Even though I easily shoot more than a hundred thousand photos each year, there are only a few that make it to a special place in my heart. Quite often these are not the images that get the most views on my Facebook but they are pictures that mean the most to me. Either because they were (extremely) hard to take or they were made at special moments in the past year. So, I have made a selection of 15 precious shots that defined 2013 for me. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did making them!
© 2013 www.rudgr.com
After a lengthy, no-sun, powder day on the slopes we were in the last gondola up when a small bit of sunshine slowly drifted into the direction of this mountain top. Since we were about to arrive I grabbed the camera from my bag in record time, set it up properly and raced out of the cart as soon as the doors opened. I had literally just seconds to photograph after I rushed out. It was the only sunshine we saw that day and this image still amazes me every time I see it.
2/15 “Year of the Snake”
Now I’m not known for my studio and still works but through a customer I was asked to photograph the Challenger MT765D “Field Viper” – a massive agricultural piece of equipment with a custom decal snake print for their new poster. My assistant Kevin (MIttnick.nl) and I arranged for daylight lamps and a smoke machine. Together with 4 wireless strobes we set up lighting this giant in clouds of smoke. There was some serious post-processing involved in removing the background but the result was worth it!
3/15 “Close Call”
My final wintersports shoot took place in the high mountains of Les Arcs, France. Photographing the Ski test for the Dutch Ski Association I’d been busy all week and had planned for an hour of extreme close-up shooting with the testers/models participating. All had to be done early in the morning so the snow was cold and hard (shooting “corduroy” is fun!).
There was a very nice place with a great background and good run-in for the models but since I would be shooting against the sun I needed to fill-in flash every photo which meant: one picture per run. And with these guys (and girls) coming in at 40 Km/h and near missing me by half a meter, timing was crucial. I had a good batch after that hour but in this one everything came together perfectly: color, speed, position and smile!
4/15 “The Moneyshot”
Ultra Music Festival, Miami, USA
Quite possibly this is the most technically difficult live-photo I’ve ever taken. After 5 days of shooting Ultra Music Festival in Miami I had a picture in my head of a semi-blurred girl dancing amidst an ocean of confetti. The motion blur meant I would be using a low shutter time which meant a huge chance for error. With the confetti canons ready to go I kept scanning the crowd non-stop and exactly at the right time a ton of gold pieces were blown over the dancing crowd and this girl with the flag behind her. It all seems completely fake but this picture is almost straight from the camera.
5/15 “Backstage with The Prodigy”
Indian Summer Festival, the Netherlands
I’m not a usually a “fan” of many artists I shoot but the Prodigy is a big exception, I’ve been bouncing to their music since I was a kid and suddenly I got the opportunity to photograph them at the Indian Summer Festival that I was photographing for the organization. After the initial contact with the tour manager I was granted extremely rare full-access, including the moments right before show start. Being on stage minutes before the action there’s a really weird vibe that you can almost touch but can’t photograph due to the total lack of light. However, a few streaks of blue light were enough to capture that short and intense moment. After the show the whole band came out to check out my photos and this was by far their favorite since they are hardly ever captured in that intense and private moment.
6/15 “Halfwater Paradise”
Vilhamendhoo Island, Maldives
Sometimes you have to get up early to get the shot. While photographing the impressive underwater wildlife of the Maldives for a Dutch diving magazine I noticed low tide was very early in the morning. This made it perfect for a half water shot I was hoping to do with the island jungle as a background. Because the early light comes in low it lights up the reef while the light on land was not yet strong enough to blow out my photo. The tide was so low that it exposed some of the corals, like this splendid purple staghorn which I accentuated by adding some strobe light.
7/15 “Swimming with the Sharks”
Going to the Maldives you hope to see some live whalesharks. So going on my first trip to find them we got lucky very early on in the search. While taking some pics of the animal itself I really wanted to show the interaction of snorkeling with these gracious creatures. Trying again and again to position myself in a way I’d get both animal and human in a single shot, preferably with s bit of wave, I finally hit the sweet spot with this photo. It should make you feel like wanting to be there yourself and have this amazing experience.
