Noyle in Focus
The creator of the annual PhotoCON event is one of the most decorated photographers around, yet Ric Noyle’s greatest success may be in how he always views life through a lens of gratitude and positivity.
Photographer Ric Noyle has a keen eye for the right light. After all, his job depends on it.
“One of the things that I encourage everybody who’s interested in photography is to observe the natural light around you, like a family member washing dishes and beautiful light is coming in and there’s a nice pattern on the face,” Noyle says. “I don’t need any setup; I don’t need any lighting arrangements.
“I look at people in their cars and look at the lighting and go, ‘Wow, that’s just beautiful.’ I certainly don’t take a picture of them,” he says with a laugh, “but it’s about understanding the nuances of light — soft, hard and diffused — and that they’re all beautiful.”
What sets Noyle apart, though, is the light that’s found within. The South African floats through life on gratitude and goodwill, always finding the silver lining in whatever life throws at him, which, most recently, was quite the curveball.
For the last 12 months, Noyle has devoted much of his time and energy to orchestrating the fifth annual PhotoCON, that was slated for Sept. 11-12 at Kualoa Ranch on O‘ahu. Forty-two workshops spanning a variety of topics — from capturing images of shooting stars to fashion models and everything in between — were on the docket for the three-day event. However, with the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, Noyle made the call to reschedule the convention for a later — and safer — time.
“Postponing (PhotoCON) was a painful decision,” he says. “There were a lot of moving parts ahead and it took a lot of time and effort to be able to get it there. But at the same time, I had preplanned … 14 virtual workshops (the last of which took place Sept. 8). Little did I know that I would have to rely on those as my entire event. All 14 workshops are free; I felt like that was the right thing to do in COVID times. It gives me a lot of pleasure that we (were able to) still bring people in.”
Due to its accessible nature, Noyle welcomed attendees from all across the island chain and, much to his surprise, across the globe, too (38 countries, to be exact).
“The cockles of my heart are warmed,” he says, smiling. “My sharing of education is really my motivation to help people — I’m going to use a horrible pun but — to see the light.
“I have had an extraordinarily good run as a commercial photographer in Hawai‘i and I’ve seen my success in my family. It’s just something that I go, ‘Man, I’m really happy to be able to do what I can with a career that I love,’” he enthuses.
“I like to think of myself as a farmer putting something back in the ground. I think it’s important for us to share knowledge, and I learn things from people all the time.”
This very sentiment is what led Noyle to his unexpected career path in the first place. Long before his myriad awards and accomplishments, ones that you’ll never hear him boast about, Noyle was just a boy from Cape Town who found joy in developing photos in a darkroom. It wasn’t until years later that he would pick up his first camera.
Noyle comes from a line of photographers (his son, Zak, makes the fourth generation of cameramen) so, it’s no surprise that his father, Ken, whom he first met on his maiden trip to America in his early 20s, gifted him with a Canon. In the time since, Noyle has witnessed many of the planet’s great wonders, all through a lens. He’s been down the Nile River, at the top of Egypt’s pyramids, ventured throughout Russia and Europe, and swam along Tahiti’s reefs, but, for him, there’s nothing in the world quite like Hawai‘i.
“I got hired by Pan Am as a flight attendant; little known fact, but that’s true. Then, in ’72-’74 when the oil crisis happened, we got laid off and … not soon after that, I decided that Hawai‘i was a good place to come to. I’m happy to tell you that I was here for six, maybe eight months, then I met my wife, Denise, and I’ll never be the same.
“My parents back in South Africa, my mom and step-dad, made a joke that if I moved further, I would actually get closer because I’m halfway around the world,” he chuckles.
To make a living here, Noyle explains that he had to expand his expertise. Fortunately for him, that’s his favorite part of the gig.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences that make me really excited to get up and get going. Creating images is really in my DNA,” he says. “So, the idea that I was able to accomplish multiple different genres of photography is important. In Hawai‘i, we really can’t be a specialist, unless you’re Zak Noyle. My son is one of the few people who really found a niche that he was able to specialize in and boost his career that way, but for the rest of us mere mortals, we just have to go about doing what we can.”
One day, Noyle might be in his studio with macadamia nut chocolates as the star. The very next, he could be in a helicopter hovering over a five-star Waikīkī hotel for an aerial view or taking the headshot of one of Hawai‘i’s high-profile names, like Barack Obama, Daniel Dae Kim and Terry O’Quinn.
In his free time, Noyle still has his camera in tow — and can shoot what he wants. His muse of choice is an 800-pound 14-by-9-foot golden elephant stored at his Kaimukī abode.
“I use her when I feel like I can be creative on my own without having a client directing or requiring certain types of images. Unfortunately, she takes up a parking space at my house, so that’s the only problem, but she doesn’t eat very much, which is good,” he says with a smile.
When asked about his proudest achievements, it’s immediately evident that nothing materialistic makes the list. Noyle does mention his digital asset management service, Razzbonic, and how he designed it at the dawn of the digital age more than 20 years ago. But, more prominently, he echoes how fortunate he feels to have made Hawai‘i his home for the last 45 years and fostered a loving family (which has grown recently as his daughter, Sarah, added two keiki to the ‘ohana).
“My dad inspires me in many ways in my photography, but more so on the way he handles life and takes care of our family,” observes son Zak. “He is a very giving and caring person who wants to help and educate others constantly. To me, this character is what inspires me the most of all the many traits he has.”
Adds Noyle, “I think the places where I’ve succeeded, where I’ve felt the best about who I am as a photographer, is to look after my family well, be able to live in Hawai‘i … and to do something that I love.
“I always tell people: Just be a good citizen on the planet and anything else is a bonus.”