Daniel Kordan is an International award-winning photographer with significant clients such as Apple, Gazprom Neft’, S7 Airlines, and RedBull. He is now currently based in Russia, Moscow.
Kordan grew up in Moscow and started his photography journey in early childhood while focusing mainly on nature and wildlife photography.
Through his university studies (Physics and Technology), he also gained experience in mountain climbing and hiking, guiding tourist groups in winter and summer, and became a guide of photo-workshops and the chief editor of “Continent expedition” magazine.
Today, Daniel Kordan is considered one of the most influential photographers globally by many social media followers (over 1 Million). His successful workshops continue to be the rising star in Nature and landscape field.
During the past ten years, Daniel Kordan received respectable international awards, including:
- The Golden Turtle’ 13 Nature nomination winner
- National Geographic Russia contest 2013 winner
- Best of Russia’13, ’14 ’15 winner
- Bestphotographer’13, Trierenberg Super Circuit award (best landscape photographer)
His work has been published in many international publications, including:
- Digital SLR Magazine, U.K.
- Photography week
- Photography MasterClass
- National Geographic
- Photoworld China
- Digital Photo (Bauer Media) magazines.
Daniel Kordan is an official Nikon, Gitzo, and Lucroit ambassador.
The Best Russian Landscape Photographer – Daniel Kordan: Why We Pick Him?
I love traveling, beautiful nature, and for sure, amazing photography. Most of the time when I plan a trip, I would check out if any impressive photos could catch my eyes, or high-quality photo tours I can join so I get to explore that area and take some amazing photos.
And this is how I was attached to Daniel Kordan’s work: I was planning for a trip to Mongolia and came across Daniel’s photos.
Then I stopped planning my Mongolia trip, and just want to join a photo tour or workshop organized by him. Just because I want to learn from him, so you can see why we’ve picked him as the best landscape photographer in Russia.
The Best Russian Landscape Photographer – Daniel Kordan
Daniel Kordan and His Street Photography World
How did everything start? Why and how did you start your landscape photographer’s life?
In my early years, I attended a painting school. I was a student at this school for six years. I learned the techniques of painting, which undoubtedly extended my understanding of beautiful compositions and harmonious color palettes.
I also learned to understand that finding and presenting unique moments, depends on much more than pure technique. I learned to understand the value of intuition. It´s a central key to achieve unique results. The painting school helped me out a lot to evolve this property. I´m grateful for this.
Besides, my paint teacher told me to be bold with colors. He told me never to use black. I listened to him, so I never used black in the paint at school. Instead, I learned to bring out hidden details, in dark parts of pictures.
When I had spare time, I always was eager to be in nature together with my friends. We were often driving on bicycles and swimming in the lake. Today, it´s strange to think about how different life was in these days. So much has changed since.
About 10 years ago I started as a guide in a mountain club. This allowed me to travel to amazing places. Many of these guiding tours enabled me to experience wonderful sunrises (above the clouds). This made a great impact on me.
I had a desire to document and share these beautiful moments, with others. Also, I met a lot of wonderful people and experienced different cultures. And that’s precisely what I love about it: your camera brings you to meet other people and new places.
It was hard for me to choose between working with science or photography. My strongest passion had always been science, and I admired doing scientific work. Compared to this, photography was more like pure passion.
After thinking thoroughly about the matter (working with physics or photographing as an occupation), the decision was made. I choose to photograph and traveling. It had become what I loved most in my life.
Now that I’ve become a full-time landscape photographer (and a Nikon Ambassador), I still don´t consider my photography workshops as work. It´s because I´m so emotionally involved. Photographing has become an essential part of my life.
Can you tell us a bit about your workshop too? I would love to join!!
I’m a partner in Iceland’s photo tours company. We have workshops in about 45 countries around the world listed on our website which makes our company the biggest official tour operator focused primarily on photography tours and masterclasses. My most favorite ones are in Antarctica and Greenland.
