compagnon for inspiration – Part 12: Max Leitner

Our guest just hopped off the plane. Max is a lucky guy as he became one of the premier instagramers of Chicago. People all over the globe enjoy his impressions of the windy city. Max was born and raised in Germany but exchanged his home region for the States quite some time ago. But now he's back. And he was eager to visit us here at compagnon HQ asap. We're more than happy to welcome him:


"compagnon for inspiration" - Part 12 

Max Leitner

Short Bio

Max' photography is all about urban life and lifestyle. These are the things Chicago is breathing in and out. It so happened that Max noticed the backpack slowly winning over the photography scene globally. Max' fans, customers and followers enjoy his style and the impressions of Chicago he's sharing. For 2016 he set his sights on focussing on genres like adventure lifestyle and travel photography. This move surely will lead him to new horizons and offer new possibilities. To conquer these genres, he picked a very special companion: His compagnon backpack.   compagnon: Hi Max, we hope you had a decent flight. We're psyched you're our guest, right off the steps of the plane. A couple of days back in Germany. How does it feel to be back? Quite different to life in Chicago, we assume? Especially through the eyes of an artist...

Max Leitner: My pleasure. I would say the biggest difference is the white noise of the city, which is common to Chicago. Hearing your own breathing is quite the nice thing, aside from birds and wind in the trees. Also I think we have better Pretzels as well as Sausages, but overall I miss the scale of things. In regards to inspiration, I am glad to find myself in this new surrounding and the ability to adapt to more trees and less concrete. Let’s see what the next few months have in store, shall we?

4MX1939MLX1688   compagnon: You're inseparable with your backpack. Your passion for our product really excited us in return. But we never got a glimpse of what you had in there? Have you changed your setup for traveling to Germany/Europe?

Max Leitner: I always leave with a wide and a normal lens and my main camera. Be it a portrait or cityscape, I want to be prepared at all times. When I travel I make sure to bring the golden trio of Nikon lenses: 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 as well as one or two wide aperture lenses, usually my 50 1.4 for those low light conditions. Also always bring a backup camera. Oh, and a tripod!

MLX3025compagnon: That's a serious amount of glass. You obviously care for great equipment. How do you decide what to get or use?

Max Leitner: I go by reliability, sensory experience and build quality. Good equipment is crucial. Perhaps that's the German in me. I need to have the best of the best, for me it is key to have a set of tools that prepares me for whichever situation I might get myself into. Having tools that fail on you can be detrimental to not only yourself, but also the people that invest their time and money into you. Great gear is made by people who understand how things are supposed to work, be it a camera, a gear pack, or anything else that needs to get a specific task done.

MLX2327compagnon: Let's put tech aside for now and talk about your photos. Your style is modern and very urban, of course. Many creative people try to perfect that kind of look themselves. Is this style part of your personality or was it due to Chicago's character that you chose to go that way?

Max Leitner: I am more on the dark side as of recently. I used to edit by numbers, for print. Now it has become more about colors and mood. While there are plenty of bright scenes, I prefer larger amounts of mid-tones and darks. Perhaps it is my joy in editing that constitutes this. I think there is so much more you can do with darker shades, but it is a transformative process. I think my location, which, until now, has been Chicago, surely is a huge influence on what I am drawn to. I think that style needs to be a very progressive aspect of a photographer. I am eager to see how my style will unfold over the next several years.

MLX0307MLX1781   compagnon: Talking about style, some readers might wonder if your own experience taught you a lesson you could pass on. Something that might help a hobby photographer to take better pictures in the future?

Max Leitner: Shoot every day. Not having the time is not an excuse, there are plenty of things to photograph at any given moment. Much like drawing where the tens of kilometers of line cause expertise, so it is with photography. Don't make others or even your tools responsible for the lack of good photos. Photography is essentially your eye, and your eye will only be good if you train it. Aside from shooting on a daily basis, one should look at iconic photographs and decipher the composition, light, color... etc.. This will help tremendously when deciding how to frame a scene to make a good photo.

MLX6124compagnon: That's certainly a valuable goal for many readers. As it is for ourselves. We can hardly find the time to take our own cameras out as often as we'd like. Trying to take a great image every day won't allow anyone to be picky about light and time of day. How do you manage that?

Max Leitner: Light comes in so many ways. Personally, I am a huge fan of the hour after sunrise and before sunset. Long shadows and the tonal range of warm hues has something to it that combines photographic quality with feeling. I like when the mood is right. On the other side a great textured cloudy day at noon or fog is equally as exciting. While I enjoy available light the most, knowing how to set light in a studio is crucial, and with a lot of practice I'm equally drawn to a well set light.

MLX5928MLX8503   compagnon: You mentioned iconic works and photographers before. What's the making of theses icons for you? Aside from their fame and reputation. Limiting to three aspects every aspiring photographer should have to make it. What do you reckon?

Max Leitner: Persistence, Forgiveness, Motivation. Aside from the usual knowledge of camera settings, composition and post processing.

  compagnon: Are these the things you had to prove you had when you took your most memorable image to date? Do you have a clear cut number one?

Max Leitner: The most memorable photo for me is the one I haven't taken. While this is cliché, I would say that I can get excited about the images in my archive and the memories that are attached to them. With that in mind, I strive to be better than before.

MLX1995MLX4259   compagnon: You were very interested in our workbench as you first entered our store. Where does this curiosity come from? Another love next to photography?

Max Leitner: Whenever I'm not shooting I'm ripping single trails on my mountainbike. I also enjoy working in the wood and metal shop. I love building things. Creating things from scratch.

MLX4099compagnon: So you can totally understand where our passion for our products and our desire to come up with new ideas come from. Thanks for stopping by, Max. We hope you'll enjoy your stay in Europe and wish you continued success. You're welcome anytime. All the best for you!  

All images in this feature were kindly provided by Max Leitner. All images are under copyright. All rights reserved to Max Leitner. More about Max on Instagram and his website

This interview is also available in a German version.

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