Documentary Photographer Frederik Buyckx: “Being offline for weeks at a time means returning to the essence”

LaCie x Frederik Buyckx ©Kaat DM, used by permission

Photo by Kaat De Malsche

The (technological) challenges of a photographer off the grid 

He began traveling at a young age, and his passion for photography arose at that time. Today, travel remains an important component of the projects of the documentary photographer Frederik Buyckx (36). The Antwerp native travels the world in search of spots where people still live close to nature, and where the power of nature is still present. That often means: no electricity and no internet. Frederik is the second creative pro in our Master of Elements campaign, in which we show how our LaCie Rugged drives survive all the elements of nature.

Ten years ago, Frederik began working as a freelance photographer. In the beginning, he took assignments for clients, mostly domestic and foreign media, but in the last three years, work as a documentary photographer has become his principal activity. “For my documentary projects, I look for subjects that I am personally excited about. I photograph life as it is: I don’t stage anything and I don’t intervene. I find this very important. Sometimes it can take two to three years for a project to be completely finished.”

Focus on nature 

Nature occupies a prominent place in his work. “In Ghent, I live and work in a city, which is a good home base. But every so often, I feel the urge to set off for a remote spot. Somewhere where you can still really feel the power of nature, which I really miss at home.”

For his project Horse Head, he has travelled to Kyrgyzstan seven times to immerse himself in the local culture and nature: “I travel on horseback with semi-nomadic people through the mountains.” Sometimes, Frederik goes for several weeks without any connection to the outside world. And he finds this very pleasant: “Completely isolated from any external stimuli. Returning for a while to the essence. In Kyrgyzstan I don’t have to turn off my connection, as there is often no network at all.”

Off the grid 

Remaining offline for weeks on end, often in rough surroundings, has consequences for his workflow and choice of equipment. When Frederik prepares for a foreign project, he tries to take as little equipment with him as possible. “As far as cameras are concerned, I try to keep things compact: two Sony A7R3s and a maximum of two lenses. I do take a large supply of batteries, however. And in the summer, a mini solar panel.”

Alongside pristine nature and extreme conditions, Frederik faces yet another major challenge. “Photography is a unique medium. You can never take the same photo twice. You record a moment, a certain light, a particular event. Sometimes, as a photographer, you realize: ‘This is it. This is my unique photo’; and then I want a good back-up as quickly as possible. I have sometimes lost photographs in the past, and that is the most terrible thing you can experience.” That is why he always makes sure he has plenty of back-up options. Something can happen at any time: rainy weather, humidity, a fall, theft, etc. 

“I always try to back-up as soon as possible,” Frederik notes. That can be done in various ways. He does a first back-up in his camera, where he keeps the shots on two SD cards at the same time, using a dual SD card slot. “I always keep that as close by as possible,” says Frederik. 

As an external back-up, Frederik also carries a robust LaCie Rugged SSD in his luggage. This is super small, and is resistant to extreme weather conditions. Like most LaCie disks, it also comes with the unique Rescue Data Recovery Services. “Imagine that something happens to your external hard drive, or you delete something by accident. In that case, the experts at LaCie can retrieve my photographs.”

Processing and editing 

Once back home, the process of selecting, reviewing and compiling the photos takes a lot of time. “At that point, I rely on a LaCie 2big Dock. These are always heavy files, and the 2big Dock processes them quickly. So I can compare them faster. In addition, I am a fan of the built-in RAID system, which saves my photos not once but twice at the same time on different disks. If one of those should become defective, I always have a back-up on the other one.”

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