Interview with Daniel Laan About his Photographic Adventures
As the second episode of our new blog series which called “The Adventurers of Photography “, we asked Daniel Laan about his experience of landscape photography.
Daniel Laan is professional landscape photographer from the Netherlands, who is passionate about conveying ethereal qualities through both photography and post-processing. His turbulent mind finds serenity in the outdoors and comes alive through a dark and moody visual style which he teaches in photography workshops held throughout Europe. Daniel teaches landscape photography through leading workshops, his processing videos and books.
How much time in a year do you spend outdoors and photographing?
In general, I spend a few mornings, nights or evenings in the week outdoors. But there are occasions such as photo tours or camping trips in which I spend every waking hour outdoors. Being outdoors is more important to me than taking pictures, so there’s a difference between how much time is spent around photography and how much time I just enjoy nature without a device between me and the world.
How do you plan your adventures?
I don’t plan shots. Not in the way most other professionals do. If I’m guiding a tour, however, that’s completely different. For every photo opportunity during a workshop, I have an exact location in mind and at least one composition. In 80% of the time I use my memory for that, having already been in that location. For the remaining 20% I plan shots using Google Earth and the local weather report. I let the light guide me once on location and I am a slave of my own inspiration, often losing track of time and getting lost in areas where it isn’t dangerous if you do.
What was the most unexpected moment in your journeys?
One great experience was during a tour I lead with Isabella Tabacchi in the Norwegian Lofoten Islands. A huge storm hit the archipelago, which completely stirred up everything we had planned. Dressing in waterproofs, waiting for bridges to open and forgetting about any Northern Lights making an appearance due to overcast conditions. One night, when the storm briefly turned hurricane, we all woke up when we felt the house we stayed in move up and down. “What moves doesn’t break” is the saying, right?
“Awaiting the Hurricane”
What is your favorite photo project so far?
To be honest, the small outings in the local woodlands near my home are my favorites. Small scale, low investment rate and local knowledge have made memorable shots for me. On the other hand, I look forward to seeing mountains every day of every year I don’t actually see them.
As a landscape / nature photographer you travel a lot, wake up early to reach your desired location. How do you keep yourself motivated?
That’s not necessarily true for everyone. I love doing evening or night shots, because I’m not a morning person at all. Aside from that I find that I’m at my best when I have had a good night’s sleep – a prerequisite for when I’m driving people to a next location on icy roads for example. My inspiration comes from fantasy or sci-fi imagery I see in films, games and a collectible card game named “Magic the Gathering”. The fact that my work is typically dark and maybe even foreboding, is because I feed my work with negative, melancholic or sad feelings. Photography and processing both serve as catharsis for me, so by doing that, I feel much better! I know only a handful of artists that work in the same way. My motivation is the knowledge that I always feel better after photography than before it, but I admit that for me too it’s hard to stay motivated 100% of the time.
How would you describe your photographic work with only one word?
“The Tattered Ridge”
Would you change your lifestyle for anything?
I have changed my lifestyle, my hobbies and jobs many times in the past and I’m sure I will want to change in the future. The broad sense of this question makes me think of other lifestyle changes than restricted to photography as well. If I can find a more sustainable way of living that me and my wife are happy with, then we’re quite comfortable with going with the flow.
What is your dream location to shoot?
Patagonia and Japan. If I’ve done those, I feel I can move on to another chapter in my life. Iceland was on that list for a long time too, but it really does feel that I crossed that amazing country off my list after having visited it three times now. Again, I like to work locally the most – to find beauty in places where no-one is looking.
By photographing the nature, you are not controlling the scene which you chose to be your subject. How do you deal with the given situations? Are you more like the photographer who imagine an image and visit the same location until gets the image or you visit a location and regarding the actual condition you make the best out of it?
If you work locally, it’s rather easy to wait and appreciate a location in the best conditions suited for that composition. But when I travel, I go with the light instead of against it. I shoot what there is to shoot, come rain or shine. Many of my images were shot under completely overcast conditions, in the rain, snowdrifts or indeed in fair weather. The only reason is: those were the conditions that I had to work with at the time. In other cases, though, my vision is the most important aspect of an image and I’ll proudly composite multiple shots if it takes me there, without hesitation.
Why did you choose outdoor photography? What is your mission with it?
My images are an extension of my emotion; a snapshot of what I felt during the creation of them. What I hope to show with a finished image is a sense of how I felt. Together with what is actually seen in the frame, I leave them open to interpretation. In that sense, I don’t have a mission or agenda with my work other than keeping my own well-being in check. But it’s important to me that nature comes first and photography second. Never let the local rules or guidelines be broken or the landscape be jeopardized for a shot. Too many times I see that unfold on social media, in particular flying drones in strict no-drone zones or hopping a fence, trampling delicate plants just for a photo. I find that there’s too high of an importance attributed to photography for people wanting to compete on social media. Especially if you’re not already making a living from it.
“Most of my life, I felt I am different. I care not for politics or fast cars or having the latest gadgets. I care (worry) about the environment, look forward to human settlement on Mars and hope that artificial intelligence cares enough about its creator. But small things matter to me as well. As I’m writing this, there’s a happy cat purring on my lap and I smile looking at the trees outside that survived another grueling, 9-month autumn.” Daniel
More information about Daniel and his other works can be found on his website www.laanscapes.com