When Bellingham photographer and videographer Michael Dyrland wanted to try surfing for the first time on the California coast, he ended up offering a jarring picture instead: surfers in hazmat suits, goggles, and masks, bobbing through waves strewn with chemicals and waste of all kinds. His work went viral.
This 2014 California project is called Hazmat Surfing. At the time, Dyrland (pronounced DEER-land) was stunned when he learned that Californians typically don’t surf or enter the water after it rains because garbage, oil, and sewage is carried to the ocean and can cause infections like MRSA and hepatitis C.
Inspired to represent this issue of pollution in a captivating way, Dyrland, 31, put a focus on poor ocean conditions by staging sufferers in hazmat suits—a possible glimpse 25 years into the future if water quality issues continue.
Dyrland’s photo story and 90-second video stunned viewers, reeling in attention of news and media outlets all over the nation before spreading internationally. Dyrland said he’d wake up to 30 different emails from separate organizations asking for interviews or to use his photos. Outlets Dyrland was eager to contact, like Huffington Post and Bored Panda, reached out to him even before he could contact them.
“It doesn’t always matter where you live,” Dyrland says. “It’s where your content is online and how it travels.”
Beyond Hazmat Surfing, Dyrland freelances on an assortment of projects. His business, Dyrland Productions, also specializes in drone cinematography.
Dyrland didn’t start off with full work weeks and success in this profession—it took time and persistence.
He became intrigued by multimedia work once he was chosen for a Comcast internship while taking classes at Whatcom Community College in 2007. After that, he tested his interests in different areas of multimedia through landscape photography, television work with the city of Mount Vernon, and studio photography at Grizzly Industrial, a machinery company. While he was at Grizzly, he created Dyrland Productions on the side. Grizzly was a full-time job from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and he spent 3:30 to 11 p.m. at his business.
Dyrland also established his skills with a drone. In fact, he modified his first one four years ago by soldering on an antenna. Today, with top-notch gear like the DJI Inspire 2, Dyrland can focus more on capturing the story that forms in his head pre-production. He thinks almost everything out before he goes and shoots—where the drone is going, the elevation it’s reached, the speed it’s traveling, and where it’s looking.
“A drone can bring you through a sight—or anything really—to get a tangible sense of place and perspective,” Dyrland says.
Currently, Dyrland is trying to push his drone skills even further. He hopes to collaborate with search and rescue operations by integrating thermal imaging onto drones. In trying to use the drone in this application, he could possibly help save lives.
Though Dyrland Productions is a one-man operation, he often hires trusted filmmakers and photographers—such as Plick’s Flicks, a cinematic storytelling business—as subcontractors. He says it works like two businesses coming together to pro-duce a greater project. This especially comes in handy at weddings when more hands and cameras are needed.
“At any point I can bring a team together that is able to deliver photo and video under the Dyrland Productions look that I’ve created, and I’m thankful for that,” Dyrland says. “But I’m a hard critic of my work and I also want to continue improving and testing my limits.”
From wedding venues and cityscapes to awareness projects and mountain tops, Dyrland has produced content in a captivating style at the highest resolutions.
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