A Toolkit for Adventure Photography
Story by Ben Horton
Defining Adventure Photography
Being an adventure photographer blends the worlds of photojournalism and landscape photography in a way that only those who are willing to put in a great deal of effort can portray The magic happens as we approach the boundaries of what’s known, and the possibility that we will step into the unknown is real. Documenting this boundary is adventure photography.
Adventure photographs pull feelings out of you, force you to place yourself in the image, and let you ask yourself if you could have accomplished such things yourself. Feelings like struggle, triumph, loneliness, and fear come up from inside and give the image more depth. That’s not to say that it can’t bring up good feelings as well, but a real adventure rarely is all vistas and fields of wildflowers.
All too often we see beautiful images of tents on precipitous cliff sides taken next to a parking lot, well styled girls wandering the desert, or kayaks half placed in the water for a POV shot that never really happened. By no means is it a bad thing, it’s created a wanderlust in people who never ventured into the wilderness before, and it’s getting people outside and inspired.
If what we want is to push beyond the parking lot tent photos and fake experiences, I believe that people need to see more of what is really possible. We raise the bar by breaking trail into the unknown and bringing back images from the other side. We challenge those who see our work to find these places for themselves. To raise the bar yet again.
The tools we use when shooting an adventure are far more specialized than what I would use for a commercial shoot. It has to fit in a bag that I’m willing to cary with me wherever I go, leaving room for whatever else I may need that day be it climbing gear, camping gear, or just food and water.
My Adventure Photography Toolkit
This camera rides the line between a lightweight consumer camera, and a professional DSLR. I’ve used the Sony mirrorless cameras that are popular right now, but I find they don’t have the battery life or sturdiness that Canon brings to the table. I don’t want to have to carry 10 batteries with me on a trip, and if a wave washes over me, I drop my camera, or am caught in a dust storm (all of which have happened) I know the weather sealing on my Canon will keep it working.
My go to lens for adventure photography is that Canon 24-70L. Anything wider starts looking strange, and anything with more zoom keeps me too far removed from my subject. Sometimes for a specialized image I’ll take a super wide or a telephoto, but only as a last resort.
Believe it or not, there have been times that my only option was to shoot with a GoPro. It doesn’t have the flexibility of a DSLR when it comes to picking exposure and focal length, but it absolutely makes up for it in it’s size, shooting options, and accessibility. The trick is to set it, forget it, and take a lot of shots.
These accessories put your GoPro right where you need it. With extended trigger poles, dome ports for fancy over under shots, and trigger systems designed to be used while on the move, these tools should be a part of any GoPro shooter’s kit.
I like to keep a fully charged power bank in my pack. Voltaic Systems makes the lightest and most powerful that I’ve found. If I’m out for days at a time I’ll take a solar panel to charge it back up with.
These are not your grandpa’s camera straps, padded and covered in bling. These straps are designed for the professional, securely anchoring the camera to your shoulder so you can forget about it when your hands are occupied with doing something like keeping you from falling off a cliff.
What do you take? I really want to know, maybe I’ll add it to my kit. Leave a comment below.