’ve ever taken?
I love to answer this: it's a photo of my cat. People don’t know what to say! But seriously, it is one of my favourites… and it was even good enough to make it to the Red Bull Illume Finals. But besides that there are a lot of others: The Northern Lights project with golfers in Norway was stunning. A figure skater on a frozen bog, Jason Paul jumping into the airplane comes into the mind every time I board for a flight, and many more.
What’s different and what’s similar in your work?
All the sports I shoot involve athletes and nature or scenery. But every sport needs to have a different aproach. Although my main sports are rally and rally cross I try to do all sorts of other shoots as much as possible. They give me inspiration and new ideas to try in rally – or the other way around. I love playing around with lights... sometimes too much.
You do not travel light.
If I go to a rally event then I have around three bodies, 24-70, 20mm, 70-200, 24 tilt-shift, 85 tilt-shift, 85mm 1.4 for portraits, 16mm fisheye, Elinchrom ELD 500 and 1200, loads of PW transmitters. Depending on a specific event also 400mm. I have loads of selfmade gear from laser triggers to special tripods what I might carry around. I always have proper rain clothing and plastic bags as well as duct tape to protect the equipment when the weather turns bad.
Most gear ever?
If I go to a rally cross (rally on a circuit) then I pack some more lenses and cameras, and a few extra remotes. The maximum so far has been 7 cameras, 12 lenses , 15 transmitters. It took 3 hours to prepare 10 minutes of shooting but then all the best locations were covered and I could only press a few buttons while watching the action!
Are you an artist, or a technician?
I’m a technician. I studied 2 years together with artists. It’s a bit different to the job I am doing today. Sure, some of my pictures can be displayed in galleries and exhibitions but I still call myself a photographer rather than an artist.
What’s more important: subject, lighting, or composition?
The story of the picture – then composition and lighting. During my school year, I saw some photos that were out of focus with bad lighting, but super composition and story. The most interesting photos are the ones where something has been done differently to how you’d expect.
What life lessons have you learned from photography?
Maybe the most important is how to work with people you dont know. During my school years, we had to pick a random stranger from the street and follow him for a week to make a photo story about him. The hardest part was approaching the person to begin with. It still is, but somehow I have learned that a camera and a smile can melt all the tension.
What’s the last thing you photographed?
It was today in Buenos Aires airport - two security guys holding my flash batteries with confused looks on their faces as they decided whether to allow me to pass or not. The photo was great but they forced me to delete it.
Your favorite sport to shoot is…
Rally! This sport covers so much terrain, from snowy Swedish forests to dusty Australian roads. Although the locations are almost the same every year, something always changes – the road itself, the weather, the time of the day. I have been to the same ‘water splash’ spot in Mexico three years in a row, and had totally different looking photos every time.
And is it dangerous?
To shoot rally we use remote cameras to minimize the risk and stay safe. That said – I have climbed cell phone towers, dangled off cliffs and hung out from a helicopter. Although many shoots I do look dangerous, I minimize the risk all the time.
Photos © Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Illume.