Laura Vink is a travel photographer, entrepreneur, author and photography instructor. The ‘wow’ responses to her vacation photos elicited from her friends and family prompted her to concentrate more on her photography — and with great success! Today, she inspires thousands of people through her travel photography book, articles and online photography academy. Laura wants to demonstrate that photography really doesn’t have to be difficult. Her greatest passion is travel photography and she set a goal of visiting more countries than her age in years. With forty countries already under belt, she’s well ahead of schedule! Here, she takes us along to a few of her favorite photography destinations.

Dressed as the Michelin Man

I’ve been to fantastic locations, some of which have really surprised me. For example, it was wonderful to see the Northern Lights in Lapland, Finland. I’m the most shivery person you can imagine — I really hate the cold! — and that was a real problem at -4° F (-20° C). I was there in December so there wasn’t much daylight.

The end of the world is right in front of you
Northern Lights, Finland

I sat there waiting day and night until my Northern Lights meter registered 2, which meant there was a chance that the lights would be visible. No matter how tired I was, each time it reached 2, I’d say, “Yes, here I go again!” I’d put on my 100 layers of clothing and waddle out the door like the Michelin man for what felt like the hundredth time. Ankle deep in snow, shivering with cold, I’d climb up the mountainside. When the Northern Lights were visible, it was simply incredible.

The whole night long I headed up the mountain because I desperately wanted to experience those fabulous lights as much as possible. The actual experience itself is unforgettable but the fact that I could also take beautiful photos made it absolutely perfect. The Northern Lights swirl above you while you struggle to operate your camera through two pairs of gloves. You can barely manage, but when you do, it feels magical. Because the lights move slowly and change constantly, you shoot continually. It’s only when you get back inside that you can really look at your photos, which is one aspect that makes the whole experience truly special.

The end of the world is right in front of you
Laura in a temple, Myanmar

Photographed by a monk

Myanmar also made a deep impression on me. The people are very friendly and they really want to help you have a wonderful time. I was there with my best friend and, among other things, we hiked to the village of Kalaw and spent the night with the local villagers. We visited a lot of temples and one day we walked into a temple where there was a group of monks.

One of the monks watched us for a long time. Eventually, he walked over and asked if he could take a photo of us. We were happy to pose for him so he brought out a really old phone with a camera in it. Every time he pressed the button to take a photo, he accidentally lowered the phone making his photos unsuccessful. It took quite some time for him to take a sharply focused picture of us. Because we’d established a connection with him, we felt comfortable asking if we could take a photo of him too. He also agreed. The monk was an elderly man with an extraordinary face, full of character, perfect for a photo. I quickly put my 50 mm lens on my camera and put him in the right light. After just three or four shots I had the perfect photo — his character really shines through. If he hadn’t asked us to let him take our picture, I wouldn’t have dared approach him. The barriers were down, so to speak.

The end of the world is right in front of you
Monk, Myanmar

The diversity of Jordan

Jordan truly surpassed all my expectations. We hired a car there and crisscrossed the entire country in it. Besides visiting the ancient hidden city of Petra, we also hiked for several days through the desert. At night, we slept under the stars, which was super cool and, photographically speaking, very interesting. I like landscapes and in Jordan, you have the desert with its beautiful colored sand, as well as amazing culture in locations like Petra.

The end of the world is right in front of you
Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan

The desert close to home

When you’re traveling for photography you need to be lucky in terms of light and weather conditions, but when you’re home you can wait for the weather to be perfect. That’s how I was able to get the very best shots for my photos series of the Loon and Drunen Dunes in The Netherlands. This area is also known as the Brabant Sahara, and it’s clear to see why.

The end of the world is right in front of you
Loon and Drunen Dunes, The Netherlands
The end of the world is right in front of you
Laura Vink

Waiting for a storm

In this region, the wind really does shape the landscape, creating fabulous patterns. I waited for a code-orange storm with strong winds to photograph it. The wind blew all day long and my footprints constantly disappeared in the sand. I was standing in the middle of the dunes, being almost blown off my feet. Sand was everywhere — in my eyes and camera, absolutely everywhere. At the time, I couldn’t care less because it was so fantastic to see and photograph what was happening. The sand was being blown over the ground, and it was like seeing the Northern Lights dance but then at ground level.

What made it even more incredible was that National Geographic in The Netherlands published my photos. For me, the Loon and Drunen Dunes have proved that you don’t need to travel thousands of miles to take spectacular photographs.

My photo prints serve different purposes

When I hang photo prints of my travels in my home, they need to evoke a certain feeling in me, a memory. They don’t need to be the most perfect photos. When I look at the photo wall print of Mount Cook in New Zealand that’s hanging in my living room, I need to be able to say: “Remember when we were there and we went on that hike, took a helicopter flight and had so many other wonderful experiences?” But I also hang non-travel photos too.

The end of the world is right in front of you
Arusha National Park, Tanzania

I currently have an Xpozer photo print of wooden blocks hanging on the wall because I think that it fits in well with my interior. There’s not so much emotion attached to that photo but it still looks great. I can play around with the style of photos I hang because with the Xpozer system I can regularly change my wall prints. Right now I have a 60 x 30 inches (approx. 150 x 75 centimeters) Xpozer photo print hanging, and when I change it I won’t be stuck with a huge print taking up space in my storage, because I can simply roll it up. For me, that’s an enormous added advantage!

The end of the world is right in front of you
The Cook Islands, New Zealand

Read the book on Photofocus and own the printed version, too

Every other week a new photo and the story behind it will be published here on Photofocus. Clemens and Ivan have made copies of “Amazing Photography” available for the cost of shipping — $8.99 alone. The book retails for $29.99 regularly. Here are some highlights …

  • The cover of Amazing PhotographyMore than 100 breathtaking photos by professional and hobby photographers
  • 13 personal stories from pro’s and hobbyists such as Albert Dros (pro-photographer), Laura Vink (pro-photographer), Andre Kuipers (astronaut and photographer), Ori Guttin (co-founder Viewbug) and Evgeny Tchebotarev (co-founder 500px)
  • 4 practical photo guides to help you enjoy your photos to the max
  • 7 DIY quick fixes for unexpected photography situations
  • World’s top 15 under-the-radar spots for stunning photos
  • Would you rather …? A hypothetical photography game for friends
  • The science behind how your photos can affect your happiness and well-being.

Get your own copy of “Amazing Photography”