“Everything looks different when it’s dark”
Hendrik Mändla is a 23 years old photographer from Estonia who loves to capture moody and atmospheric landscape photographs. Mändla was commended in the Travel category of the Open competition at the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards. He was also 3rd place in the 2018 Estonian National Awards.
Mändla especially enjoys photographing at night, because he thinks that “everything looks different when it’s dark and faintly lit by the moon and the stars. Using night photography I can show the world in a unique way.”
Tell us more about your successful images in the 2017 and 2018 Sony World Photography Awards
I took the photo from the 2017 competition on a cold evening in November. There was a unique combination of stars, fog and snow. I was returning from a photo trip near my home in Tarvastu, Estonia and I noticed the lights from my house made the fog glow. I set my camera on a tripod, set a long exposure (about 30 seconds) and walked into the frame to create a silhouette.
In the case of the photo from the 2018 competition, it was taken at the Kirkjufell mountain in Iceland. I wanted to photograph that mountain for a long time and finally I had the opportunity to get cheap flight tickets to Iceland. I booked a short trip and a night at a hotel next to the mountain. I envisioned a green-toned photo of Kirkjufell without snow under the northern lights. When I arrived at the mountain I waited for a few hours hoping for the northern lights to appear. But there weren’t any and it started getting cloudy so I started to walk back to the hotel. On the way back I wanted to take the last photos of the mountain and I noticed the movement of the clouds lined up with the mountaintop and the clouds formed a spiral shape. I took one photo where everything just lined up perfectly.
Why photography? How did you get started?
My journey as a photographer started around 2010 when I was 15 and I got my first digital camera. I started taking pictures of sunsets and foggy mornings. By the next year I had saved up enough money to buy a DSLR. I tried to improve and be as good as my favorite photographers. I shared my work online and received some positive feedback which motivated me to keep creating. I experimented a lot with editing and I tried different styles. Photography has always been a form of self-expression for me, it allows me to share my vision and express my feelings through a visual medium.
What are your top 3 tips for landscape and night photography?
1. When you go to a location to do landscape photography focus on creating only one photo. Find the perfect spot and wait for the perfect light.
2. When doing night photography you should check the location in daylight to make it easier to find the best spots.
3. Best composition rule: choose one subject and lead the viewer's eye to it.
Do you have a photographic philosophy?
Not really. I am still developing myself and trying to figure out what direction I want to go in.
Where in the world are you and what's next for you?
I am currently in Tallinn, Estonia and I’m studying software development. As for photography, there are a lot of countries I want to visit and photograph but I don’t have any plans yet.