Daniel Laan

Landscape | Last Updated: December 24, 2020

I’m a professional landscape photographer currently based in Den Helder, the Netherlands. I’ve been in this genre for a little over ten years now, and I am a writer for Fstoppers and frequent contributor to 500px ISO. I teach landscape photography to fellow photographers around the world through my writing and Skype processing sessions and I lead field workshops and tours.

The curriculum of my study in Communication & Multimedia Design did not include appreciation of our natural world. My intrinsic, child-like fascination with the cosmos, the landscape and every living thing in it, is the primary drive to keep this passion fueled with inspiration, but I also draw heavily from the cinematography in the Lord of the Rings.

I’ve seen these films often enough that quotes seem to slip out more than I’d care to admit, but the trilogy influenced my processing style to an extent that I feel happy about when I look at my work in hindsight. While I agree with the notion that the magic is captured out there in the field, I also feel that I relive the moment when I process my work. My style is to internalize a lot in the field, but maybe that’s because at the core, I’m an introvert and overanalyze the creative process.

That internal struggle between analytical thinking and creativity is alleviated only by the cathartic effect that the weather has on me. Because of my life-threatening fascination with severe weather, it’s a good thing that I’m Dutch. Had I been born near or in Tornado Alley, my path would certainly have been different.

So let’s talk about gear. My main platform today is the Nikon D750, because it’s great for everything I do. Its 24MP resolution is high enough to print big, while its noise is low enough to capture faint detail in the night sky. And the tilting screen allows me to shoot low and close while still seeing what’s in the frame without putting my face in the thorny underbrush.

Currently, I have two lenses in my F-stop Guru backpack. The Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Macro is very sharp and versatile for what I do. I do occasionally shoot fantastical macro images of mushrooms, but I use this lens far more frequently to compose intimate and minimalistic shots of all sorts of landscapes.

The Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 VC however, is my main piece of glass. I’ve long stuck with prime lenses because of their sharpness and lack of aberrations. This lens does it all and adds zoom to the mix. What I don’t use though, is the vibration reduction, as I always shoot from a tripod.

There are also two tripods in my arsenal. My everyday tripod is the magnificent Sirui T-2204XL, equipped with E-20 ballhead. This one I take with me around the world as well as out to sea, which is about one kilometer away from where I currently live. It is crazy light, versatile and I shoot everything from those mushroom macro shots to sweeping vistas.

[See more of Daniel’s views on tripods in his tips for landscape photography.]

The other one is a much heavier Manfrotto 290 series tripod. The MT294A3, which I got as a present from a friend. That one serves as a foundation of that big contraption. This is the Fornax Mounts LighTrack II, which I use to create noise-less nightscape images. It tracks the apparent rotation of the sky (it’s actually Earth that rotates), allowing for much longer exposures of the night sky. This can reduce the ISO setting, resulting in smoother night images. The LighTrack is powered by a 4Ah Li-Pol powerbank by Tracer.

To keep the lens moist free during exposures exceeding 4 minutes, I attach a chemical toe warmer to the lens barrel and wipe in between exposures with a great piece of microfiber cloth from VisibleDust.

You’ll also notice a distinct lack of filters for a landscape photographer. I am one of those guys who thinks that almost any filter effect can be achieved through shooting methods and in post-processing, save for the polarizer’s effect.

I’ll shoot a darker exposure to capture detail in the sky, or wait a bit longer after sunset to smooth water in long-exposure images.
The one filter I do have is the STC Astro Multispectra filter. This device sits in between the lens and camera body, and prevents the mirror from flipping down. But let me tell you about its power instead of how to install it. This baby effectively “deletes” light pollution, which is very useful for night photography in rural areas with city lights on the horizon.

Last but not least, is the Black Diamond Storm headlamp, that gets me in and out of the landscape while not breaking a leg in the process.


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