Ivory Flame by Dan Nikkel

Hello photography lovers!

How are you?

Today we are super excited to release our insightful interview with one of our long term favorite photographers and a very, very dear friend of UTadventure: 

Dan Nikkel

Dan is masterful in finding and capturing unique moments, in a tasteful and candid way, retaining the real emotions of the experiences he shares with his models and the environment.

We are ALWAYS delighted to have him on tour!

He has been on about 10 UTadventures in the span of the last few years, but Dan is not done yet: he is about to embark on another adventure with us in just a few weeks! It seems like we can’t get enough of each other. :) 

Before we get to it though, there is an important announcement:

A couple of LAST MINUTE spots just got opened up on both of our upcoming Mexico tours for Day of the Dead! 

For any photographer, capturing this colorful holiday it’s a dream come true, so this is your chance to join us at a MASSIVE discount:
Take $1000 OFF 
the full tour price on our upcoming October 25th-30th or November 2nd - 7th Mexico UTadventures! 
*First come first serve basis: as always, spots are limited to 6 photographers per tour
* * When you opt in for the optional shoot and single accommodations

This is a great opportunity to have the incredible UTadventure experience at a very special rate.

For more info, simply reply to this email with any questions. We would love to talk to you on the phone as well to and discuss any details. 

If you are ready to experience the enchanting mix of art, culture, and genuine human connection on our tour in the Yucatan, CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT OUR SIGN UP FORM.

We will then give you a call to discuss the details, welcome you on board, answer all of your questions and finalize your registration with some simple paperwork and a streamlined payment process! :)

And now, enjoy our interview with Dan Nikkel! 
1. Our usual question: how did you get into photography? 

“I started taking pictures when I was an adolescent.

My father had taken a lot of pictures over the years, including the aftermath of WWII, and at one point he had dabbled in developing as well. He had several cameras that he'd brought back from Europe after WWII (although I didn't realize how good they were at the time) including a Leica and Roloflex.

It all intrigued me and as a kid I started taking B&W film pictures and I built up a darkroom in our house. Early on, and for many years, I knew more about processing film and making prints than I did actually taking good pictures.

I got my first good camera when I was in college. I bought a Minolta SRT-201 35 mm SLR. At that time I learned a bit about taking better pictures, and this led to several years of me getting serious about photography and shooting a lot (mostly landscapes and street photography in Colorado).

But eventually life overtook my hobby, and I just mostly took travel snapshots and family gatherings for many years.

I had never really shot people much in a serious way, so as my retirement approached I decided I wanted to get back into photography, build back my skills, and also learn about people and portrait photography as an activity for my retirement.

It was at a lighting workshop that I was surprisingly exposed to the world of models available to amateur photographers, and that led me to Model Mayhem, which then led me to unexpectedly discover UTadventure and the world of fine art nude in nature photography.

And the rest is history ...
Dasha U by Dan Nikkel
Alaina Wulf by Dan Nikkel

2. What is the most special aspect of fine art nude photography for you? 

I've actually been thinking a lot lately about what it is about this area of photography that intrigues me, and it's not the obvious thing the general public probably would think about.

I've been shooting nudes for about four years now, and I'm starting to see the subtleties between the sub-genres. I used to be a bit confused when I'd read a model's description which would say something like 'I shoot art-nude, but not glamor or not pinup' (or something like that), and I was a bit unclear as to what is the difference.

One of the photographers on my first tour joked to the models saying something like 'oh fine-art, that means you don't smile for the camera'.  But fine art nude has a different vibe, motivation, and objective than the other forms of nude photography.

I guess it's all about the context and objective of a photograph.

The perspective I have come to, in fine-art nudes, the 'nude' part of it is almost incidental. Certainly when I'm shooting, I'm almost unaware there's a nude person in front of me. Obviously it's part of the frame, but my brain isn't focused on the fact that they're nude. It's about the natural state of the human form in nature or some other setting.

This is the case whether the image is very abstract, like in some bodyscapes, or a more complete photograph. There's a purity and naturalness to it that's intriguing and freeing. To me it isn't sexual, at least not on any primary level.

Obviously we are sexual beings and the presence of a nude body in an image inspires some interest at a primitive level, but a fine art nude image (in contrast to some other genres of nude photography) isn't about that.

While an image can be sensual there is something more that can be achieved in the best photographs.
I also recognize that a female model is putting herself in a vulnerable position posing nude for a male photographer (or any other artist).

I appreciate the models I have worked with who put that kind of trust in me, and that trust is also a special aspect of this kind of photography.
Ivory Flame by Dan Nikkel
Ivory Flame by Dan Nikkel
3. When did you get your first camera? Do you remember the first photo you took with it? 

I shot 35 mm film in my dad's cameras and developed, printed and enlarged them myself as a pre-teen.

The first camera that was *mine* was a Kodak instamatic 104 that had no focus or exposure control, so it was literally point-and-shoot.

I don't remember the first photo I took, but I remember my favorite picture from that era, a beautiful reclining portrait (by luck) of my dog, a few weeks after she had delivered her first litter of puppies.

