I remember a few years ago having a conversation at The Camera Store with a co-worker about some early films I had worked on. I mentioned a film I had made with my old friend Tyler Forest-Hauser, and my co-worker responded “The Tyler Forest Hauser from Instagram?”. Unbeknownst to me, my friend Tyler had been building a huge online following for his moody, evocative landscapes for years. Tyler’s work is a testament to the draw of photography, and a rebuttal to photographers who spend more time obsessing over gear than taking pictures.
Tyler Forest-Hauser has always been a creative person, jumping between composing music, filmmaking and video editing in his early 20s. While I never saw him with a still camera during that period, I could see how important strong composition was to him in the early short films he directed. He had a photographer’s eye, but a photo camera was never on his radar.
It took a change of scenery and a technological revolution to bring us the photos of Tyler Forest-Hauser. Upon moving to Vancouver Island from Calgary, Tyler was inspired by the natural beauty and began documenting it with the only camera he had handy, his iPhone 4S. Instagram was still in its infancy, and Tyler’s stunning portfolio grew alongside the social media platform.
While the camera on his phone may have had limited dynamic range, Tyler used that to his advantage, shooting on the many foggy and misty days Vancouver Island constantly presents. Any limitations of Tyler’s camera of choice was offset by his sharp sense of composition, and expert post-processing. Tyler will often run his photos through 2-3 apps, including Snapseed, Afterlight and VSCO to get his distinctive images just right. It seems fitting to me that Tyler started with filmmaking, as there is a distinctly cinematic look to many of his images.
Tyler’s Instagram portfolio and audience grew steadily, but he saw an explosion of interest in his work after being featured by Instagram first in 2012, and again in 2014. He now has over 50 000 followers from around the globe. The instant feedback is a huge part of the appeal to keep shooting, though Tyler always craves more detailed feedback than the ubiquitous “Great shot!”.
There are some limitations to mobile photography, and Tyler does find it slightly disheartening that large, high quality prints of his work are not possible to create. Tyler experimented with dedicated cameras including DSLRs after several years, and while the quality is technically better, the bulk and longer workflow to edit and share his images brought him back to shooting on his phone. Recently, he had the choice between a modern mirrorless camera and the iPhone 6S, and wound up selecting the iPhone for exactly this reason.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve abandoned taking a photo because I didn’t bring a real camera, or had the wrong lens in my bag. Tyler’s work is an important reminder that with right mindset, a good eye, and some admittedly outstanding post-processing, we can create memorable, beautiful photography that can be appreciated across the world.