Behind the Lens with Skydiver and Aerial Photographer Laszlo Andacs
Today’s BEHIND THE LENS exclusive interview is with upstate New York skydiver and aerial cinematographer, Laszlo Andacs. Originally from Hungary, Andacs moved to the Hudson Valley to pursue a career as a skydiving videographer. Today, Andacs shoots on land and in the air for an array of assignments. A typical day consists of strapping on equipment, jumping out of planes, and falling through the sky while snapping his awe-inspiring photos. Let’s find out more…
Inside+Out Upstate NY: Where were you born and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley? Where are you based?
Laszlo Andacs: I was born in Hungary; I ended up in Gardiner, NY in 1999 because of skydiving (Skydive The Ranch). I’ve been based here ever since.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a photographer, and how did you get your start?
I never went to school for photography, it all started because of skydiving. back in Hungary, my friend and I built (and tested) helmets specifically designed for skydiving photography/videography (camera gear is normally mounted onto a helmet in skydiving) to earn extra money to support our passion for jumping out of airplanes. Then, I became a full-time jumper here in the US as an instructor and parachute packer. Jumping with cameras is another fun way to earn a living while skydiving–capturing first-time tandem skydives, students, and competition. I became more focused on doing this when I moved here to Gardiner.
Most “free fall” camera persons are more experienced, skilled skydivers than technically knowledgeable photographers. They point their helmet-mounted camera gear towards the skydiving subject with an optimum camera setting. And that’s about it. I was one of those who wanted to do it better and be more creative. So I started to learn more about photography. This “evolution” led to becoming a full-time freelance photographer mostly working beyond just skydiving.
Skydiving is a theme for you! Tell us about your style of photography and your photo journey.
Skydiving photography definitely became my hallmark since that’s where I started my journey with cameras. These days I photograph a very wide spectrum of subjects from nature to people, to architecture and location photography and more. I also shoot motion pictures. I love creating maximum impact and impressions with light, colors, details, and composition. I like pushing the “visual impression” of my artwork which you can see at Roost Studios Art Gallery. I’m also a tech nerd. So, I try to utilize every available tool from camera gear to software to achieve the desired look of an image.
Your portfolio is beautifully diverse! To date, what has been your most memorable shoot and the most daring?
There’s a long list of memorable and daring photo/video/film shoots from the last 24 years. One of the craziest was in 2017 while capturing both stills and video–the still is currently the skydiving world record of 64 jumpers that built a formation (“linked together”) at night. So far, I’ve photographed a total of 16 skydives over the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Added to that, I will do 5-6 more dives in the coming weeks during my fourth trip to Egypt. Exotic locations and TV/Film production shoots are always memorable.
A funny memory that happened locally, was when we were surrounded by cops in New Paltz while shooting for the band, Yard Sale. A “concerned neighbor” had no clue what we were doing and called the police. The photos came out great and one of them was selected for the band’s album cover. So I always smile when I look at the framed album on my wall.
What type of camera equipment do you use? Do you shoot videos as well?
I own mostly Canon gear for photos (full-frame cameras of course). And now, the latest DSLR and mirrorless cameras are great tools to shoot cinematic videos. So my Canon equipment supports that very well. I’ve worked with most of the known brands in the digital camera world. I rent gear every so often if I need something specific and I don’t own it.
We’ve noticed your creative talents extend beyond photography. Tell us about the other art mediums you’re engaged with.
I also show and sell artwork. I have pieces displayed at homes and local businesses, and I’ve had quite a few exhibits. Besides showing my photos in the traditional way (usually framed prints) years ago I started to experiment with printing my images on different surfaces (metal, wood, glass, etc). Eventually, I came up with an entire concept for these “alternatively” printed images. I create displays of my photographs often printed in multiple pieces and layers on different media then assembled into one piece producing visually very interesting artwork.
What is one question you’re constantly asked OR what’s the biggest misconception about your work?
Definitely, people have a hard time understanding my skydiving images. They don’t understand the concept that I’m actually jumping with my subjects and not taking them from an airplane. It’s nearly impossible to display my artwork online, and most people don’t read the description. Therefore, it’s just another photograph in the vastness that is the internet. When they are at the physical exhibit it often changes people’s perceptions. Most people are impressed and see the uniqueness of the displayed artwork even if they don’t understand the detailed technical process behind it. Another misconception happens around the financial value of photographs. Clients often see and expect to pay only for the time the photographer spends at the location. In reality that’s only a very small part of the job. It takes time to plan, communicate, schedule, and travel, and there’s the post-production. All of this is required to deliver the expected images.
How is your industry changing and how are you adapting?
Working as a freelance photographer gets more difficult every day because of the widely accessible and lower costs associated with digital technology. Everybody is a photographer these days. Just think about our smartphones and their ever-evolving photo/video capabilities. While most professional photographers focus on one or two things like still-life and food, or weddings and portraits). I like to shoot many different things. Ultimately that’s what saved my business to date, and that’s how I’m able to make my living as a full-time photographer (most definitely since COVID). Nowadays, the majority of my business is real estate photography (again, adapted from the COVID situation), but sometimes I shoot a wedding, make a promotional video for a small business, shoot a music video, photograph skydivers in Egypt, and sell art pieces. Being versatile and adaptive is the most important. Definitely keeps you from being bored.
How do you grow your business and how do your clients find you?
It is a long process for sure. The most important thing is to build up a portfolio and put your name out there. It won’t happen overnight it takes many years and it’s constantly evolving. It also pays to be proactive. I’m published all around the world because I sent images to many magazines in the last two decades. I was lucky to do camerawork because of my skydiving skills. I constantly maintain my social media presence. Networking with local businesses eventually leads to word-of-mouth recommendations. All very time-consuming.…and yes, this interview itself helps too!
Do you leverage social media to get work and how is that working for you?
While social media is very important to show my photography. When a new client approaches me after a word-of-mouth recommendation they typically check my recent work online and portfolio on social media. I don’t often get work directly from a social media post, although it happens once in a while. So, social media plays an important role as some kind of verification about my work activity, portfolio, and reputation for past clients and potential clients.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
I’m getting ready for another trip to Egypt this year to photograph skydivers over the Great Pyramids in the Valley of the Kings. Hopefully, I can focus more on art projects again which barely existed during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m fairly busy with work these days and I hope it stays that way.
What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it a unique place to live + work?
The natural beauty and the very interesting and mixed culture are the best things about the Hudson Valley.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
While our lives rely on the internet and communication; I find that I still experience locations with no cell service and very limited internet speeds. I wish that could change.
What would be your dream assignment?
Any gig which provides a good income and provides a positive impact on the world. I like it when it involves travel and adventure though.
Who or what inspires you personally?
I take inspiration from all those photographers and cinematographers who achieved success and recognition for their work.
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know?
I’m also a HAM radio guy (not too active these days though) which explains my tech/nerdy side. This experience contributed to my becoming a professional photographer. The technical knowledge coming from HAM radio made it easy to understand the technical aspect of digital camera technology.
What would be your dream local Staycation?
There are many fantastic places here in the Hudson Valley. It would be unfair to single out one. Maybe I can’t visit all the locations but I’m definitely working on it.
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To Work with Laszlo Andacs