How does an engineer from Indonesia end up as a photographer in the Canadian Rockies? By realizing there’s more to life than materialistic objects and leaving a job he was comfortable at in pursuit of something different.
Daily Hive recently chatted with photographer Stanley Aryanto, who chronicled his journey for us, from life in Australia to his time in the Rockies – and the stunning photos he’s taken along the way.
Aryanto was born in Bandung, Indonesia, and then moved to Australia to begin his post-secondary career. He studied engineering and eventually began working as a mechanical engineer for the world’s biggest aluminum company. “I was very excited – it was fresh and it was new,” Aryanto tells Daily Hive. “I thought I had the dream life that I always wanted.”
However, after going through a transformational period that followed a tough time moving on from a break-up, Aryanto realized he wanted to start travelling. “At that time, all I wanted to do was to run away,” he reveals.
“Before that, all I cared about was materialistic things like being able to afford a nice car, a big house, and getting a promotion so that I could buy more things,” Aryanto continues. “I used to hate travelling. I thought it was a waste of time and money.”
“When I started to travel,” shares Aryanto, “I realized that there’s more to life than materialistic objects. I started to embrace and love meeting new, like-minded people and many have become life-long friends. I love being able to have new experiences and I love the sense of excitement and uncertainty that travelling brings.”
“I thought, ‘If it were the last day of my life, would I do what I’m doing today?’ This sparked the idea of leaving my engineering career.”
Aryanto says that when he first started in engineering, it was exciting. “I had good pay and good benefits at a world-leading company,” he shares. “I felt like my dream had come true. But companies are there to make money, and I was continuously put onto projects that were important but I wasn’t passionate about.”
“It was okay temporarily,” Aryanto continues, “but I became unhappy when I was frequently relocating to projects that I wasn’t excited about.”
He says that it had become a drag to wake up in the morning. “Having money is important, but I realized that you need to be able to tie it to a purpose to be able to find fulfillment and happiness in this world,” says Aryanto. “I was living in the mundane day-to-day activities, getting by and living for the weekend – until I found photography.”
He knew that he had to leave the company at some point. “Time is the most valuable resource in our life, and I see that as you climb the corporate ladder, you have less and less time,” he tells Daily Hive. When he found photography, he saw it as a way out, an opportunity to live a life that he was truly passionate about.
“When I walked away from the refinery for the last time, I felt liberated,” Aryanto says. “It was then that I realized that for 30 years I had been making decisions based on fear and based on what’s safe and certain – not based on what excites me, what I am truly passionate about and love. For that reason, I put my dream aside and settled.”
It’s been four years since he left engineering, and Aryanto says that he’s felt more alive in these past four years than he did for the first 30 years of his life.
But how did he end up in our beautiful province from halfway across the world?
“One thing on my bucket list,” explains Aryanto, “was to spend one season snowboarding somewhere in the world.”
At the time his Rockies dream began to take shape, Aryanto was travelling in Morocco and met a few people who were planning to move to Canada for a working holiday. After learning that winter in the Canadian Rockies can last “up to six months,” Aryanto was sold. He applied for a visa, officially left his engineering career, sold everything he could, and packed his bag.
However, the photographer realized (in advance, luckily) that the grass is always greener on the other side, and before he moved, he wanted to appreciate what was in front of him. So he decided to explore his own backyard by driving across Indonesia’s most populated island, climbing the second highest volcano in Indonesia, and eventually making a 40,000-kilometre trip around the continent of Australia.
Before arriving in the Rockies, Aryanto says that he thought skating on frozen lakes was something that only happened in the movies, leading to a fascination with wild ice and flash freeze photography.
“It’s important that you understand the safety precautions of wild ice skating,” warns Aryanto. “But one of the coolest things about the frozen lakes is that they’re never the same. One day can make a difference and every season is never the same.”
“One of the coolest things to capture in the wild ice is [its] texture,” says Aryanto. “Frozen lakes sometimes look transparent but sometimes melt-freeze cycles create unique textures on the ice. To capture this, we need to get down low on the ground and use a technique called ‘focus stacking’ or ‘hyperfocal distance’ to be able to capture as much sharpness as possible throughout the depth of field.”
Aryanto tells Daily Hive that his background as an engineer has both helped and hindered his photography skills. “Engineering has given me the advantage of being able to understand the technical side of photography,” Aryanto says. “It came easily; I am used to problem-solving and analyzing the most optimal settings and workflow to capture a certain subject.”
“But it gives me a massive disadvantage too,” the photographer continues. “As an engineer, we were taught to follow standards and procedures, and for that reason, we are not the most creative people in this world.”
Upon realizing that his best photos were those that came from the heart, Aryanto changed his approach to photography, and has gone on to win over 100 awards and have his work published in magazines like Canadian Geographic. He has also exhibited his images in the US, Australia, and Japan.
“Most of all,” shares Aryanto, “I have been able to experience and capture once-in-a-lifetime moments – ones that wouldn’t have been possible if I still worked as an engineer.”
Aryanto says that one of the cool things about being in the Canadian Rockies is that there is no shortage of adventures – “whether it is winter or summer, there are countless things to do and see.”
“Once,” he tells us, “I averaged three hours’ sleep a night for two weeks and every single day I would have a different adventure, from hiking and climbing to chasing the Milky Way, the aurora and thunderstorms.”
“Furthermore,” Aryanto continues, “I love the snow and the deep freeze in the Canadian Rockies creates conditions that are truly unique. One of my favourite places to shoot from is the top of a mountain because it reminds me of how small yet powerful beings we are in this universe.”
“The Canadian Rockies have been one of my favourite places that I’ve travelled to and been fortunate enough to live in,” adds Aryanto. “I miss the mountain adventures and the winter and I definitely want to return to either live or visit.”
Aryanto is a well-travelled guy, and if the Rockies are one of his favourite places, it just adds further proof to the fact that Albertans live somewhere truly special – but we already knew that, didn’t we?