It's still on the wall in the front room of my house.
Anoush Anou by Dan Nikkel
Anoush Anou by Dan Nikkel

4In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?


It's hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.

For me, it's seeing a photograph that *bam* immediately grabs you and either transports you to a different way of looking at something or pulls you into a moment.

The first great photographs that really moved me were the landscapes of Ansel Adams. They were landscapes we could recognize, but through the use of concious photogaphy and post processing, they were more than real and were powerfully moving images.

Obviously great photographers conceive of these images and work to create them. I'm still trying to get there, and sometimes I just stumble into something that really moves me, like when great lighting occurs and illuminates a scene in a special way, or when a model poses so the image jumps out at me in a new way.

I keep striving to get to the point where I can create something moving from what's in my mind's eye.
Jenn Jones by Dan Nikkel
Melia Fina by Dan Nikkel

5. Where in the world is your favorite place to shoot and why?


Another hard question.

I always seem to enjoy the opportunity to shoot wherever I am.

Since retiring, I have been fortunate to be able to travel to many new places, and take some interesting pictures all over the world.

I've loved discovering the beauty of southern Utah and the culturally interesting Yucatán. I've also been able to shoot in Europe and Hawaii.

My favorite places to shoot are those with unique natural or cultural aspects, which are interesting in and of themselves, but also which serve as great backdrops for fine art images with a model. The UTadventure tours provide the opportunity to shoot fine art nudes outside in nature, or in other culturally interesting locations.

This is somewhat unique for me as I'm not yet bold enough to do a lot of shooting nudes outside on my own (although I've done some).

As far as UTadventure locations, in Utah I really love the slot canyons. 

In Yucatán I love the cenotes, and always enjoy shooting there. I guess the common factor here is that these are unique geologic places that I never experienced before coming on a UTadventure tour.
Sienna Hayes by Dan Nikkel
Kate Snig by Dan Nikkel

6. How many UTadventures have you been on so far? What makes you keep coming back? 


My first tour was in the Spring of 2018, and I'd only ever shot a model nude before in a very structured one weekend workshop. I was a bit nervous on that first shoot, but I jumped into the deep end, and everyone was so chill that I lost all my inhibitions on that first shoot and haven't looked back.  

I guess I've gone a bit overboard, but I've been on 5 Utah model tours, 3 Yucatan model tours (with plans for a 4th later this year), and one Utah non-model nature tour in 2021 when much of the world was locked down.

I just checked my catalog and I've produced more than 35k images on UTadventure tours, featuring a dozen different models from 8 different nations of origin.

My UTadventure interactions have also provided me with most of the on-going connections I have with traveling models.

I know that for a lot of people these trips are all about the photography, but I've often said that for me the tours are about the environmental/cultural aspects of the locations, the social interactions during the trip, and the photography.

Two characteristics of UTadventure are great models, and a diversity of natural or cultural locations on every tour.

I've never encountered a model on any of my tours who wasn't great to work with, and who didn't help to produce beautiful images.

Although I've been on a lot of tours, each one is unique in it's own way, either in terms of the models, or the specific locations, or the group of photographers on the tour. Each location is so rich that I don't feel I ever exhaust the photographic possibilities while we're there.

That's what keeps it interesting.

That, and the fact that it's a very fun time, is what has kept me coming back.
Meghan Claire by Dan Nikkel
Kate Snig, Dasha U, Anoush Anou & Femina by Dan Nikkel
7. What is your favorite photo taken on UTadventure and why? (We know it’s a tough one!!!) 


This is a very hard question to answer.

I wish I could say that all of my best pictures are the outcome of foresight and planning, but often they're usually the result of happy circumstances.

One of my early memorable photographs was created on the beach on the north coast of Yucatán at sunset.

It was a favorite at the time because it required me to bring all of my skills of shooting in low high-contrast light, my learned skills in off-camera flash, and a team effort with Dmitriy holding my light in the wind, and amazing posing by Dasha.

I said at the time, it's not a photograph that's never been taken before, but it's the first time I had the opportunity to create such an image.
I also fondly remember images of Anoush spinning on the edge of a cliff backlit by the sun, some amazing images in hotels and in the town square of the strikingly yellow-orange town of Izamal, and some amazing sunset light on cliff edges in Utah producing great images."
Dasha U by Dan Nikkel
Anoush Anou by Dan Nikkel
Kate Snig by Dan Nikkel

Thank you, dear Dan!

We really enjoyed our engaging, thought provoking conversation with Dan, all juiced up with such beautiful art, created on the multiple adventures he shared with us!

Hopefully, you did too! :)

Make sure to give Dan a follow on his IG account: @pt0lemae

By the way, we recently opened up the registration for our brand new
March 13th - 18th Mexico UTadventure in 2023 with Lucy Tyler, Meghan Claire  and Alaina Wulf!

This tour is almost fully sold out!

Don't wait up if you want to snatch the last spot and join us:

Let's make those memories together!

Stay inspired,
UTadventure team Auroraa (formerly Dasha) and Dmitriy
IG @UTadventure
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