Martijn Kort is professional photographer and an airline pilot based in the Netherlands. He specializes in Fine Art Architecture, Landscape and Cityscape photography.
Hey Martijn! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Could you share some words about yourself and your connection to photography? Are you a full-time photographer?
Thank you very much for this opportunity to talk about my photography. I’m 34 years old and living in The Netherlands. Photography isn’t my full time job (I wish it was). The majority of my time I’m sitting in the cockpit of a Boeing 737, flying as a captain throughout Europe, Africa and to Dubai. Because I wanted to do more with my photography I’m flying part time. Allowing me to take commercial assignments and to create free work. Photography is very important to me. It enables me to be creative, get out and enjoy beautiful surroundings.
When I was young, we went almost every year into the Alps to hike and my camera was always with me. Then when the first reasonable digital compact cameras came I took them with me into the cockpit, just to share the amazing views with my family.
7 years ago with the birth of our daughter, my wife gave me a DSLR and this kickstarted my passion for photography once again. Taking portraits of our little girl was the main idea, but I started to dive into landscape and architecture photography.
Reading hours and hours about gear, composition, tips, just to get a good basic understanding of the technical part of photography. It’s true, it takes hard work and dedication to understand enough of the technical part so you can overcome any difficulties in the field.
Looking through your portfolio reveals many styles of photography, from Cityscapes to Aviation and Architecture. Is there a common thread that attracts you in all these? What’s your favorite?
Yes, I like to do a few genres of photography. All the advice I read online is that you have to stick to one genre and become good at it, so you can really stand out. But to be honest, why would you?
Do what you love and what makes you happy! For me it all started with landscapes until I saw the works of some fine art architecture photographers that really inspired me. What attracts me here is the artistic freedom you can create for yourself.
Especially with modern architecture combined with long exposures give me the opportunity to express my emotional connection with the image. By playing with light and depth, I can guide the eye through the frame and show you the building in a way that you wouldn’t see if you were standing right in front of it. This process takes hours to complete and can be a real pain, but when the image is coming to a final stage all I sense is enjoyment.
Another thing that I just love is to sit on a rooftop, or a high balcony and watch the city. All those lights, all those movements.
I really like to capture those in a single frame. When adding all these things, the twinkling lights, the cars moving, a vibrant sunset or a deep blue hour, the image is complete. I can watch those images for hours and I really enjoy capturing them.
Aviation photography wasn’t something I wanted to do at first. A good friend of mine is a very good photographer and captures the amazing views from the cockpit. When we sat down one night he asked me why I didn’t take images while flying.
That made me thinking… There is a market for it and I know how to overcome the problems that arise when taking photos from the cockpit, so why not?! When I started sharing the first images online, the response was fantastic and this is still the reason why I keep taking images from up there.
A common thread in all these genres is the enjoyment these environments give me. Photograph what you love, right?!
It seems like you’re very particular with equipment you use, could you see yourself creating art without it or with a different brand?
Brands don’t say much to me, quality does. So when a brand stops making quality products, I won’t hang around but will look for the best quality that fits my needs elsewhere.
I began with Canon camera equipment, then used Nikon for about 7 years and now recently I switched to Sony. All those switches were deliberate choices.
Since 3 years I’m an ambassador for Zeiss in The Netherlands and I’m really happy that I can use their top notch quality lenses to create my images. When I first used them, the quality was a huge step forward from the lenses that I had (which were already pretty good).
Especially for my fine art works it is really important to capture sharp images with a good micro contrast, to get the best possible image for post processing.
Zeiss delivers on these points and I wouldn’t change for any other brand.
When taking long exposures the quality of the filters is really important. Why would you put a mediocre quality filter in front of a $2000 lens? I’m very happy to use the products of Nisi filters. They give me the best possible image without any colour casts and the filters are a joy to use because of their top of the line coating, which make them easy to clean.
In the past few years I have had a lot of different brands for all of my equipment and the range goes from very cheap to really expensive. All these changes gave me a lot of information about what I wanted and needed (gear wise) to create the images that I want.
I now know what I want the gear to do for me and I’m really looking into the equipment before I consider buying it. Every aspiring photographer should remember one thing: Gear doesn’t make the photo, you do. Get the gear that suits your needs, not because it has a certain brand name.
Congrats on being a finalist at the prestigious Hasselblad Masters. How important is the digital darkroom to your workflow? Would you be doing the same 20 years ago?
Thanks! This is really such a honour! It made my year, I’m so happy. But I have to be honest and the competition is very tough with Juliana also being a finalist, so I think I won’t make it to the first place.To continue on your question, the digital darkroom is very important for me.
Without it I couldn’t create the images that I create today. That is why software is the final but o so important step in the creation of images.
Recently Apple and Adobe made a small step away from their connection with professionals. So the new RAW processing software that is being developed is more than welcome.
Picktorial is one of the few that I tried and I was blown away about the options and the speed! It really enabled me to do so much in just one program. I only needed photoshop to fine tune my images. Especially now since I have upgraded my camera and I have even a bigger dynamic range in my images, I can do a lot with the files in Picktorial.
So for me the digital darkroom is a very important step in my workflow.
20 years ago I wouldn’t be able to process the images the way I do today. I wouldn’t be into fine art architecture photography as I’m now, because it just wasn’t possible to work with the detail that we use now. But for my other love black and white photography, that would be my thing if we moved back 20 years.
As a pilot who has daily access to incredible views from above, what’s your take on the current drone madness in the photography world?
Personally I love drones! I own the DJI Mavic Pro and I love it.
They are technically so advanced and the camera is pretty decent. They enable you to reach places that are not easily accessible and they enable a complete new view on the landscape. What I don’t like are the ppl controlling the drones without any aviation knowledge. They think they can fly anywhere.
Drones are a serious risk to aviation and I would encourage anyone to adhere to the rules and regulations before it is too late.
If we continue to fly near airports the time will come that countermeasures are taken and that would mean a lot less freedom to use your drone. So please be aware where you fly!
On the other hand I think that the regulations are too strict. They should be opened up a little so drone activity would be possible in certain areas where it isn’t allowed now, but only to skilled drone pilots.
The problem is however that anyone can buy a drone and fly it nearly anywhere, so opening up regulations will remain a difficult task.
You’ve been to more countries than most, what’s your favorite destination and what place is on your bucket list?
My favourite destination is the Maldives. Only been there for vacation (didn’t own a drone back then) but that place is amazing!
From the places that I visit as a pilot, Dubai is my favourite. I love the city, the possibilities and the architecture.
When I’m in Dubai I only take time to eat. The rest of the time I’m behind my camera shooting architecture and cityscapes.
But also here the downside of social media, especially instagram is noticeable. A lot of rooftops are closed and gaining access is becoming more difficult because ppl don’t obey normal rules. It’s really a shame. My bucket list is still filled with a lot of places! Iceland was ticked off last month. Lofoten and Greenland are high on the list together with the Seychelles.
What would you say to a young photographer starting out these days?
Photograph what you love and don’t fall for the gear porn :)
Get out there and learn from your mistakes. Go and study the technical side of photography so you get a good understanding about things like the exposure triangle, composition, bracketing, that sort of things. This knowledge will help you to get you the pictures you want.
When you start out, don’t invest in the latest camera equipment. Get the gear that fits your budget. The camera is only the tool, you are the artist creating the images.
Whatever the weather or the environment, remember that it’s all about having a great time!