Full-throttle photography 14,000 feet above the ground

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Full-throttle photography 14,000 feet above the ground 25 March 2014 With an office 14,000 feet above the ground, Juan Mayer sits down with Kelly Clarke to talk about the stomach-churning chill and thrills of being a skydive photographer and his dreams of breaking a world record in Dubai. The dreaded nine-to-five slog is part and parcel of a typical working day for most people around the world, but for Juan Mayer, his daily ascent via a small propeller plane to his office in the sky makes his working day far from typical. With a penchant for photography from a young age, Argentina-born Mayer decided to turn things up a notch 13 years ago, and with his Nikon camera in tow, left his job in the army and took to the skies to become a skydive photographer. Now, with 9,000 jumps under his belt — reaching world record heights of 24,000ft in the process — Mayer reminisces with Khaleej Times on the heart-thumping moments before throwing himself out of the plane for his first solo jump. “It was terrible. Seriously terrible. My only motivation at the time was the photography, so that’s what kept me going.” The initial fear didn’t keep him from his dreams, and after becoming hypnotised by his first few dives, Mayer says he knew he wanted to pave out a career in mid-air photography. “Skydiving is a beautiful thing. When you are up there, you are alone and free. It’s a challenging environment for a photographer, but an extraordinary one.” With the vision of being a high-flying photographer firmly in his sights while living in Argentina, Mayer says he had to “suck it up” and make a few hundred jumps before officially getting on the payroll. “I had to make a minimum of 200 jumps before doing it professionally, but the money made it difficult to start skydiving,” he says, with each jump setting him back $30. Tapping into his inner entrepreneurship, Mayer managed to get the majority of his costs covered by persuading people to dig deep and pay for his jumps in return for some free-of-charge, mid-air shots. And it was a bold move which proved successful. “I couldn’t keep forking out after the first year, so this worked well for me. It was a win-win situation for me and them. ” From Brazil to Venezuela, and New Zealand to the USA, Mayer’s passion for adrenalin-pumping photography has seen him stack up the air miles over the years, with most of the world’s continents checked off his list.   Back in Dubai Now the official photographer for Skydive Dubai, Mayer and his team returned to a warm welcome in Dubai back in October 2013 after bagging a gold medal at the 15th Asiania Parachuting Championships at the China International Open. Since moving to Dubai more than two years ago, Mayer’s photography has seen him bag awards all over the world, including several accolades for his videography work, but he says he has his sights set on breaking a record right here in Dubai. “The current world record is 400 people in free fall, but sometime this year, we’re hoping to break this record by having more than 500 people in free fall.” With no date set in stone for the record-breaking challenge, Mayer says he is hopeful it will happen at Skydive Dubai’s desert base later this year, with about 10 photographers tasked with the job of snap-shooting history in the making. Hoping to take the lead when the day finally comes, Mayer says he can’t wait to be a part of the epic milestone. “This is my main aim at the moment, so I just hope it happens soon.” Completing a staggering 24 jumps in one day while working out in the USA a few years ago, Mayer says a typical day in Dubai sees him leaping from the plane’s door about 10 times, all “depending on mother nature’s mood”. And when asked if he ever gets bored of the job, it’s clear, after 13 years that the fervour still rages within him. “When I train on-ground for too long, I definitely get grumpy if I don’t jump for a few days,” he says. Mayer’s two-year stint in Dubai has seen him add about 2,000 jumps to his ever-growing resume, and with only 60 seconds to get that perfect picture during free fall, he says the job can often be tricky, and the outcome disappointing. “People will look at my shots and like them, but I won’t be happy with them. You have such a short time space to capture that image, so it doesn’t always happen. But when it does, the sense of satisfaction is immense.” So what is his favourite shot? Mayer says capturing the expressions on people’s face, mid-air, always raises a few smiles and really sets the scene when it comes to skydiving pictures, but in terms of a favourite, the answer is simple: “For me, my favourite shot is the one I take tomorrow.” So after giving up a secure job in the Special Forces and switching to a daredevil day job, is the passionate photographer risking it all in pursuit of that crowning moment? The answer, according to the “photographer first, skydiver second”, is no. “Believe it or not, skydiving is actually safer than driving a car.” kelly@khaleejtimes.com For more news from Khaleej Times, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/khaleejtimes , and on Twitter at @khaleejtimes Continue reading →

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