I accidentally stumbled across Bryce Mironuck’s images on 500px this fall. He is one of those rare undiscovered gems whose landscape images were a joy to discover. When I began examining his body of work it struck me how well balanced his images are and, not least, that they are characterized by strong compositions and a pleasant visual impact. In this interview we get to know Bryce a little better and also learn about how he approaches landscape photography.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in southern Saskatchewan, a province in Canada, where I work as a website designer/developer. Photography is a semi-professional hobby for me as I have a small business of selling prints through my website. I am slowly growing my print business as I find it incredibly satisfying to be able to develop physical pieces of art that people get to enjoy.
What made you start out with landscape photography?
Years ago I had a friend that introduced me to portrait photography. I immediately found it interesting, so I began searching online for photography communities, looking at what other artists were doing. I became drawn to the landscape/nature images I found, so I decided to try my eye at shooting with an old canon point-and-shoot I had lying around. Unsatisfied with the results, I decided to upgrade to a dslr. After a few months of shooting, I still wasn’t enjoying what I was producing and it ultimately resulted in me not using my camera very much. I went through phases where I would begin photographing again, only to lose interest because I was producing images below the threshold of what I felt was acceptable. Over the years I had always kept a pulse on what was happening in nature photography, and eventually astrophotography really started making waves in the community. I was drawn to images of the milky way, and felt that it was something I could focus on because of the local access to dark night skies where I live. I purchased a brand new camera with a fast prime lens, and set out that spring/summer in my province to capture the night skies. This was the first time I started to become satisfied with my results, and luckily I finally stuck to it after that.
What do you want to communicate through your photos?
Since this is an artform for me, I believe that everything boils down to creating an emotion. I like to have images that encompass a wide range of scenarios and color, since everyone emotes differently when it comes to what they like. It’s my job to see everything from the grand to the small, and to capture these elements the best way I know how, hoping that it also resonates with the viewer.
What has photography done for you?
For nearly a decade I had abstained from travelling and opted out of most of my vacation days at work. The year that I purchased my new camera I was invited to a wedding in the Canadian Rockies, and I knew I needed to bring my equipment to photograph in the down time. Every day we would wake up early, stay out late, and try to experience as many places in the mountains that we could. It made me wonder how I was able to live without travel photography before that, and how I could keep doing it. Not only has it enriched my life by getting to experience dazzling landscapes, but it has deepened my appreciation for the natural world and getting to see events that not many people get to experience. I most often photograph these places with my close friends, which allows us to share these incredible opportunities. We get the chance to witness breathtaking displays of weather and nature, standing beside each other, both in harmony of complete awe of our surroundings.
How would you describe your work, and how has it evolved since you started out?
I suppose I would describe my images as being “painterly”, which is a comment I have received a multitude of times. I enjoy taking artistic liberties when it comes to my photography in order to develop a certain mood or feeling with each piece, even though I keep it rooted in reality. I believe that a big part of what makes a photographer unique is how they work and process their images, as you can quite often guess who has taken a photograph before seeing their name attached to the piece. More often than not, I am unsure of what the end result of what one of my images is going to look like. Rather than trying to process too much of an image at one time, I usually make small tweaks, then let it sit for a while and see if it still looks good to me later. After a while, all these changes add up to making a big difference in the overall presentation. I find myself being perceptive to what feedback the image is giving me, and it’s always a surprise when it’s done.
I started mostly in black and white imagery, some infrared, and almost all long exposures. Now, I shoot almost strictly in color, and my exposure lengths always depend on the subject matter and rarely do I attempt very long exposures like I used to.
I suppose most of us have periods when we seem to lose the fun of photography. Have you developed any strategies to keep the fire burning?
While many of my photography peers live in places that have access to areas that they photograph, I happen to live in an area of the world where I don’t do much photography. While many others enjoy shooting in the prairies, I personally cannot do much justice to these beautiful areas, so I leave it up to others that do a much better job. This leaves me with long periods of time that I don’t get to take my camera out, which isn’t ideal for someone that enjoys shooting. The upside to this is that it always leaves me itching for the next time I get to photograph and travel, leaving me to spend months planning my next location, and pouring over ideas on where to go and potential compositions.
Have you ever been severely criticized for your work? In that case, how did you handle it?
I am still not extremely well known, so luckily this has been kept to a minimum. Regardless, I’ve still had some relatively intense criticism and generally bad comments regarding my work. The one thing that I try to remember is that no matter who you are, not everyone is going to respond well to your work. I believe it’s important to understand that everyone is entitled to their own personal preferences, and it’s best to keep that in mind before you take someone’s comments as literal truth, and deeply to heart. I also remind myself that even my absolute favorite photographers have images that I don’t care for, or even strongly dislike, so I most certainly couldn’t expect everyone to enjoy everything that I create. As well, the odd criticism I get will strike a nerve in a way to make me rethink my approach, and subsequently make me a better photographer.
