Mark Lance has been around the globe with a fly rod and a camera. His work has been featured in American Angler, Field & Stream, Fly Fisherman, Fly Rod & Reel, Grays Sporting Journal, Outside Magazine, The Drake, The Fly Fish Journal, Southwest Fly Fishing, Trout Magazine, and other publications. Mark’s photography has also been used in marketing campaigns for many fly fishing lodges, travel companies, and product lines. Here’s more about him and the life of a fly-fishing photographer.
Fd: How did you get started in the fly-fishing photography world?
Mark: Well, I guess it started with bass, sunfish, crickets, worms, father, and grandfather in the hot and humid south. The stage was set at an early age for a life outdoors. In my teens our family moved to Colorado, and that changed the view, the species, and the techniques. Fly fishing absolutely captured me.
As long as I can remember, there was always a camera around the house and B&W photos of places, people and fish pasted into old albums. The building blocks for what was eventually to become River Light Images were formed early in my life. I collected a few cameras (film of course) and shot regularly in college, but lost the drive somewhere along the way. Years later, while on a fishing outing, my wife-to-be landed a spectacular rainbow trout. I snapped a quick snapshot with a point-and-shoot to document the moment. I was so disappointed in the print from that shot. To make a long story short, I updated all of my camera gear and got really crazy about photography again. Photography and fly fishing are a perfect match.
Fd: Do you have any influences in regard to general photography?
Mark: Sure, there are many influences. For his travel photography, tight landscapes, and large format color work of the natural world, Eliot Porter influenced my interest and perspective on photography. Though a bit cliché, it is hard to escape the influence of Ansel Adams. And, of course, the photojournalistic style of National Geographic photographers who covered so many topics, cultures, and locations around the globe has had a huge impact on my interest in photography as well. The urge to photograph the environment and places where fish swim can likely be traced back to these influences.
On a more contemporary note, well-known fly fishing photographers such as Val Atkinson, Andy Anderson, Ken Morrish, Brian O’Keefe, and the Becks inspired me as a fly fisherman and created a lens through which to view the fly fishing world. However, as a photographer, I am constantly inspired to “see” in new ways. Charles Lindsay and his abstract ethereal images opened my eyes to a much deeper way to visually express the narrative of fly fishing. His fine art imagery reaches fly fishermen at a soulful level. Today, I am very pleased to see and to be influenced by a relatively new fraternity of fly-fishing photographers who with their images invite us to stop and further explore the very culture of fly fishing. The aesthetic of Copi Vojta, Tim Romano, Louis Cahill come to mind just to mention just a few.
Fd: You have visited incredible destinations from around the world. To which spots would you go back to fish and shoot photos for pure pleasure?
Mark: This question is most easily answered by saying that there is no place that I would not go back to. So many fish, so little time. If you hold my feet to the fire, I think I would say Kamchatka and Argentina are two places I have visited in the past that I would go back to in a heartbeat. They are very different places and offer very different experiences, but I guess that is the point. There are a lot of other places I want to see.
Fd: What is the idea behind your Conservation posters collection?
Mark: I was approached by a printmaker a few years ago to create a set of fine art posters of Western USA rivers. The project was a tribute of sorts to a few iconic Rocky Mountain rivers that I had fished and photographed over the years. In addition to commercial sales, the posters were donated to conservation organizations, such as Trout Unlimited, to be used in fund raising and environmental awareness campaigns. I chose to print these posters in black and white in an attempt to portray these beautiful rivers in a timeless artistic way.
Fd: What is it that you enjoy the most about your job? And what does fly fishing mean to you?
Mark: There are a lot of enjoyable and rewarding aspects to fly-fishing photography. The opportunity to work outdoors in a wide variety of locations and environments is one of the top benefits. For the most part, the fish we chase with a fly rod swim in spectacular places. Sometimes the beauty of these places may not jump out at you like a glossy brochure. Sometimes you have to look a little harder for it, but it is there. Sure, occasionally you run into rough weather or traveling conditions, but adversity keeps it real and often provides the backdrop to a great photograph, or at least a memorable story.
I have always enjoyed meeting the people that hang around fly fishing. Interesting, thoughtful, and passionate people are the norm. Working in this industry with so many fine people, companies, manufacturers, lodges, and publishers is inspiring and rewarding. Fly fishing is an important part of my life. Being an avid fly fisherman informs my photography. And, in turn, photography enriches my life as a fly fisherman.
Fd: Next project ahead for you?
Mark: I am just now wrapping up a photo shoot for Thomas and Thomas fly rods and tying down the loose ends on a personal project where I am photographing artisan reel builder Mark Shamburg as he creates a custom reel from a chunk of aluminum bar stock - a fascinating process. My next project is not quite nailed down yet, but I have my sights set on New Zealand, Iceland or Norway.
Find more about Mark’s great work at: River Light Images