In Antarcticawe charter a 100 passengers Greg Mortimer super-modern vessel for our 2-week itinerary. In Greenland, we have our 2 sailing boats with a red sail. Our guests navigate under red sails in the midnight sun with infinite 4-5 hours sunset and stay in an amazing 4-star hotel. We always focus on comfort and maximum education possibilities for our guests.
What is your photography philosophy?
My main philosophy is to inspire people to admire nature and treat our beautiful planet in a better way. I’m sure when people see the beauty of nature it triggers them not just to consume its resources but give back to nature. Give back your love and responsibility.
What are your biggest challenges as a landscape photographer?
Basically, I send myself on “assignments” (because I have my own business (tour agency)). It has not always been easy. I’ve expected different challenges on my journeys.
For example high elevation: I´ve had photography sessions 4.000 – 5.000 m above Sea level. To endure our stay, we first needed 5-6 days to acclimatize. Subsequently, we spent the next 2 weeks at Altiplano (full time at 4.000 – 5.000 m).
It felt so hard to move and hard to breathe. But due to proper planning, we were able to conduct the session safely.
I also challenged myself to organize expeditions to barely known places, white places on the map – to explore and bring stories to people.
Which is your favorite piece of work? Why?
I don’t have any favorite works of mine. I always struggle with their imperfections.
But I’m inspired by gifted painters. Ayvazovsky, Monet, Rembrandt, Caravagio are some examples. Painters like these influenced both my approach in designing images and their work has helped me improving my color-composition skills.
Can you describe a typical day or trip of you at work?
The typical day during my Greenland photography workshop. We start sailing around 5 p.m., navigate through the ice, see whales and seals, and land in a remote village with colorful houses. Have dinner there with local communities, photograph people and landscapes ashore, then board our boats and sail through the ice fjord all night long, typically until 5 a.m.
It’s infinite sunsets during summer, giving incredible light for 4-5 hours non-stop. We find big icebergs, arches, towers. And finally at 5-6 a.m. We return to the hotel for breakfast. A bit of sleep (5-6 hours) and we have a photography post-processing Masterclass. And after lunch depart again to the ice fjord.
The Best Landscape Photographer in Russia – Daniel Kordan: Cameras and Gears
What cameras and lens are you using? Why them?
For my choice of equipment, reliability is one of the most important criteria. That´s why I use Nikon in the toughest conditions around the world.
Camera bodies, lenses, filters, etc
- Bodies: Nikon D810 and Nikon Z 7
- Lenses: Nikkor 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 mm
If I had to choose my most favorite lens would be a Nikkor 14-24, f/2.8, in my opinion, this is a marvelous piece of photographic equipment.
I like to use filters, which allow me to do a bit less work and participate in contests (which prohibit composite images (i.e. bracketing)). I use ND 3,6,10 stop and GND 4 stop soft, polarizer. For my 14-24 Nikkor, I use the Lucroit 165 mm system.
Gitzo tripod and Gitzo backpack. Besides, I use an L-plate + nodal slide rail for my panoramic images (or panoramic head).
Preferred protection bags
For safe storage of my cameras and lenses, my favorite is Gitzo Adventury. For tripods on hikes and light conditions, I use Gitzo traveler.
Besides, I use Gitzo systematic for tough conditions (for instance I used it to protect against the winds of Patagonia and the North Sea waves in Lofoten).
Do you think mirrorless cameras would be great for landscape photography? Which model will you recommend?
Yes, the future is for mirrorless. Personally, I’m using Nikon Z 7 II and S lenses already. They are lightweight and have amazing quality for big prints. I would recommend Nikon Z7 II for landscape photography.
Landscape Photography and Traveling Tips By Daniel Kordan
Can u share with us some Landscape photography tips?
My main techniques are panoramic photography, focus stacking, and vertorama (vertical panorama). I often use complicated techniques in my workflow.
Focus stacking enables all the details in your composition to stand out very sharply. Focus stacking combined with vertical panoramas will also allow you to use interesting/captivating patterns as foreground (for instance: flowers or ice).
