Catching up with… Kuba Konwent

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Kuba Konwent – Selfie

Kuba Konwent is a photographer, skydiver and extreme sports enthusiast, who specialises in sports and advertising images.

Kuba shoots in extreme environments – skydiving, motorcycling, underwater, underground, on mountains – and his dream is to take photos in space! His images have a style of their own. Kuba is Polish and was a finalist in the Red Bull Illume 2016 competition.

Javelin by Kuba Konwent

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

The most valuable thing is that I collect precious memories. Because of my photography and skydiving passion I have the opportunity to meet people who are my idols, who turn out to be as positive crazy people as I am.

What’s your biggest passion – photography or skydiving?

I think that my passion is actually combining both 🙂

Father and son Andrzej & Krzysiu Soltyk –Image by Kuba Konwent

Your images are very stylised, with an ‘out-of-this-world’ feeling, how do you achieve this?

Well, you just need to really feel it! Not everyone is a fan of my works. Sometimes I hear that it’s “just HDR” or it’s “just photoshopped”, but in the end they don’t know nothing about how much work there had to be put in to some of my pictures. And this is how it is in art – it all depends on your point of view.

However I see the new trend. Everyone wants to be “analog” and retro. Work has to be neat and simple. I have a different perspective. I think that some people just lack imagination to create something more vivid and magical. Photography is also an art, right? And art is not something you can frame and bind.

Grzegorz Ciesielski – Image by Kuba Konwent

Do you do much work in PhotoShop?

It’s a perfect question to clarify some misunderstandings when it comes to my photography. There is a general understanding that if the picture is colorful and with higher color saturation it means that it’s overcomplicated and it doesn’t show the reality. People who tend to say such things usually don’t understand what postproduction really is. It’s no secret that even in analogue photography the postproduction was as it is right now. We just have better tools. You still need to develop the picture and adjust it to the photographer’s vision and imagination. Sometimes I see pictures of some experienced skydive photographers and my heart is bleeding when I see shots that – with 2-3 quick adjustments – would have much more visual impact and “wow” effect. But unfortunately some of those pictures are flat, banal and their potential is lost.

Generally, as far as I know, well-known skydive photographers started with skydiving and then developed their career in photography. In my case it was all different. I am a professional photographer with 11-years of experience, that has recently started jumping.

Finally, getting back to your original question – I only use Photoshop when I’m working on layers, for example when I’m creating a sequence photo. Usually I just use Lightroom for general postproduction.

Does the idea come before the subject or do the people inspire your ideas?

Yes, I am definitely inspired by people and their passions, but my imagination is a true trigger of all my artworks. I try to get to know the people, recognize someone’s character and temper, appearance, style… If I would have to put it into numbers I’d say that 30% is the inspiration of people featured on my photos and 70% my own ideas and creative mindset.

Gypsy King by Kuba Konwent

Do you have the image in your mind before a skydive?

I always have an idea of what I would like to have in the picture. But skydive photography is so much different from any other kind of photography. There are too many things that you have to take into consideration; unpredictable changes and variables. Sometimes it’s surprising setup of skydivers, sometimes it’s background, clouds, light, ground patterns and colors. But the general idea is a leader of every “photo mission”.

You work a lot with advertising agencies, do they have an image in their mind or do you translate their concept to a cool photo?

In 80% of cases, I usually get a vague idea of what my client expects and I create the final effect on my own. There are not many clients that really know what they want and that’s even better for me, because this way I have some freedom in choosing the right way to express the concept.

Tell us about some of your favourite images

I think that the most challenging photo was the Red Bull Illume 2016 final photo. I had to stick a lot of LED tape to Pilatus Porter PC-6, choose very carefully the camera, all settings and release system. With night jumps you have to be really careful. Also mounting the camera to the plane was tricky and made me feel quite funny. But to be honest, the effect smashed my expectations. The head lights of all skydivers created an amazing atmosphere!

Night Jump by Kuba Konwent – Red Bull Illume comp 2016 finalist

Another type of my photos are my original freefall sequences. I think I haven’t seen any freefall sequence photo before I started publishing them. And I dug the internet in and out before I started publicly showing my skydive work. Since then there are many other photographers who started creating freefall sequences which is great, because it has a lot of potential! But it is also tricky, because you need to remember about a bunch of elements such as being in motion together with your object. So it’s up to us if we want to keep it vertical or horizontal. If horizontal – it’s quite simple, because despite freefall we’re still next to the object. But it gets more complicated if you want to shoot a sequence in vertical orientation, because – depending on a situation – you need to slow down or speed up. So with this kind of pictures good planning and a skilled model are the keys.

