How it all started

I haven´t blogged since quite a while, but after my recent post on Facebook I received some messages where some of my friends asked me some questions about my background and how things developed in all these years. So I decided to write a blog… again….

Please excuse my horrible english… I wrote this blog in a hurry.

Where to start….

I was born in 1976 in Cologne. Both families of my mum and dad where involved in cycling and my dad started to take pictures of cycling races in his teenager years. Sooner or later some of his images were published in Newspapers and he got his first major assignment for the Olympics 1972 in Munich. That´s when his career took off and over the years he added Ice hockey, Basketball and Handball to his portfolio. He always developed his films in our bathroom or later in the basement of our house.

I enjoyed watching him doing his work in the lab. I can still smell all this chemicals and hear his stopwatch ticking. After the development of the films we were sitting in the kitchen or living room writing captions on the back of the prints and put the copyright stamp on them. When this was done we drove to the publishers in Cologne to deliver the prints or brought them to either the post office or the central station in Cologne to send them via Express Mail. In the 90´s we also send them with Fed Ex to the US, Australia or somewhere else abroad. Those were the days. 😉

But what I liked the most in all these years was sitting on his camera bag and see him doing his job. It was not just a job, it was his passion. He was so dedicated; it was kind of magic to me to see him being always a step ahead and anticipate what might happen next.

I grew up with a lot of technical stuff. Cameras, lenses, equipment to develope images, but I never became a technique nerd. I was always just interested in the story that the image told. Pretty much the same like my dad. He often became quite sarcastic when it all became digital and a lot of people started to count pixel or when everybody was shooting with auto focus… He often used the term “Generation Auto Focus” and started to laugh.

Well I don´t laugh, because I´m part of the “Generation Auto Focus”. 😉

I always got his old cameras and snapped away when I was with him on assignment, but in my teenager years I somehow lost the interest in photography. Not in general, but I stopped shooting. Instead I started to play football on a higher level which ended in 5 training sessions per week and being away on Sunday. Not too much time left to spend time with a camera. And to be honest I really couldn´t hear the advices of my dad anymore… Being a teenager rocks…

When I was 19 or so I went on vacation to Lanzarote with my girlfriend and we did a Discover Scuba Dive… I was totally blown away… My girlfriend not so much, because she had the feeling that she can´t breathe. I didn´t want to spoil the whole vacation, so I didn´t do the OWD course.. That was the story of my diving experiences for the next 10 years, but I was always amazed by the nature docus one could see on TV. In 2004, Judith was already my girlfriend for 3 years back then, we finally went to the Maldives. This was after I stopped playing football and established my company that still feeds the family since 17 years now.

We were chatting a lot about doing the OWD when we would be there, but guess what happened? I was even more blown away and Judith had the feeling that she couldn´t breathe… Bummer… I did some fun dives after the DSD, but Judith just went snorkeling with me. That´s also the place where I took my first UW shots… Really crappy ones with a 5 € throw away cam, but I showed all the prints to  my family and  friends, because I was totally excited. Sorry for that guys… Back home Judith called a diving school and her teacher was able to make her breath underwater… Magic and a really happy Markus. We finished our OWD in a German lake with zero viz and cold water, but hey we were OWDs and were ready to conquer the world. In 2005 we did our honeymoon on Fihalhohi again and I brought my first digital cam. An Olympus C-7070. Good god what a stupid idea. In retrospective I should have get my diving skills together first, but I was too eager to show the beautiful world below the waves to family and friends. Sorry again for 2 hour slide shows and maybe 200 pics of blurry anemone fish. 2006 and 2007 saw us on the Maldives again, but in autumn 2007 we went to the Philippines for the first time and I increased my photography skills by maybe around 100% in just 12 days of muck diving around Dauin. I was amazed by what I was able to do and I wanted to do better.

Back home my father was also really amazed and told me that I should try harder and I should get me a DSLR sooner or later. On January 1st 2008 I set up MaRo-Visions and we went to the Maldives and Philippines again. Skills went a bit up again. In 2009 I finally bought a used Canon 20D and a UK-Germany Housing for our trip to Lembeh and Kri Eco Resort. I had quite a hard time to get results that I really liked. Maybe god wanted to send me a message, when I flooded the Housing in the rinse tank of Kri Eco on our second day of diving.

Anyway… Back home I bought another used Canon 20D. I didn´t want to let the story end on a jetty in remote West Papua. A place I learned to love from the bottom of my heart.

Later the year Judith got pregnant with Anouk and we booked our vacation to Ibiza and Formentera for June 2010.

In between I stayed in contact with, my now good friend, Maik Solf of Aquaventure Tauchreisen and we stumbled over some rumors about a group of whale sharks in remote Cenderawasih Bay in early 2010.

Both of us have an adventurous heart and so we decided to have a closer look and try our luck….. BUT how on earth should I tell Judith that we have to cut our vacation short… I told her about that opportunity and she answered that it is OK to cut short and that I can leave for that trip…

In the end the group of whale sharks was no rumor and I came home with fantastic images, a dive site named after our, then unborn, daughter and my dad told me that I should get the images to publishers as fast as possible.

I had a chat with the picture desk of the German Magazine STERN and they wanted to run a story, but then the Stockholm Bombing happened and my story was gone…  I also tried to get the story into the dive Magazines in Germany with zero success.  I already pointed out in my Facebook posting that it was a terrible start and I could have said “Well, that´s it! I will never try it again!”. But that´s not how I was raised. No Surrender. My parents planted this “Fight for what you believe in” Mantra into my brain since a very early stage of my life. So I browsed the Internet and wrote to all Magazines I could find. In the end I sold this very story 16 or 17 times (not sure anymore) worldwide and got paid for every single article but one, which was my mistake or let’s call it naivety.

Since then I placed a lot more articles in Magazines worldwide and finally found my way into TAUCHEN in 2015. Thanks to Maike Grützediek, Jasmin Jaerisch and Hedda Hoepfner, who believed in my work. This was quite a relief for me and I´m still very grateful.

In 2011 I started to talk at BOOT and had my first talks during an international dive show at Diving Resort and Travel Expo 2014 in Hong Kong.

All in all it was worth to put all the effort into my “little” project. You can´t feed a family of four with just underwater or travel photography, but it is more than a nice side income.

When people ask me what it takes to be successful there are 6 points that seem to be important, at least to me:

  1. Train your skills and never ever think that you know it all
  2. Work hard to get the story. Nobody wants to hear stories of being sick, that it rained hard or the sun wasn´t out and you couldn´t get the shots because of that, when you are back home.
  3. Don´t push too hard. Always respect nature
  4. You don´t need enemies – you need friends
  5. Be loyal
  6. Give a helping hand whenever you can
  7. Stand for what you believe in and don´t play a role

Especially 4 to 7 are points that my dad hammered into my head when it started to get more serious.

43 years as a professional photographer taught him quite some stories and he has always been spot on with his advices.

One last thing or advice. Especially for the parents. Take your kids with you on trips abroad. Make them little adventurer. Kids are like sponges. They soak up everything. Being the foreigner, being one of the few “white” people, different languages, different food, different way of living etc. pp. All these things teach them so much more than a school can.

We need these little explorers for our future. We need their curiosity, their empathy and their willingness to fight for something that they love. In our case the ocean.

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