Can you introduce yourself briefly?
I’m Laurent Merle, photographer, paraglider pilot and outdoor enthusiast. I’m 45, I live between the flatlands and the ocean. Dad of 3 children: Jona, 19, Titouan, 17 who both fly and Jules, 8, who plays with us and flies his mini-sail kite.
I fly a lot using a winch with the club Pitroux (www.lespitroux.com) and by the sea at some of the less well known spots.
What were the milestones in your learning photography?
My learning lasted over a long period of time. I taught myself, accumulating experiences. But where I learned the most is when I had to get “pro” results, for reports on major sports events (Oléron Stand Up Challenge, Natural Games, Icarus Cup) or in my job. Due to its particular demands, my time in the regional daily press as a sports photographer was also a real bonus.
When did you get interested in paragliding photography and especially aerobatic paragliding?
At the same time as I started to fly, or even before, looking at pictures in specialist magazines. I remember on my first flight, during my beginner course, I already wanted to take pictures and I asked my instructor if I could take my camera. He wasn’t keen…
Photos of aerobatic paragliding came next, when I got more and more interested in this form of flying.
Who are the photographers that inspire you?
All the guys who take pictures in the air! I love seeing new images. As everyone has his own way of seeing it’s really interesting to follow the work of other photographers. To understand how they shoot their images and also just to enjoy their vision, their inspiration. I love the work of Jerome Maupoint. I’ve followed it for years. His involvement with Gin Gliders is great. He created an extraordinary showcase for the brand. Jerome has developed incredible self-portrait techniques! I am also impressed by the images and talent of Tristan Shu. The approach of “shooting”, to stage something that was previously imagined. It’s like the work of a film director.
What equipment do you use?
I use a Canon body, the EOS 70D. It was a good camera when I bought it, not too expensive, with autofocus and a reasonable sensor. As I haven’t extensive financial means, I tried above all to get good lenses, bright, fast. I like my 70-200 2.8. But now I’m going to have to switch to another range and I’m looking at full frame bodies.
Do you have a memory of a shoot that you would like to share with us?
Not particularly. I like the atmosphere of a shoot. Being concentrated, ready, responsive. Anticipating the trajectories or what the pilot will do. I also like meeting people and each photo essay is an opportunity to meet passionate and fascinating individuals.
Have you specific tips or advice for taking pictures of aerobatic paragliding?
Observe first. Understand the maneuvers, how they combine, their dynamic. Then place yourself. Find the viewpoint. As I am myself a pretty committed paraglider pilot I understand the thinking of the pilots better, it’s an advantage that allows me to anticipate the figures before they engage them. It’s quite complicated as a discipline, photos taken from the ground with only the sky in the background rarely please me. You need a beautiful sky, beautiful clouds, a crazy light, or use smoke to give depth. The best images are those where the aerobatic dimension is highlighted by the background. Therefore as much as possible you have to get height to have landscape behind the pilots. Some spots are obviously better for this, such as Saint Hilaire or Organya for example. And have beautiful light, choose the right times.
You’re a photographer primarily of outdoor activities. Can you tell us of the special relationship that you have with these activities?
I’ve always been attracted to these activities. Since I was a kid. Skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, mountain biking, climbing, surfing and paragliding of course. My parents taught me to love mountains. And I kept this taste for nature and the great outdoors. The mountains, the ocean. I think I am of a contemplative nature. I like to discover new horizons, to sit down and look at what is surrounding me . And I am an aesthete and I love beautiful gestures. So I have found in outdoor activities that mix of nature, environment and aesthetics.
What are your plans or ideas for 2016?
The big project for this year would be to succeed in mixing photography, base jumping and paragliding. The session is on track and it remains to find common dates for all participants. We expected to do it two years ago, but the day before, one of our friends had an accident.
I will return to the Natural Games in Millau late June, then Organya in July. I met some lovely people last year, took nice pictures and I want to go back for more photos. It really is an amazing place and a great spot to shoot acro. I have been in contact with pilots with a view to making images and I hope that will work out. French Balloon Championships are in my area early August, and then I will of course be in Annecy in late August to create images of your beautiful event!
The final word
I feel I have always been taking photos. My Canon EOS is never far away when I wander. I chose to take the step and get into the adventure of nature photography, outdoor and aerial sports photographer as a photographic author. Always looking for new images to make and super motivated to grow my picture business, I’m looking for new projects, new horizons to explore.
Internet links, website or specific gallery:
My website: www.laurentmerle.com
My facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lau
Flickr : https://www.flickr.com/photos/laurentmerle/
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/laurent_flyinglol/
Twitter : https://twitter.com/flyinglolo
If you have any ideas, photo reports to do, do not hesitate to contact me!!
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