In Search of the Perfect Landscape Picture with Albert Dros
Some people dedicate their whole life to finding a single item, be it true love, the Holy Grail, or lost time. Albert Dros is one of these obsessive folks. His personal quest? Capturing the most beautiful landscape picture ever. In order to refine his signature, he learnt how to master his gear and computer inside-out. He also traveled dozens of countries, where he shot all sort of dreamy sceneries, from the most iconic (the canals of Amsterdam and the skylsines of Dubai), to the less expected (an erupting volcano with the Milky Way as a backdrop, in Guatemala!). Finally he created for himself a stunning photography website with Wix, to share his photos with the world.
Has he already met perfection? Albert would answer: negative. At only 32, his best shots are the ones to come. But his work has already caught the eye of the most prestigious curators of the photo universe, resulting in four publications in the National Geographic, a publication in Time, and a membership to the Sony Global Imaging Ambassadors program. We met the young prodigy to learn more about the stories, tips and inspiration he gathered on his journey to capture the perfect landscape picture.
Hi Albert, and welcome to the Wix Photography Blog. We’re super glad to have you with us today. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi guys! I’m a 32 year old landscape photographer from the Netherlands. I am known for my extreme passion in getting the perfect landscape shot. I aim to capture places in the best possible way, and I’m very dedicated to planning and achieving shots that are stuck in my head.
How and when did photography enter your life?
I am currently doing photography full time, but I had another life before. I was working for television, doing mainly graphics and animation for sports and game shows, when at some point the financial crisis hit. I wasn’t getting as much work as before, and I also kind of got tired of the business. At that time, I had my own video company and was working as a freelancer on the side. I had been very busy for a long time so I decided to take a ‘break’. I went to live in Hong Kong in 2012 and 2013, and started my photography journey right there.
What’s the attraction to Hong Kong as a photographer?
Hong Kong is a city with photography fever. Everyone carries a camera there, which is not surprising since there is always something to capture. Street photography is super popular there with all the distinctive street markets, and interesting characters combined with the beautiful atmosphere. During the night, the neon signs give cool lightning in the dark alleys. Combine that with rain and reflections, and you can get some super atmospheric shots.
Street photography is what I started with. Hong Kong has some of the most beautiful skylines in the world. But a lot of people don’t know that Hong Kong also has beautiful landscapes that you can reach in less than an hour from the city center. I started to do lots of hiking and photography outside of town. This is where my passion for landscapes grew.
Weren’t you afraid to leave everything behind and start a photo business on your own?
This came very natural to me. As I have been a freelancer all of my life, I never left anything behind. I could transition very smoothly. In fact, I am still doing some animation jobs from time to time because I like doing them. So I basically started taking some photography ‘jobs’ and selling my images to magazines while still doing my normal freelance work. Once I got more and more photography jobs, I could take less animation and video jobs. That way, I never have to worry about anything.
Do you now make a living out of your art?
Yes. My main income is from photography tours and workshops, but I get more income from other channels, like selling my photos to magazines. I also occasionally write for publications. Other sources of income come from selling licenses and referrals.
Besides pleasing the eyes of your viewers, what messages do you hope to convey in your photography?
I want to show the beauty of places that some people never get to see, so that they can enjoy them too. In my country, I shoot sceneries that are only possible to see and capture for a few days each year. People with normal day jobs would never get to see these conditions. By the way, I sometimes get comments from people who refuse to believe that these photos are shot in our own country, the Netherlands!
Is it something specific to Holland?
We may not have mountains [Netherlands literally means “lower countries”, influenced by its flat geography] but some of our landscapes look really amazing in certain conditions. It’s actually a more general ambition: I want people to realize that their home, no matter where it is, can be a very motivating place to shoot, even if they think it’s not. I used to think like this myself, especially returning from a place like Hong Kong where there are photo opportunities literally everywhere. When I came back, I had to find motivation in my own country and I eventually did. A lot of people always tell me there is ‘nothing’ to shoot where they live. This is simply not true. If you open yourself and go out there, you will always find something!
What are your secret tips to creating great landscape pictures?
You always have to keep challenging yourself. Never be satisfied if you stumble upon some great landscapes or conditions. Always look for something extra that can make your photo even better. Another tip I want to give is: go outside of your comfort zone. I like to shoot street photography and black & white images. You rarely see these on my social media though, but it keeps me busy. Even shooting beautiful landscapes all the time can get boring. Do something else for a day or two, and you will find yourself looking with fresh eyes at your main genre again!
What gear can we find in your photographer’s bag?
As an official Sony Global Ambassador, I mainly use Sony gear. You’ll typically find two bodies in my bag, the main one being a Sony A7RII – which is amazing for landscapes. The lens I use the most is the 16-35 Sony Zeiss, because of its great optical quality, weight and sharpness. I then use a Sony 70-300 lens, a 55 1.8 prime and a fast wideangle like the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 – or something comparable. I also use a bunch of filters, and you can of course find some business cards in my bag. Don’t leave those behind :)
What roles does editing software play in your work?
Editing and post processing plays a big role in my work. As I have a design background I like to spend a lot of time on the computer to make my photos look ‘good’. People tend to recognize my name behind certain images just because of this.
Let’s focus for a bit on one of your latest “coup d’éclat”, Mi Fuego. You managed to shoot an erupting volcano right in front of the Milky Way. How did the idea come about?
