Artist Interview: Bryce Johnson

How did you get into photography? How old were you when you first started shooting?

When I was in a sophomore in high school on Kauai, my art teacher decided to start a B/W film class. Instantly I was intrigued and began slaving away in the dark room.

Describe your photography style.

I’d say I pull from a lot of minimalist photography, I’m really into negative space in my photographs, and just letting the image breathe can create so much tension. I like capturing the moments in between the action.

Do you feel that it is essential to have a degree in photography to be a professional photographer?

I’ve been going to school for the past 4 years and only in the last year discovered that I wanted to do photography as a profession. There are so many talented people out there, and with the amount of information that is online, I think lots of people can teach themselves. Being in school has given me time to grow, and explore other areas of photography. Having taken classes in Advertising, Lighting, B/W Film, and Business, have made me a stronger photographer in an industry that is over-saturated by “Professionals with Canon Rebels.”

You shoot a bit from the water. What are the biggest challenges of water photography compared to shooting from land?

Water Photography has come a long way, looking back to the days when guys like Brewer, Gilley, and Divine were shooting with home made housings, manual focus lenses, and 36 shots a roll, and praying the whole way back to the lab that they had gotten the shot. In the water, getting the shot is easier said then done. When you’re dealing with big waves, currents, and lots of other surfers in the water, it can be a lot of work. Shooting from the land is all about composition and framing, capturing the unique environment that surrounds the surfer.

Being from Kauai, what’s your take on localism? Why do you think more places don’t have the same vibe as Kauai where the locals protect their waves and people aren’t allowed to shoot there?

Well, Kauai is a unique place, a very prideful place. People in the communities know each other and trust one another. That trust and respect carries into the water. When someone paddles out at a spot and no one has seen him before, instantly our guard goes up. What I learned growing up is that to get respect you show respect.

Kauai has undergone quite a bit of growth over the years. How do you feel about the growth and expansion being backed by people like Laird Hamilton and other big names on the island?

Malama Aina, GO HOME DEVELOPERS!

Now living in San Diego, do you think that growing up on an island is an advantage or hindrance?

I think that growing up on Kauai was huge blessing, I didn’t have to deal with all the crap that goes on in the mainland. Shootings, freeways, big buildings, not really my scene. I love San Diego because you can go anywhere and escape the city pretty quick, but there’s no place like home. Kauai has so much natural beauty and culture that its always hard to leave, and I always get to shoot sick waves with no other photographer for miles.

You have been intrigued by HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. Explain the process. And why do you think that some people are against it? How do you feel that photographers should use HDR photography properly?

The process is pretty simple, I shoot multiple photos at different exposures (sometimes anywhere from 3 to 10 shots). I usually use Photomatix, but lately have been messing in CS5. Cameras are only capable of capturing a small dynamic range in a single exposure, where as our eyes can see so much more. The more I use HDR, the more realistic I want the photo to look. Photographers should embrace HDR, its not going away, its just another tool, that when used effectively can create epic shots.

In an age of digital photography and the ease of a computer to edit, how does one make it as a photographer these days? What must you do to stand out and actually get noticed?

You have to shoot, everyday, good light, bad light, it doesn’t matter. So many people have access to cameras now a days that for one to stand out they have to constantly be reinventing and perfecting there art. You have to find a niche and stick with it. If you’re passionate about weddings, then shoot them, if you love surfing, then shoot it. Also, I’ve gained so much wisdom from my mentors, found good photographers who have become their friends, and learned from them. I’m still learning too.

What can we expect from Bryce Johnson in the future?

I’m gonna be cranking school pretty hard this year, but I’ll be shooting down in San Diego a lot this winter and a bit in Hawaii as well. Also I’m planning a trip for next summer, we’re gonna drive Baja then ferry over to mainland and shoot for a month. Anyone wanna go?

To check out more of Bryce Johnson’s photography, check out his website at: http://www.brycejohnson.com

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