Exalt­ed as a play­ground for the fit and brave, Utah’s desert gem, Moab, sits beside the Col­orado Riv­er, two nation­al parks, and a state park. Mean­ing “Promised Land,” the destination’s nomen­cla­ture denotes its unri­valed access to canyons, trails, river­ways, and rock walls. But to the dis­cern­ing eye, Moab’s oth­er­world­ly landscapes—think icon­ic red rock for­ma­tions back­dropped against snow-capped peaks—are more than an adren­a­line gate­way. They’re also the per­fect stage for bud­ding photographers.

The Clymb and Hud­son Hen­ry, a bonafide go-any­where, try-any­thing adven­tur­er, and cel­e­brat­ed trav­el pho­tog­ra­ph­er whose work has been rec­og­nized by Nation­al Geo­graph­ic, have joined forces to offer a five-day pho­to adven­ture. This fall, join Hud­son in Moab for a hands-on work­shop designed for any­one who wants to devel­op their cre­ative vision, best uti­lize the gear they already have, and learn tac­tics to bet­ter tell their own trav­el sto­riesinclud­ing advanced tech­niques like nightscapes and panoram­ic merg­ers. We first met Hud­son when we wrote about An Amer­i­can Ascent, an award-win­ning film for which he direct­ed photography.

We chat­ted up Hud­son about his pas­sion for teach­ing and love of Moab:


HUDSON HENRY: It’s always been about trav­el­ing and tak­ing adven­tures to wild and beau­ti­ful places and bring­ing back sto­ries to share with fam­i­ly and friends, and then from there it grew into a wider audience.


HUDSON HENRY: I’ve always been about shar­ing the adven­ture, bring­ing back visu­al sto­ries to share with oth­ers of places they would oth­er­wise nev­er see. It start­ed with show­ing my 90-year old grand­moth­er what it’s like to climb Kil­i­man­jaro. Over time my pas­sion evolved into shar­ing adven­tures with oth­ers while teach­ing them to cap­ture their own visu­al sto­ries. I get a lot of sat­is­fac­tion from “ah-ha!” moments when some­thing clicks for a student.


HUDSON HENRY: It has real­ly good weath­er and the high desert environment—it’s ridicu­lous­ly scenic. All these shoot­ing locations—Fisher Tow­ers, Arch­es, Bal­anced Rock—they’re just a hop, skip, and jump from this com­fort­able lit­tle town with all these fun restau­rants and ameni­ties. And the lack of light pol­lu­tion gives real­ly good abil­i­ty to do stuff with stars.


HUDSON HENRY: It’s for any­one who loves a good adven­ture and wants to bring home bet­ter pic­tures to share. This work­shop is great for any lev­el of pho­tog­ra­ph­er who is into shoot­ing action, wildlife, and land­scapes to tell a good sto­ry about a place and cap­ture the essence of a trip. I lim­it my work­shops to small groups and they tend to be all along the spec­trum from peo­ple who are just get­ting start­ed to those who are refin­ing advanced tech­niques. The goals of the work­shop are to devel­op your own cre­ative vision, to bet­ter use the gear you already have, and inter­act with each oth­er, maybe even form friend­ships that last beyond the workshop.


HUDSON HENRY: I am work­ing on a book about advanced panoram­ic pho­tog­ra­phy. I’m exper­i­ment­ing with under­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phy with kite­board­ing and light­ing tech­niques. Also, time laps­es of stars mov­ing through the sky. I’m work­ing on the holy grail of time lapse: fol­low­ing the sun­set through the Milky Way back to sun­rise. And video and drone stuff. I’ll have a drone at the workshop.


HUDSON HENRY: The thing that dri­ves me is look­ing at pho­tog­ra­phers bet­ter than me—Sebastião Sal­ga­do is a favorite. There’s con­stant­ly room to improve. Every year you should be improv­ing. It’s more about cre­ative­ly find­ing ways to com­pose your images and using light than the lat­est and great­est equipment.

Get hands-on train­ing and explore Moab with Hud­son. Learn more about this exclu­sive five-day adven­ture pho­to work­shop.

