Earlier this year I had the opportunity to head to Cuba for a little over a week with another talented travel journalist, Tyra Sutak. I have so much to say about it, but I’ll try to keep it short here. Cuba is one of the most unique places I’ve visited to date. People say landing in Havana is like stepping into a time capsule straight out of the 50s. Well, yes and no. It certainly looks like that when you land; the classic cars, the architecture, and the fact that everyone’s head is up, rather than buried in their cell phones (there is no such thing as cellular data in Cuba). It all leads to a nostalgic feeling like you’ve walked into the past, but that’s where the time-capsule feeling ends. Cuba doesn’t exist in a total vacuum, just one lacking in technology and the free flow of information.

People in Cuba are well informed, they care about politics, they’re progressive thinkers, they’re bright, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that they want more. I’m no stranger to poor countries, or to communist countries for that matter, but Cuba struck a different chord. I felt the government’s fingers in everything, and big brother’s eye watching over me most days. The only places to get online are at government sanctioned wifi hot spots on a network that has no privacy from public officials. Even staying at small, family-run casas particulares (essentially B&B’s), we were heavily documented by the families who were running them and our information was reported back to the government. Beyond that, people weren’t usually too thrilled to be photographed. Many people turned me down when I asked, and others said yes only after I pressed them a bit.

That’s not to say these aren’t great people; I had almost exclusively wonderful interactions with the locals I met all over the country. The Cubans I met seemed like genuinely happy people, despite the feeling I got that they weren’t completely satisfied in their lives. That’s part of it though, happiness and satisfaction aren’t that closely intertwined. You can see examples of that across lots of cultures when you look at people individually. The difference here, was that this sense of dissatisfaction didn’t feel like it was happening on a case-by-case basis, but rather across the board with almost everyone I met. 

For months now I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around this strange impression I had while I was there; trying to understand and make sense of what makes this place so unique, and what makes it tick, I still can’t quite put it into words (which is probably why I’m a photographer and not a writer). What I do know, is that for the first few days I was in the country I could barely pick up my camera and shoot a frame. I didn’t know how to tell the story of such an unexpectedly modern Cuba, nor did I know how do it justice in photos. It was everything I imagined and nothing I expected all at the same time. Maybe that vacuum of technology and information is at the root of it, because how could a place so far behind be so contemporary?

Here is a collection of some of my favorite shots from my trip:

High-end Seattle-based branding and marketing agency Brand & Sea contacted me last year about a project for the new Circa building. They wanted to create a lifestyle campaign of mixed color and black and white images that were hip and offbeat, with real people to help their brand vision for the upcoming Circa building in downtown Denver. Slated for both office and retail space, the building’s target demographics span from professional millennials through tech CEO’s. We found an incredible cast for the shoot and lucked out on the weather with a 75º day in late November.

It’s always a challenge to shoot in a “location” that doesn’t technically exist yet, so we instead focused heavily on the people and the neighborhood. We searched out locations in the area with the right vibe and energy and subtly finessed in some Circa props to help loop back to their brand. The shoot went off without a hitch and we walked away with more images in the can than our initial shot list, which is never a bad problem to have.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to from Thailand into Laos along the Mekong river. I spent a few days exploring around the river, and a few days traveling along it by very slow boat. For most of the people we saw, the river is life. It provides the economy, power, and food for entire communities, from small villages to big cities. It also allows for one of the only routes of transportation to otherwise inaccessible places. Finally, the river cuts through some of the most incredible mountains I’ve seen, looking nothing like the ranges of either Europe or North America. Here’s my brief glimpse into Life On The Mekong.

I found myself in Alberta, Canada this summer and had to make a trip to Banff National Park. I met this guy David Postman there, a standup paddleboarder who had moved from city roots in Toronto to reconnect with nature and find more in life. He showed me around the lakes a bit and we talked about his project to paddle across Lake Ontario next fall to raise money and awareness for the Mayan families in Guatamala. He was a great sport and let me photograph him all over the park. For more info about his trip follow him on instagram – @david_postman.

While I was in Banff I got to work with this awesome guy, who not only has an incredibly inspiring beard, but an inspiring lifestyle too. Choosing to leave big city life behind and live more simply in the mountains he spends his out of doors enjoying life. More to come on David and a cool project he

12Sun Is Shining

All work and no fun make Ryan a dull boy.

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I started throwing a Day of the Dead party a few years ago and it turned into a hit, so it’s become an annual thing. I usually set up a couple lights and a seamless backdrop and take some fun shots of everyone in makeup. I don’t find myself working in the studio very often because I’m almost always on location but this is always a fun excuse for something a little different. Even ended up with a fun shot of me and my little brother, Chase.

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