Adventure photography is a niche defined by stunning landscapes, dynamic personalities, and challenging, ever-changing shooting conditions.
You could be the participant or an observer looking for great compositions.
Finding yourself chasing snowboarders trying to perfect that wildcat spin trick is not uncommon.
Waiting for mountain climbers to reach your well composed focal area could also be how you spend your entire day.
Versatility is a great aspect of this field.
Cold, wet and tiring situations will still need a sharp mind to focus and change settings in the blink of an eye. It can be difficult to stay enthusiastic.
There are many different tools to use. It all depends on your chosen area within adventure photography.
You don’t want to shoot underwater with your DSLR without proper housing. Likewise, a Go Pro isn’t a great choice for far away subjects.
As you will be away from home, or even civilisation, for extended periods of time, how will you ensure your equipment stays usable?
Having many memory cards and batteries will help, but having a rechargeable solution is better. Think about investing in a solar panel and an external storage system.
Staying safe is the number one priority. Having a broken arm will impede your photography, your success and thus, your happiness level.
Camera Gear Recommendations
We are all looking towards the professionals for the best information. For adventure photography, this is no different.
Here, we look at four experts in the field of photographing the art of adventure. They go through their equipment and what they use it for.
The most common choice is the DSLR, with the Canon EOS-1DX Mark II being the most popular among the four. Hardly a beginner camera, but a DSLR is a DSLR.
You can see the different array of lenses they have, from zoom lenses to primes, wide angle to telephoto. This shows you that you need to have a variation.
Read here for insight on what camera and lens setup will allow you to achieve those stunning adventure images.
A mirrorless system such as the Sony a7R is similar to a DSLR, lacking the mirror. The mirror would flip between viewing and shooting, through the single lens.
The new technology makes the ‘mirror’ see-through, so it doesn’t need to move. This means silent shooting and less possibility of camera shake.
Why you should own one of these is simple. They are smaller, lighter and are the main competitors of the DSLR market.
Their image quality and resolution are quickly closing the gap between DSLRs and other systems.
They are viable alternatives that have most of the options that professional cameras do. Read here for all the information on why you need one.
Drones offer you unique perspectives. Either a direct, straight-on shot of someone inaccessible, a diagonal top-down shot or the infamous aerial.
All of these perspectives are great for adventure photography. Not only can they get up close, but offer us a viewpoint we are not familiar with.
This makes it immediately interesting. Here is our list of extreme sports drones. These are purposely a little more rugged than their counterparts.
Lenses are what capture the moment. Every lens has a different focal length, a different aperture and even distortion.
Your four options are wide angle or telephoto, prime lens or zoom. A wide angle lens will capture the subject alongside the environment.
The telephoto option allows you to capture shots from a distance. It also squashes the gap between the subject and the background along with it.
A prime lens offers you crisp sharpness to your images, yet it has a fixed focal length. The zoom offers versatility, yet lacks in quality at some of its focal lengths.
Read here for all the information on choosing the right lens(es) for you and your adventure photography.
Depending on the kinds of adventures you will be chasing and photographing, your gear might change dramatically.
The essential gear that you would need for all these areas stays very similar. A camera, lenses, memory cards, batteries and your cell phone.
With this, you can photograph almost anything. Filters offer you lens protection, but can also suck exposure from your scene. Great for long exposures.
Read here on all the gear you will need to start your adventure photography.
Your backpack is very important, as it will house all of your equipment. Needless to say, you want it to be comfortable and weatherproof.
This gear item needs to have a dividable area to keep your camera equipment and extra pockets for all those small gadgets and extra items.
You might find you will use this as a sort of stabiliser when your tripod is indisposed. Enter the Atlas Adventure Pack.
Perfect for throwing all your photographic gear inside, with two tripod straps on the outside. Read here for more information.
You might find yourself in extreme weather conditions, and really do not want to risk damaging your equipment.
A situation might arise where you would like to photograph in or from the water. Both of these scenarios will benefit from an Outex Camera Cover.
This brilliant piece of kit is a waterproof housing for your camera and lens combination. A transparent version is also available.
