The Tragical Mystery – The story behind this image

Hi, I am Milan Degraeve, and I am a product and travel photographer from Belgium. I am 21 years old and I bought my first camera in 2018 (The Olympus OM-D EM10III).

I am hooked with photography ever since. It changed me in the way I see, act, dress and talk. I am always changing between analog and digital photography. It depends on which mood I am. But my Instagram is mainly about digital photography at the moment. Photography is a tool to show people how different everyone can look at the same thing. It’s all about the perspective, time and feelings at that very moment a picture is taken.

This is the story about my picture ‘The Tragic Mystery’.

It started with a friend of mine sending me a YouTube video. In this video, people had discovered a crashed airplane in the middle of a forest. Het Kluisbos was the name of the forest. It’s located on top of a hill of a town called Kluisbergen, East-Flanders. That’s about a one hour drive from where I live.

He immediately started searching for it, and managed to find it In the middle of the night. He sent me some pictures together with the coordinates of where it lays. I needed to see this for myself!

The following weekend, I and another friend of mine went out to find it ourselves. I took my Olympus and a small point-and-shoot camera for her. We also packed some snacks and drinks in case we wouldn’t find it so easily.

It was a foggy day, the first day of the year when the temperature dropped below zero. It was freezing cold! Arrived at the forest, we followed the coordinates my mate sent me. Crawling under barbed wire and passing private domain signs. We found my first photo: An old medieval-looking chapel weathered by nature. This was something I’ve never seen before! My day was already a success!

We were getting closer to the actual goal, the plane! My phone said: 200 meters to go, when we crossed a middle-aged woman asking us if we were also searching for the plane. She was a bit weirdly dressed, but she was very nice to us. We said “yeah, we are looking for the plane”.

And she told us that these days many people were passing through her domain, to take a look at the plane. She didn’t like that. She lived in the forest together with her family. They had a big tent and a few small cabins standing around it. But she let us through making me promise I wouldn’t spread the coordinates through the internet.

Through the fog and the trees, we saw the plane laying in the mud. We could hardly see it, but it was actually there! The conditions were perfect. I will never forget that moment. I took the shots pretty quickly. My ISO was on 400 because it was pretty dark in the forest, and I wanted to use a high shutter (1/500). I didn’t bring my tripod because I think it slows down my workflow. I used my 45mm F1.8 lens, and used the widest aperture. I love the shallow depth of field style!

The weather conditions made it look so tragically, mysterious and warlike. “How did this happen?” I was constantly thinking. Scenarios flipping through my head of what could’ve been wrong. But we will never know. There is nothing to find about it online, no-one that knows what happened.

We had an amazing walk in the forest after finding the plane. It’s such a big beautiful place! We ended the day with a sunset over the hill and two cameras full of memories.
And I just live for that!

"Hi, I am Milan Degraeve, and I am a product and travel photographer from Belgium. I am 21 years old and I bought my first camera in 2018 (The Olympus OM-D EM10III). I am hooked with photography ever since. It changed me in the way I see, act, dress and talk. I am always changing between analog and digital photography. It depends on which mood I am. But my Instagram is mainly about digital photography at the moment. Photography is a tool to show people how different everyone can look at the same thing. It’s all about the perspective, time and feelings at that very moment a picture is taken."

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