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Get Started With Adventure Photography

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Who doesn’t like an adventure? Those looking to get a little off the beaten track will enjoy adventure photography. In this article, you’ll learn all about what this means, and the preparation you’ll need to put in place to succeed.

Equipment for Adventure Photography

The equipment you’re going to need is different from your typical camera bag. In fact, camera gear will become a secondary factor. Of utmost importance is your personal safety. You’ll need the right set of equipment to keep yourself safe.

This list will be divided into equipment you’ll need for a day trip and things you should pack for an extended adventure. This list is a guideline, and of course, you can and should take other items according to your needs.

A black yak grazes on a mountain pass - beginner adventure photography
A black yak grazes on a mountain pass, this is the type of scene you do adventure photography to see.

Photography Day Trip

  • Good shoes – Vital for any form of adventure photography. You’re going to be walking a lot. These need to be sturdy. A pair of hiking boots is ideal.
  • Spikes – Should you be out during the winter with snow or ice on the ground, some spikes to go with your boots are a good idea. These aren’t necessary during the summer, unless you are climbing above the snow line on a high mountain range.
  • Clothing – Take clothing that is appropriate to the climate you’re in. Look to buy clothes that are designed for hiking, and choose clothes appropriate to the temperature outdoors. You should avoid wearing jeans, they’re heavy and if it rains you’ll be encumbered by them.
  • Backpack – This should be sufficient for your needs. As a day bag, you’ll be able to get away with a regular camera bag such as the Manfrotto 3N1-35.
  • Protection from the elements – Whether it’s rain, sunshine or cold weather, bring the right additional supplies. That means a poncho, sun-cream, sunglasses, gloves and a hat depending on the conditions you encounter. Bug sprays are also a good idea.
  • Smartphone – The multi-functionality of this will help you a lot. The map function will come in handy, and if you need rescuing so will the phone.
A man preparing a campfire on an adventure photography trip
Make sure you have enough food to keep your energy levels up throughout the journey.
  • Power bank – Extra power for your smartphone is always a good idea. In cold weather bring a hot pack and store it next to your power-bank, this way it will retain power for longer.
  • Map – A paper map in case your phone runs out of power, or if you prefer to use your smartphone for other things.
  • Compass – If you’re going out into the wilds, it’s always wise to have a compass.
  • GPS communicator – Digital is better. Carrying one of these will give you GPS positioning, allow you to text, send out an SOS, and gives you an offline map.
  • Bear spray – In some countries, you need to be aware of the larger wildlife. Bear spray repellent may be needed in some locations.
  • Water – Any trip that involves a lot of walking needs a lot of water. Take water bottles and a water bladder with you.
  • Food – On a day hike this can be simple nutritional bars, enough to maintain your energy levels.
  • Dry bag – Additional protection for your camera, should you decide to do anything water related for your adventure.
  • First aid kit – Being prepared for the worst is always the best idea.
  • Knife – A great thing to have for the great outdoors, a multipurpose Swiss army knife is best.
  • String – Useful for many situations, and won’t take up much space in your bag.
  • Camera body – A decent camera body that can handle the rigors of the great outdoors. You could go full frame DSLR, but a mirrorless camera like the Sony alpha III will weigh less and get the job done.
  • Lens – Take one or perhaps two lenses. These should be a wide angle lens and a telephoto zoom lens.
  • Tripod – Although this is extra weight, if you want the best landscape photos you need a tripod. You could look to a Gorilla Pod to save some space and weight.
  • Camera accessories – An external shutter release, filters, and camera cleaning equipment should all be taken as they’re all small.
  • Extra batteries – It’s worth bringing extra batteries, especially if you’re going on an extended adventure.
Overhead shot of two pairs of sports shoes on a campsite ground during an adventure photography trip
A good pair of shoes is essential, you’ll be walking long distances on rough terrain.

Extended Adventure Equipment

On longer adventures, if you can pair up with someone sharing the equipment out makes sense. An extra person will also give you an extra degree of safety as well.

