This month, we get up-close-and-personal with our very own guide from Iceland Photo Tours, Albert Dros!
Albert is one of the best-known landscape photographers in the Netherlands. He is a Sony Global Ambassador of Imaging and has been published on some of the biggest media channels in the world, such as Time, Huffington Post, Daily Mail and National Geographic.
Albert is a regular speaker at photographic conferences in Europe and is a keen educator, whilst continuing to succeed in self-realised projects and endeavours. He is also one of the newest additions to the Iceland Photo Tours team, so we decided to delve into learning more about him!
Hello Albert! You’ve had a very interesting life. Tell us how you came to be where you are today.
Hellooo! Well I’ve only been doing ‘serious’ photography for a couple of years. I started getting seriously interested in photography when I lived in Hong Kong during 2012-2013. This was because there is some kind of ‘photography fever’ going on there. Everyone is walking around with a camera.
What is cool also is that there are lots of old film shooters there, using vintage film cameras. The whole city triggers you to take photos. I started with street photography around my house. The markets with all the interesting people and the beautiful neon lights at night were my canvas. I remember I always went out when it was raining because the atmosphere was so beautiful.
Then, I started to shoot more around the city. The cityscapes in Hong Kong are amazing. It has one of the best skylines in the world. Then, I started to do more landscape photography around the city. It only takes 1 hour to take the Metro and you’re in a completely different place. People don’t know there is some beautiful nature and ‘mountains’ around Hong Kong. Lots of cool hiking to do there!
After I moved back to the Netherlands at the end of 2013, I continued my photography journey. I started photographing landscapes and cityscapes in my own country and moved on from there. I had always been working in the media industry doing graphic and design work for television, so the transition into photography could slowly take place from 2013 and onwards.
Now, it’s 4 years later and I am doing photography full time. I think it’s the passion and dedication that brought me where I am today. I love photography and I always get triggered by interesting landscapes and weather conditions.
What was your exposure to photography before you left the Netherlands?
Honestly, not that much. I browsed Flickr, 500px and Instagram occasionally but I wasn’t too involved. I just liked looking at pretty pictures, without the urge of going out to photography myself.
Who were your early influences?
Really none. I just did my own thing. I only started to look at other ‘famous’ landscape photographers later.
Mystery Morning. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.
How did you move from design and graphics into photography?
This was a very natural and smooth transition. Because I have been working for myself since forever, I was able to do this without too much trouble. I didn’t have to quit a day job or anything to pursue photography. I can take photography jobs and design/animation jobs at the same time.
Actually, I am still doing some animation work from time to time because I like doing it. At some point, I just noticed that I was getting more and more jobs regarding photography, so then I started to do less animation and design jobs. Now I am doing almost only photography with different streams of income, like workshops, print sales, license sales and affiliate income.
What was your first big break?
This was a couple of years ago when I was photographing the Milky Way in my own country. I was doing some shots of a friend standing in front of the Milky Way when suddenly the International Space Station flew through my shot. It made a perfect streak in the frame. The final shot looked like a science fiction poster.
I made this shot at a perfect time because there was a media hype around the upcoming Perseid meteor storm. All the media around the world started using my image to create hype for the upcoming storm. The image went ‘viral’ as they say. I started getting emails and phone calls for days after I posted the image. It was crazy and I couldn’t handle it. They even wanted me on TV shows. My social media pages blew up after that too. It’s safe to say that this was an important breakthrough in my photography.
You are known for your photography work in the Netherlands, particularly of the forests and purple heather. How do you feel when your work is replicated by other photographers, from composition through to processing?
This happens everywhere. I don’t make a big deal out of it. There are certain places in the country that are very famous and that everyone photographs anyway, but I can get annoyed when I make a unique forest shot and people ask me for the exact location to completely reproduce the shot.
What I do find really cool is that people are really interested into the purple heather season in the Netherlands now. Not only people from here, but tourists actually come to see the purple heather now because of my shots (I’d like to think). It’s amazing how you can basically bring other people to your own country through photography.
Taking the Shot. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.
Do you find it can be difficult working with other photographers?