Born and raised in Indi­ana, Brooke is an adven­tur­er, endor­phin junkie, and lover of the out­doors who has trav­eled to five con­ti­nents. A free­lance mul­ti­me­dia jour­nal­ist, Brooke’s craft enables her the freedomto trav­el. Brooke is fas­ci­nat­ed with lan­guages and can order a cof­fee in Hin­di, sing Swahili lul­la­bies, and ask for direc­tions in Mandarin.

A Dream Come True
I hon­est­ly felt like The Clym­b’s Ecuador & Gala­pa­gos trip was cre­at­ed just for me. I loved hik­ing in the breath­tak­ing Cotopaxi Nation­al Park and sum­mit­ing Cotopaxi. One of the best days we had was moun­tain bik­ing through the East Andes in the morn­ing, hik­ing up and down a stun­ning water­fall, and zip-lin­ing in the evening. If I had to choose a favorite activ­i­ty from the entire trip, it would be snor­kel­ing in the Gala­pa­gos. I just kept repeat­ing, “este es mi sueno hecho real­i­dad,” mean­ing “this is my dream made a reality.”

Pack­ing List
My pack­ing list is always writ­ten in orange sharpie. I start mak­ing a list from my feet up. For this excur­sion I knew I’d need my run­ning shoes and Cha­cos. I brought active clothes suit­able for a warmer cli­mate. I could’ve used a few more warm clothes when stay­ing in the moun­tain region of Ecuador. How­ev­er, that gave me an excuse to buy an alpaca sweater. If I plan to shop for local or inter­est­ing clothes on a trip, I’ll pur­pose­ful­ly not pack the items I think I’ll buy to free up room in my bag for one-of-a-kind trea­sures. I also always bring my water bot­tle and pro­tein bars for flights. My favorite item to bring on my trav­els is my cam­era, and I nev­er for­get a set of earplugs.

Awe­some Guides
Gio­van­ni, Sebas­t­ian, and José are the best guides I have ever had the plea­sure of trav­el­ing with; Adven­ture Jour­neys spoiled us with these guys! Sebas­t­ian helped me with film­ing and being able to go ahead of the group to get the best pho­to van­tage points. Gio­van­ni is an ency­clo­pe­dia of infor­ma­tion about Ecuado­ri­an cul­ture and envi­ron­ment. He even met up with me in Quito weeks after the trip had end­ed to show me around his home­town. José was our dri­ver, but he was way more than that to all of us in the group. He is learn­ing Eng­lish, and is one of the most charis­mat­ic peo­ple you’ll ever meet. San­ti­a­go is an incred­i­ble free­d­iv­er in the Gala­pa­gos, so we had a lot of fun snor­kel­ing and div­ing around the archipelago.

Exot­ic Wildlife
The Gala­pa­gos arch­i­pel­ago has a stun­ning array of wildlife. Giant tor­tois­es are found only two places in the world, and see­ing these Juras­sic-look­ing crea­tures up close was a true dream of mine. I snorkeled with sea tur­tles, sea lions, sea hors­es, stingrays, pen­guins, and blue-foot­ed boo­bies. I gained a new­ly found love of lla­mas along the way too!

Trav­el Tips
When land­ing in Quito, keep in mind the air­port is about 45 min­utes to the city. If you’re on lay­over or have time to kill at the air­port, head to the inter­na­tion­al ter­mi­nal for a cof­fee from Juan Valdez Café (tell San­ti­a­go I said hel­lo!) and strong, free Wi-Fi. Also, lan­guages are a skill that con­tin­u­al­ly need to be used and per­fect­ed. I improved my Span­ish immense­ly on this trip. If you plan on doing some seri­ous pho­tog­ra­phy or video, pack a car­bon fiber tri­pod. They’re light­weight and sturdy!

Embark on your own Ecuador & Gala­pa­goes adven­ture with The Clymb.

Kat Carney

Kat CarneyKat Car­ney is an outdoor/adventure pho­tog­ra­ph­er, she grad­u­at­ed from Adel­phi Uni­ver­si­ty in New York. She worked as a jour­nal­ist and staff pho­tog­ra­ph­er for the Chanute Tri­bune, the local news­pa­per in a tiny town in south­east Kansas. She played vol­ley­ball pro­fes­sion­al­ly in Spain. But it wasn’t until she moved to San Diego in 2012 that her pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness real­ly start­ed to take shape—and she’s nev­er looked back.

