Ken Kaminesky - Maligne Lake boathouse in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Travel Talk with Photographer Ken Kaminesky

Ken Kaminesky - Maligne Lake boathouse in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

You may have seen his work on the cover of National Geographic, or as the featured image above an article on one of your favorite websites. His photos are also regularly circulated on Twitter, Stumble Upon and Facebook, sometimes receiving thousands of views from users across the globe.

Specializing in commercial lifestyle images for stock photography agencies such as Alamy, Jupiterimages, Corbis and Getty Images, photographer Ken Kaminesky has made quite the mark in the world of travel and lifestyle photography. And rightfully so. His HDR travel photographs have a way of interpreting a scene or landscape in their own way — gloriously and poetically.

In order to get the kinds of captivating shots that sell magazines, Kaminesky is almost always on the road in search of the next alluring spot that will fulfill the requirements of upcoming projects. We caught up with the photographer himself (first while he was in Umbria and then later while he was in Iceland after recovering from being ill in Italy) to learn more about his experiences as a seasoned traveler and how these experiences have inspired many of his famed works.

Culture-ist Magazine: What is the best early morning experience you’ve had while traveling?
Kaminesky:  My first visit to Paris allowed me to see just how wonderful early mornings can be while travelling. Even though it was a rainy, cold, and dark December morning, I ventured out at around 5 a.m. to get to the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower hoping I could beat the crowds. When I arrived I was quite shocked to find nobody there except a couple of joggers; it was the perfect setting for photographic purposes.

I now try my best to get up early to photograph popular historical sites, and I’ve been fortunate to have many of them all to myself while everyone is still fast asleep.

(I ended up getting a shot of the tower with the Mur pour la Paix in the foreground, which I loved. This shot caught the eye of an art director at National Geographic and was the image that indirectly led to me getting a National Geographic cover. I love when things just fall into place like this.)

Culture-ist Magazine: Do you have an odd neurosis that emerges before you embark on a trip?
Kaminesky:  Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m always quite nervous just before a trip. Since I travel for work, I have so many more things to take into account before leaving. Equipment must all be working and itemized, I must have proper clothes for the location, proper visas, permits, local currency, and I need to make sure all my important documents — contact info, schedule and so much more — are on a cloud server. I’m always scared that I will forget something important “” yet I never do.

Ironically, I am writing the answers to this interview on my first day in Iceland, where I am stuck in my camper van with lousy weather and without my luggage, which the airline lost. I planned this trip quite well with the help of a local tour operator and triple checked everything. I did all I could to make sure things would be as perfect as can be, but with this twist of fate I am facing a much less pleasant trip than I was hoping for — even if I did all I could on my end. Bad things happen, it’s how you deal with it that makes the difference. Attitude is not everything, but it sure is a lot.

La Grande Arche de la Defense - La Defense in Paris - Ken Kaminesky

Culture-ist Magazine: Have you ever “mysteriously” survived a critical situation?
Kaminesky:  As anyone who travels, I have had my share of mishaps and unsettling moments. The worst thing that happened to me occurred years ago on a trip to the Dutch Antilles. It was one of my last assignments as a photographer’s assistant and the locations we visited were all new to me. I was in Curaçao at a small botanical garden that was owned and operated by the local healer. I’m not sure what exactly her title was, but she was what I kept referring to as a shaman or witch doctor. She must have been in her mid 70s —  a truly sweet lady who had a busy schedule meeting with all kinds of people with medical and personal problems. She would help people using natural remedies that she concocted from plants that she grew in her very large garden. It was a lovely place and had a great positive energy.

As we wrapped up photographing that location, I decided to take one last walkthrough the garden “” a decision I’d later regret. On my way back to our rented van, the peaceful sounds of nature were disrupted by the screams of the photographer I was working with: “Ken… RUN!!!!” At that moment my hand felt like it was being sliced open with razor blades and I had no idea what had hit me. Seconds later I saw that I was being attacked by a swarm of some badass hornets. My hand was swelling up fast and it got to the point where I thought that I’d pass out from shock.

When the old lady saw this, she quickly ran to grab a stepladder and sprinted to gather a bunch of leaves and flowers from several different plants. She quickly crushed these up into a paste, added some kind of oil and began to rub the concoction onto my ever so swollen hand. She then grabbed my hand and held it in both of hers for what seemed like forever and I could feel the swelling go down immediately. I was stunned to have the pain diminish so quickly and to see my hand return to a somewhat of a normal state. Not sure if she saved my life (there were 6-7 stings) but she sure did make a bad situation better and I’ll never forget her.