Circle of Live – Image by Kuba Konwent

The next picture that I would like to highlight is of CFS formation flying into the cloud. The moment I shot it was completely random… which resulted in amazing canopies shadows on the cloud.

Canopy formation going into cloud – Image by Kuba Konwent

And I love this portrait…! There was a lot of work related to this shot, especially with light effects that were made manually, not digitally. Backlight of the helmet from the inside was not problematic, but creating the light spiral was quite a challenge. The model had to be still for about 30 seconds of exposure, I was “painting” the light around her head. We had approximately 40 retakes until the effect was what I wanted it to be.

‘Astronaut’ – Image by Kuba Konwent

Maybe it is not the best picture in the world, but I really like it because of the complexity and all logistics related to it. Underwater photography is not very complicated, especially when your model trains swimming. But using studio lights which was set up above the water and connecting it to my camera which was under water was quite a challenge!

Describe Kuba in 5 words

Crazy, Smiling, Sensitive, Ambitious, Consistent

Hapon by Kuba Konwent

How many jumps, what type, how long in the sport?

I’m in the sport 3 years and a bit and I have just hit 1,000 jumps. I try to fly mostly freefly and FS, but I have also tried wingsuit flying and CFS formations. After my accident I fly mostly tandem camera.

What happened with your accident?

Classic… Low turn, compression fracture of the spine and – unfortunately – more than 6 months of being grounded. I had to learn how to walk again and… it was hard.

How long was recovery and how did this affect you?

Full recovery took almost a year and a lot of expensive work with physiotherapists. I had to put aside all sports and work as well. This was definitely very difficult time for me.

What did you learn from the accident?

To react quicker. And not to do low turns. EVER.

And also to always have a better plan for a jump and landing.

What was the biggest help to your recovery?

Honestly? I was close to giving up. I am a person with energy for ten people. I can’t spend a day in a bed even if I’m sick. Every day has to be squeezed like a lemon, 100% sport-oriented. And suddenly, you HAVE TO spend all your days in bed. In the middle of the skydiving season. The only thing that motivated me to keep going is the deep need and urge to get back to the sky.

What equipment do you jump, and why?

I fly UPT Vector and Pilot 140 from Aerodyne. Most probably I’ll change size and type of my main canopy soon.

My photography equipment is Nikon D750 and many type of lenses. All mounted to my favorite Cookie Fuel helmet.

Are you still doing artwork on Cookie helmets?

Well, I do it only for myself. As I am supported by Cookie Helmets I always try to have a special look for my helmet. It happens from time to time that I decorate a helmet for a friend but it doesn’t happen very often.

Do you have a motto, or favorite quotation?

If you want something, you can do it. Nothing is impossible.

What was the biggest breakthrough of your life?

That’s easy. It was quiting my old life style and working only on photo sessions so I could start skydiving. However, after a couple of years in the sport, I think I need to go back to it a little bit, because of money. It’s hard to live only by being a skydiver (at least in Poland where we have like 7 months of skydiving season and zero chances for professional sponsorship from skydiving companies). I earned everything on my own, which is not easy. When I was on the beginning of my skydiving career I thought I will become very quickly “the best skydiving photographer in the world”. Unfortunately it’s not only a mastery in photography, you need to fly like a boss as well. This means years spent in the sky and/or tens of hours in the tunnel which is super expensive. I am doing filming for tandems for the past 12 months, only to be able to jump. Sad but true.  We will see how the situation develops and what the future will bring and I will have to consider some new steps if camera flying doesn’t give me enough progress.

What’s your pet hate?

Rat race and unfair competition.

What’s in the future, what are you most excited about?

I have a lot of skydive- and photo-oriented plans. I would like to work in big skydiving events, exciting ideas that I can bring to the sky and to the sport. I would like to work with skydiving brands and make photo sessions for them: product sessions, lifestyle on the ground, photo sessions in the air. Helmets, suits, accessories – everything can be put in a great image. You just need a kick-ass idea!

More Kuba

Check out more of Kuba’s work at his website:

… or his instagram (konwentphoto)

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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