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Local Artisan: David Nydam

By Rob Kachelriess

The allure of fine art photography lies in the opportunity to capture a unique moment in time and preserve it for generations to come. In mastering this skill, Dave Nydam has proven to be a true leader in his field, photographing waterfalls, forests, canyons, coastlines, and anything else that reflects the beauty of nature in its purest form — as well as wildlife and architecture in remote environments. Based in Las Vegas, the well-traveled Army veteran is especially fond of the southwest United States, but often ventures to scenic destinations around the world. His work is sold in dramatic, breathtaking museum-quality prints that make a bold addition to any home or office. We spoke to Dave Nydam about the inspiration behind his art and the secrets to capturing the perfect shot.

What inspired you to turn your passion for photography into a full-time business?

I really got into fine art photography and providing my images to the public because as I went into galleries downtown, I saw some incredible pieces of art, but also incredible price tags too. So my goal was to create beautiful pieces of art, using the same printing and creation processes, in order to maintain the highest level of quality, but bring the prices down so everyone can enjoy it.

What drew you to outdoor photography?

I just love the outdoors. When you’re out exploring, you encounter so many different things. My goal is to bring back those beautiful moments and share them, whether it’s animals, architecture, or landscapes.

How did you develop your skills as a self-taught photographer?

In the early stages, it was really just a hobby — going out, taking pictures, and doing things all wrong — then learning from the mistakes I made. It was a lot of trial and error. The important thing is to learn your camera and the best way to do that is to experiment. Sometimes, I go out and try a new technique or experiment with a different setting and won’t come back with anything I’d want to share with anybody. Then, once the techniques are perfected, in combination with optimal lighting, I come away with a beautiful image that must be shared.

In outdoor photography, how important is the time of day — versus the shot itself — in capturing the perfect image?

It’s very important. Of course, everyone refers to the golden hours, right around sunrise and sunset, and being there during that time is optimal for shooting. However, it doesn’t mean other times aren’t good. After a storm or during a storm, you often get phenomenal light and real drama. If you’re in a forest or shooting waterfalls on a cloudy day, it can be the best time since you don’t have direct light or harsh reflections.

What are some of your favorite shooting locations?

It’s always the last location. My latest piece is always where my emotion is. I love to travel and explore internationally and domestically equally. In the past, my travels have been mostly overseas, so now I am concentrating on capturing the beauty of the United States. However, I still try to travel abroad at least once a year. I just completed a trip through Bryce Canyon in Utah; Jackson, Wyoming; Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks; then over to Washington State where I followed the coastline all the way to San Francisco and then headed back to Las Vegas.

Photography isn’t just technical. Do you think your enthusiasm for exploration and travel evokes an emotional response in your photos?

I hope so. I put a lot of hard work and effort into getting the right shot and presenting it in a way that will elicit emotion from the viewer. From the actual hike or climb to get on location to the considerable amount of time spent scouting the exact camera placement and perspective so that I can bring back and share truly unique and powerful images. I try to live unscripted. When I shoot, I generally know where I’m going, but I don’t use planning tools to find exactly where I want to shoot. I don’t want to go in with a predisposed image in mind because then you tend to be overly focused on just that image and you miss other, often better, opportunities.

Any examples of serendipitous moments in which you started out with a rough idea in mind, but then discovered something totally different that made for a great shot?

That happens on almost any shoot. I traveled to Iceland a couple years ago and it was a miserable day, pouring rain. I went out to the Ice Beach and the clouds cleared for a little while. I was able to get a really nice shot of an iceberg on the black sands with the waves crashing against it. Perfect timing on an imperfect day. Sometimes showing up is half the battle.

You do quite a bit of wildlife photography. As anyone with a pet knows, it’s not easy to get a good shot of an animal on film. It has to be tricky when you’re out in nature capturing these incredible photos.

It is. I ran into more animals in Yellowstone than anywhere else — bison, foxes, coyotes, elk, racoon, beaver, and eagles A long lens and plenty of patience is what you need, because they’re wild animals and you’re just waiting for them to not only show up, but also do something wonderful.

Any advice for up-and-coming amateur photographers?

Having good equipment is great, but it’s not what makes an amazing shot. It’s a combination of having an eye for what you like and being there in the right light to capture it. Practice, practice, practice, and try different techniques.

Visit davenydamphotography.com to learn more about Dave Nydam, view examples of his work, and order prints for delivery.

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