  • Tent – It’s worth spending some money on a good tent. It needs to be light, small but sturdy.
  • Sleeping bag – Once again something small, but appropriate to the conditions you’ll encounter.
  • Groundsheet – A foam ground sheet to just get you off the ground by a centimeter or so will help you maintain your warmth.
  • Cooking equipment – A cooked meal will be needed if you’re on a multi-day trip, you’ll also need to find space to store that food in your bag.
  • Water purifier – There is only so much water you can carry. Bring water purifying equipment so you can make use of water out in the field is a good idea.
  • Larger backpack – A camera bag is no longer appropriate or large enough. You’ll need to invest in a proper frame rucksack for adventure hiking. Your camera gear will be stored in this, along with other large items such as your tent.
A group of people at a campsite during an adventure photography trip
On longer adventures more gear is going to be needed, this will inevitably involve taking tents.

Pre-Trip Research for Adventure Photography

What sort of things should you be looking at before your trip?

  • Weather – You’ll want to plan your trip so you have the best conditions for your photos. You don’t really want to be out photographing in the pouring rain, do you? Those on longer trips might choose to hike through challenging conditions because they know on day three good weather is forecast. Knowing the weather will also allow you to plan which clothes to bring with you. Always take care and take local advice when the weather is bad though. If you’re going into the mountains you might need to wait for bad weather to pass, low visibility because of bad weather could put your life in danger.
  • Route – Sit down with your map before the trip begins and plan out your route. If you’re camping, plan where you will be camping after day one, day two and so on. Mark down locations you wish to photograph. Let park rangers know the route you intend to take. It will be useful for them if things go wrong. Let the authorities know how many days you intend to be away as well.
  • Supplies – Make sure you’re well stocked with supplies for your whole trip. Enough food and drink is essential.
  • Photography – Think about the photography you wish to achieve. Are you looking to get the perfect reflection photo at a lake? Will you be photographing the milky way? Perhaps you want to photograph the wildlife? Perhaps you’re photographing other people’s adventures, maybe they’re white water rafting? Once you know the photos you plan to take, you’ll know which equipment to take with you. On longer journeys, weight is an issue, and you don’t want to over pack.
A hiker walking through a stunning snowy landscape
Weather such as snow can look amazing for your photos. Have you come prepared for these conditions though?

Start With Day Trips to Build Up Your Strength

Are you new to adventure photography? As with all things in life, it’s a good idea to walk before you run. Planning a series of day trips will really help here, they’re much lower risk.

You’ll get an idea of how much you can carry, and what’s realistic for you to hike in one day. If you do plan to extend your trips in the future, take the full backpack with a tent and supplies for a day hike.

Can you handle carrying all that weight? Take the time you need to build your strength up.

Photography Equipment for Day Trips

On a day trip it’s reasonable to have your camera out, and in your hand for extended periods of the day. Look for photos that go beyond the big landscape photos you have planned.

Photographs the paths you walk on, and if possible other hikers. Look for detail photos, such as close up photos of the flowers you find en-route.

Then there is your big ticket landscape photo, the one you’re taking the day trip for. Make sure you plan to arrive at the location with plenty of time to take your photo, which you’ll want to take using a tripod.

You’ll also likely have a time slot you wish to photograph during based on the direction of the sun. Make sure you begin your hike with enough time. Don’t get too distracted taking other photos before reaching your main photo.

Stunning landscape shot of a volcano
Volcanos can provide you with some of the best landscape photography opportunities. The catch is that many of these are in remote locations.

Extended Adventure Photography

Those who get really serious about adventure photography skills will take multi-day trips. The most remote locations are not accessible unless you take a multi-day adventure, or you happen to have the money for a helicopter.

Those remote locations will also offer you the chance to get unique and stunning landscape photos, this certainly isn’t the low hanging fruit.

You’ll certainly want to look at our packing list above, and know you’ll be carrying a large heavy backpack with you.

