“A good picture should cause feelings like wanderlust.”
David Köster is a Germany based landscape photographer, photo trainer and book author. In his images he stages wild, epic nature scenes in a dreamy atmospheric imagery.
For his artistic pictures David has been awarded with several international awards. His works are mainly used by agencies, publishers and tourism institutions.
As a photojournalist, David regularly publishes his stories, articles and photos in print and online media worldwide.
Since 2015, David also guides landscape photography workshops.
In January 2019 his brand-new book about the art of landscape photography was being published by German Humboldt Verlag.
Our earth is a unique composition of diverse habitats and natural backdrops. As a landscape photographer, it is my passion to discover these big and small wonders and stage them in my pictures.
As an artistic photographer I am particularly interested in the natural play of light and colors, shapes and structures. My photographs are less about documentation, but about imagination and emotion.
As a landscape photographer, I tell visual stories of the beauty of our world. Literally, I want to take the viewer on a journey, to arouse emotions by my pictures. I always associate this with the hope that I can use my pictures to promote the preservation and protection of our planet.
At the center of my work is the aesthetic aspect of our home planet. That’s why my pictures are often idealizing. In this sense my photographic approach differs from classical documentary or reportage photography.
Interview with David Köster
What was your first camera and photographic experience?
When I was a little child I used to document our holidays at the Baltic sea. My grandma in a beachchair, seagulls, sand castles and other earth shattering stuff. I remember I used a simple film compact camera from GDR. More serious interest in photography I developed two decades later, when I was a student and living in the US for some months. I started with a Nikon F60, my first DSLR was a Nikon D90 and finally I ended up with Nikon fullframe bodies.
Why did you become a photographer?
I came to photography because of my enthusiasm for nature, especially landscapes. As early as my childhood I devoured magazines like National Geographic and nature documentaries. Since then I have been fascinated by the creative power of the elements. One day the desire grew up to express my personal views and feelings being in nature, to tell it in visual tales. Finally I found photography to be the best medium for that.
What does photography mean to you?
To me, photography is a kind of self-experience and self-expression. My area of expertise is landscape photography. I am just fascinated by landscapes and love it to go out and explore. The wilder and the more solitary, the better. To me, landscapes are the epitome of nature and its creative power, the everlasting dynamic of its elements. When I am out, shooting nature, I feel alive. I also like landscape photography for its exciting mix of outdoor experience, modern adventure, creativity and technical challenges.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
Among the classic masters I would mention Steve McCurry because of his soul touching, expressive, colorful imagery and his ability to find and catch the magic of a moment.
Among the contemporary artists I like to mention Max Rive because of his incredible ambition to explore unknown, breathtaking places and his stunning talent to work with natural light and his very special style of post-processing.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”
How would you describe your photographic style and way of creative process?
By means of dramatic perspectives, an atmospheric imagery and the systematic use of natural light I create works which look romantic, mysterious and often even appear to be paintings rather than photographs. Once a gallerist told my works to be “hyperrealistic landscapes”. That sounds cool and I think is also a pretty well capture.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
Intense location scouting – already starting at home – plays an important role for my photographic work. Also I put big value to a very conscious image composition. The most important influential factor for me is a the quality of light, which is essential to create the typical look of my photos.
What project are you currently working on? Or what’s a project / series that has special importance to you?
Actually I prepare for a project in Kamtchatka, Siberia. Also I am just organizing my several photo workshops, I will lead in autumn. Also, I am working on a new book project. Finally I am just drafting a long-term project called MYST, which will differ from my usual kind of work.
What qualities does a good photographer need?
He needs sense for places, situations and light. Also he needs a vision, creative ideas, technical skills and also the ability to develop an individual style. Especially in landscape photography it’s also pretty helpful, to be patient and have a certain amount of frustration tolerance, because nature always holds a lot of surprises.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
It’s all about emotion in my eyes. A good picture should cause feelings like e. g. wanderlust or the wish to travel to the captured place. If a viewer of a landscape photograph is just fascinated, surprised, thrilled or simply calmed down by the image, it works.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
The biggest impact for my photographic work is nature itself. Being outdoors I always feel inspired by the endless interplay of light and colors, shapes and structures. A certain inspiration for me is also the work of Romantic painters like Casper David Friedrich and William Turner with their dreamy, partly sinister interpretation of landscapes. Furthermore also music is an important inspirational source for me.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use? Any apps you use on your smartphone?
Actually nothing special. Basically I shoot with Nikon full frame bodies and lenses. A sturdy tripod is always essential for me. In my photo backpack you will also find some optical filters. Indeed the smartphone has become a very valuable assistant for planning my shootings by using several apps like Sun Surveyour, PlanIT, OutdoorActive, etc.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
Actually I do not really often read websites about photography. But if I should name one I would mention OnLandscape. I find lots of inspiration in social media like Facebook and Instagram.
What photography book would you recommend?
I love to browse through “Before they pass away”* by Jimmy Nelson and “Genesis”* by Sebastiao Salgado. As a landscape photographer I also advice to have a look to the classic work of Ansel Adams published in several photobooks. And of course I am gladly recommend my own brandnew publication for all people being interested in landscape photography.
What is something you wished you’d known starting out as a photographer but only discovered later on?
In the very beginning – probably like most newbies – I overestimated technical equipment and wasted too much time to find the “perfect equipment”, instead of just going out, exercising and learning to photograph consciously. For example, I had not the faintest idea about the photographical settings and their impact to the image. Thus for the first years I did nothing more than snapshots and gained results by incident, but not by a systematic approach. So I wished, someone had made me aware to this.
What is your biggest success in the recent past?
Two months ago I published my first self-written book about landscape photography, entitled “Der Start in die Landschaftsfotografie” (in German). On more than 270 pages I present all aspects of the art of landscape photography showing the reader how one can realize breathtaking landscape images. The fact that today I can hold the printed book in my hands and get a lot of positive feedback from my readers makes me really proud and is a huge success for me.