Photographer Colin Tyler Bogucki walks softly and carries a big camera.
The 45-year-old has a long ponytail, a thick beard, and a generous smile.
Known professionally as Colin Tyler, he was Eagle River Nature Center’s artist-in-residence from 2014-2016. Tyler is now the nature center’s assistant operations manager. His commute is pretty great. His room, located on the second floor of the nature center, overlooks Chugach State Park.
Tyler described how he got the gig. “I moved in as a resident volunteer and never left.”
A native Minnesotan who hadn’t traveled much, Tyler moved to Alaska in 1996 after graduating with a degree in psychology and a minor in chemical dependency studies.
He worked for three years in drug counseling. It was “three years too long,” he said.
At the same time, he was discovering that counseling wasn’t his passion, Tyler, age 25 then and new to a state with breathtaking beauty – received a point and shoot camera for Christmas. That gift changed everything.
Tyler enrolled in a beginner’s photography class at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He attended workshops at Blaine’s Art and became friends with several local photographers.
Tyler, who had grown up in a rural town, had been an avid sportsman. The more time he spent in nature, the less he wanted to hunt. “I put down the gun … I had way more success shooting with a camera,” he said.
After realizing he wanted to be a photographer, Tyler never went back to a desk job. He worked construction, cooked, bartended – anything that was flexible and would allow him to continue honing his art.
In April of 2013, Tyler was living with his cat, Spike, in a small cabin in Chugiak. A stream ran through his backyard. He spent his free time fishing and working in his gardens. On April 22, Tyler woke up to find his cabin in flames. He escaped unharmed but was unable to save his beloved pet.
One of the few things to survive the fire was a metal filing cabinet. The firefighters brought it outside and dumped its contents onto the snow. Tyler saw that his passport was unharmed.
When a friend invited him on a tour of Asia, Tyler had no home, no cat.
“I realized after losing everything that there is no such thing as security,” he said.
With nothing holding him back, traveling felt right.
In India, Tyler experienced the thrill of photographing a tiger. Tyler, who had photographed grizzlies and polar bears, was still awed.
“There’s nothing like seeing a wild tiger,” he said.
Besides India, Tyler has traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, New Zealand, Australia and various states in the lower 48. Everywhere he travels, Tyler photographs wildlife and writes about his journeys on his web page.
“I hear from many people that my photos transport them to places that they might never get to experience,” he said.
Tyler moved into the nature center in 2013. He is grateful for a home that has fostered his creativity and provided him with “solitude, meditation” and a way to “clear negative thoughts.”
“I could never give back what I gained here personally and professionally,” Tyler said. “This place brings together a lot of wonderful people.”
While his life has been unconventional, Tyler knows he is on the right path.
“The best compliment I ever received was when a man told me that I’ve probably brought more healing to the world through my photos than I ever did as a counselor,” Tyler said.
Tyler’s work has been featured in the Associated Press, Alaska Magazine, United States Postal Service, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and many other publications. For more information and to see Tyler’s pictures which range from Aurora Borealis to Indian tigers, visit www.colintyler.com.
Photographer Colin Tyler’s Tips for Beginners:
- Learn to shoot in manual mode.
- Shoot from a low angle and think outside the box – be original.
- In terms of composition, keep it simple and pay attention to detail. Don’t include too much or your subject will lose importance.
- Photography is the study of light, nothing more. Don’t complicate matters by overthinking.
- Photography is art – keep it that way. Let the business side fall into place as it should. Don’t lose sight of why you create images in the first place, which is to create and share beauty.
- Photography is a set of rules/principles. Once you learn to master them, you can creatively break these rules and you have become an artist.