Today she lives out of her 2002 Chevy Sub­ur­ban, dri­ving around the west coast to take pho­tos, tell sto­ries, explore the wildest places she can find. She’s shot for British Air­ways, Hyundai, Kel­ty, Ther­marest, Out­door Research, Out­door Women’s Alliance, and The Clymb.

The Clymb: What inspires you? Who has influ­enced your visu­al style? 

Kat Car­ney: It’s changed over the years. I used to look at oth­er people’s work all the time, but now I’m more inspired by being out in the field, either by myself or with oth­er peo­ple who enjoy doing the same things I like to do. I find that col­lab­o­ra­tion with my sub­jects lead to images that I find inspiring—they often have unique and inter­est­ing ideas and dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, and they help me break the rules.

Kat Carney

The Clymb: Tell us about the role of social media in your career.

Kat Car­ney: I’m on YouTube, Face­book, Twit­ter, and Insta­gram, but Insta­gram is where I focus my social media ener­gy. I joined Insta­gram in 2011, but I didn’t start using it until 2013. At the time I didn’t know how to put my work out into the world, and Insta­gram became a fun dai­ly way to share what I was work­ing on. It gave me a rea­son to get out and shoot every day. I real­ized that peo­ple were inter­est­ed in what I was doing. I’ve made con­nec­tions, and it’s played a huge role in how I’ve got­ten jobs.

Social media is also a fun and inter­est­ing way to con­nect with oth­er pho­tog­ra­phers. I love see­ing dif­fer­ent and over­lap­ping per­spec­tives on the same place or the same scene. I’ve got­ten involved with the Out­door Women’s Alliance and She Explores that way. Through them I found an online com­mu­ni­ty, which helped me find a local com­mu­ni­ty of rad female friends doing badass things.

The Clymb: Tell me about your truck.

Kat Car­ney: I live in a 2002 Chevy Sub­ur­ban 4x4. My boyfriend and I built it out with a bed, shelves along one side of the inte­ri­or, a fridge, and a lock­ing draw­er for my pho­to gear. When we were choos­ing a rig, we looked at every­thing from Mit­subishi Mon­tero to Land­Cruis­ers, but the deci­sion to buy a Sub­ur­ban came down to a com­bi­na­tion of val­ue and capa­bil­i­ty. Our bud­get was $10,000, and we real­ly want­ed a rig with four-wheel drive.

I have a high-lift jack, a shov­el, an air com­pres­sor, var­i­ous oth­er recov­ery gear in case I get into a bind. I also car­ry a tool kit, an aux­il­iary bat­tery, and solar pan­els on the roof. I can charge my cam­era, lap­top, fridge, and phone off the grid.

The bed is a 4” tri-fold foam mat­tress. We have com­part­ments under­neath each sec­tion. It’s 6’6” long, which was a require­ment for my boyfriend (who’s 6’2”.) It’s slight­ly less wide than a full bed. I always trav­el with my two stuffed hip­pos, Hedge­hog and Rufus. If you’re inter­est­ed in see­ing the Sub­ur­ban, there’s a tour of our rig here.

Kat Carney

The Clymb: What kind of pho­tog­ra­phy gear do you car­ry in the backcountry?

Kat Car­ney: I have two cam­era bod­ies: a Canon 5d Mark II and a Canon 6d. I usu­al­ly car­ry the 6d because it’s lighter and small­er. Depend­ing on what I’m plan­ning to shoot, I car­ry one or two lens­es. If I’m shoot­ing land­scapes or the night sky, I’ll bring my 16–35mm lens. If I’m shoot­ing climbers, I take my 24–70mm. If I’m in big moun­tains, I car­ry my 70–200mm—it just shows the scale better.

I also car­ry a GoPro. I use the wrist mount a lot, espe­cial­ly when I’m canyoneer­ing or climb­ing. They’re fan­tas­tic, because you don’t have to wor­ry about them get­ting wet or banged up. You just put it on video or time-lapse and go. They also work pret­ty well in low light, espe­cial­ly if you sta­bi­lize it against a wall or rock or tree.

The Clymb: What are five things you couldn’t live on the road without?

