Photographer Kyle Miller is no stranger to adventure. In the past few years, he’s traveled all over the world, but his recent journey to Patagonia just might have been his favorite travel experience yet. During his time in South America, Kyle embarked on the famous W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park, set out on the Fitz Roy Hike to Laguna de los Tres, grappled with extreme weather, and witnessed — and photographed — natural beauty that was unlike anything he had ever seen.
Hoping to learn more about Kyle’s work and his time in Patagonia, we caught up with him for a quick conversation.
When and why did you start taking photos?
My photography is rooted in my travels and my desire to share meaningful experiences from the road. I started traveling in my early 20s, when I spent a summer in Central America in between my undergrad years and graduate school days. During this time, I just photographed moments on my iPhone, attempting to capture memories to share and look back on. Shortly after, I picked up an old DSLR.
My early work was comprised of mostly just simple snapshots, with no real knowledge or thought put into the lighting or composition. I was just excited to share my life on the road, and I loved the challenge of taking photos that had a similar feel to my experiences themselves. To help my parents keep track of my travels, I created an Instagram account and started sharing the images there. To my surprise, I received great responses from family and friends and was humbled to learn that people wanted to see more of what I was doing.
When I look back at those first photographs, I see a lot of technical flaws, but I love them all the same. They still bring me back to those moments, even though they were often poorly lit and oversaturated. You have to start somewhere, right?
As a self-taught photographer, I tend to be my own biggest critic. That said, reflecting on my work has consistently led to a lot of growth since those early days. I am constantly looking for new subjects to shoot, as well as ways to expand and accelerate my artistic growth.
How have your travels continued to shape your photography?
Travel was and, to some degree, will always be the inspiration for my photography. My artistic focus has changed a bit throughout the years, though. At first, I was just focused on trying to create beautiful images of my experiences. As I’ve become a more conscious traveler, capturing the pulse and feel of a place has become a much more important element in my work.
For example, photographing India really changed my approach. I was mostly a landscape photographer before then, but the country’s culture and people fascinated me. During my time there, I worked with local hospitality and adventure companies doing both real estate and travel lifestyle photo work and was fortunate enough to learn immense amounts about the country from the people I met. The more I learned, the more I dove into street photography. Before this shift, I was just trying to create the most impressive, colorful landscape images possible. India helped show me just how important the other details can be when capturing the essence of a place.
What type of emotion or story do you usually try to share in your images?
I aim for authenticity in my images — my goal is always to show a place as it is and how I experienced it. I like to shoot near sunrise or sunset, allowing dynamic light to add both depth and vibrancy to my images. I hope bright and colorful images inspire curiosity and wonder, prompting viewers to be more open-minded about people, places, and cultures different from their own.
You recently returned from trekking through Patagonia. What was the highlight of that experience?
The highlight for me was feeling truly out in the elements. The winds were wild, and the weather changed both quickly and often — it was exhilarating! I carried clothes for everything from bright summer sun to intense snowstorms. On the trek to the towers in Torres del Paine, for example, I started hiking around 10 a.m. in just shorts and a T-shirt, but I must have added and removed layers of clothing a dozen times before reaching the top around 2 p.m. And about an hour later, the towers disappeared into a massive snowstorm and a mixture of heavy wind, snow, and sleet chased us back down the mountain. We made it back tired, wet, and cold but — surprisingly — happier than ever!
How did capturing the landscape push you as a photographer?
Photographing while trekking in Patagonia pushed me in a number of ways. From a practical perspective, carrying camera equipment along with my trekking gear wasn’t easy. The changing weather conditions also allowed for very short periods to shoot in, and the heavy winds made swapping lenses, and even keeping my balance, difficult at times.
From a more artistic perspective, the sheer scale of Patagonia challenged me. It’s massive, and the character of the mountains was unlike anything I had ever seen. I focused mostly on using a zoom lens to help reflect these elements. By utilizing this strategy, I was able to photograph the mountains up close and still showcase their magic in full glory!
What would you like people to learn about Patagonia through your images?
I would like people to see the natural beauty of this Earth. I want them to appreciate the need for conservation and protection of wild places (and the environment as a whole).
Patagonia park visitation has risen steeply the past 10 years, and it continues to increase. Extensive tourism often leads to destruction of the vegetation surrounding paths and trails via erosion, so if you go, please remember to stay on the trail! Plants often take years to grow, but it only takes a moment to destroy them. What’s more, man-made forest fires have recently devastated Patagonia, ravaging almost one-fifth of the park since 1985. Often times, destructive fires are caused by simple things such as smoking or burning toilet paper. Heavy winds add to fire risk, making it imperative to follow all park fire regulations.
Even if people don’t get the chance to see Patagonia for themselves, I hope that my photos showcase the natural beauty Earth has to offer and encourage hikers to be more conscious and respectful toward nature — even if they’re just hiking in their own backyard.
All photos by Kyle Miller