This idea came from the moment I saw photos by my younger brother who was living in Guatemala. He was staying in a little town near the volcano and told me the volcano was active and erupting a lot. When he showed me the pictures, I was triggered and almost instantly booked a ticket to go there! I had always wanted to shoot an erupting volcano and this was my chance.
How did you prepare for this shot?
I did quite some planning. I saw that a lot of other photographers already shot this particular volcano. So I wanted something extra. I like to shoot the night sky, so I tried to see if it was possible to get a Milky Way aligned with the volcano – and hopefully get an eruption. Almost no one had shot it this way yet, because it’s a tricky shot. Eruptions and lava are bright and the night sky is dark. There is a great contrast that makes it an uneasy shot.
I used PhotoPills [a great photo app for smartphones] to check if this photo was possible to realize. I needed the right angle, no moon, clear skies, and of course an eruption. When checking the angle, I saw that it was indeed possible to line up the Milky Way on that spot in the early morning. This was perfect. I also browsed various websites monitoring the activity of the volcano and kept a close eye on it. Last but not least, I had some locals helping me call the weather station to check the best sky conditions, and when to actually go up there. All this planning turned out rewarding in the end.
What was your feeling when the volcano finally erupted?
That feeling is really indescribable and my photos do not even do justice to that. Seeing a volcano erupt from up close along with the shaking and rumbling is something that you have to experience for yourself. Nature can be amazing and we are just observers on this earth.
The final shots were featured in tons of outlets, all around the world, and became viral on social channels. Did you expect such success?
Yes, I actually did. I am quite good at writing stories with images and I figured that if I could actually pull this plan off, I would get recognition for it. It’s not the first time I have been featured on big media channels, so I know who to send it to. I just send it to everyone whenever I have some new crazy photos along with an interesting story. If it’s ‘crazy’ enough, it will get picked up. That’s why it’s always important to not only have the final shot, but also a good story (and sometimes plan) with it.
What’s your next big challenge?
The volcano was pretty challenging so now I crave for something even more extreme. I’m not exactly sure yet! Sometimes these challenges suddenly pop up because of certain events in the world or certain stuff I see online or on television. I would be happy to be part of nature events that are very rare like volcano eruptions, meteor crashes, etc.
You’re very active on social networks, with a community of more than 100K followers on Facebook. What are some of your secrets to keeping your fans loyal and engaged?
Social media is important, especially in the beginning, when you want to establish yourself and your brand. A good practice is to just post your work occasionally, not too often. Moreover, always put quality over quantity. Avoid sharing average work out there, only your best shots: that’s what people will remember you for. Another tip is simply to always be nice to your ‘fans’. Every time you have the chance to, reply to them separately. Remember that in the end, everyone can be a potential client or customer.
How do you keep up with innovations and tech to promote your work?
As I have been in the media business all my life, I automatically keep up with innovations. I love gadgets, innovation and being up to date with tech. On top of this, I constantly try to explore new platforms to see if they’re usable to promote photography. For example, recently I am more active on Reddit as there is a completely different crowd there than on other platforms. Reddit is cool!
Do you feel that you need a website in addition to showcasing your work on professional platforms like 500px or Flickr?
Of course! A website is extremely important. That’s where most people go first when they check out your work. Plus, your website has everything covered, while other platforms usually focus on one thing. Important tip: don’t forget to get your own domain. Having your name or the name of your brand in a “.com” domain is crucial, since it makes it easier for people to find you.
What do you use your website for?
I mainly use it to show my portfolio and get new blog articles up. I think of my website (www.albertdros.com) as the center of my business in the online world. As a matter of fact, on my business cards, I only put my website’s URL, because everything you need to know about me can be found right there, in a very fast and simple way. And then, from my site, people can go to my social media channels for more specific information or to follow me.
What made you chose Wix for your website?
As a designer, I don’t like coding. With Wix, I can design everything exactly how I want – and let the Editor do the magic in the background. I also chose Wix because you can do virtually everything in a very easy, intuitive way. The process is kind of natural, and I like the feeling of it.
Your photography website is very beautiful. It’s sleek, and detail-oriented – just like your shots. How did you get this result?
Well thanks! Not sure how to answer this :) I basically just pressed some buttons and there it was [laughs]. Kidding aside, Wix is easy to use, so you just move your stuff wherever you want it to be, pick some nice fonts and design some graphics yourself – and that’s it! I’m constantly thinking of new things, in order to give a fresh look to my website. I get updates on the latest stuff from Wix via email, and it’s always worth checking the new features. For example, the Wix Pro Gallery that I immediately used to display my photos.
Three web design tips to give our readers?
1. This might be obvious but your website has to look good. First impressions are everything.
2. Have your social media channels (if you use them) always (and immediately) visible so that people can navigate to them directly.
3. Have a newsletter. Emails are the most powerful way to reach your interested audience.
Thanks a lot for your time Albert. The final word is yours. A dazzling thought to share? A love declaration? An art manifesto? A quote to savour? You have carte blanche.
Well, I recently lost my camera bag with almost all of my gear due to stupidity! I left it in the train after a super tiring trip and it got stolen after that. So yeah, I don’t want this to happen to anyone else, so make sure you use a leash on your camera bag hooked up to your belt so you can’t lose it. Or put a GPS tracker in it!
Anyway, if anyone reads this full interview and ends up here: thanks for reading it all, and thanks for the attention. Feel free to reach out to me with any question you may have via email or social media. I’ll try my best respond! And thanks Wix for the interview :)
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By Jonathan Sitbon
Editor-In-Chief of the Wix Blogs