Yes and no. I am an easygoing person so I don’t have too much trouble with working with other people in general. I think photographers judge each other a bit too easy and form their opinions about each other from things they see and read online. They often have strong opinions about a person based on their images. As for working together with other photographers on tours it is not difficult for me. In general I can adjust to people easily.
Who has been your favourite photographer to work with and why?
I don’t really know to be honest. I get along with basically anyone I am working together with. We share the same passion and this has always worked out in the end (so far). I loved working with Francesco Gola at the PhotoPills camp last year. We got along really well and I have not seen him since. Looking forward to meeting up again. I love working with Serena Dzenis because we can eat unlimited ice cream and chocolate together… this is an important factor during workshops. And I recently worked with Edwin Martinez which was great as well. He’s a super knowledgeable and professional guide with a huge passion for photography.
So how did your first workshop with Iceland Photo Tours go?
Great! I was co-guiding a tour with Edwin Martinez. He has done dozens of tours here in Iceland with Iceland Photo Tours, so he knew the drill like no other. It was a great tour with a nice group of participants that all bonded very well. I still see them commenting on each other’s photos on social media. The group saw the northern lights on 3 of the 8 nights so they were really ‘spoiled’. I even took some portraits of them under the aurora!
In the end, the feedback we got was that everyone was very satisfied with all the great landscapes they got to see and the new skills they learned from both myself and Edwin.
Valley of the Gods. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.
What are the workshops like?
Everything is very organised. The daily schedule is semi-flexible. Weather can, of course, be a tricky factor in Iceland... but even with rain, we can still teach you how to take cool shots. And if the weather is horrible, we’ll give the participants some lectures on landscape photography and processing. Oh and I should mention the food on the tours. The food is amazing! All the restaurants are great. I had to try the chocolate cake in every one of them. If you’re going on a tour with Iceland Photo Tours, keep in mind that you’ll gain weight!
What are you like when guiding a tour?
Like I mentioned before, I am a very easy-going person. I am also very patient with teaching. It doesn’t matter what skill level the participants have. Some are beginners, and some almost do not need any guidance at all. I can easily match with them, mainly because we are all photographers. I am always extremely passionate and I often notice that my passion inspires the participants. When the conditions get crazy or epic, I just can’t control myself. I quote one of the participants on the last tour: “Albert was running around like a little kid in a candy store.” That one made me laugh. This happens when there is a crazy aurora or some crazy light.
What is the gear you have used in the past and present?
I am a Sony Ambassador of Imaging so I am using Sony bodies (currently A7RIII and A7RII) with a wide array of lenses. I don’t always use the same lenses but in general, I use a wide angle (mostly 16-35), a zoom, mostly the 70-300 and some fast primes for night photography and portraits.
Zig zag river. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.
You recently travelled to Guatemala to photograph the Fuego volcano. What was the inspiration for that? And how did you like Guatemala?
I had always wanted to shoot an erupting volcano. I get fascinated by crazy things in nature like volcanoes, tornadoes, supercells, that kind of stuff.
I actually never imagined that I could shoot a classic erupting volcano (you know, the ones you see in the movies with a very distinctive shape), but when my younger brother went to Guatemala to study the Spanish language and sent me a picture of the erupting volcano there, I got triggered immediately. I knew I had to shoot that thing and that it could be an epic shot. So, without too much hesitation, I booked the ticket and went to shoot it (with a lot of planning involved though, but that’s a different story).
Dolomiti. Photo by: 'Albert Dros'.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn without knowing the right questions to ask?
My addiction to chocolate and sweets. You’ll actually notice that right away when you’re on a tour with me, so you don’t even need to ask. Another ‘interesting’ thing about me is how much I love cats. I’m not just a ‘cat person’. I watch cat videos, funny cat pics, and am even subscribed to cat pages on Facebook. I’m kind of addicted to funny cat footage and I just love cats in general.
In the news story of your life, what would the headline say?
“Passion or Addiction? Albert never stops what he loves doing.”
Join Albert on a photography adventure around Iceland! Check out our range of winter photography workshops.