In this candid interview, I reconnect with my friend and former high school classmate and landscape photographer, Brian Lynch. Brian shares his journey from getting a taste of photography in our high school class in Kansas to capturing the vistas of Colorado where he lives now.
We get into Brian’s artistic evolution, exploring how his passion for hiking and the great outdoors merged with his love for photography. He discusses the influence of iconic figures like Ansel Adams, as well as his approach to capturing wildlife and landscapes.
Brian also opens up about his photographic aspirations and how his personal journey toward sobriety intersects with his creative process.
Brandon Ballweg: We took photography class in high school together – was that your first experience with photography, and if not what are your first memories of photography?
Brian Lynch: High school was definitely my first experience with photography. I had a lot of folks tell me that I should pursue it back then, but I unfortunately didn’t stay on that path.
BB: What drew you to landscape and nature photography initially?
BL: Once I came to Colorado in 2016 and started hiking, I began to use my phone to take photos, which I really enjoyed. I wanted to capture the memories. Eventually got my first camera around 2019.
BB: It looks like you love being out in the mountains and in nature. Do you go out on hikes with the intention of taking photographs, or is your focus more on hiking, and you take photos whenever you see a scene that catches your eye – or a combination of these?
BL: Definitely a combination. The outdoors is where I find God and feel in the moment. I often set out with a specific spot I need to get to by a certain time (usually sunrise).
Following through on these goals is great for my mental state. Other times, I don’t have a photography goal specifically, but I’ll always have my camera and will take a lot of photos, especially if the light is good.
BB: Are there any landscape/nature/wildlife photographers that have inspired your photography? Any photo books?
BL: Off the top of my head would be the famous Ansel Adams, but I am constantly inspired by other photographers currently creating in Colorado and around the world. I mostly follow them on Instagram.
I believe on an unconscious level that my compositions and styles are influenced by many films/TV, and auteur directors, as well as cinematographers across history and currently. everything from Akira Kurosawa to Indiana Jones, Star wars, and Blade Runner. That’s a rabbit hole.
BB: I haven’t done a ton of landscape photography, but a lot of the advice I’ve read puts a heavy emphasis on photographing during the golden hour, and it seems like a lot of the landscape photos I’ve seen from well-known photographers are taken during the golden hour at sunrise or sunset. Do you aim to take photos at a certain time of day, and do you think you can take great landscape photography when there’s harsher light?
BL: Time of day is definitely key; in a place like Iceland, the golden hour lasts for 3 hours or more sometimes; in Colorado, sometimes you have an hour or 2 for good light or even 5 minutes for the sunset/sunrise colors. I have gotten good photos outside of these windows before, but often it is with wildlife or something abstract.
BB: What do you think makes a good landscape photo? When you’re editing your photos, do you have some sort of criteria you look for when choosing your photos to keep, or do you do it in more of an intuitive, instinctive way?
BL: This is definitely very subjective – I think a “good” landscape photo will engage the mind and eye, often the basics of the rule of thirds, leading lines, and keeping the horizon line straight will help with a good photo.
There is definitely an intuitive factor as well. Often times a composition I thought would be interesting I end up hating, or I am pleasantly surprised with a creative “risk” I made in the field. you need to break the rules to find your style and allow free-flowing creativity.
BB: You have some great wildlife photos as well as landscapes. What’s your approach to wildlife photography, do you go out with the intention of photographing wildlife? Where do you do your wildlife photography?
BL: Thanks so much! I go out with two lenses right now: a 100-400mm and a 24-105mm.
I see wildlife pretty much every place I go hiking, so I’m always ready to switch to the zoom lens, which can also be used for landscape shots. Certain animals, like moose, tend to hang out at certain elevations and are more active in the early morning and late afternoon. In some places, it is rare if you don’t see a moose at least once.
BB: You mentioned to me that you’d like to get into portrait photography. What’s the catalyst for this? And as you shift towards offering professional portrait work, what are your goals? Are there specific types of portrait projects you’re eager to explore?
BL: The catalyst for portrait photography is definitely financially based. it’s where the money is at. I’ve always had a hard time with organization and procrastination, whether it be ADHD or just who I am, but I’ve been told the talent is there, so I should pursue it.
I’d be interested in doing all types of portraits, from engagements to weddings or elopements or just messing around creating.
BB: Do you have any upcoming projects you have in mind? Do you think you’d like to turn your work into a book or something someday?
BL: I don’t have any specifics, but a goal of mine is to not slack on traveling this year and make sure I do as many outdoor activities or more as I did last summer. I usually go to Crested Butte once in summer and fall. Wanting to go to Utah this year as well.
BB: You’re pretty open about your journey from addiction to sobriety. Do you feel that your experiences with addiction and recovery have influenced your creative process or the way you see the world through your lens? Do you think having a creative outlet in photography gives you purpose in life, and do you think that helps maintain your sobriety?
BL: I believe experiencing awesome things outdoors is a necessity because I have a second chance at life, and not drinking is only a small part of recovery.
Photography helps in so many ways. It forces me to live in the moment, focusing on the here and now. It also helps me stay motivated to continue progressing in the craft, and always having something positive to look forward to.
BB: Where can people find your work?