A tripod helps you capture long exposures and stops movement in low light conditions. It also allows your arms a little rest while keeping your camera safe.
I know, they can be heavy and a burden when you don’t need them. But better to have it and not use it than the alternative.
And there are lightweight carry-on choices that can fit in your bag. You also don’t have to take it with you on your daily scouting sessions, but it is there when you need it.
Read here for more information on tripod choices for all your travel photography needs.
Sometimes a tripod isn’t practical. Maybe you don’t want to schlep them around for one or two possible shots you might take. Or you don’t want to advertise that you might have a lot of expensive photographic equipment on you.
The JOBY Gorillapod is great for so many reasons. Small, compact, lightweight and fast to use. It can bend and wrap to any surface, holding your DSLR or mirrorless camera with ease. You can photograph landscape or portrait, changing with ease.
Great for the outdoors, for any kinds of camera you might have and for any situation you could envision.
For the photographer who’s always on the go, the Peak Design Capture Camera Clip is a perfect choice.
It will sit comfortably on their waist (or their backpack strap), leaving their camera within easy access.
It clips onto any strap or belt up to 3 inches wide and 0.5 inches thick. Photographers of all levels will appreciate the versatility of this tiny accessory.
GNARBOX is a rugged device that not only stores your photographs like an external hard drive but lets you edit the images too.
This is all done with their app, and due to the processor inside the box, you have similar power and speed to a laptop.
It’s a great way to store and edit images without the need of a laptop. Great for outdoor shoots such as hiking where weight becomes very important.
It keeps your valuable photographs safe and lets you work on your images on the journey home.
Adventure photography will put you in the wilderness for hours and days at a time.
You will need to look after yourself as you travel and photograph, and that’s where this filtered water bottle comes in.
This bottle filters the water as you drink it. Your water might come from a natural source or undrinkable tap water, and it will filter for 6 months.
A first aid kit is another necessity when it comes to adventuring. The terrain won’t always be forgiving, so you need to cover your bases.
Your photography might take you into the wilderness for a while, so looking after yourself and others is key.
The biggest problem could be infections from untreated cuts. Having a first aid kit specifically designed for the environment you will visit is a great tip to follow.
Read all about how to make your own, right here.
Wondering how you are going to charge your devices when you are out in the field? If you are lucky, you might be able to find one of those cell phone charging stations!
Just kidding, it’s a mirage.
What you need to do is harness the power of the sun. You can do this easily and affordably with a solar panel charging system.
The great thing about these is that after the initial cost, there are no bills for usage. It’s completely free. The other great thing is you buy them in backpack form.
This way you don’t need to leave equipment all over the place, hoping no one is going to take it. Neato!
You need to dress according to your environment, and the occasion. If you are going to be around water, then clothing that dries quickly is great.
Hot locations can benefit from breathable, light materials that keep you cool and out of the sun. Colder environments warrant heavier clothing.
First, start by researching all of the conditions you may encounter. Also, consider the differences in temperature between day and night for full effect.
Read here for all the information you need about clothing while adventure photography capturing.
How to Start
What about adventure photography interests you? Do you prefer to watch and observe from the sidelines, or do you also participate?
These are questions to get you started and will determine what kind of adventure photographer you are.
You need to have a passion for your photographic area, as that will keep up the momentum when the motivation becomes difficult.
Read here on what types of adventure photography there are out there and what will suit you best.
Being an adventure photographer might sound glamorous. But it’s a commitment to chaos. Long hours of researching, photographing and editing can become tedious.
You need to have a deep passion for what you want to do. This will keep you motivated through the tough times, standing in cold, unpleasant weather.
Our tip for you is that you need to share your work. Constantly. Set goals that you can achieve and show other people.
This is how they find you, and keep following you on your adventures. People and companies will approach you, wanting to buy your work.
As we pointed out, adventure photography can be tough to get into. It depends on what kind of photography you are going to follow, of course.
If your chosen area is a sport or leisure activity, do you know all the ins and outs of it? Do you do it yourself or know someone who does?
Photographing an area that you are interested in will make it easier. You may even have a passion for snowboarding, so why not start there?