8/15 “Abandoned Tropical Swimming Pool”
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Through an amazing coincidence I found access into one of the most sought after Urbex locations in the Netherlands: an abandoned tropical swimming pool in the heart of Rotterdam, Tropicana – a place where I’d been many times as a kid. Since I’m not a huge fan of shooting fake looking high dynamic range pictures and I had a good hour to spend I decided to take a more clean looking approach to this impressive structure. The series, posted on the popular photoblog Totallycoolpix.com went viral almost instantly and it was shared and tweeted countless times. Besides that I got swamped with requests for access and security hard a couple of rough weeks afterwards with many photogs trying to gain access.
9/15 “Tomorrowland Helicopter Madness View”
In 2012 I did the first experiments taking night-time aerial pictures at large EDM events. Taking photos in the dark from a shaking helicopter takes a lot of practice and technique and this year I was able to improve big-time on my first initial shoots. The feeling of hanging above 40.000 people in an open chopper (they take the door out for me) is simply indescribable but when you end up with pictures like these it’s so much worth the stress en effort!
10/15 “Unesco World Heritage View”
Ultra Music Festival, Split, Croatia
The first edition of Ultra Europe took place this year at the coastal town of Split, one of my favorite places in Europe. After two days of shooting the main event we transferred to the island of Hvar for an epic pool party. The filming crew offered me a chance to hop onboard for their two hour (!!!) heli flight needed for the after movie. Such opportunities cannot be left untouched so I hopped on for the ride of my life. Flying over the island, the Adriatic Sea and finally the old Unesco World Heritage center of Split at a perfectly timed sunset was priceless. If this doesn’t make you want to go there, what else will?
11/15 “Girls just wanna have Fun!”
Tomorrowworld, Atlanta, USA
Top EDM-filmer Kevin Gansemans and I have developed a habit of tagging along eachother while bringing huge sunbouncers (reflection screens) to the parties we photograph. Tomorrowworld was no different and after scouting various people for filming and photographing we came across these two dancing girls that we tried to capture at sunset using the reflected light. It turned out incredibly hard to photograph from this angle but the result is one of my favorite EDM pics of the year and Kevin got one of his best shots from the weekend as well.
12/15 “The Arch fits exactly”
While on family vacation enjoying the 43 °C degree heat of St.Louis we decided we couldn’t leave town without a visit to the famous Arch, monument to the conquering of the west of the US. The weird elevator ride to the top is a ton of fun (especially bringing young kids) but the view was even better. Shooting through tiny windows I had to squeeze every bone of my body into weird angles just to get the framing perfect. I had literally not a centimeter of leverage but then I got my “capture it all” shot!
13/15 “Stars over Michigan”
Sleeping Bear Dunes, USA
The Michigan sky certainly was helpful this year. While staying at a perfect cabin near the Sleeping Bear Dunes national park I just had to look skyward at night to see the photo opp. Marty, a friendly neighbor we met at the place was more than willing to help me out in getting the perfect shot. I set him up at the jetty and use a little LED-torch as a fill-in light while doing a 30 second exposure to capture the Milky Way. I just love the way the shot brings out the magic that we all experienced over there.
14/15 “Simply Armin”
Ultra Music Festival, Split, Croatia
For me 2013 was really the year of Armin. Been wanting to shoot one of his gigs as dedicated photog for ages and I finally managed to set up contact in March with his production crew. After sending photos to him after every gig I came across him we finally got working together for the Amsterdam kick-off of his amazing new Armin Only ‘Intense’ world tour. A show so good, it turned into a massive photo frenzy with so many things to photograph. Still, this one, taken at Ultra Europe is among my favorite Armin photos from the whole year. All the emotion is there, it is like you can touch the music…
15/15 “Number one…”
Sleeping Bear Dunes, USA
But the most important thing is still this: my family. As much as I love travelling the world taking pictures it is always better to come home to what you love absolutely the most.