Photographer Dane Murner is meeting me on the coattails of a very busy month. His Nightcrawl series was just featured in Capture Photography Festival this spring, an annual event celebrating lens-based art in Vancouver. In person, Dane is friendly and sincere, possessing a palpable energy. With a shot of espresso in hand, we settle onto a sunny bench outside my neighbourhood coffee shop to discuss his photography, cameras, and the merits of golden hour.
Originally from Manitoba, Dane first became interested in photography when he moved to British Columbia five years ago. Surrounded by awe-inspiring landscapes, he began to document everything he was seeing. “My interest stemmed from just wanting to show my friends and family what I was up to in this new province. After being introduced to photography and seeing what was possible, I wanted to see what I could do with it,” he says.
For years, Dane focused almost exclusively on landscape photography. Hikes through BC wilderness would result in images of snow-capped mountains or serene forests. Then a shift happened. “Now, with landscape, I find that I am so much pickier with my work. It is difficult to take a landscape photo that is more than just a photograph of a mountain or lake. Certainly, that is beautiful. But to be interesting, it needs to be a little more complex.”
This growth towards complexity is evident in Dane’s more recent work. Captured on dark winter evenings, these images depict the way artificial light can draw attention to ordinary objects. Using long exposures on a tripod, Dane will take and review many of variations of the same scene, often spending up to an hour to get the right shot. He notes an attraction to scenes that show “how things can have a lot more attention because of how a light shines on them. In the daylight, everything has equal light. But when there is just a streetlight shining at night, it can give an object a lot of power.” With a process relying heavily on intuition, he wanders the streets and alleys of Vancouver, waiting for unexpected possibilities to catch his eye. Whether that happens to be a towel draped over a scooter or a purple flower perched on an empty table depends on the night.
While Dane’s Nightcrawl series focuses on inanimate objects, many of the images “feel like they are a scene left behind by human presence.” There is a bit of human energy about these objects, perhaps because they are associated with human use, like a chair or laundromat. During the collection’s run in Capture Photography Festival at the Charles Clark Gallery, many viewers echoed this sentiment, noting that it felt like someone could walk into the scenes at any moment.
Through Dane’s involvement with Capture, he was invited to be one of 10 participants in Roll Call. This one-day exhibition gives selected photographers eight hours to shoot a roll of 35mm film, which is then displayed that same evening. For Dane, the rapidly-paced event presented an extra challenge: it was the first roll of film he had ever shot. “I was just happy and lucky that a lot of my shots turned out,” he says, smiling.
Dane’s passion is clear in his earnest musings and detailed explanations, learning about the camera slung across his shoulder (a mirrorless camera, electronic and smaller than his trusty DSLR). He tells me he thinks taking photos during the famed golden hour is a crutch, he says. “Photos taken a few hours before the sun go down will be obviously beautiful. There’s only been one time I’ve taken a sunset photo and been ‘ok’ with it.”
When asked what’s next for him, Dane says, “I’ve been thinking about that. After I’ve had this successful month, I feel so motivated to keep practicing and pushing myself. I know there’s going to be no end. The photos I take are a reflection of me and my experiences and there’s always going to be new memories and experiences that lead to new photos. For now, I’m just curious how my photography will continue to develop. I want to keep doing what I’ve been doing, which is just walking, taking photos, and seeing what I can find.”