Read all the photography tips for beginners here.
Your smartphone has a pretty good camera, and one that is constantly being tweaked with each new release. They are quickly closing the quality gap.
The best thing about it is that you always have it with you. It also works well in many different situations, under varying lighting conditions.
To help compose your image, your smartphones’ camera has a ‘grid’ setting. Turn this on to show the ‘rule of thirds’ grid as a helpful pointer.
Travelling and working alone can be a blessing, but also a challenge. Having a person with you is advantageous for many reasons, but there are also downsides.
For work, this means that you don’t have to worry about someone else and focus purely on your photography.
One tip we recommend is to go to places where you might meet like-minded travellers.
This will top up your social connections but doesn’t mean you become tied to people for extended periods of time.
Now that you have a pretty good idea of the equipment to use, and how to start photographing, we need to turn your images into something stunning.
One way you can do this is to use the foreground more effectively. You can use it as a third layer of your usual subject and background combinations.
The foreground can be used to lead people into your image. By using the local environment, rocks and the landscape can help force the viewer’s eyes to the subject.
Read here on how you can do that, plus 3 other tips that you need to start using today.
Taking better and better adventure photography images is key. The aim is to take all these skills and apply them to create stunning photographs.
One way to do this is to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. It can be self-defeating to just wander and hope for the best.
Of course, a super-strict plan can have the opposite effect, so be open to other types of shots and image capturing. Having a clear idea means you stay on track.
Is your aim to tell a story? If so, what is the concept, and how can you achieve this? Forethought and planning will help you get those images.
Night-time photography is always a challenge, especially for beginners. The light is different and there are many parts of a scene that change between day and night.
But the night time atmosphere can help add interest to your images. Think about working the Milky Way into your images.
For this, you will need a tripod, as a long exposure will capture the right amount of light in the sky.
Also, think about using another light source, such as a torch, to light up the local environment where your subject is.
Read here for all the tips you will need for night-time adventure photography.
Staying safe is the key to a happy, motivated traveller. It will be difficult to motivate yourself and photograph with broken or stolen equipment.
Some of the items you have with you will be necessary for your photography. A laptop allows for post-processing and sharing your work online.
You will be away from home for extended periods of time. Having your laptop stolen means either buying a new one or using that hostel computer with Windows 95.
Keep your gear safe at all times. If a situation feels dodgy, then best stay away. The risks are too great.
Keeping yourself safe is also the key to a happy relationship between photographer and photography.
This is true even more in this field. Adventuring means placing yourself in situations that could be physically dangerous.
Make sure those with you, photography models and subjects, are safe and know what they are doing. Take their concerns seriously.
If you are trying to photograph a particularly inexperienced snowboarder, don’t push them to the more extreme tricks unless they feel confident enough.
Read all the other tips on safe adventure photography here.
By telling a story, you make a series of work very powerful. It is the greatest weapon we have in terms of composition, as the subject(s) have precedence.
Plus, if the interest is already in your image, you rarely need the composition to be spot on and perfect. The image is already interesting.
The relationships between subjects and objects are important. They show the greater scene without having to show every element.
By showing the story in a simple yet effective way, you create a successful image that also works as part of a series.
Compositions help to add interest to images that are a little bland. The story or setting will benefit from compositions and help to make them more interesting.
One tip we recommend is to focus on one thing. Do not over complicate the image, as we often see that simplicity is a very powerful tool.
A leading line with a vanishing point can be very interesting in a landscape image, but only if the image is in focus. Keep it simple.
For other tips and inspiration for adventure photography compositions, read here.
Lightroom and Photoshop are both great tools to post-process your work. Most people use Lightroom, and find that it does everything they need.
Others work on a single image at a time through Photoshop, as it allows you many more settings you might want to use.
Some even use both, as images from Lightroom are easily exported straight into Photoshop for further editing.
Read here on how Lightroom and Photoshop can help you and your adventure photography.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
Thank you for reading...
if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera.
It's my training video that will walk you how to use your camera's functions in just 10 minutes - for free!
I also offer video courses and ebooks covering the following subjects:
You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos!
Thanks again for reading our articles!