Kat Car­ney: My cam­era, of course—it’s always in my hand or tucked into my back­pack. My friends on the road—the peo­ple I meet along the way are so impor­tant for my men­tal san­i­ty, and they make the expe­ri­ence what it is. A very large water bot­tle, because refill­ing is a pain. Sun­screen, because I’m a very fair-skinned gin­ger. And my wide-brim hat.

Kat Carney

The Clymb: Where are your favorite places to shoot?

Kat Car­ney: I’m real­ly drawn to the south­west: south­ern Utah, north­ern Ari­zona. It’s so hard to pick just one place. I find mag­ic every­where I go.

The Clymb: What’s your dream project?

Kat Car­ney: I’m cur­rent­ly real­ly inter­est­ed in film­mak­ing, because it’s the next step in telling com­plex mov­ing sto­ries. I think I’m mov­ing in that direc­tion, slow­ly but sure­ly. Pho­tog­ra­phy and videog­ra­phy are very dif­fer­ent skill sets, but I find them both fascinating.

Right now I’m plan­ning to make a film about surf­ing in Baja. I spent a month surf­ing in there last year, and out of the dozens of peo­ple who I saw surf­ing, there were only two women. But there are absolute­ly badass women who are surf­ing, and I have a lot of female friends who are crush­ing it. So I want to get a group of women togeth­er to expe­ri­ence the mag­ic of the Baja waves. The cul­ture is great, the scenery is gorgeous—that sto­ry is just wait­ing to be told.

Kat Carney

The Clymb: There aren’t tons of outdoor/adventure pho­tog­ra­phers who are women. Has that affect­ed your experience?

Kat Car­ney: Frankly, the sports that I shoot are male-dom­i­nat­ed. Ele­vat­ing women in those sports is some­thing I’m real­ly pas­sion­ate about. Show­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in those sports is impor­tant to. I want to tell younger women that they can climb big rocks, explore canyons, pad­dle out to that break. I want to show them that there are peo­ple like them out there doing it. You can be part of this lifestyle, too.

The Clymb: What advice do you have for peo­ple who are inter­est­ed in get­ting into visu­al storytelling?

Kat Car­ney: Shoot a lot! You don’t have to travel—you can shoot in your own back­yard! You don’t have to spend a lot of mon­ey, or have the right gear, or live the right life. There are beau­ti­ful things hap­pen­ing all around you, every moment of the day. Just start notic­ing those things, and you’ll start devel­op­ing your visu­al eye. There are sto­ries every­where. All you have to do is look.


Learn more about Kat on her web­site and Insta­gram.


©istockphoto/binabinaOut­door sports are about action. But action is fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fi­cult to cap­ture. Deci­sive moments—the leap of a ski­er off a slope, a kayak­er sus­pend­ed in midair, the ner­vous glance of a climber on a knife-edge ridge—only last a frac­tion of a sec­ond. Most action pho­tos are blur­ry, bor­ing or miss the action entire­ly. Here are some tips for dis­till­ing adren­a­line into visu­al form and tak­ing your action pho­tog­ra­phy to the next level.

Big Gear Wins
Bad news for die-hard iPhone pho­tog­ra­phers, but big DSLRs with a wide range of zoom lens­es are what you still need to cap­ture the action. Noth­ing else gives the pho­tog­ra­ph­er the com­bi­na­tion of speed, cre­ative con­trol, image qual­i­ty and range of per­spec­tives. Even the newest mir­ror­less cam­eras don’t mea­sure up. Small portable cam­eras are small and easy to use—but not much else. You’ll hate car­ry­ing an SLR and your gear up the moun­tains, but you’ll be glad when the time comes.

Eye Lev­el
The com­mon per­spec­tive is a bit above your sub­ject, the cam­era held con­ve­nient­ly at the photographer’s height. That’s easy, but easy sel­dom cre­ates a com­pelling image. I start by get­ting down to the par­tic­i­pants’ eye lev­el, what­ev­er that is, and adjust from there. Eye-lev­el shots cre­ate a much more inti­mate expe­ri­ence between the view­er and the sub­ject. You can also make great images by get­ting very high or low—but most images at your nor­mal eye lev­el are well, nor­mal. And nor­mal is bor­ing when it comes to creativity.

