All images by Jakob Wagner. Used with permission.
Photographer Jakob Wagner is well known for many projects. He’s worked for Adobe, Jim Beam, Victorinox, Emirates, Stern, the Royal Opera House and many more. But these days he’s marketing himself as being specialized in landscape, aerial, cityscape, industrial and fine art photography.
His latest project is called Fields; and it involves aerial photography combined with geometry and interesting compositions. Though most folks are all about drone photography these days, Jakob tells us that he’s more into gas balloon shooting for various reasons. Jakob tells us about the hardships of the project and the creative inspiration for it.
Phoblographer: Many of the scenes and projects that you’re known for are very wide and grandiose; and Fields is no different. Where did the inspiration to shoot wide fields with interesting geometric shapes come from?
Jakob: I was always fascinated by man-made structures and traces within the landscape seen from above since my first scheduled flight almost 15 years ago.
During my first gas-balloon flight in summer 2013, where I took the photographs for my “Above the Ruhr” project, I focused on heavy manufacturing and chemical industry combined with the texture of the urban areas in the Ruhr district, Germany’s biggest urban and industrial area. After finishing this project I thought it would be a good idea to focus on my next aerial photography series on the graphical agricultural structures in the German countryside.
Phoblographer: How did you go about doing this project? Besides the technical stuff involving using drones with your camera, how did you scout the locations to shoot?
Jakob: The most of my aerial photographs are taken from normal passenger planes, because I had the opportunity to work as photo assistant for a few renowned photographers while they were working all around the globe. This job included a lot of time in airplanes, what I couldn’t have afforded otherwise. A very few are taken from a helicopter which is unfortunately very expensive. The best way to take aerial photographs under perfect requirements is a gas balloon flight. From a gas-balloon you are able to shoot in all cardinal directions and you fly very slowly which gives me the opportunity to select my subjects deliberately, furthermore you have the possibility to fly several days at a stretch. They could fly higher (up to 9.000 meters) and further than hot-air balloons, but are more dangerous as they were usually filled with hydrogen gas.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you used to create these images?
Jakob: The gear I used was nothing special, only a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon Lenses like EF 24-70/2,8 L II, EF 85mm/1,2 L II USM and EF 70-200mm/4 L USM. The post production I did with Lightroom and Photoshop.
Phoblographer: What is it you enjoy most about landscape photography?
Jakob: I think it is the variety of possible subjects that fascinated me, furthermore foreign cultures and faraway countries have always excited me and traveling provides me with a lot of inspiration. The most important aspect of my work is to match the right spot at the right time. Light and weather are the main actors in my sceneries.
Phoblographer: Who are other landscape photographers you admire?
Jakob: There are so many great landscape photographers out there, but Edward Burtynsky and Andreas Gursky are some of my favorites.
Phoblographer: Photography as a medium is often lauded for capturing specific moments, but your photographs are mostly abstract. What in your opinion is unique about the medium of abstract photography?
Jakob: I think it is the possibility to show the familiar surroundings in an unaccustomed way which fascinated me again and again.
Phoblographer: Were there any challenges that this project presented?
Jakob: To fly with a gas-balloon is alway a challenge, because only the weather and the wind decides when and whereto the journey goes, additionally gas-balloons need a hydrogen pipeline to start, so there are just a few spots around the world, where you can start you trip and you will never know were exactly it ends. So every gas-balloon flight is a real adventure and challenge for me.