We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, explore from Austria to Siberia with Philip Kurz  (@theyellowguyproject).

Where are you from?

I am from a little village in Germany. It’s in the South-East, at the Northern edge of the Black Forest. Now I live in Vienna. I met my girlfriend in 2010 in the USA doing language school – She is from here, so after I finished school, I moved here! Vienna is a rather big city for Europe, but it still feels small and familiar. It’s between so many different countries, so you can go for a day trip to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia or just the Alps!

The early bird view from the Kalenderberg mountain on the city of Mödling! I felt guilty that this was my first time at this spot above the roofs of this little town in the South of Vienna. Conversely to this idyllic scene, everything always gets a little bit hectic when @pruegl and I are heading out for sunrise shots – as the best light only stays for a few minutes.
A morning well spent at the 230 metres high edge of the Hohe Wand plateau. We got up at 4:30 to be there at the nature park just in time for the sunrise. And especially because sunrises are always quite a gamble, we were absolutely mesmerized when we saw the slowly rising sun at the horizon. And I can tell you that we were not the only ones enjoying the sunrise. Also some badgers, ibex and deer joined us on this sunny Friday morning. How could you blame them?

 

How have you taken advantage of the travel opportunities since living in Vienna?

I’ve started to travel more as I’ve started to use Instagram more intensively. Instagram started as a way to explore the new city I had moved to, but it has developed into an engine to explore and travel. Knowing I can share what I’ve seen is a good motivation to get up at four am to get a shot!

What kind of places do you look for?

I think the most interesting places are the ones that allow you to get an overview of the area around. Here in Vienna or Lower Austria, it’s almost totally flat and there’s no way to get a good angle if you don’t use a drone. So for me, the best spots are overviews, e.g. in the Alps.

When we were traveling through the Republic of Buryatia, we constantly spotted these beautifully white and golden tower-like Buddhist monuments next to the road. Unfortunately we never managed to photograph one in Siberia. However, I was happy to find out that Vienna is also home to a pagoda!
Can you spot the hidden Austrian flag? This site at the shore of Lake Neusiedel in Podersdorf is actually one of my favorite places nearby Vienna. It’s not only picturesque, but also something one would not really expect to find in Austria.

 

How have you developed your image style?

When I’m composing my pictures, because 90 percent of them are taken with the time shutter, the ideal situation is when there’s nothing in the back to distort the viewer’s eye from the yellow jacket. If there is a background with a lot going on, like a forest or a texture that is already quite complex, then the whole idea of the yellow highlight becomes destroyed.

I like when there are multiple areas of interest within the picture. I don’t put myself in the yellow jacket in the same place, or the place where people would put the most attention. This way, I can bring their eye around the image.

Austria or the Baltic Sea? If one needs a getaway from typical Austrian mountain landscapes, Lake Neusiedl is the place to go. Or where else can you find such a flat and maritime landscape in a country without any sea access?

How did you get started with the yellow coat motif in your images?

Let’s start from the beginning: I started putting myself in my pictures two years ago, while I was doing a roadtrip through California. I was driving from San Francisco to Big Sur on my own through a contest I won from Lufthansa. I was a little pissed that I never had pictures of myself! In pictures, I really connect with the human element. I like having someone in the scale of the landscape. A few months after I started to put myself into my shots (I kind of loved the challenge) I bought my first yellow jacket – actually without any intention to use it for my Instagram. And I found out that it works quite well as a little point of interest in my pictures. Yellow is the perfect element to pop in the photo. My jacket is originally from the northwest of Germany, from Seamen Warden. They are coated in wax – perfect for sailors, fishermen and all kinds of weather! 

What are some memorable places you’ve encountered on your travels?

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Siberia! I went there last month. It was my first time in Asia, and I was traveling with a friend of mine from Vienna who is also an Instagram photographer. It was amazing, because it was an area I didn’t know anything about. We didn’t have any expectations. The culture was so different, and since we didn’t speak Russian, we couldn’t communicate. Nothing we planned worked out. But in the end, those things that didn’t work out brought us into situation we didn’t plan for at all. And those turned out to be incredible.

Siberian sunrise at the biggest, deepest and oldest lake on this planet. When @pruegl and I were crossing the ice from this cave, we could not hear anything but our own breaths. Nothing else, just pure tranquility and sometimes some deep, thunder-like noises coming from the several meters thick ice below our feet.

Most of the time we were in at Lake Baikal. We flew in and out of Irkutsk, then directly drove out. The landscape around the frozen lake looked like the surface of another planet! We were leaving the city and 10km out of the city borders, we saw wild horses and endless roads going straight through the tundra. Really huge taiga forests. Then we arrived. It looks like a place you would never expect to see on earth. Everything was flat and white until the horizon. There were some rocky islands coming out of the ice. Then you had people driving on the ice, and crazy cows everywhere. It’s really hard to describe. It wasn’t even that cold! During the day, we sometimes had -7 Celcius, which is nothing at all.

Even though we were prepared for even lower temperatures, roaming this Siberian gem was definitely not a trip to Disneyland. The first couple of breaths we took after getting out of the car pained our lungs and my phone immediately died just after taking it out of my jacket pocket. And as ice crystals were slowly but surely appearing in our eye brows and wimps, I was quite happy that I shaved my face the evening before!
We were surrounded by a mix of mist and falling snow. And when we took our first steps on the snowy surface of this tremendous lake, it seemed like that there was no border between the soil and the sky. All in all, it felt like being on the surface of another planet. I mean, how could someone expect such an unreal landscape on planet Earth?

 

It did not only impress us because of the incredible landscapes, but also because of the diverse mix of cultures in and around Irkutsk. While Irkutsk is very Russian/European, the Buryatian parts of Siberia seemed more influenced by Asian architecture and culture. There were dozens and dozens of Buddhist temples and pagodas next to the road. It was definitely not my last time in this region!  

 

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