Daniel Kordan / Member Interview
Daniel Kordan started his love affair with both nature and photography at an early age, traipsing through the beautiful lake country just south of Moscow. He went on to become a guide for landscape photographers out in the wild. His landscape photography literally inspires thousands on social media, and his work’s been widely published, including in the National Geographic, Discovery, and Photography Week. When he’s not shooting for clients such as Apple and Redbull, Daniel’s out guiding photography groups from all over the world, helping them to find their own unique inspiration in nature.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
It was quite a long journey that started when I was younger.
My childhood inspired me because I lived in a beautiful area near Moscow. I also traveled a lot and enjoyed hanging out with my friends and simply being in nature.
At university, there was a mountain climbing club I joined, so I continued to have experiences in which I traveled around and got to experience amazing landscapes with amazing people. I always had a camera with me, and that’s how I started taking photos.
For me, it wasn’t just the gorgeous landscapes that inspired me to capture them in a photograph. Additionally, it was the companionship of the people I was seeing these incredible scenes with that also inspired me to pick up a camera and document our travels.
Tell us about your first photo that really validated your interest as a photographer.
The first photos that validated my interest in photography are the ones I took as a youth around my hometown outside of Moscow. There’s a lake there and there was often beautiful mist floating above the water’s surface in the morning. It was so captivating to see, and it became a bit of an obsession of mine to photograph it. I wanted to become an expert on photographing that place, so I spent a lot of time with my camera there.
In the winter, there was snow around and hoar frost on the trees, and I was able to capture water reflections of the snow and frost. I think it was those particular photos of that particular spot near my home that truly validated for me that photography was something I wanted to do as more than a hobby. That was about 12 years ago that I took those photos, and they continue to inspire me to this day. It’s crazy to think that a simple lake with snow and frost can be so beautiful and inspiring, but it is!
What do you enjoy photographing the most?
I’m keen on nature and landscapes, though I’ve been to many gorgeous locations around the world, I’d like to travel to places like Greenland and Antarctica. There’s just something about such remote locations that excites me as a landscape photographer.
What I most enjoy about photography is the process - traveling, making new friends, and exploring new locations. For me, it’s one big package. By that, I mean that the adventure of seeking out new places to travel is wonderful and exciting, but the human element of photography cannot be dismissed.
There is nothing like exploring a landscape with a group of close friends and fellow photographers. That camaraderie is absolutely wonderful. To experience the world’s most incredible landscapes with friends and colleagues is amazing. It’s nice to be able to be in awe of nature’s beauty and share that with people who are equally in awe as you.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
I’m not a proud photographer. I don’t even consider myself a professional if I’m honest. What I like the most is the experience of being a photographer.
As I said before, I enjoy the good company of people and seeing the incredible scenery that I find all over the world. I just enjoy what I’m doing, and I love sharing my photographs and experiences with others. This is definitely my passion!
How do you feel photography has impacted the way you see the world?
Photography has taught me to be really, really patient. Sometimes, you need to wait for hours just for the right moment to create a photo. That can be difficult to do sometimes, but in many cases, the wait is well worth it!
There are times when you just need to sit down and enjoy the current moment, too. It’s not always about getting the perfect shot. Taking time to actually see what’s around you and appreciate its beauty is a necessity for sure.
Additionally, I’ve learned to enjoy the company of others. I love meeting new people and making new friends. For me, photography isn’t just about taking photos; it’s about people and sharing these wonderful experiences with others.
What do you see photographers doing today, that if done differently tomorrow, would improve their success?
If you want to make photos that stand out, you need to work on it every single day. Read, learn, practice composition, learn technical skills, and so on. You don’t have to do all these things every single day, but dedicating time to learning something new and putting it into practice in your photos will certainly help you create better photos.
The idea is to work for perfection, but understand that perfection can’t always be achieved. Sometimes you can spend hours and hours working on a handful of photos, and they don’t turn out. That’s part of the learning process, though. Sometimes you’ll get the ideal shot, other times you won’t. But if you continue to practice and learn, success won’t be far behind.
To get your creative eye focused, where do you draw your inspiration from?
I get most of my inspiration from guests on my photography workshops. They are such remarkable people, and nice to talk to as well. I’m inspired by other photographers, too. I try to stay connected to my colleagues through social networks and stay up-to-date on what they’re creating.
I also derive a lot of inspiration from paintings. I enjoy stopping at museums and looking at the work of classical painters to see how they use color, how they composed their paintings, and so forth. It’s nice to step away from the camera for a while, too, and just enjoy beautiful art in a quiet space. There’s nothing quite like it to inspire your creativity!
What is your best photography-related tip?
It’s not easy to pick just one tip!
For starters, I think you need to look at photography as a project. Pick one subject - your hometown, a specific type of landscape, one country, and so on - and make that the subject of your photos to start out. It’s too hard to gain recognition when you try to start with a worldwide focus.
For example, I started out photographing my hometown because it was easy to access, easy to predict the weather, and so forth. The main idea is to stay with one subject, become an expert on that subject, and then you can branch out.
Your photos look amazing, what are some must-use tools in your post-processing workflow?
I use Luminar 3 to process most of my images, especially if they’re a single image file. In particular, I like using Curves, Channels, and HSL for color corrections. The Luminosity Masks feature is nice for working on the sky or the landscape as well. These are tools that are simple to use, but they can have a tremendous impact on how my landscapes look.
I see a lot of pros using Luminar. What do you like most about this software?
I like that Luminar has so many tools for making very precise and specific edits. It’s easy to use and I can edit single images in just a few moments. That’s a big bonus because those same edits might take me twice or three times as long when using other programs. The less time I have to spend at home editing my photos, the more time I have to be outside taking photos, and that’s just how I like it!
What are some ‘must have’ items in your camera bag?
My kit consists of two cameras, three lenses, a set of ND filters, a soft graduated ND filter, a polarizer, and a drone. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all must-haves!
If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the ONE photography book you would want to have with you?
I think the most amazing book is Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye.
What camera do you use the most?
What is your all-time favorite lens?
My current lenses are my favorites: a 24mm f/2.8, a 24-70mm f/2.8, and a 70-200mm f/2.8.
What is your favorite post-processing software?
Luminar 3. It’s handy because I can quickly edit images while I’m on the go. I travel 10 months out of the year, so having a simple and fast editor to use is invaluable!
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