Photographer Ryan Noltemeyer Reflects on Waiting for the Right Light

All images and text by Ryan Noltemeyer. Used with permission.

My name is Ryan Noltemeyer. The people around me got me into photography. In high school, my friends and I started making dumb little movies and photo projects on the weekends and during the summer. That mixed in with my dad was always taking pictures of myself and my brother growing up kept piquing my interest in making images. After high school, my dad gave me his old Nikon FE film camera when he saw I had an interest and I went crazy. I was photographing anything and everything. I invested in an entry-level DSLR and started shooting for my university’s magazine and eventually a few local lifestyle magazines. One thing led to another and I kept chasing the photography rabbit hole. The Phoblographer’s readers would want to see my work to see that photography is not all about grand vistas and moody portraits. Photography (for me) should be a reflection of self and if I can make you feel something through my images I did a good job. I’m pitching a small group of black and white images that have resonated the most with me and the direction I am moving with photography. I strive to capture simple beautiful moments during everyday life. Capturing emotion in an image and then transferring that emotion I feel to my audience is the goal.

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Phoblographer: Which photographers are your biggest influences? How did they affect who you are and how you create?

Ryan Noltemeyer: I’ve been a big fan of movies for as long as I can remember and a lot of my inspiration comes from cinema. I love the work by Emmanuel Lubezki and Roger Deakins. In the photography world Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier Bresson, and Fan Ho are my go-to’s.

Phoblographer: How long have you been shooting? How do you feel you’ve evolved since you started?

Ryan Noltemeyer: I’ve been shooting since 2012 and started to really take it seriously in 2014. When I first started I just thought it was cool to take pretty landscape pictures or photos of my dog with a blurry background. I soon transitioned to portrait and wedding work which helped pay my bills through college. Today I focus more on minimalist photography, images that give me a sense of peace and calm or make me feel small in our grand world.

Phoblographer: Tell us about your photographic identity. You as a person have an identity that fundamentally makes you who you are. Tell us about that identity as a photographer.

Ryan Noltemeyer: My photographic identity has been a jumbled mess for a long time. Working on a specific style is tough and takes time and patience. I think early on in my “career” I was forcing a style that was not my own and it was uncomfortable. Today I work with minimal gear and stick to predominately black and white photography. Landscape, street, and nature photography are my favorites and as long as I capture them consistently in style with each other I am happy. I think that once someone locks down a photographic identity and works within their own style constraints that when real creativity comes out. For me nothing has been more freeing creatively to stick to one style and try to make it work.

Phoblographer: Tell us about the gear you’re using. Please provide a list of reasons why you choose it. And please be descriptive. We want to know how it helps you translate your creative vision.

Ryan Noltemeyer: Nikon FE 2 with a 28mm and 50mm. I mostly am shooting on Kodak Tri-X, developing myself with Kodak D-76, and scanning on an Epson V-550. I’ve shot on every major brand for several months/years at a time. I spent too long worrying about gear and GAS that stripping everything back to the basics has been a breath of fresh air.

Phoblographer: Natural light or artificial light? Why?

Ryan Noltemeyer: Natural, again working with landscape and street photography while keeping gear to a minimum there is no need for artificial light. I have to wait for the light. Sometimes I’ll wait 30 or 40 minutes until the perfect light comes ago for a scene. Sometimes it won’t come and I’ll have to come back when conditions are better.

Phoblographer: Why is photography and shooting so important to you?

Ryan Noltemeyer: It gives me a creative outlet and an excuse to be in the outdoors. If I can capture an interesting moment in the mundane everyday life or beautiful scene in nature that conveys the same emotion I felt when taking that then I’ve done my job. It’s weird but I’m more comfortable and relaxed when there is a camera around my neck.

Phoblographer: Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why? How does your gear help?

Ryan Noltemeyer: I am more of a documenter, but strive to be creative with my approach and shooting style. I don’t let gear get in the way of creating images or documenting moments, some gear is easier than others to capture moments if I have to be discrete, but this is a rare situation.

Phoblographer: What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?

Ryan Noltemeyer: Images for me can happen anywhere. Typically I’ll be going about on an errand or bike ride and see a landscape scene that could be interesting at sunrise, I’ll make a quick note and map pin and come back. When I’m out with my camera, it becomes a wandering and waiting game. I’ll walk around and around looking for the best composition. Once I have a frame lined up I like then I’ll wait for the light or moment to happen. When shooting on film, each click is money spent, so I have to be decisive on what image to take.

Phoblographer: Please walk us through your processing techniques?

Ryan Noltemeyer: I develop my film in D-76 developer and scan using an Epson V-550 flatbed. The images are mostly edited during the scanning process and then any final tweaks are done in Lightroom or Photoshop. I typically try and stick to one film stock and one developer to easily make my images more consistent.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into your genre?

Ryan Noltemeyer: My personality plays a big role in this. I’m more reserved and a “man-of-few-words” and I like to think my photography is as well.

Phoblographer: What motivates you to shoot?

Ryan Noltemeyer: The beauty of this amazing planet and the little moments happening all around us.

Be sure to follow Ryan at his website, his Instagram, and his Darkroom Tech website.