I have long been an outdoor sports enthusiast. I love to hike, bike, kayak, and climb. My camera sometimes comes with me, but often not. There are two reasons I usually leave the camera at home, firstly it’s relatively heavy which, especially for hiking and climbing, is a big deal. And secondly I fear I will either fall and crush the camera, roll over in a kayak and submerge it in a river, drop it off a cliff face, or destroy it beyond repair in some other manner.
But I recently came across an article in the August 2007 issue of National Geographic Magazine showcasing an adventure photography gallery and it has inspired me to be brave and try combining my love of outdoor adventure with my love of photography more often. National Geographic describes adventure photography as “probably the only field of photography that is exclusively shot by participants.” Below are some tips to balance your participation with good photography:
1. Keep your camera accessible. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing the perfect shot and then having to contend with a complex mess of straps and buckles and dig past your lunch and your first aid kit to find the camera. When I do take my camera backpacking I like to slip the waist strap of my main backpack through the handle on the top of my camera bag so that the camera bag sits on the front of my hip where it’s easily accessible but not in the way. For biking I use a carabiner and the shoulder strap of my camera bag to rig the bag onto the middle of the handlebars. Done the right way it’s possible to unzip the bag and take out the camera while the bag stays attaches to the handle bars. I like this method because it means the camera is handy and doesn’t require me to bike with a backpack. But – do be careful not to tangle the brake lines in the process of attaching the camera bag! For kayaking and climbing there are fewer options. A waterproof bag is a must for kayaking, REI has a reasonable selection available on their website or if you’re feeling brave you could try out this create-your-own model from John’s recent post. For climbing keeping the camera in a small backpack is really the only option or you risk tangling camera bag straps in ropes or getting snagged on rocks.
2. Consider a compact camera. These days you can get very nice shots using a compact camera and the savings in weight and the simplicity can make them perfect for adventure photography. For climbing especially this may be your answer as you could easily keep a compact camera in a pocket.
3. Think in advance! Try and figure out before you go which lenses you are likely to need and whether or not you need flash/tripod/etc. Try to take just one lens (the one on your camera) and as few accessories as possible. If you’re taking a tripod make it a light weight one that collapses down small. Adventure photography doesn’t work with the idea of “throw in everything just in case I need it” so as little planning is worthwhile.
4. Practice! Unless you’re a full time adventure athlete photographer you probably don’t get that many opportunities to photograph fast moving kayaks or people jumping from one giant boulder to another. Obviously speed and a knowledge of how to avoid ending up with just a blur in the photograph is of the essence. Practice those skills on fast moving objects you do come across regularly. Traffic, wildlife, your kid’s soccer team…all great practice to hone your skills. Brush up on your knowledge of shutter speeds and don’t be afraid to try out all the different speeds your camera offers. One of the best things about digital cameras is you can always delete any blurry messes you create!
5. Have fun! Don’t let the photography get in the way of your enjoyment of the adventure. Unless you’re out there specifically to get a set of photographs your main aim is to enjoy your day in the great outdoors.
If you have any tips for photographing while doing the sports you love please leave a comment below. Otherwise grab your camera and your safety gear and get out there!