Prior to being announced as one of the new ambassadors for Nikon USA, photographer and filmmaker Keith Ladzinski has already carved a name for himself in the creative industry. His work has taken him across the globe, on assignment for esteemed publications and brands that include National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, Red Bull, Adidas, Budweiser and The North Face. As a director and director of photography since 2011, he has also created films, advertising material and television content for international clients such as National Geographic TV, Discovery, Oprah, The Weather Channel, ABC and Red Bull TV.
Today, he continues to do both editorial and advertising projects, with focus on natural history, climate change and conservation and adventure/extreme sports. If finding success in diverse fields and creative interests is what you strive for, Keith’s work will definitely inspire you.
For those who are curious about the beginnings, motivations and trusted tools of a photographer as accomplished as Keith, our quick chat with the Nikon USA Ambassador will prove to be an interesting introduction.
Digital Photo Pro: Hello Keith! Please share with us something about yourself and what you do.
Keith Ladzinski: I’m a photographer and filmmaker. As a photographer I work both in the editorial and advertising space; my focus is primarily natural history, climate change/conservation and adventure/extreme sports.
DPP: How and when did you start as a photographer? How did you discover the genre and style that you are doing now?
KL: I got my first camera in 1995 and quickly fell in love. I grew up in Colorado, so I immediately gravitated to the outdoors as a subject with wildlife and landscape work. My other focus was on skateboarding and rock climbing—two loves of mine. My subjects were pretty polarized—landscapes and wildlife are built around patience, waiting for light and thoughtful composition. Skateboarding is often shooting at night, using artificial light (flashes and strobes) and working on the run. Over time, theses styles merged into one and it helped me find my voice.
DPP: Tell us about your go-to gear/favorite camera + lens combo. What makes them the ideal tools of the trade for you?
KL: My kit of choice is the Nikon D850 with 3 to 4 lenses, typically it’s a 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 80-400mm and 500mm f/4. There’s always 2 or 3 SB5000’s in my bag as well.
DPP: Do you have a routine to keep yourself sharp and inspired for the kind of photography that you do?
KL: I’m constantly pouring through Instagram, photographers web sites, exhibits and photo books. I’m a full on photography nerd. I also shoot as actively as I can. When I’m not on an assignment I love just getting out and shooting. It quiets my mind and keeps the tools sharp so to speak.
DPP: Who is/are your influences for photography and/or other creative pursuits? In what way/s have they made a mark on you and your craft?
KL: I have a big list of people that influence me, spread out between a lot of genres. Big influences are Paul Nicklen, Frans Lanting, Sebastiao Salgado, Atiba Jefferson, Dave Black, Tom Mangelsen and about a thousand other people!
DPP: For you, what makes a compelling photograph?
KL: I think that any photograph that makes you feel an emotion is a successful image. That emotion can be happiness, nostalgia, sadness, even anger. These are the photographs that stay with you.
DPP: What’s one photography advice that you wish you heard while you were still starting out?
KL: Find what you love and place your emphasis there. You will create your best work when you love what it is you are shooting.
DPP: Lastly, what’s one piece of advice you can give to those who are just starting out and are yet to discover the genre and style they want to tap into?
KL: Similar to the above answer, focus on subjects that make you happy to shoot. Failure is more palatable when you’re doing it out of love and genuine passion. If you’re looking to do this professionally, find personal projects that you can pour yourself into when you aren’t on hired jobs. This will build portfolio work, show editors and agencies how you approach a shoot and also helps build a style.