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Chris Kayler - 'Composition Is The Only Thing That Matters'

ePHOTOzine recently spoke to American fine art photographer Chris Kayler about his work and what makes the main qualities of a perfect image.

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All images © Chris Kayler

Chris Kayler Heron

"Silence in Chaos" - Great blue heron standing on a rock outcropping overlooking the Potomac River. Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

 

Chris Kayler is a fine art photographer based in upstate New York, just north of Syracuse. Growing up surrounded by forest, he soon developed an affinity for all things wild and still feels a real connection to the area to this day. During the middle of his high school years, a longing to return to the natural playground of his childhood caused him to pick up a Minolta film camera and a cheap 70-300mm zoom lens. From then on, he was hooked. "Part of me just wanted to show the beauty of nature to others", he explains. 

Progressing from that first Minolta film camera to a Canon 10D and 300mm f/4 lens the same year, it became clear that photography was a way for Chris to capture the birds, plants and mammals of the forest in a permanent archive and allow others to see the beauty of the changing of the seasons, along with many other natural phenomenons that many people may never otherwise see.

Chris Kayler Maple

"Vision Quest" - Submerged yellow maple leaf with floating plant oil and autumn reflections. Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.

 

 "The appeal of these types of photography lies within my emotional connection to them. Each time I photograph these subjects, I create new memories and feel strong emotions. Whether the feelings of a particular moment are good, bad or somewhere in between, it doesn't matter. Feeling anything means that I am alive. I am never more alive than when I am pursuing creativity in nature", he says.

Today, Chris defines himself as a fine art photographer. Creating images is more than just documenting a reproducing a scene for him. "I think that photographers often sell themselves short and think of photography as strictly documentary. I wanted to make the distinction to prospective buyers and to other photographers that I believe my images are creations that can stand on their own instead of reproductions of a found scene. That does not mean that I utilize heavy digital manipulation. Instead, I showcase the beautiful reality of nature through my own vision and personal style", he explains. 

Chris Kayler Waxwing

"Cedar Waxwing on Mossy Branch" - A cedar waxwing perched on a mossy branch, Upstate New York.

 

With his images, Chris aims to instill a sense of awe and appreciation within others who view his work. "Within our culture today, we live our lives too far removed from real natural experiences and have lost our appreciation and connection with the natural world. Nature itself has become an alien concept. I take pride in knowing that my work helps to begin changing that. If my art has inspired even a small bit of natural appreciation where it may not have existed before, then I feel that I have succeeded", he says. 

Chris hasn't strayed far from where it all began in terms of where he likes to shoot. "I tend to shoot quite locally. My favorite location within a four hour's drive from my home is the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Waterfalls, rugged mountains, dense hemlock forests, and solitude. I make at least one annual autumn pilgrimage to West Virginia and always look forward to it greatly. West Virginia was one of the first destinations I traveled to in my photographic journey, and I think the connection that I built early on has stayed with me all this time", he enthuses. 

Chris Kayler Sunrise Great Falls

"Great Falls Sunrise" - Summer sunrise at Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

 

It seems that capturing fine art photography that really stands out as unique can't be done in a rush, and this is a mantra that Chris has adapted as he learned more about his craft. "Within the past year I've adopted a somewhat slow-paced and contemplative approach to my photography. I often walk around for hours in a location that I think has potential. Sometimes I listen to my favorite music while doing this. Sometimes I just listen to the sounds of nature. I wait for an idea to strike, and when it does, I dutifully get out my camera and make the most of it. In the past, I was much more finicky about what I would photograph. I wanted everything to be perfectly arranged. I wanted the images to come easily. Looking back, I don't think this is the way to go about creating art. The art is in the process. By working hard, staying patient, and keeping my mind open I think my images have started to show a greater depth and connection to the subject", he explains.

When it comes to creating the perfect fine art image, there is one word on Chris' mind: composition. "I'm going to take a somewhat black and white view on this and say that composition is the only thing that matters in creating a perfect image. If you are witnessing a solar eclipse rise over Mt. Everest with a field of flowers and cute fuzzy bunnies in the foreground, it doesn't mean anything if you can't craft an engaging well thought composition."

Chris Kayler White Tailed Deer Buck ‚Äč

"Watching the Sunset" - A large white-tailed deer buck enjoying a colorful sunset in Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
 

He also feels that photographer place too much emphasis on gear when it comes to creating great images. "Yes, upgrading gear will often equate to some improvement in enlarging prints. However, even my gear can produce pretty flawless large prints as long as I utilize good technique. The thing that I like most about my kit is that I have used it for so long that I know everything about it and where every single button is located. It just feels natural", he adds. 

Chris uses a Canon EOS 7D with 10-22mm, 70-200mm and 400mm Canon lenses, along with various filters. 

 

Chris Kayler's 3 top tips for newcomers to fine art landscape photography:

  • Craft your own vision and style. Don't emulate the work of other photographers. Don't try to follow in their footsteps. Try to create work that most closely resembles your experience of the subject matter. Personal vision takes a long time to blossom. Nurture it and eventually your work will stand alone.
  • Slow Down. I've just recently learned this lesson myself. I used to rush around everywhere. Always looking for the next big thing to photograph. Move slowly, think creatively, have patience, and new and unique ideas for images will present themselves.
  • Photograph as often as possible. This helps with everything. Period!

Find out more about Chris Kayler and his images on his website, Chris Kayler Fine Art Photography.

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