Florian Wagner: Adventure Germany

Florian Wagner is a photographer, paragliding instructor and helicopter pilot based in Munich, Germany. His work explores wildlife, outdoor sports and the environment. He is currently in the midst of his project “Adventure Germany” where he and his team are traveling on horseback and then helicopter.

Q: Back in 2010, we featured you on the blog and in a video about using the Leica S2 on a safari and in October 2012, Alex Coghe interviewed you about your work. What have you been up to since you’ve last appeared on our blog?

A: In the last two and a half years I have focused on my favorite subjects such as horses, mountains and helicopters. I did a private project for a sheikh in Abu Dhabi, shot a few stories for my favorite editorial clients such as Stern magazine and Playboy. I’ve also been preparing for “Adventure Germany” which is my biggest project so far.

Q: Can you give us a description of your Adventure Germany project? What was the inspiration for this project? What exactly are you doing along your journey and where are you visiting?

A: My team and I are riding through Germany from the very south (Zugspitze) to the very north (Sylt) and I will return on the same route in a helicopter. The route is: Eibsee-Munich-Regensburg-Weimar, then east of Berlin we turn west to follow the River Elbe until Hamburg where we will cross the river, turn east to Lübeck East-Sea and then turn west again to cross south of the Danish border to the island of Sylt.

There will be interesting people along the way too, including a professor who specializes in wildlife, someone who focuses on the Roman Limes, which represent the border line of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago, and even the world champion in beer brewing!

Q: How long is this journey going to take? When did you start and when will it be over?

A: The journey will be 1.500 kilometres long, which we hope to ride in 60 days. We started July 8, 2013 and hope to finish by September 15.

Q: How is the trip progressing so far? Can you give us updates on how everything is working out?

A: We are still following our time plan, but have had some hard times. At some stages we need to get up at 3 a.m. to avoid the heat of the day. I have a few bruises from a fall that don’t make it easier, and my team is working 18 hour days to get everything done properly.

Q: What are some of the challenges, photographic and otherwise, you’ve faced or are expecting to face?

A: Some challenges are riding with a camera and focusing in canter, falling off of the horse without getting hurt too badly and making the horse stand still while you shoot. We need more sleep, which is why we decided to optimize working progress in the camp and during the ride.

Q: You have a whole team accompanying you on this trip, correct? What type of people are on the team with you?

A: Yes, there is a great team that is with me. I’d like to especially thank the following team members: Barbara Ochotta (horses), Karin Maushart (horses), Wilfried Kolb (support vehicle, technical matters, camp organization, maps), Johan Dehoust (text), Janis Willbold (cameraman), Yves (drone camera), Marcus Aulfinger (helicopter pilot) and Hannah Gorkenant (social media and assistant).

Q: What Leica equipment are you using?

A: I have the new Leica M and Leica S with me. I use the M on the horse for weight and stability purposes. The S is for aerials shots due to the detail and file size it allows.

Q: How do you find shooting with the new Leica S after having used the Leica S2 before?

A: The new S is faster and has a few useful details such as the GPS, which helps locate the shots from the helicopter and match them with what we had taken on the ground.

Q: What makes this equipment suitable for this type of project?

A: The M is very comfortable to wear on horseback and really hard to destroy. The S gives me all the details I love, especially when I shoot from the air.

Q: Can you walk us through how you capture a shot while riding? It sounds like quite a challenge and feat!

A: I usually shoot wider angles. When I see a nice shot, I check the camera for the settings being ruined almost every time I move anywhere. I set the focus while still trying to pay attention to the horse for safety. A canter is more relaxed than trotting since you are stable and the images look more dynamic if you have other riders in the shot.

Q: What type of landscapes will you be photographing in Germany?

A: A lot of forest. Some beautiful mountains and green valleys. It is quite amazing how green Germany is.

Q: We’ve seen you work in Africa and on safaris. What made you want to go on an adventure in your home country of Germany? Basically, why did you want to explore your own backyard, so to speak?

A: I’ve been all over the world many times to find adventures. One day I realized that I almost felt at home in California, since I know so many nice places there. But yet I know nothing about home anywhere north of Munich. That’s what I wanted to change. Germany has much more to offer than most of us would think.

Q: It seems evident from this project and your previous ones that you have an adventurous spirit. Where do you think this sense of adventure comes from? Were you born with it or did someone inspire you and cultivate it?

A: I believe an adventurous heart is nothing someone can or will teach you. For some people what I do seems childish or crazy. For me, it is the best way to discover the world and share the emotions I am hopefully able to capture while doing it. I love nature and I love flying.

From a photographic point of view, the horse gives you the time to discover things not only by searching it on the internet but by feeling it, smelling it and finding special moments. The helicopter shows me the same thing from a totally different perspective. It is quite touching to see places from the air that you worked your way through sweating and swearing in a different way and also a different form of beauty.

Q: What are the plans for this project once it is completed? Are there any books or exhibitions planned?

A: We will make a book for National Geographic. We will promote it together with slide shows with our partners such as Leica, Land Rover, Lowepro and National Geographic. The trailer we produce for Leica will also be shown in Leica stores around the world.

Thank you for your time, Florian!

-Leica Internet Team

To learn more about Adventure Germany, visit the project’s page on Facebook, Tumblr, and Google +. To learn more about Florian, visit his website and Facebook Page.

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