A busted helicopter; extreme and unpredictable weather patterns; bouts with malaria and African Tick-Bites fever – these aren’t the type of challenges that befall a photographer on a typical photo shoot. But this wasn’t a typical photo shoot.
African Waters was a massively ambitious art project that spanned 10 African countries and more than 11,000 miles by air, land, and water. But even the term “art project” paints a misleading picture, as the goal wasn’t simply to capture beautiful images. The primary objective of African Waters was to create awareness for the need for responsible handling of our number one source of life: water.
Florian Wagner and his crew flew through South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda an Mozambique in a ZS-RVP helicopter taking 360-degree panoramic photos of diverse African cities located near water as well as river systems and lakes that are meaningful for ecological balance such as the Cubango river, which floods the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
The project was done in partnership with Wagner’s primary sponsor, OWC, to also raise money and awareness for Splash. OWC is celebrating its 30th year of service by helping Splash raise money to provide access to clean water and sanitation to communities and children around the world (find out how you can help here).
“When we started, the idea was an art project about water. And then through the influence of [OWC CEO] Larry O’Connor, it expanded and became an art project about water – and charity,” Wagner says. “My goal for the whole thing was to create awareness of the beauty of Africa, but also in some cases of the vulnerability of the areas. We wanted to show the beauty through art and then explore what can be done to help thousands of people preserve nature’s reserves.”
Wagner is a professional photographer and Leica brand ambassador who has worked with OWC in the past and knew that the demands of this project would be high – especially with regards to his hardware. In the process of shooting the more than 33,000 photos that Wagner captured, his team dealt with extreme heat and cold, vibration from long helicopter rides, as well as dust and water.
Every image was safely secured on OWC storage and not a single image was lost from the project.
“We make sure everything we use is the best you can get,” Wagner said. “It’s too much work to risk losing, and without OWC – a product I trust – I wouldn’t have done it.”
Wagner’s workflow on a typical day during African Waters consisted of shooting with 360-degree cameras, Leica cameras, and several GoPros. All of the images would then be transferred to portable OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini enclosures where multiple backups would be created. After photos were loaded to Lightroom, processed and delivered, they were safely stored on OWC ThunderBay 4 with Thunderbolt 3 enclosures for long-term storage.
“Everything we have now, all of my photographs that I’ve taken for the last 30 years are all on OWC drives – I don’t have any other drives anymore,” Wagner added with a smile.
But while shooting portion on the African Waters project has officially wrapped, Wagner and his team’s work is far from finished. There is still the matter of editing the photos and footage that reside on the OWC drives. So be sure to check back to the Rocket Yard for updates from Wagner (including an unprecedented helicopter landing involving OWC external storage) and more on the African Waters project and its impact.
About Florian Wagner
Florian Wagner is a photographer and helicopter pilot based in Munich, Germany. His work has been featured in such publications as National Geographic, GQ, and Focus, and often explores wildlife and the environment.