Photographer Spotlight: Brian Grossenbacher

This month’s Photographer Spotlight is more than just a brilliant picture-taker… He is also the co-host of History Channel’s new series, Face the Beast. We had the opportunity to sit down with Brian Grossenbacher and catch up with his recent projects. Some of you may have seen his work in the Orvis Magazines, but if not, you’re in for a real treat. Read on to see how a pro photographer operates!

Flylords: Who is Brian Grossenbacher?

Brian: I would rather make people laugh than making money…I’ve lived a life with purpose but without much direction. I strive for success in whatever I put my mind to, and firmly believe that anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

Flylords: Is photography like an equation or are there times that you just have to wait for the right opportunity?

Brian: Definitely have to wait sometimes…especially in fishing.  There are times when you wait until the angler/model is comfortable and other times when you are waiting on the fish, the light, the action…that being said, some of my favorite images don’t have a fish in them. They are the in between moments that capture that anticipation, excitement, grace, and tradition our sport offers.  Anglers hunkered down waiting out a storm, popping beers at the end of the day, long into a fruitless day of searching for Permit, scanning a stream for the next cast or even being lost and looking at maps…It’s all part of the game…and sometimes you have to wait for it.

Flylords: Where is the craziest place photography has taken you?

Brian: I was very fortunate to fish the Rio Pluma in Bolivia before the lodge was built (Tsamine). We were the second group ever to fish it and the experience was unbelievable.  We didn’t have a Sat phone, rescue beacon or even a GPS…still not sure why…we just had the pilot coming back to get us in 10 days. A broken arm would have been a big deal.  Fortunately, no injuries. Just amazing fishing, great friends and a lifetime of memories.

Underwater Tarpon–Angler Carter Andrews

Flylords: What is Face the Beast?

Brian: Face the Beast is a History Channel show that examines animal/human interactions throughout history that have gone horribly wrong. The first episode we filmed in Myanmar explored the Ramree Island Massacre where 1000 Japanese Soldiers were pinned down in a swamp during WWII. After nearly a month of the 1000 soldiers that entered the swamp, only 15 walked out. Saltwater Crocs killed the majority.

Flylords: Tell us how you contribute to this History Channel segment. 

Brian: I am a co-host of the show with Andrew Ucles, an Australian wild man who specializes in catching things with his bare hands.  He has over 500,000 YouTube subscribers for good reason… he is f***ing crazy and does not have a fear gene in his body. I provide a historical perspective to the storyline and try to keep Andrew Ucles from harming himself or others. The Ramree experience was truly frightening as we hunted crocs daily from a 9-foot FlyCraft raft. Often times we were out from 11pm-3am in the truly remote jungle trying to get close enough to a croc and get a noose around its neck. We ended up catching the croc that we were after…one that had killed a woman 6 weeks prior to our arrival and brutally attacked a young man while we were there. Without a doubt the scariest thing I have ever done in my life but at 51 years old it was a great feeling to try something totally different and challenging and come away knowing that I gave everything I had.

In the second episode, we swam with sharks on and I ended up hand lining a 10’ Bull Shark which was an entirely different experience.

Flylords: Has this opened any doors for your career?

Brian: Only time will tell…we have just filmed the first two episodes.

Flylords: Seems like you are in a little bit of shooting everything… what other projects are you most proud of?

Brian: I really enjoy shooting Bird Hunting as there are many parallels to fishing … rich tradition, beautiful scenery, cool gear and when the action happens it goes from zero to 60 really fast. And then you add great bird dogs to the mix and the photography element is really exciting.

I just finished my second hunting book with Reid BryantTraining Bird Dogs With Ronnie Smith Kennels. Our first book together was the Orvis Guide to Upland Bird Hunting.

German Shorthaired Pointer

I also did a long shoot for Yeti (10 weeks) and we covered everything from Bull Riding and Barbecue to Snorkeling and Shark fishing and was able to photograph truly amazing people like Conrad Anker, Steven Rinella, Tuffy Stone, Douglas Duncan, Camille Egdorf, and Rob Fordyce.

Flylords: What is the best picture you’ve taken?

Brian: Not sure I have taken it yet.

Flylords: What is your favorite shot featured in Orvis Magazine?

Brian: It was an image of a jumping tarpon that I took in Campeche Mexico.  The mangroves were still in the shadows and I was able to adjust the exposure so that they were almost black, bringing the attention to the fish and the water spray. Baby tarpons are such a fun and dynamic fish. In this shot, you can still see the rings from where it took the fly and a separate set of rings where it made its first jump. It all happened in a matter of milliseconds and you can see the fly line curving all the way back to the rod.

Flylords: Is it tough to standby while others catch mouthwatering fish? Or would you rather take the pictures?

Brian: I definitely cannot do both. With fishing, I am like an alcoholic who says he’s only going to have one drink…if I pick up a rod, I have a very hard time setting it back down.  I can’t just make a few casts and then go back to photography. It is usually better if I just stick to shooting. I have been in some truly spectacular fishing locations and have never made a cast.

Flylords: What is the go-to setup for your work?

Brian: Nikon d5, d850, d810 (underwater housing), 70-200mm, 24-70mm, 14-24mm, 85mm, 105mm, DJI Mavic 2 Pro (drone).

Flylords: Any advice for upcoming photographers out there that are pursuing their dream contract?

Brian: Value your work. Don’t give away your photos for the promise of “exposure,” and try not to trade for gear. Gear doesn’t pay the bills and it undercuts everyone else out there trying to make a living selling photo. Be patient, persistent, and flexible and never be afraid to make a U-turn to get a photo.

Paula Shearer Schooner Bay, Abaco Bahamas


This interview was conducted by team member Collin Terchanik.


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