Ray Demski is an action and adventure photographer, with clients including Red Bull, BMW, Adidas, Nikon, Black Diamond, National Geographic Adventure, Audi, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Callaway, Atomic Ski and MTV. He’s based in Munich, but is rarely at home.
Ray Demski’s idea of normal life may be different to yours. Sleeping on a Thai beach for three months with his family at the age of three, then sailing the world at the age of 14 set a different standard for what was "ordinary" for Ray. His early adventures became the formative experiences of one of the world’s most extra-ordinary action and adventure photographers, with clients such as Red Bull, BMW and Adidas queuing up for a slice of the action.
The Demski family’s seven-year world trip on a 45-foot sailboat inspired a lifelong photography adventure for Ray, as his childhood interest in sketching detailed drawings found a new outlet: his first camera, given to him by his father. The early video camera could also take stills and became his new sketchbook for capturing the ever-changing world of his teenage travels.
Sport was also established early on as a core passion, as Ray and his brothers trained in whatever martial arts they could find in the towns and cities they sailed to. "In some way that was also our way of connecting with the local community," he explains. "On one side we were training, but also then connecting with places in a way that you normally wouldn’t as just a tourist."
Talking with Ray about his work, the word "connection" recurs frequently. Whether it’s connecting deeply with an exciting new location somewhere, connecting with the dedicated team he has built around him, or connecting with the athletes he is shooting, connection is everything. It drives him to seek out new ways of capturing how he sees a moment, allowing him to present an image as an athlete himself—an insider—and drawing the viewer into a closer connection with the moment by generating the trademark that sets every Demski image apart: "Intensity. I like to find the intensity in the moment. I like to really push a photograph, to create a moment almost. I like to be there with the athletes in those moments of extreme focus, to make the viewer feel like they’re right there. I like a lot of detail and vivid contrast, powerful action and just capturing those key moments within a culture or sport that from the outside you wouldn’t see."
These aims have clearly been achieved, and Ray’s work demonstrates technical and creative flair to match his passion and insight. Dramatic and unusual lighting is a common feature, as well as fresh angles on what may be familiar topics and subjects. Whether in a commercial studio or on a cliff face, Ray thrives on the challenge of finding new ways of working and makes time for regular trips with friends to gain "fresh eyes" and to make sure he is "seeing the world in a different way."
No Time for Failures
Ray approaches preparation for his shoots with the same discipline required by MMA, Jujitsu, Kung Fu, and the many other martial arts he grew up practicing.
"You have a lot of preparation and planning coming together into one moment," he says, talking about a recent Adidas campaign. "For the shoots with Karim Benzema, Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben, and other top football players we had weeks of pre-production beforehand so that it went perfectly once the athlete stepped into the studio—there’s no time for any failures."
Dual-tethered cameras already running, a double lighting system, with three pre-planned lighting scenarios changeable in seconds. All aimed at making the most of our shooting time with the athlete."
Ray contrasts this "very visible preparation" with the approach required for adventure shoots in what can be extreme locations. The recent Norwegian Ice shoot in cooperation with Red Bull Photography in Arctic Norway was a good example of the challenges involved in achieving such stunning results. Camping in temperatures down to -35 C and shooting ice climbers at night with only two weeks to capture the elusive Aurora Borealis in the background, Ray’s close-knit team and thorough preparations produced some truly unique climbing imagery.
Tools of the Trade
Ray’s equipment is his vital connection to the unique moments he is seeking to capture. Adventure shoots in particular place heavy demands on his gear, and his workflow routine is vital to allowing him to keep up with the action of the shoot. Ray uses multiple G-DRIVE® ev SSD drives for immediate backup and storage while on location – their general ruggedness and lack of moving parts means they are resistant to both shock and the extreme temperatures found at altitude. Not only that, but they are also lightning fast.
"Real, achieved speed is a big factor. A lot of people advertise different things but G-Technology drives are just really fast. With the G-DRIVE ev SSD I’m able to transfer my footage at up to 400MB/s on USB 3.0, so being able to dump and back up all my footage really quickly can save me maybe half an hour, even an hour. That added up over weeks on an expedition shoot can make a huge difference. On a recent trip out in the desert, I was running solely on solar power, so that speed was crucial. And can sometimes mean the difference between being able to make that extra backup or not."
When Ray gets back from a shoot, he simply pops the ev cartridges into his G-DOCK ev and copies everything to a G-RAID® Studio, making backups via Thunderbolt. With the the G-RAID Studio configured to RAID 0 for speed, from here he is able to get the whole shoot together for an overview and fly through the selection and post production process.
"My equipment is my working gear, my tools, so I don’t baby it. We go through a lot of extreme situations, always on the move and the G-Technology stuff is just really rugged. It also looks good and feels good! It feels professional—solid, like a great product, and I can deliver a shoot on a G-DRIVE ev to my client and create a really good impression. I'm really excited about the new rugged G-DRIVE® ev RaW and G-DRIVE® ev ATC. These will fit perfectly into my adventure kit! Stepping up toughness and allowing me to just get on with shooting in any environment."
With climbing the current passion, Ray is busy plotting out his next adventures, hungry to rediscover that place in a sailboat or high on a rock face, "where you have only yourself to depend on and every decision you make has an immediate impact." Ray’s bags are always packed, ready for normal life to resume.
G-Team members are leaders in their respective fields who use G-Technology products in their day-to-day work lives. G-Team members are compensated for their participation.
G‐Technology external hard drives serve as an element of an overall backup strategy. It is recommended that users keep two or more copies of their most important files backed up or stored on separate devices or online services.