Culture-ist Magazine: If your life as a traveler could be described through the lyrics of a song what song would you choose?
Kaminesky: I’d have to say something like “An Ending (Ascent)” by Brian Eno (instrumental) 🙂  Stand in front of a magical place like Lake Louise at sunrise, or Petra in Jordan as the sun is setting and listen to this song. No words can describe the feeling, but music somehow can. So the answer to the question is the simple. No words can describe my travel experiences, but music is the perfect accompaniment to so many of those amazing travel moments.

Chunyaxchà Mayan Ruins at Muyil - Ken Kaminesky

Culture-ist Magazine: Most profound lesson learned through travel?
Kaminesky: Not sure if it’s a profound lesson, but I have learned through my travels that I’m more of a people person than I thought. I tend to be a bit of a loner and yet when I travel, I love having company “” whether it be a friend, colleague or the locals I encounter in the places I travel to. I’ve had no epiphanies on the road, but I do consider each trip to be life changing in some way. I learn lessons about the world, about people, and mostly about myself when I’m travelling. That in itself is pretty profound now that I think of it.

Culture-ist Magazine: Favorite Town/ Village?
Kaminesky:  Orvietto in Umbria really struck me as a special place that I’d like to spend some time exploring. I need to spend more time than I do in smaller towns. I usually concentrate on cities, but the towns in places like Italy and France absolutely fascinate me.

Culture-ist Magazine: Favorite City? Why?
Kaminesky:  New York City. It has everything you could ever want in terms of food, culture, photo opportunities, art, business, friends, and so much more. I Love NY! Paris is a close second.

Culture-ist Magazine: A person you met while traveling that you still think about today.
Kaminesky: I had such a nice encounter with a woman that I met at the airport in Barcelona during a stopover to Milan. We were quite early for the flight and started talking while in line . We continued our talk on the plane and she even offered to take the train into the city with me to make sure that I got to where I was going. The next day she and her husband took the day to show me around Milan and offered me the opportunity to see some of the non-touristy places that not many people visit. I was also invited to lunch at their home along with her parents and daughter. We feasted on a delicious homemade Italian meal and a few bottles of Chianti. This was my first visit to Italy and it was a perfect start to that trip.

The hospitality that I was shown was (and still is) greatly appreciated. Kind strangers that take the time to share these kinds of moments are special and I’ll never forget Rosalba and her family. One of the joys of travel for me is meeting local people and getting the chance to see their country through their eyes.

Be nice to travellers, the next traveller may just be you 🙂

Culture-ist Magazine: Biggest gripe with traveling often.
Kaminesky: While I love being in different places all the time, I detest the travel experience — especially when flying. Airport security is a giant pain, and for photographers with expensive equipment, it can be a nightmare. Sitting in cramped planes for hours on end is uncomfortable and unpleasant. Flight crews are so often not nice (understatement of the century) these days and who can blame them. They have to deal with irate passengers who are dealing with shoddy service. It’s a vicious circle, but a small price for the good fortune of seeing the world and capturing the beauty that I see everywhere I go.

ken kaminesky travel photographerAbout Ken Kaminesky
Ken Kaminesky is a self-made billionaire inventor. He’s worked at NASA and CERN and explored eight continents including Atlantis. He’s won two Nobel prizes, a Pulitzer, six Grammys and has been People magazine’s sexiest man alive three years running. Ken is currently working on developing cold fusion reactors that will provide free, clean, sustainable energy to all mankind for centuries ahead.

Oh, and he also takes photos in his spare time.

At least this is how he’d like his bio to read.;)

Truth is, Ken has a very cool job. Over the last ten years he’s been shooting commercial lifestyle images for stock photography agencies such as Alamy, Jupiterimages, Corbis and Getty Images. Ken’s been lucky to work with some amazing people, both at these agencies and on his teams of models, producers, stylists, and assistants. He’s had his photos published for editorial and commercial purposes all over the world and has had some great commercial clients along the way.

*All photos are property of Ken Kaminesky


Can’t get enough Travel Talk? Check out our previous interview with the editor of Gadling, Grant Martin.

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The Culture-ist