A Conversation with Flipboard’s First Photographer in Residence, Ryan Mense
Mia Quagliarello / December 7, 2021
We launched Flipboard’s new and improved #Photography topic with everything a photographer could want or need, all in one place. Our first Photographer in Residence, Ryan Mense, helped us create this destination that we launched earlier this fall. A wildlife photographer and PetaPixel contributor, Ryan created collections like “How to Capture Amazing Autumn Photographs” and “How to Photograph Birds.” He’s also offered his expertise around camera systems like Sony and Olympus, curating “Photo of the Day,” and contributing to a library of fundamentals.
For a sponsored story in PetaPixel, we sat down with him to learn about his personal photography journey and how he thinks photographers can get the most out of Flipboard. Ryan is no longer our Resident — it’s a three-month rotating position — but he continues to curate on Flipboard so be sure to follow him here. (We’ll share a profile of our next resident soon.)
Flipboard: You’re a fantastic wildlife photographer! What made you get into this style of photography?
Ryan Mense: To some degree, I think it’s always been waiting inside of me to photograph and film wildlife. I grew up in a very small town. I was left to entertain myself, and there was always an abundance of nature to do that with.
When I was around 13 years old, I picked up the family camera and used it as an escape. Fast forward many years later and my primary focus was still photographing nature and landscapes because those locations are where I felt most comfortable in both my craft and as a person.
Things really clicked when I saw my first indigo bunting around four or five years ago, a bird whose male is bright blue. I never knew such a beautiful bird lived in my area, and that was the spark that finally made the connection that I should be photographing birds and wildlife. After that happened, it’s been a chore to photograph anything else.
What are your favorite animals to photograph?
Birds. They have such incredible diversity and it’s impossible to be bored with them. I find that the steep challenge of getting good bird photos comes with tremendous personal rewards. It’s a display of patience, perseverance, and endless love.
I happen to be the type of person that is perfectly OK with sitting still hours on end looking at nothing, just waiting for my subject to present itself. The more successes I’ve had, the deeper I’m willing to go to get something better than last time.
Show us your favorite shot and tell us how you got it.
My favorite bird overall is the sandhill crane. This photo was taken in March 2020 of a sandhill crane at one of my local spots in West-Central Wisconsin. It captures one of their mating display behaviors where they pick up grass or sticks and then jump and toss it in the air. When they are young, they first learn this behavior from their parents and continue to practice it over their lifetime.
I took this photo with a Sony a7R IV and 200-600mm lens straight out of my car window. Vehicles actually make for really good “camouflage” blinds because many birds are used to seeing them and don’t take it as a threat as they would if you were standing out in the open. I just talked about the patience involved and being able to sit still for hours, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression that that’s what it takes to find incredible wildlife around you. Just going out and showing up is all it takes some days and I recommend everyone give it a try when they find the time. You’ll be very surprised at what you see when you put in that tiny bit of effort of simply being there.
How would you recommend photographers use Flipboard?
It’s actually an ideal platform to consume the seemingly infinite amount of photography-related content that’s out there. Previously, I would have my set list of photography websites I’d visit to read and that was that. What I’m appreciating about Flipboard is that the curation of content means that I’m being fed information from places I know about, but also from lesser-known but equally worthy voices that I wouldn’t have known to search out in the first place.
My recommendation would be to make sure the “For You” page is adequately personalized, that you also personalize the #Photography topic to your interests, and that you follow the publications you were already enjoying, such as PetaPixel. The more you feed Flipboard about your interests, the better the experience becomes.
Where can Flipboard fit into a photographer’s (social) media diet?
Apart from simply consuming content, Flipboard also allows any photographer to create their own Magazines. In doing so, the content that’s handpicked to a Magazine is obviously a reflection of that individual photographer and their interests. This means that following your favorite photographers on Flipboard would be a much different insight into their thinking than you typically get through short photo captions on Instagram or quick thoughts from Twitter.
Also, honestly, not many people have the time to write out full articles of stuff in order to say what they are thinking about the subjects they care about. Flipboard can assist with being able to have a profile where I share the things that I think are important, and people can see that I’m the one that signaled to look at it, but I also don’t have to put in all the effort of making the story myself.
You’re curating some very cool magazines and Storyboards on your profile. What’s your approach?
I’m particularly happy with “The Wildlife Filmmaker” and “The Wildlife Photographer” magazines I’m working on. There’s really no good one-stop resources for these out there, especially wildlife filmmaking, so I find it worthwhile to be the one compiling it. The way I got started with curating these Magazines was to add the Flip It button to my browser bookmarks. That way whenever I come across something that piques my interest I can quickly add it to the relevant Magazine without another thought.
Sometimes, these flips can generate a bigger idea for a Storyboard where several relevant articles and videos come together. Storyboards are also great for sharing a number of my own articles or videos in one complete package. For example, I’ve made a few videos about photographing birds and I can compile them into one Storyboard. Likewise, I can simply share the gear that I use or share the podcasts I enjoy listening to. As I said earlier, Flipboard offers an interesting way to follow someone’s interests that other social media platforms don’t quite hit.
Image credits: All photographs by Ryan Mense
If you’re a photographer who would like to get involved with Flipboard, email your name and a website or social media links to firstname.lastname@example.org.