Photographer Spotlight Andrew Kornylak

 In Photographer Spotlight

Our customers are not just dollar signs for us. We want to be a partner, someone who helps our client’s photography reach the next level. We love photography, and we’re always interested in showcasing the work of the people we partner with. Andrew Kornylak, a lifestyle and adventure photographer, was kind enough to share his recent work with the Triple Crown Bouldering competition, as well as answer some questions about this project and his photography in general. You can see more of his work at his site here:

Portraits from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

Lifestyle and adventure photography seems to have exploded as of late, with Tumblr and Instagram artists really becoming huge movers in the industry. What do you think about this trend, or has it influenced your work at all?

I think travel and adventure photography and video does especially well in social media because there is a sense of bringing something inaccessible and putting it right there on your device. There’s that immediate and real-time access to someone who is remote and on the go. For photographers and filmmakers, this is a powerful way to reach your audience. I worked on a documentary film where we provided a steady drip of Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, blog and Facebook content during our month-long shoot. In contrast to watching the film, which is a very controlled experience, t was a totally different way to experience the story. A class of high school journalism students even used this feed as curriculum for a semester. Since everyone is on these platforms, you have not only casual viewers, but potential clients seeing your work as well. Many photographers are now finding that sharing fresh images on these platforms can be more valuable – from a marketing standpoint – than trying to license them as traditional stock.

Portraits from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

The Triple Crown bouldering series is an interesting portrait showcase, but outside of a few visual clues climbers will recognize, you’ve removed the subjects from the obvious action shots. Why the distinction?

Climbing photography is usually all about that context and environment, but I feel like sometimes the setting and action can overpower the real subject, which is the climber. Rock doesn’t change much over time, but people do. I’ve seen the face of climbing change tremendously over the years, so I wanted to focus on pure portraiture for this project. There you focus a person’s essential nature, and some of that is what makes them a climber. There are also a lot of interesting people who show up at these events – like the biker gang from Texas – who you probably won’t find dancing up a cliff.

Portraits from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

When you started this project, were you actively competing as well? Can you describe your workflow that day?

I try hard not to climb recreationally while I am shooting. I end up doing both poorly. Everything gets coated with chalk dust, it’s a mess. The night before the competitions, I would load in with the help of Erik Danielson, a fellow climber and fashion photographer. We would set up a backdrop or two in the morning, then hunt around the cliffs and boulders looking for portrait opportunities. Sometimes lighting, sometimes not. By the afternoon, we would return to the backdrop and start pulling people aside for portraits as the competition ended, again with a mix of natural and strobe lighting. That would last into the night. A cooler of beer on hand helps keep people coming by. We would almost always carve out an extra day to climb after the competition. No cameras.

Portraits from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

Your bio says that you were an athlete and climber first…when did you switch over to being a photographer of the sport as well?

I started climbing in 1993 or so, in college. I had done sports like swimming, tennis and gymnastics throughout school but with climbing I was totally hooked, because it also made sense with my love of the outdoors. I had a few photos published in the late 90s but I pursued photography as a hobby, and mostly focused on climbing. There was one moment when I realized that I could combine these two passions into “work”. It was actually at another climbing competition in Arizona in 2001, the Phoenix Bouldering Contest. I had made some black and white prints and arranged them in a little portfolio to get some advice from a well-known adventure photographer named Peter Noebels who was also at the event. It was late, the beer was flowing, and I casually handed the book over to Peter. He flipped through them quickly, then stopped at one, stared at it for a moment, then looked me dead in the eye and said, “You could sell these…. You could sell these.”

I’m always so thankful for the encouragement I’ve gotten over the years. I try my best to pay that forward whenever I can.

Portraits from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

Jimmy Chin is always a name associated with the outdoor lifestyle photography genre; who are some of your influences? Do you follow other photographers who shoot similar things, or entirely forging your own path?

The great thing about that genre is that its sort of a tribe of like-minded, passionate people, who are all pretty encouraging to each other and inspired by one another. Jimmy Chin, Kieth Ladzinski, Tim Kemple, Chris Burkard, these are all great outdoor athletes who have become great photographers. There are too many to name. It’s nice to feel like you are forging your own path but I think its important to pay attention to what others are doing. We all push each other other up higher and higher.

Portraits from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

Was this a project commissioned by the Triple Crown, or something that you conceived and put into motion yourself?

Yes this was something I put together myself, with the help and creative input of Erik Danielson. I shoot the Triple Crown in some form every year, and they give me a lot of leeway creatively. This year I was shooting a bit of video for one of the sponsors – which I also shot against the backdrops – and I put together a team to cover the climbing action so that I could pursue these portraits as a personal project.

Portraits from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

Since the gallery you had was shot during the Triple Crown 2014 event, do you see yourself continuing on in the future? What changes might you make for the gallery you have up if you keep the project going?

I think this particular project is done for now, and I was lucky to carve out the time to complete it between other work. But a good project will have momentum and change the way you approach shooting in general. I think this was one of those.

Portraits from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

What were you using during the project for gear?

I shot mainly on the Phase One IQ160 with Phase One lenses – the 55mm LS, 80mm LS, and 150mm LS. I also used a Rolleiflex, a Fuji x100s and a Holga. I used Profoto lighting.

Andrew and his Phase One IQ160 at work

Why did you choose Capture Integration as your partner in your projects?

I’ve long had a personal relationship with CI and they are the ones I trust when renting or purchasing medium format digital. Most of all I value the expert and honest advice about equipment selection for different projects: which lenses are best, what body and back combinations will get me the creative results I want, and so on. I couldn’t ask for a better partner.

Photos from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series

You can see more of Andrew Kornylak’s work at the links below:


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