A few months ago, my yoga instructor started our practice with an inspirational quote: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Her intent was to have us approach each pose we do and each breath we take as if it was the first time. Notice how it feels. Revel in it. Too often, the things we see and do every day become part of the background, items we see without seeing, experience without awareness. As a nature photographer, I seized on the word “landscape” in that quote and started thinking about how it might apply to my work.
Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator
Ryan Reynolds has lived in South Korea, Thailand, and Ukraine (his parents work for the US State Department). Currently, he’s back in the US and attending the University of Portland. His photography journey began when he was nine years old and living in South Korea. He had a little point-and-shoot camera and used to take photos walking home from soccer practice just outside an army base there. He loved framing helicopters above apartment buildings as the sun set.
Ryan’s grandparents are both landscape and wildlife photographers and he’s always been fascinated by the images they create. His initial interest in photography comes partly from them and partly from his life-long interest in and enjoyment of nature. At first, getting outside was the draw and photography was a byproduct. Now, photography is a reason to go out into nature. “Almost every weekend, I’m out with my photography friends,” he says. “I do it because I love it.” Ryan enjoys most genres of photography, but his favorite images to make are long-exposure shots at night, when he does light painting or takes pictures of the stars.
He really got into photography while in Ukraine. He took photography courses, watched a lot of YouTube videos on photography techniques and started doing photography for his school yearbook. He also had the opportunity to photograph concerts at a large performance hall and some of his photos were chosen for exhibitions in Kyiv. Eventually, he branched out and started making portraits, starting a small portrait and event photography business. Ryan’s most meaningful memory in Ukraine occurred while he was a Boy Scout there. A part of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is to plan, develop, and lead a service project. Ryan’s project was doing family photo shoots of internally-displaced persons who had fled their homes in eastern Ukraine during the conflict between the government in Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists. He had to raise funds for printing and framing the photos and arrange visits to places where the refugees were learning English. Ryan says that it hardly felt like work because he was helping people and doing what he enjoyed. It was really moving to see the families’ reactions when he delivered the framed photos.
His times in Asia rank among his favorite. “It’s just amazing there,” he says. “I have to go back.” He told us about one particularly memorable experience during a camping trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand, when he stumbled upon a hidden canyon. He had been out hiking when he leaned up against a tree and his hand was immediately covered by a swarm of weaver ants. He jumped, lost his footing, and slid/ran/stumbled down the side of a hill into this canyon. “It was midday and the bright light made visible every small sapling, every thriving piece of carpet moss, every leaf. I was surrounded by vivid shades of greens and browns. It was like I was in the midst of a painting.”
Today, the coronavirus continues to disrupt Ryan’s plans. He had hoped to earn some extra income while in college by running a small event and portrait business, but the pandemic has made that difficult. He did, however, land a job as a photographer for the university newspaper. Ryan has also gotten several chances to explore and photograph different parts of Oregon.
At the University of Portland, he’s an Environmental Science major hoping to eventually work in ecological research and conservation. Ryan is also in the Army ROTC program and expects to go into the army after college. Will photography continue to be important? Ryan says, “I hope it’s more than just a hobby. I definitely think I’ll always be interested in and passionate about photography.”