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Behind the Scenes with Photographer Craig Kolesky Shooting Skiing and Biking in the African Desert

It can be a real creative challenge to try and concept, as well as execute, something that has never been done before, especially in photography. Adventure photographer Craig Kolesky accepted that challenge and ended up in the desert of Namibia, with two unlikely athletes for such a location. I asked Craig a few questions about this project that he shot for Red Bull Photography.

So how did all this come about, and how did Kolesky know about this location? He tells me he’s been going there for years to shoot surfing and kiting, and using all of the information from those previous projects, a team was put together of local guides to make it happen. You can’t tell from the video, but they were out there for six days!

Hours were spent on Google maps, charts and many phone calls were made .We found out where to go and got a top crew together. The project was dreamt up during Photokina in 2014 when I met Anton Nelson from F-stop gear. We chatted about doing a project one evening and left it at that, In January he mailed me to get the ball rolling and almost 10 months later it all fell into place.

We had extremely competent local guides who knew the area like the back of their hands. If we saw somewhere we wanted to go we would ask if it was possible and they would get us there. Sometimes it was easier said than done….

The concept of putting a skiier on sandy dunes has been done before, but Kolesky wanted it to have an authentic look. This mean that the athlete, Fabio Studer, would actually have to learn how to ski on sand.

I saw images online of people skiing on sand but to me it just looked very fake and set up, our goal was for Fabio to look comfortable as if he was on snow.

Apart from the athletes actually traveling on sand, pitting the biker against the skiier worked well to add some more interest to the images, and made the shoot a unique one.

Going in to this project, Kolesky already had an idea for what shots he might try to capture, but of course being in the actual location opened up his eyes even more.

When we arrived we were all in awe of the sheer expanse, silence and beauty of the dunes. We definitely needed more time to take advantage of the many opportunities to experiment.

Desert environments can be harsh for photographers and filmmakers with the equipment we often have in tow. Craig planned ahead for this, and decided that there would be no changing of lenses of swapping of cards if it could be avoided.

To avoid changing lenses I decided to take 3 bodies each one with a lens on. So a D4s with 70-200mm, D4s with 24-70mm and a D750 with 16mm fish eye, I also loaded the cameras with 2 x 64gig Lexar cards so I did not need to change lenses or cards, thus sand didn’t have much opportunity to get in. The bag I used also played a big part in keeping the gear safe.

I asked Craig what kind of bag he was using, and it tuned out to be an unreleased, special edition of the F-Stop Gear Ajna, which I had the chance to review the stock version of earlier this year.

The bag is like a work station, put it down on the ground and you can access all the gear from the bag lying down. The waist strap also allows you to swing the bag around from your back to the front of your body so you can get to the gear with out having the bag on the ground when it was windy.

To see more of Craig Kolesky’s work, check him out on Facebook and Instagram. More details about the "Duneriders" project can be read over on the Red Bull Photography site.

Mike Wilkinson's picture

Mike Wilkinson is an award-winning video director with his company Wilkinson Visual, currently based out of Lexington, Kentucky. Mike has been working in production for over 10 years as a shooter, editor, and producer. His passion lies in outdoor adventures, documentary filmmaking, photography, and locally-sourced food and beer.

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1 Comment

This just makes me want to watch LINE Traveling Circus' "Attack of the Sand People" episode.