Have you any hobbies besides photography or is photography both your occupation and hobby?
I have had many hobbies over the years, and most have them have been given up in pursuit of spending more of my free time working on photos. I have a personality that affords me the privilege of enjoying a wide range of hobbies and crafts, but unfortunately there is only a finite amount of time you can spend working on such things. I have enjoyed the sport of natural bodybuilding over the course of more than a decade, and even though I have only competed once, I still spend 6 days per week at the gym practicing this craft. As well, I have spent a decade competing in soccer at a local level.
In which direction do you believe landscape photography is heading?
I don’t necessarily pay too much attention to trends, as I get a bit entrenched in my own work and the work of others that I enjoy. Regardless, if I was to harbour a guess, I would suggest that milky way images are trending more and more. I would assume that this is because they tend to get a lot of traction on instagram photography hubs, and people really enjoy seeing this genre.
What is the most amazing place you have visited? Is it possible for you to articulate why it made such a huge impression on you?
I must say that I have been lucky enough to enjoy every location I have been to, but I believe I can narrow it down to two locations: Oregon and Patagonia. Oregon marked the first major trip I planned, in which I researched for 9 months and had pages upon pages of hand-written locations I wanted to visit during our 8 day trip. After pouring over thousands of images posted online, I had unbelievably high expectations for our visit, and I must admit that our experiences there surpassed them. Every waterfall we came across seemed to be hand created with beauty in mind, and the forests that surrounded the areas were so lush and green it was an absolute paradise. Every day seemed to mark a new feeling of awestruck wonder and disbelief that such a place could exist.
My time in Patagonia struck a similar chord, albeit with incredibly different landscapes. I originally wanted to visit because of the unrelenting rugged nature of the towering mountains, but I was also truly captivated by forests that encompassed the land. Each tree was so unique as to almost look like a different species to its neighbor, the fall color affecting each one differently, and growing in ways and places that seemed to be impossible. The weather was another reason it is so desirable to photograph, and it seemed to be changing from second to second. We found ourselves taking images at every time of day, and even mid-afternoon light would be incredible due to the nature of the fast changing weather.
What inspires you?
This is a tough one as sometimes it is complex, or incredibly simple. Everything from an individual color can induce some creativity, to a painting, photograph, or even just the desire to create a mood within an image. Some of my favorite photographers showcase a diversity of talents, capturing images of grand landscapes, abstracts, intimates, etc. Rather than being typecast to a specific type of scene, I’m inspired by the breadth of a portfolio and hope to achieve these things for myself.
Do you have a piece of advice for young aspiring landscape photographers?
What worked for me was studying other people’s work with a critical eye. I found myself looking over thousands of images, and wondering why I would like something. I tried my best to understand the colors that they were using, and how they went together. Paying attention to contrast, micro-contrast, composition, and color balance are all important to focus on, and the more you can figure out what works, will allow you to control your scene and your viewers eye better. I also purchased processing tutorials from a wide range of photographers which helped me to really learn what tools are available to process with, and allowed me to figure out brand new tools for processing I haven’t seen others use.
Not being critical over failures can be tough, but it’s important to regard failing as a learning tool. Each failure you have as a photographer gives you direction, and if you are willing to listen, a potential for more success. Many people can get bogged down recalling something they did wrong, but it should be remembered that even the best photographers are still continually failing. There are an incredible amount of dimensions in photography to learn, all of which are delicately interwoven, and are ever-changing based on conditions, locations, and subjects. Just as you feel the approach of mastery in one of these dimensions, you’ll be thrown a curve ball that makes you begin to wonder if you know anything about the subject. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to learn enough about photography that it opens the doors to deeper questions about it, resulting in endless learning and curiosity.
Not long ago I spent a few days along the Washington coastline and interior. Despite having years of experience, this was the first time I had shot images of waves on the coast. I spent the better part of 4 hours attempting to shoot a single scene from late afternoon to early twilight, and in the end, didn’t have a single image that was worth keeping. Since I had never shot in those conditions before, I had no way of referencing what kinds of shutter speeds I needed to use to create the type of look I was expecting. Frustrated but still motivated, we made our way back to the place we were staying that evening, and I researched what kinds of exposure lengths others were using. Armed with this new knowledge, our return to the coast a few days later made the process much smoother, and I came away with usable images.
Enjoy the process of photography, embrace and learn from your mistakes, be critical of your work but not negative, and I believe you will be well on your way to creating worthwhile images.