Follow The Light

I’ve quite literately taken the subject of this blog post to heart, following the light. When I first started shooting I didn’t fully understand light, golden hour, magic lighting and how it really effects the end result. (side note: I’ll always be a student of light) Once I realized that I loved morning and evening sun, I wanted only to shoot then and believed good photos couldn’t be made otherwise. I’ve since learned that’s not necessarily true but still seek beautiful natural lighting as inspiration.

Surf photographers are lucky to have the opportunity to show their work to the best in the business and the decision makers when it comes to publishing in the surf industry via a grant in honor of Larry “Flame” Moore. The Follow The Light Foundation Grant provides a place to show who you are as a photographer and where you’d like to go. I’ve entered three times. The first being so laughable, second placing me in the semi-finalist round and the third time no placement. If anything, entering has helped me to really think about what is important as a photographer. I wanted to share my slideshow and essay before 2013 is up. I’ve also included the essay questions so if you have some time please pull up a chair and have a look.

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What is it about your photography that you strive to make special and unique?

I want my images to evoke something within the viewer: a thought, feeling or action. I strive to show a moment unseen or otherwise overlooked while projecting as little of my own presence possible. My images are about the moment and I aim to present that instant with strong composition and pleasing natural lighting. In my mind, photo opportunities abound our daily life. It is up to us as photographers to catch the importance of a situation before it fades. I aim to truthfully represent a meaningful instant that is worth the viewer’s time. My love of color pushes me to seek beautiful mornings and evenings when shooting and I strive to use the best available natural light.

What makes you passionate about photography?

Surf photography has taken me around the globe and I’ve gotten to meet some of the most interesting people, see the most beautiful sights and surf some of the best waves. What makes me passionate about photography is that I can create and express an idea visually. The joy of creating greatly contributes to my interest in photography and I believe that as a form of expression it cannot be matched. Photography transcends gender, race, age and even language. It is the images we create that can help to drive human understanding and compassion for others. Not only do I enjoy documenting the world through my eyes but I want to also present my interpenetration of it. Photography is my tool of translation, it’s what enables me to communicate all that I cannot put into words. My visual quest to see and experience everything I can while here on Earth fuels my desire to record what surrounds us all.

Who and/or what has influenced your photography and why?

It is a challenge to personally define the word “influence” as it relates to my photography. Does it mean who’s work do I admire? Is it a photo that I see which motivates me to go out and create? Is influence a constant or does it posses a certain degree of viscosity? I’m still seeking these answers.

In the surf industry we are subjected to still images, webcasts, ads, waves of the winter, video clips, blogs and a whole host of media vying for our attention. It is such a visual industry that it would be hard to say you aren’t influenced by the greats, both past and present. Or influenced by the things you don’t like. It is easy to point out all of the photographers who produce incredible work and say, “Yeah I’m influenced by these guys’ work, it’s awesome. I’m after something like that.” On a deeper level I feel I am influenced by a force or power within me. Sometimes I ask myself questions in an attempt to understand my motives. What compels me to keep exploring the photo medium through film and digital. I choose to observe more than participate. I just want to see it for myself, to prove that’s it’s real. I just can’t explain the joy capturing the right moment brings me, it is a driving force within my work.

One thing that I am certain of is: incredible natural light. Golden hour is very striking but on days when the light is just so orange or when it’s casting the most even tones I literally drop everything and pick up my camera. When the lighting is just right anything can become my muse from clouds to landscapes and of course my favorite: waves. The captivating power of the sun is too strong of a pull to not lend it every ounce of attention I have. I feel taken and it is in that moment with which I feel the most connected. I love photography and the love of colorful light is what influences me while in the act of making pictures.

What dreams or aspirations do you have for your photography?

I aspire to be the best photographer I can be. I will always be a student of the medium and I am eager to keep forward progression in my photography a constant. I will never feel as if I have fully made it but I aspire to keep following my dreams and executing as many ideas as I can through photography. The medium has psychically been a journey in the sense that my body has traveled to surf destinations. I have slept under the stars and close enough to the waves to hear them pound the reef, lulling me into restful sleep. More importantly, surf photography has been a mental journey. I aim my sights on where I would like to be and follow that direction with my eyes wide and mind open. I dream that stagnation be nothing more than a passing delude and that inspiration comes organically, weather it’s from travel abroad or shooting my local beach. I want to produce quality work that is worthy of being published and shown to an interested audience. I dream for what every surf photographer dreams of, covers and spreads of course but really I aspire to just be in the thick of it. I aspire to shoot more surfing, document more surf trips, and work creatively in the industry. I want to move towards art and creation and forever be in love with the work I am doing. I aspire to be great.

If you were the recipient of the grant, how would you use the money to further your photography career aspirations?

Should I be the recipient of the Follow The Light Grant I would put the money towards travel. To have the opportunity to travel would greatly increase the people I could meet and collaborate with, places I could photograph and projects I could pursue. I find travel to be inspiring while away from home but also find those experiences can change the way I view my everyday life. I love to draw in my experiences on the road and welcome the change in direction while at rest or work in my own backyard. One project I would like to use the money for involves 2 young Nicaraguan surfers Elton and Issac. I have come to know them by visiting to their home break and they are always so inspiring to be around and surf with. They have seen the likes of many professional surfers rip their home waves as well as vacationing surf trippers. Elton and Issac are always upbeat and eager to share waves with my friends and I, which is a huge contradiction to surfing the local line up at home. North Jersey presents mean mugs and maybe some hassling if your face is unfamiliar. I haven’t found that to be the case in Nicaragua with Elton and Isaac. This has led to good times and lots of laughs. Whenever I visit I often think how lucky I am to travel to another country to surf, see and explore the unfamiliar. It often leaves me feeling grateful to be afforded the privilege to see the world and I want others to have that opportunity as well. If awarded the grant money I could arrange travel for Elton and Isaac and document their own surf trip and present it in a short (with english subtitles) and accompanying photo essay. Going to a place that you have only seen in magazines is an event that can only be experienced. I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given and my life has changed from travel; I would enjoy helping to provide such an experience for two surfers who may never get that.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

In five years I see my career at an exciting place. I will be collaborating with others as part of a team and contributing to projects, campaigns and stories; freelance or staff. It is my ambition to move in a creative direction on both personal photography as well as editorial and commercial endeavors. I envision my career with more growth in 5 years, however, I understand it will be more challenging than anything I’ve experienced so far. Confidence, ability and knowledge are integral pieces of my career’s framework with which I hope to continually build upon. In 5 years I expect myself to have progressed from who I am today as a photographer as well as a person. I plan to use that advancement to visualize and deliver quality photography for editorial and brand purposes.

Ryan Struck

About Ryan Struck

I am a self-taught Brooklyn based photographer. Earning a BA in History allowed me to investigate the things that have occurred in the world of which I knew nothing about. In that same spirit, photography allows me to be curious about the world and what surrounds us. I enjoy saving poignant moments through a visual medium, documenting lifestyle often fulfills this need quite nicely. I love what I do. When not at home shooting I can be found traveling in search of surf and inspiring natural lighting. My desire to capture images that help viewers imagine the instant the shutter clicked fuels my passion to combine beautiful light, people and places.
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2 Responses to Follow The Light

  1. darcy_roland says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been out of the water for almost 2 months and seeing these pics gives me something to work towards.

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