We first met Ryan Longnecker shortly before this year’s Photo Field Trip, since Ryan wanted to give us a heads up that he would be in charge of photographing this year’s week-long event. Throughout the course of our five days at El Capitan Canyon, we often saw Ryan zipping by on a golf cart, in transit between one workshop and another, ONA on his shoulder and camera in hand. With a ready handshake and a perpetual grin, Ryan seemed to make everyone he met immediately at ease. It should be no surprise, then, that the portraits that he has shared in this post look so natural and approachable. Read on to learn more about about Ryan’s photographic journey.
Ryan carries the Leather Bowery in antique cognac.
ONA: How did you get into photography?
RL: At first I wasn’t that interested in photography, though I have always been drawn to the arts and studied just about every art medium except photography. When I was a senior in college, the yearbook needed a photographer, so I went for it, and had access to a relatively nice camera and open access to all school events. Once I graduated (with a degree in music), a friend of mine who is a musician and I decided to spend our free time figuring out the ins and outs our new cameras together. Since then we have developed both a joint photography business and separate ones as well.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to” lens of choice?
RL: If it’s not my iPhone 6, then I shoot with my Canon 5D Classic as often as possible and then when light doesn’t permit me to use that I move to my 5D Mark II, which I’ve recently replaced with the 5D Mark III. My lens of choice is probably my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art.
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? And what is your dream project?
RL: I am often drawn to projects that span different kinds of art or humanitarian work. I love projects that tell stories of beauty that might be less obvious. I love when people highlight unsung heroes and also when projects are subtle and deliberate. Some of my favorite work has been from National Geographic’s war photographers and watching my friends develop their visual and poetic styles. I have a few projects in mind now. One is highlighting the problem of homelessness amongst children in Orange County. One actually is a dream project that is materializing — it’s a retelling of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” through photo essay format using abstract and concept photography. It’s a huge challenge and something I’ve never done.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
RL: There are 2 answers. I think the hardest thing is storytelling. I’ve gotten pretty good at taking pretty photos, but in the midst of that I get distracted and discouraged if that’s ALL it is. I think even people who are historically famous wildlife or landscape photographers (e.g., Ansel Adams) told stories of that space and their travels, so I am constantly pressing towards that. And second, I want to be consistent for my family and do something that matters to them/for them because sometimes photography can seem like a fickle and fleeting muse. Oh, and I heard the quote once that “recording is the art of forgetting” and that has been a persistent reminder for me to be present in moments rather than separated from them behind a camera.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
RL: Eeek, that’s a tough one. Does ever-developing count? If not, I would say for now it’s moody, intimate, emotive, and big. I try to pay attention to how a moment feels while I’m shooting it and work hard at making the images from that moment feel the same in the final product. I guess that’s painfully abstract, but that’s truly what drives my shooting and editing style.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a photographer just starting out?
RL: Look at a lot of art and get better about describing what it is you like about it and what draws you to it.
ONA: How did you hear about us?
RL: My wife bought me a super rad leather shoulder bag from Etsy for Christmas a couple years ago and people would ask me if it was an ONA bag. It wasn’t, but it made me curious to check out ONA and then I began seeing a lot of my photographer friends using ONA bags too!