Adventure photography is probably my favourite artistic pursuit. It combines the two things I’m most passionate about: travel and creating arresting images.
The moment you close your door and set off to experience something new, you’re embarking on an adventure. All you need to do now is compose an image that best represents your journey. I’ve spent years testing techniques to capture that excitement, so I’d like to share some of my tips to help you get excellent photographs of those wild activities and destinations you encounter while wandering the world. Needless to say, there’s adventure to be found all around you. All you need is the right frame of mind.
Share The Fun
The finest adventures, whether long and outlandish or simple and short, are the ones we share with friends. Not only is it great to have someone to reminisce with when you’re settled in back at home, but bringing a friend to photograph is the perfect way to demonstrate what your escapade is all about. If you’re doing anything active, whether it is kayaking, climbing, hiking or mountain biking, try to place a person pounding out the action in your frame. It makes the photo more alive, plus it’s much easier to coordinate than mucking around with a tripod and timer.
Make It Pop
It’s all about the person, activity and location. Shooting at the right time of day – usually those golden minutes around sunrise and sunset – will put the setting in the best possible light. Once you’ve got your setting sorted, the last thing you want is to lose your subject in the image, so it’s important to make use of colour and contrast to help your pal stand out as much as possible. I love using primary-coloured jackets and t-shirts (remember that’s red, yellow and blue). Our eyes are naturally drawn to bold tones, so a splash of scarlet will help your friend pop out of the frame. I also try to place my subject in the brightest or darkest part of the composition to create contrast around them. This combination will focus the viewer’s attention onto the most important part of the snap.
Don’t Switch Off
It’s often the scenes that occur before and after the action takes place that really tell the story. Never put your camera down! Some of my favourite shots are the ones I didn’t expect to capture. They often give the most accurate portrait, rather than the scene you’ve crafted, and nothing beats a candid photograph. Your best shot could, for example, be your friend dragging a kayak into the water rather than paddling on a pristine lake, or sparks bursting from a campfire on top of a mountain after a long hike. Think of yourself as a storyteller – don’t just wait for one moment, tell everything leading up to it and everything after it.
You might be the only person on the beach but that doesn’t mean you’ll be the last soul to set foot there. Avoid damaging the environment around you. If a location has a fence or barrier then respect it. It may seem like common sense, but it’s incredible how often photos pop up on social media showing Instagram handles carved into natural icons or you hear of tourists damaging precious structures by climbing on them for an epic selfie. Hopefully your images will one day inspire others to visit that far-flung destination you were lucky enough to explore, and it would be a real shame if they were to find it looks nothing like it once did.
Show The Big Picture
If the location allows for it, take a step back and get up high. The bigger the frame in which you can place your subject, the more dramatic the scene will look. In some instances I’ve positioned myself a kilometre away from my subject to capture the right feeling and scale, but the distance depends on the location and the vantage points available. Framing and composition become very important, as it can be easy to lose your subject somewhere in the shot. If you’re focusing on a person make sure to follow the colour and contrast tip to ensure they stand out.
When you’re shooting from afar, the type of lens you use makes a difference to the quality of the image, so opt for a wide-angle lens if you have one. I take many of my adventure shots with the Olympus M.Zuiko 7–14mm f/2.8 PRO. It’s the perfect lens to capture a wide landscape and show the big picture. Communication is key, as you might need your companion to show off a few different poses. I love using walkie-talkies to stay in touch. They function in places that might not have phone reception, and they’re a great way to awaken your inner child. They’ll also help you to avoid shouting across a valley and disturbing the silence of a perfect sunrise. Your fellow travellers will thank you.
Memorable trips often come with a degree of uncertainty. That’s ultimately what makes an experience an adventure, right? I’m not phased by changes in itinerary but one thing I don’t want is something unforeseen to ruin my chances of taking quality shots. I reduce that degree of uncertainty by carrying a spare, fully-charged battery or two, and selecting a camera I know won’t fail me. At the moment, my camera of choice is the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – it’s incredibly reliable, weather sealed, splash and freezeproof and basically made for adventure. This light-yet-powerful camera, in combination with Olympus Pro lenses, allows me to forget about my gear and focus on crafting the kind of shot I want to put my name to.
Chris Eyre-Walker is a member of the Olympus Visionary Program, a team of award-winning photographers supported by Olympus.