A wide-angle lens (14 mm on a full-frame objective) is also very useful. This allows you to have fewer shots for your stack. Besides, a short hyperfocal distance allows you to be very close to the foreground. This is often a great advantage.
I always spend time working with the foreground. Sometimes “treasures” are laying just beneath your feet: an ice shard, a beautiful snow texture, or a sand pattern.
If you use the foreground the right way, you can “transfer” a viewer inside the frame. A well-chosen foreground may create a completely different photo, even at well-known locations.
The next thing you have to do is to balance the foreground with the middle and the background. For instance: if you choose a “heavy” foreground, you will not feel the altitude of distant mountains. Then and a major part of your composition will lose its dynamism and impact.
I do a lot of post-processing. My Photoshop (image-editing) techniques involve both luminosity masks, color correction with curves, masking, and the use of layer blending modes.
During post-processing, I stitch bracketing in iHDR, stitch focus stacking, and large panoramic shots, using PTGui, Lightroom, and Photoshop.
For general post-processing, I use Luminar (from Skylum), Lightroom and Photoshop.
By the way: I have a comprehensive 11-hour course. Here I explain in detail my workflow. You can find it at Danielkordantutorials.com
Your journey is not only a trip to a location. Instead, try to create it as a long-lasting project with several goals and ideas to be tested. The goal might for instance be an album, an ecological project, or an exhibition.
If you work at a particular location for a long time (returning there in different seasons or different years), you’ll soon get the advantage to be more recognizable by both photographers and local people. I think this is something you should think about.
You should well publish as much as possible. For instance: Try to write interviews, publish your work on social media, popular blogs, and photography websites. By exposing yourself, you will get more feedback.
Also, request critique from fellow photographers. Sadly, (nowadays) I think it is almost impossible to get constructive critiques. For that reason, it´s essential to find a person who’ll kick you, if you get stalled.
Finally, I would like to remind you that it takes a long time to make your portfolio “work”. Therefore you have to work very hard every day, to achieve your dream.
What is your favorite landscape photo spots or scene?
One of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had as a photographer was on the flooded Uyuni (Bolivia). These are the world’s largest salt flat floods for about four months every year. It´s a natural spectacle that merits an award, applause, or a bow from us.
It´s hard to believe your eyes and senses while standing in the middle of these salt flat floods by night. Let me explain my experience: Our “spaceship” (car) was parked in a distance and the stars were blinking with blue, red, and yellow colors. The stars surrounded me completely. They were above me, next to me, and “underneath” me. It felt like space on Earth!
Another place that made a strong impression on me was Altiplano (Bolivia).
It suits the best possible place on Earth to observe stars and practice astrophotography.
There are not many places in the world where you can enjoy an absolute dark sky. Cities and even small villages emit a lot of light at night time. Besides, it’s often hard to get a very clear sky. But at this place, the sky was just amazing. Perfect for astrophotography.
I would also like to mention a wonderful expedition on a yacht with red sails in Greenland.
And a journey with Bark Europa (a tall ship) to Antarctica.
Can you give us some traveling tips to Russia?
The main advice is to travel with experienced local guides. In Russia very rarely people speak English so you’ll need a translator/guide anyway. Travel to amazing places like Kamchatka, Baikal lake, they have lots of offers for photography tours including for international tourists. Also, my clients love to take trains from Moscow all the way through Russia via the Trans-Siberian railway.
Daniel Kordan, The Best Landscape Photographer from Russia: Final Words
Daniel Kordan is a talented photographer who can produce amazing nature and wildlife photography. During this Covid-19 situation, we may not be able to join his photo tours but I highly recommend his photography course because he put lots of work filming it and it has all his experience.
I hope you enjoy this interview like I did! If you would like to find Daniel Kordan’s work, here are the details:
For Daniel’s photography: Check out Danielkordan.com
For his landscape photography course, Check out Danielkordantutorials.com
Facebook: Daniel Kordan
Instagram: Daniel Kordan