Interview with Bryan Maltais

Here’s the sixth part of our interview series celebrating our own home state, the beautiful state of Arizona. 

It was an absolute pleasure to chat with Brayn Maltais one of the best landscape photographers about his work of art.

Bryan can you tell us a bit yourself? What was your childhood like?

I grew up mostly in New Jersey and spent every free moment looking for animals in the woods and wetlands. There was no wilderness around where I lived, but back then there were still wood lots and empty fields that a kid could explore. If I couldn’t be outside, I got my nature fix by watching nature documentaries. Later, I moved to Missouri where I went to college and majored in wildlife biology. After that, I’d had enough of the east, and needed big mountains so I moved to Colorado.     


Was there any specific moment you can remember that made you want to become a photographer?

Some field biology courses that I took at the beginning of college rekindled my interest of going into nature to find interesting creatures. I encountered a lot but needed a way to document it. Photography was the obvious way to do that. My dad gave me his old Canon F1 from the 70’s and it was a great way to learn manual settings. When I moved out west I began backpacking, and my photography transitioned to more landscapes. After a while, I had enough portfolio shots that I decided to build a website where I could sell my work. I’ve always had an inborn compulsion to document everything that I see in nature, and I think I would’ve inevitably been drawn to the camera regardless of my path.

What did you find so unique about Arizona?

Arizona is my muse because its landscapes and wildlife are so different and bizarre compared to any other place on Earth. The Saguaro Cactus is a 70 ft tall plastic tree, there are more rattlesnake species than any other place, and the Sky Islands have diametrically different habitats from the hot desert below. Once you leave Arizona’s cities, you’re suddenly in the wilderness with black night skies where you can see the Milky Way. Arizona’s summer monsoons hit with vengeance and create brilliant clouds to photograph. I hope I can even scratch the surface of everything there is to photograph in Arizona in my lifetime.     

Did you get to photograph any hidden places in Arizona?

I shoot landscapes when I come to Arizona, but another goal is herping, which is photographing reptiles and amphibians. I have a list of species that I try to find, which takes me to some remote regions of the Sonora Desert, and the Huachuca, Santa Rita and the Superstition Mountains. Because I’m exploring as I go, they’re all hidden places to me.

How else do you capture the world besides photography?

I make nature documentaries too. I produced one called “Metamorphosis: Tale of a Wetland” that I put a lot of effort into being very artistic and professional. It won the best documentary in several film festivals. I have a few others that are fun, but very amateurish, including one about the Arizona Sonora Desert. I only crank one out every few years because they take immense effort, and I have to sacrifice doing photography while I’m filming.   

What equipment do you use to capture your footage? What are some of the challenges of using them?

I currently use two systems; the Nikon D810, and the Olympus E-M5 II micro four thirds camera. I find that modern cameras are actually the opposite of challenging because they enable maximum creativity through their impressive technology. For example, the Olympus is a tiny Micro Four Thirds camera with only a 16mp sensor but outputs giant 40-megapixel pictures by making composite images with its floating sensor. It also does in-camera focus stacking for macro photography and takes in-camera star trail composites. 

What other projects are you currently working on?

Besides my main website  for landscape photography, I recently launched about super macro photography of insects and reptiles. “Super” macro photography means very high magnifications beyond what a normal macro lens can produce. It’s got a lot of blog articles about creatures that I photographed in Arizona.

Closing Thoughts … How do you think photography and traveling have changed your view of the world?

In 2 ways. I think that being in cities and around buildings makes humans unhappy, and we need heavy doses of nature to stay balanced. The desire to capture new shots is my impetus for traveling and getting into nature. Without photography, I wouldn’t leave home as much.

I’m also obsessed with figuring out how the things I photograph work and try to research a bit about every mountain, plant, and animal that I photograph. That’s given me an understanding of many of the Earth’s natural phenomena that would otherwise be puzzling to me.