It helps if you’re able to do this with a fellow photographer. You’ll be able to spread out the heavier items like the tent and the cooking equipment.

You should consider taking the tent out of its normal bag and packing it into separate sections in your backpack. The tent poles, pegs, and cover don’t all need to be packed in the same place.

An adventure photographer taking shots on a rocky mountain top
Photographs of other people on your journey will give your image set more of a narrative.

Photography Equipment for Long Trips

It’s still a good idea to get a broad selection of photos from your trip. The detail photos and the photos that show the journey are important.

You can add to that list by showing photos of your campsite, the food you eat, and photos of you cooking food. These are all potentially important photos that publishers would be interested in.

Your camera is likely to be less accessible when it’s in your big backpack. This depends on how you pack. Even if the camera is accessible you don’t want to be taking your bag on and off your back too much.

A photo clip attached to your belt is a solution if you want the camera on your person during the hike.

Once again you’ll have your big ticket photo planned. You might even have several locations you wish to photograph in mind.

As you’re camping overnight, will you photograph the Milky Way? Always give yourself enough time to get the photo you envisage.

This might mean waiting out some bad weather in your tent, and getting the photo when the weather has improved.

A stunning view of a flowing waterfall among luscious green foliage
Subjects like waterfalls may form the main subject of your photography.

Safety

Adventure photography is all about living life on the edge, and getting dynamic photos. This means you’re potentially going to locations that are risky. So what can you do to reduce the risk to your personal safety?

  • Friends – There is safety in numbers, so going with a friend will help you a lot. Whether that deters bears or means there is someone to seek help if you get in trouble, your friend could literally save your life.
  • First aid – It’s a great idea to have a first aid kit, even better is to get first aid certified. This will mean you can better help yourself, and perhaps others as well.
  • Clothing – Correct clothing is key. You don’t want to wear too much in the summer, and overheat. Likewise in the winter hypothermia is the enemy of adventure photographers.
  • Bear spray – Check your location, but if bears are around this is vital.
  • Contact authorities – Letting authorities know your route plans, and your start and end dates will give them a chance to deduce if something has gone wrong. It will also give them a better chance of finding you.
  • Phone/GPS communicator – The ability to call for help when needed is one of the first things you’ll need. So a method of contacting the outside world is vital.
A stunning mountainous landscape - beginner adventure photography tips
The mountains have a calling for many who like the great outdoors, that includes photographers.

Getting Your Adventure Photography Out There

Once you’ve got back from your trek you’ll want to show off the photography you’ve produced.

Adventure photography is a full-time occupation, and the skills required aren’t those you can necessarily dip into on a short holiday.

That means adventure photography has a business element to it, and this begins by getting exposure for your work. A lot of the usual channels should be used when it comes to this.

Photography sharing sites like 500px and Instagram are the current sites of choice. It’s a great idea to write blogs about your adventures as well, especially as these can attract magazine editors.

One of the main things to realize though is the world between publishing and photography is a small one. Always be nice to those you network with.

Rocky landscape shot from a national park
Getting out to national parks is a great way to explore the wilderness.

Monetizing Your Work

Exposure is one thing, but exposure doesn’t pay for your next trip. To do that you’ll need to look at ways to monetize your photography.

  • Magazines – Getting published in magazines gives you both cash and kudos. There is a lot of competition, but well worth it if you can achieve it. Look at niche magazines that cover outdoor activities.
  • Stock – Epic landscapes from remote locations are great for stock photography. Better still if you capture other people enjoying the great outdoors. Don’t forget to get model releases.
  • Guide – Put your expert knowledge of various areas of wilderness to good use as a photography guide.
  • Education – You can create e-books and other digital resources for others who want to follow in your footsteps as an adventure photographer.

Conclusion

Adventure photography is a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. You need to be passionate and in good physical condition.

Have you practiced adventure photography before? Are there any great tips you can share here at Expert Photography?

As always we’d love to see your photos, and for you to share your thoughts in the comments section to this article.

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