Albert Dros is a Dutch photographer well known for his ‘spectacular’ landscapes and cityscapes but also the more subtle documentarian styled images. He’s a master in planning and executing unique imagery and has got several ‘viral’ images as a result of that.
In this interview, you’ll get to know more about how Alberts media background has affected his photography, how he plans viral images, why he’s passionate about many photography genres, and more.
Start by telling us a little about yourself and how you got started with photography.
My name is Albert Dros and I’m a professional photographer from the Netherlands. I am known for my extreme passion for photographing spectacular landscapes.
I started getting serious with photography in 2012 when I was living in Hong Kong for 2 years. Hong Kong has that kind of ‘photography fever’. Everyone is walking around with a camera there. Old film cameras are also very popular and you’ll find many little labs that can develop the rolls for you.
The whole culture of Hong Kong of always being outside encouraged me to capture everything around me. The spectacular city, the street markets, the rainy nights, but also the beautiful landscapes around the city. There was just so much to photograph.
How has your background and studies of Multimedia & Entertainment Technology affected your approach to photography?
I studied Media Technologies in the Netherlands and eventually got my Master (of Science) in Multimedia & Entertainment Technology. I had always been very interested in tech and innovation. After school, I started my own video company with a friend. This is already like 13 years ago. I’ve also worked in the design industry for television and broadcasting for a few years. I was designing live graphics here and putting them on television. I really enjoyed these jobs and they shaped me into who I am today.
All the design skills I achieved back then really evolved me as a photographer. I think that’s also why I have a certain style that people know me for. I taught myself photography and utilized my approach to design in the post-processing of my images. But I think these skills also had a great impact on seeing colors and composition and basically having the ability to see what looks ‘nice’ to my eyes and what doesn’t.
Some of your most famous photographs involve a lot of planning. Take us through some of the steps involved in capturing unique imagery, such as the erupting volcano in Guatemala or the unknown landscapes of Kyrgyzstan.
Planning a perfect photo has always fascinated me. I have been working with Photopills since the early days and have been good friends with the developers ever since. I remember bugging them for an Android version when I didn’t use my iPhone 4 anymore and switched to Android.
I have this drive and vision in my head of achieving shots in which planning plays an important part. Simple things like knowing when and where exactly the sun rises, the moon, but also how the milky way stretches across the sky at different moments of the year are all important things to know about when planning photos.
The planning and execution of my volcano shot in Guatemala lined up with the milky way (shot in 2017) is one of the great examples of that. The full story about this image can be read on my website.
But there are also many other tools involved in planning images. Google earth for example, that I use all the time to explore unknown terrain. Through that, I scouted many locations in Kyrgyzstan that I later photographed. There’s just something about planning an image and then achieving the shot in the field. It’s not only the photo, but the whole process that is part of the journey to the end result. And that’s what makes the end result very satisfying.
Nowadays people often ‘fake’ images by putting a fake milky way or moon. You get a similar and sometimes even better result but there’s no story to that image. No experience. To me, the story and the experience are as important as the photograph itself, if not more important!
In addition to landscape photography, you’ve got a great talent for photographing cityscapes. Are there any similarities in how you approach these different styles?
I see cityscapes as some kind of landscapes as well. Actually, most photography is the same. It’s always about light and composition. Therefore for me cityscape and landscape photography are not much different. I use similar techniques.
I like challenging compositions and I try to find them in landscapes with complex foreground, and similar in cityscapes. You can always find so many lines and foreground objects in cities.
My favorite time to photograph cities is during the blue hour. Right after sunset, when the lights turn on. It gives this romantic feeling and in my opinion, villages and cities really come alive when the lights turn on.
What are some of the benefits (or disadvantages) of photographing different genres?
I love any kind of photography. I think the great advantage is that you just never get bored with photography. Switching things up keeps it interesting. I love photographing with extremely wide-angle lenses but I recently also really discovered my passion for macro photography. An entire new world basically opens by using a new lens or switching to a new genre of photography.
If you open up to the creative aspect of different genres, photography simply never ends. A disadvantage, for me at least, is that it can be very overwhelming. Liking so many kinds of photography and using so many different lenses can feel like you’re getting overwhelmed with beauty in the world. That may sound very strange, but it’s the way I sometimes see it.
Is there anything you want to convey through your photography?
The prime goal of my photography has always been very simple: capturing the beauty of our planet and showing it in my way to my audience. But there are definitely deeper meanings and I am also really exploring storytelling.
I love photographing a few spectacular images of an area, and then come up with a complete series of about 20 images, where the rest of the images really complete the story and make a complete body of work. Some portraits, macro images, street images, just to give a better impression of a certain country or area.
Take Kyrgyzstan for example. I have many spectacular landscape images of this country but I am combining them with some more intimate images like the interior of the houses the people live in, Yurts, portraits, animals, macro images etc. Just so people have a broader view of the culture.
How important have your viral images been in order to build your name in the industry?
I think it’s definitely important to release something spectacular once in a while, simply to stand out. These days there are so many people who take great photos but it takes something more to stand out. I try to do something ‘epic’ every year or 2 that people will remember me for. I created a viral image of the Milky Way with ISS above a person standing in the Netherlands in 2015.
I don’t want people to remember me for only 1 image. I want people to say “oh, you’re that guy with the Kyrgyzstan photos”, or “ah, you’re the one that shot those spectacular images of the erupting volcano with the Milky Way”.
So yes, ‘viral’ images can definitely be important to giving your career a boost. But we have to be careful that we’re not only being remembered for one image. Because I want to show so much more.
You’ve recently released the film ‘Amsterdam My Home’. Could you tell us a little what inspired you to make this?
I came up with the idea of my film ‘Amsterdam – My Home‘ when I moved to Amsterdam a few years ago. I was traveling a lot but when I was home, I was always shooting in the city. Sometimes when I had some time I would take my slider and shoot time lapses in the city. I had the idea of creating something ‘big’ but didn’t put a deadline on it. It would just be done when done.
I also looked for spectacular time lapses from Amsterdam on Youtube and to my surprise didn’t find any. So I thought I’d create my own. A spectacular timelapse to visualize the city I lived in. Timelapse was something I enjoyed a lot anyway but I never really showed any. I felt a few timelapses with some music was somewhat boring. I wanted to create something more: spectacular transitions, sound effects, seasons, etc.
I had so many ideas and believe me: not even half of it was included in the final film. If it wasn’t for COVID this film would not have been finished and it would probably take another year or 2 to finalize it.
Can we expect more videos and timelapse films from you in the future?
Yes, I’m already working on something new but this is not a timelapse! You’ll see when it’s done, I don’t like to tease things. I just release it when it’s finished!
What are your top 3 tips for someone just getting started with photography?
I think the very most important tip is to just enjoy photography! I see so many people immediately caring about all kinds of gear, or how to make money with it etc. I remember not caring about anything when I was just starting to learn photography. I was just out with my camera hours every day, photographing everything that I liked. The joy of photography. I sometimes miss these old days when things were so simple. Now I think way too much about my photos!
The next tip is to focus on composition. Be creative. Explore how different lenses and different approaches work in your photo. The composition is one of the most important and powerful elements of photography. I often see people who make quite good photos, technically. But often lacking in composition.
Last, just be out as much as possible. It’s very similar to the first tip but just practice, practice, practice. People often spend hours and hours online, watching youtube videos, or asking all kinds of questions. While you would spend your time so much better just being out there shooting, and problem-solving on the fly. Photography is really not that hard!