Dimitrios Kontizas is one of 250 lucky photographers in a pool to be awarded the Red Bull Illume. He hails from Greece and is an action sports photographer that takes things to new heights–quite literally. Mr. Kontizas photographs skydivers, gliders, and a heck of a lot more. And he emphasizes the fact that you don’t need the latest and greatest gear to do this. While many other photographers may use something like a Nikon D4 to capture photos, Dimitrios uses a Nikon D5100 and puts more concentration into finding the best locations and athletes.
We chatted with the excellent photographer recently, and here is what he had to say.
Phoblographer: How did you know you wanted to get into shooting extreme sports?
Dimitrios: It always fascinated me watching on television extreme sports such as skydiving, paragliding, base jumping etc. I remember that I wanted to be in the place of all the people that were into these sports, try to imagine how would they feel when they perform. By the time I was fifteen, my parents bought me a Zenit film camera – which I still own – and started experimenting on taking pictures. As the years went by, I still loved extreme sports and i was getting better with my skills in photography so I started looking on a way to combine my two passions. In 2010 I met Hubert Schober, one of the two founders of ProBase World Cup, a company that organizes Base Jumping events all around the world. After three Skype Meetings and one year later, we actually met face to face on the island of Symi in Greece for the “ProBase Beach Boogie 2011”. The next thing was that I found myself hanging by the edge of a 300m cliff taking pictures of “crazy” people jumping down to the void. At that point, I knew that I found what I really want to do for the rest of my life.
Phoblographer: You’ve got a lot of photos featuring people in glider suits. How do you shoot something like this? Are you in a helicopter?
Dimitrios: All of the shots I take in such events are from the exit point, right next to the point that the athletes jump. The exit point could be a building, a ledge, a rock, an antenna or a bridge. The closest exit point i’ve been is at the island of Zakynthos in Greece (200m.) and the tallest at Kjerag in Norway (1,000m). No aircraft, no helicopter, just me standing right at the edge looking through my camera. These suits are called “Wingsuits” and they are used to control your free flight towards the ground, transforming the man into a small natural aircraft.
Phoblographer: What about the photo that was selected for the Red Bull Illume award? How was that captured?
Dimitrios: This picture was taken during the “ProBase Shipwreck Boogie 2011” on the island of Zakynthos, one of the most beautiful places in the world. After a very hot day, the athletes were having a lot of fun so they started to make what they call “fun jumps”. Suddenly, I see Hubert and Keds rushing, one behind another, towards the exit point for a “two way”.
No second thought, I grab my camera, I move the focus point to the middle and boom! A unique picture. You could say i was lucky but on the other hand it was something in this frame that led me to take this picture. If you watch closely, you will see that the picture is pure geometry. The beach is parallel to the shipwreck, the shade of the mountain and the mountain itself are vertical to the beach and the shipwreck. The third perspective is the line of the free fall where the base jumpers dive towards the shipwreck. Three dimensions, three perspectives and what a background! Being in the top 250 of Red Bull Illume 2013 battling among 6,417 professionals from 124 countries, is something close to dreaming. I am truly honored.
Phoblographer: How many times have you had to redo a shot because it wasn’t caught the first time around?
Dimitrios: Never. Not because I am the super-photographer. I like life as it goes, therefore, I never interfere with the moment of the jumper nor can I turn time back. If I do not get the picture, it is simply gone. I have to deal with this myself later.
Phoblographer: Where is your favorite place to shoot?
Dimitrios: Every place I’ve been has it’s beauty. Whether it’s Istanbul or Stechelberg, doesn’t matter. The world is beautiful so are the various exit points!
Phoblographer: What’s in your gear bag?
Dimitrios: I use:
For picture shooting:
– Nikon D5000
– Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3,5-5,6
– Nikkor 70-200mm 1:3,5-5,6
– Two tripods
– One monopod
– Toshiba Camileo BW10 FullHD
– Rollei HD
– One climbing harness
– One 60m rope
– One 20m rope
– One Radio
Phoblographer: How did you get into selling photos like the ones you’ve shot?
Dimitrios: I only post my pictures on my webpage and on my FB page. After that, magazines, newspapers, blogs etc. get in contact with me and we elaborate on the needs of each one. After that, the deal is on. Simple. At this point I would like to thank all of the Base jumpers and especially Hubert who share my pictures, thus, making me more easily found 🙂
Phoblographer: What are some things that you always check or make sure of before you go shooting?
Dimitrios: I check only what is crucial to my shooting. Camera, lenses, memory cards, safety gear, anoraks, warm clothing (if necessary), water and food. You might get stuck on a mountain for a whole day, perhaps a night too, so you have to be prepared for everything. It is like going to battle but instead of bullets you carry memory cards.
Phoblographer: What do you want to do next with your career?
Dimitrios: I would like to continue being a freelancer and flexible to all kinds of propositions. Either it’s a shooting on a plane or it is on a mountain, snow or rain, doesn’t matter. Extreme Photography has no boundaries, and I have not even started yet. It is my wish, also, to have an exhibition about Base Jumping were I get to expose my full collection to people known to this sport and to those who are not familiar with it. If it’s extreme I want in!
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