‘The climate, the diversity of landscapes, the people? Maybe a bit of it all’ – Jürgen Heitmann talks why he had come back to Andalusia, how he came up with the idea for photo tours and discovered that his photos are being stolen online.
PhotoClaim: How old were you when you had the camera in your hands for the very first time?
Jürgen Heitmann : I was 17 when my father lent me his old Kodak Retina Reflex. It did not take long until I fell under it’s spell. Photography got me. Together with a friend we set up a darkroom and developed our first black and white photos.
PC: Was it love at the first sight or… how did your relationship with a camera begin?
JH: Yes, I loved taking pictures from the first moment. And I really enjoyed developing them and making copies. And this feeling stayed with me until today. What is different today, is that I do not develop my photos in a darkroom, but I work with digital ones on the computer. From the very beginning, my nature and landscapes were my favourite subjects to photograph. I love being out in nature and the beauty of landscapes is what touches me the most.
PC: Just a hobby or a way of life? How and when did you realise that you want photography to become your career?
JH: In the beginning it was merely a hobby, playing around and being creative. Then I started using photography as a tool in my jobs. Since the beginning of the digital era, I had websites and web-shops and, therefore, I needed good photos. Back then a digital compact camera was good enough for me. It was around 2014 when I realised once again that photography is my passion and I wanted it to play a main role in my life. I was traveling a lot in Andalusia, looking for new locations for our travel agency, shooting photos for our catalogue and website. After a while, doing research and collecting locations became a good reason for going out to take photos. I bought a better camera and started studying photography deeper than ever by reading books and articles. Participating in workshops with renowned photographers like José Benito Ruiz or Israel Ariño was also a part of my learning process. I realized that I still knew little about photography and felt motivated to master the skill.
PC: The first photo that you were truly satisfied with?
JH: Truly satisfied? This one I didn’t shoot yet. I am still an apprentice. I look at my photos and see what I could have done better. But there are some photos I am really proud of.
PC: Your first steps in the photography industry? Where did you start?
JH: In 2014 I decided to combine my job as a tour operator with photography and founded fototouren.es, the service offering photo travels and tours in Andalusia.
PC: When did you realise that you can make money on your pictures?
JH: I don’t make money with my photos; I don’t sell them. Instead I lead the photo tours.
PC: How was the idea for the photo tours born?
JH: Since 2008 I have been working as a tour operator for holidays in Andalusia. My company organizes Fly & Drive trips, cultural trips for small groups and private excursions. Apart from the office work, I was leading the excursions or escorting our small groups as a tour-guide. I like guiding tours but, honestly, cultural tourism is not my cup of tea. I prefer to be out in the nature. So, it seemed obvious to me to offer guided tours and trips for photographers.
PC: What are your favourite photo spots? Where do you take your clients?
JH: Oh, there are many. I love the Alcornocales, the woods of the cork oaks. Río tinto, the red river in Huelva, with its Martian landscapes is also one of my favourites. I should add the so-called Badlands in Granada, a desert where you feel like being in the Grand Canyon.
PC: Why Andalusia? What is it about this region that fascinates you so much?
JH: I don’t know what it really is, the climate, the diversity of landscapes, the people? Maybe a bit of it all. When I came to Andalusia for the very first time, in 1982, I fell in love with this region and always wanted to come back.
PC: You also run group and individual workshops. What do you teach?
JH: What I actually do is training on the go during my photo tours, giving hints about exposure, composition, how to gain the right depth of field etc.
PC: When and how did you find out that your photos are getting stolen?
JH: It was already a while ago, when I was making photos of Moroccan interior accessories for my wife’s web shop. At that time, Moroccan interior design became really trendy and I started finding my photos in other web shops or magazines.
PC: How did your relationship with PhotoClaim begin?
JH: I heard about PhotoClaim in an interview with a German photographer and found it to be a very interesting concept. So, I investigated and contacted the company via website.
PC: How do you enjoy working with PhotoClaim? What has changed since you started the cooperation?
JH: Well, to be honest, in the beginning I felt a little insecure. I never had to do with lawyers and suddenly I had to sign contracts and authorize them to act in my name. It took me some time to adjust but soon I saw that PhotoClaim is doing a great job. Today I am happy that I decided to work with you. I also observe the changes and improvements. Since the new platform exists the whole process is much easier. Before I received PDF files which I had to print, sing and scan again. Now, with a few clicks the job is done. A big plus for the team that is very friendly and helpful.
PC: How aware of image theft are the photographers in your surroundings/community?
JH: I think the photographers know their photos might be getting stolen, but they don’t know what to do with it. As far as I am concerned, there is no service like PhotoClaim here in Spain. Another issue for the Spanish photographers is that most of them don’t speak English.
PC: What is your definition of success?
JH: Success for me is when you can do what you really love and on top it pays your bills.
PC: What has been your most memorable moment, the real highlight, in your career so far?
JH: I think it was on my first photo trip with a small group. We were driving through a mountain area with plenty of almond trees in blossom. We stopped to take photos and I hardly could believe it. I was out in nature, taking photos, having a great time with photo buddies and on top that I got paid for it.
PC: What is your drive for taking pictures? What do you enjoying shooting the most?
JH: What inspires me the most is taking pictures in the nature, its colours, lines and structures. But I also simply love operating my camera, doing the adjustments, searching for the right composition and light. I never take photos with my mobile phone; it wouldn’t satisfy me.
PC: What’s next? (plans for the upcoming projects, destinations to photograph)
JH: This year I will concentrate mostly on night- and astrophotography. Here in Andalusia we have a lot of regions with very little light pollution. From spring till autumn I can count on good weather with clear sky. I was lucky to buy a camper van which will be delivered this spring. It should allow me to explore the different locations and stay there the whole night if necessary, to take photos. My aim is to offer astrophotography trips and workshops in 2021.
PC: One dream you wish to come true?
JH: That there is peace on earth.
PC: Your call to action for the photographers who might not be aware that their photos are getting stolen?
JH: If seeing your photographs used online without your permission bothers you, you should investigate solutions and give PhotoClaim a try. You might be surprised where in the internet your photos may appear.
Follow Jürgen’s travels across Andalusia on: Facebook and Instagram.