Photographer Fortnightly: Alyn “Wally Wanders” Wallace
Welcome to another Photographer Fortnightly, this week featuring Alyn Wallace who, up until recently, was also known as Wally Wanders on Instagram.
I have to admit that the idea of planning shots way in advance, based on the placement of the sun, the moon, the Milky Way, a satellite or an asteroid is relatively new to me. It’s one of those things that’s obvious when you think about, but I hadn’t.
In reality, I guess it’s just an extension of composition but instead of arranging the subject in the view-finder, you calculate when a particular subject will be in a specific location.
For me, this is what sets Alyn’s photography apart. It’s the next level of artistic creation – working in harmony with natural elements that you have no control over, to create dramatic and point-in-time shots that only exist for the briefest amount of time.
Here’s a great example of what would be a brilliant shot on any night. The composition of the lighthouse with the lines of steps leading your eye through the picture. The brightness of the lighthouse with the beams pointing out in all directions, casting out just enough light to show the details of the buildings, the steps and the waves breaking on the rocks. The clouds, backlit by the (I think) moon setting. All of that creates a dramatic and inspiring shot that has an extraordinary amount of detail and sharpness. One which happens to be the wallpaper on my phone at the moment.
But that’s just not enough, so Alyn makes sure that the Milky Way is smack bang in the middle of the sky, directly above the lighthouse. Now that’s planning. I’ve no idea how often in a year that happens, or how many nights you have to wait for clear skies to see it. But I love the forethought to see the composition and then enhance it by timing it to coincide with the rotation of the planet. Actually, that sentence says it all: planning your photography around the orbit of a planet as it hurtles through a galaxy. Damn, that’s cool.
Not much to say here. If you’re going to take a selfie (though I’m assuming it isn’t a well-positioned friend), why not make it a silhouette with the vastness of the galaxy spread out behind you?
I’m relatively confident that this one is a well-positioned friend. But again, the planning is spectacular. Shot of friend silhouetted on a ridge? Pretty easy really. Silhouetted in front of a giant full moon? Not so much. To be clear, that’s now building a shot around the rotation of a planet and the orbit of its moon.
There are so many things I love about this photo. Durdle Door is just a cool place to shoot. The leading lines of the stairway are a nice compositional touch. Milky Way floating in the background? We’ve come to expect that. Using the light and shadow of the door to create a silhouette and shadow selfie? Nailed it. It would seem that standing behind the camera to take this shot was just too easy.
Right, this is just getting silly now. Nice night-time landscape with cliff, lake and bright horizon? Check. Cliff-edge phone-lit selfie? Check. Milky Way taking up most of the cloudless night sky? Yes, obviously. The trail of the International Space Station from one side of the shot to the other? On the opposite diagonal to the Milky Way? Whilst keeping the stars sharp? Stop it now.
Part of me hopes there’s just an app for this that says, “hey! the Milky Way and the ISS are totally intersecting next week”. And part of me very, very much hopes there isn’t. This is genuinely a magical shot for so many reasons.
If you want to see some of this in action, Alyn’s vlogs on YouTube are fantastically raw – and that’s firmly meant as a compliment. Sometimes prepped and scripted tutorials are ideal but other times just watching the live event is a fantastic way to learn. I certainly pick up a lot more by being involved and hands-on with a subject than I do by reading about it.
Alyn’s videos are perfect for seeing how he puts his shots together because that’s exactly what you get to see. Footage of him hiking to the location, talking through what and why he’s there, what the shots will be, and then with the camera rolling he just gets on and shoots.
What I also enjoy is that it isn’t just the edited highlights of the shoot. If something went wrong, or the weather was off, or there was a lot of waiting around Alyn tells us about it. There’s no pretending that he just waltzed up a mountain took the shot and went home. I love the honesty of that and I think it gives a far deeper insight into the level of preparation that producing images like this takes, which can easily be lost if all you ever see is the end result.
I really recommend checking out his website and his Instagram profile. He does a number of different walks through the year and I’m hoping to get booked on one relatively soon, so fingers crossed there’ll be some shots to show for it in the near future.