Magazine Article


Hyde & Seek
Wildlife photographer John Hyde scopes out the Alaskan landscape for indigenous creatures, carving

Bald eagle flying
Images by John Hyde

Wolf close-up
Images by John Hyde

Whale tail out of the water
Images by John Hyde

Grizzly in the water
Images by John Hyde

Killer whate
Images by John Hyde

Wolves running in snow
Images by John Hyde

Grizzly catching fish
Images by John Hyde

Bald eagle catching fish
Images by John Hyde

sunset on mountains and water
Images by John Hyde

Which is why visitors from the "lower 48," as Hyde refers to it, are often puzzled at Hyde's response to the question, "So, when are we getting up to shoot?" Hyde replies, "How does 2:30 a.m. sound?"

"After we shoot, I'll crawl into the bushes or nestle into the kayak and go to sleep. I'll tell whoever's with me to wake me up at 4 in the afternoon! People usually don't know what I'm doing, but we're going to be working again from 8 to 11 that night, and photographing animals can be tiring, so I need to rest!"

Hyde keeps his post-production work simple, using it if he needs to for the client's perspective or for the artistic perspective.

"I can't do a whole lot of retouching, or the workflow would be bogged down like crazy," he says. "To keep everything moving, I've started working with Adobe Lightroom. It's a faster workflow for me than using Photoshop. I can open images and review them and add metadata. I can do a variety of exposures of a scene and then combine those exposures into one and get a really nicely exposed image, no matter what the light was really like."

Constant Creatures

Hyde's customers come to him year after year because each image shows everything they want it to show in one depiction.

"I specialize in what I do, and I have new material all the time," he says. "They want new material—they don't want to use the same picture over and over, especially if they have the same recurring need. If a client needs photos of whales, they need something different every time. They come to me because I have new pictures every year."

Besides his regulars, Hyde finds new clients through word-of-mouth and when people catch a glimpse of his portfolio. "One of my pieces will get printed and someone will say, ‘Wow, I can't use that, but I want something like that. Or, if it's editorial, they'll want to use the same picture."

Keeping up with ever-evolving technology remains a challenge, especially when Hyde would rather be cavorting with orca whales or bald eagles.

"Things are changing so quickly. There are so many new technologies, and people are adapting and changing the way they take and look at photographs," he says. "You have to keep up. It takes away from the creative process, but I can't afford not to do it. So I have to bite the bullet—like teachers have to keep taking continuing-ed classes. When I receive the beta 3 version of Photoshop, I have to use it. And even though I'm not really a technical person, people still come to me for technical expertise because I have been doing it for so long and I know how to do things."

Hyde also shares his experience and expertise by leading a variety of workshops. "I have one coming up at the end of May/beginning of June on a vessel named the Pacific Catalyst. It's a weeklong trip through Southeast Alaska, where we'll see glaciers, birds, and whatever else we might run into," he says. "Then there's another one at the end of July/beginning of August near Katmai National Park, where we'll be looking for brown bears."

He has a couple of book projects in the works, as well. "One that's coming up is about the Juneau ice fields, which is a spectacular place to photograph," he says. "People think of an ice field or a glacier as a remote, sterile place where nothing happens, but that's not necessarily the case. It can be that way, but here it's a fantastic environment where you can do research, on global warming, for example. It's also a prime recreation place for climbers, skiers, backpackers, and glacier trekkers."

When all is said and done, Hyde will continue to concentrate on shooting his animal subjects—and staying safe in the process.

"I've had a few close encounters when I was just in the way and they were in a hurry, like when one bear was chasing another on the same path I was on," he says. "Another time, a male bear was running down the beach chasing after a female during the mating season, and I didn't notice because my head was buried in my pack looking for some spare media. And another time I thought a huge male orca was going to ram my kayak.

"All of these close calls ended without incident, and left me just a bit wiser about what can happen when you work with large, wild animals."