Ren­der Motion
Use your sense of cre­ativ­i­ty to decide how you want to con­vey motion. Motion, after all, is the core of all out­door sports. Do you want motion stopped, show­ing atom­ized water droplets or snowflakes? Or blurs that con­vey the sense of smooth move­ment? You’ll only get this lev­el of con­trol with a dig­i­tal SLR (and usu­al­ly a tri­pod) and it takes some under­stand­ing of expo­sure, but the results are worth it.

Use Con­trast
Most out­door sports take place in the mid­dle of the day. Typ­i­cal­ly, this is when light is harsh and direct, and many pho­tog­ra­phers avoid shoot­ing. But sports pho­tog­ra­phers sel­dom have many choic­es. Use that mid­day con­trast to your advan­tage for the one thing it gives you: dra­mat­ic con­trast. Deep black shad­ows and bright high­lights don’t make land­scapes look great—but they can make the action look dra­mat­ic. Fine-tune your expo­sure to avoid blown-out high­lights, and make con­trast your friend.

©istockphoto/SportstockGet Close
War pho­tog­ra­ph­er Robert Capa famous­ly said that if your pho­tos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough. It’s less dan­ger­ous in our pho­tog­ra­phy than in his. Get close and zoom in on facial expres­sions, beads of sweat, the tex­ture of fresh snow, the mud on a cyclocross racer’s face. Crop the edges—it adds a sense of ten­sion and unfin­ished business.

Pho­to­graph the Back Story
Don’t just focus on the action high­lights. Turn the oth­er way and look at the spec­ta­tors, peo­ple wait­ing to com­pete, the breaks in the action when peo­ple relax and exhale, the stress of anticipation.

Hide The Scale
Deprive your view­er of scale. In this image of kayak­er Paul Kuthe descend­ing a water­fall, the view­er has vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing to pro­vide any sense of size, or how the sto­ry ends. Cliffhang­er moments cre­ate antic­i­pa­tion. Keep the view­er guess­ing enough to feel sus­pense, but not so much that they’re just confused.

Try and Try Again
You’ll only improve your action shots but shoot­ing action more and more. There will be tri­al and error, and the more you exper­i­ment, the faster you’ll learn. Time to get out there and shoot.

©istockphoto/Joakim Leroy

©istockphoto/Joakim LeroyBob­bing in mas­sive 14-foot swell on my first day of open-coast pad­dling after a long lay­off, I wait­ed for Ken to pass in front of the 1,300 cliffs of Cas­cade Head as the sun punched through the clouds. I timed the shot so I’d be at the top of the wave. Click.

When I looked at the images lat­er, the shot was prop­er­ly exposed. The focus was sharp. Ken was smil­ing. And the shot was…bor­ing. Dead­ly dull. It was like a mil­lion oth­er kayak­ing shots. The fact that it was my first time pad­dling in the sea didn’t come through. Nei­ther did the sounds of the out­er coast, the smell of the sea or our gid­dy joy at being part of it.

Lit­er­al­ly bil­lions of images are tak­en every year. Most of them are bad. In an era when phones and self­ie sticks abound and GoPros are attached to bike han­dle­bars, ski hel­mets, kayaks, and dogs, it’s hard to sep­a­rate the gold from the straw. Few images actu­al­ly speak to us.

The com­plaint that pho­tos over­sat­u­rate our world with unin­spir­ing images is far from new. I recent­ly ran across some­one com­plain­ing in writ­ing that peo­ple were run­ning around the globe pho­tograph­ing any­thing and every­thing with­out pur­pose. It was from 1893, when dry-plate pho­tog­ra­phy was the new thing on the market.

Through­out this mael­strom of dull images, a few stand out. Say the words “Afghan Girl” and most of us will imme­di­ate­ly remem­ber the haunt­ed eyes of Shar­bat Gula, pho­tographed by Steve McCur­ry in a refugee camp in Cen­tral Asia in 1984. What is it that makes some images unfor­get­table? And how can we make them our­selves? The secrets are less secret than you might think.

Evoke, Don’t Narrate
To be pow­er­ful, pho­tographs should evoke emo­tions, not nar­rate sto­ries. This flies in the face much of what we’ve been told about pho­tog­ra­phy: that our job is to tell sto­ries. In real­i­ty, the sto­ries we tell are not lin­ear sto­ries with begin­nings, mid­dles and ends. Video is a far bet­ter tool for that kind of nar­ra­tive. Pho­tos are more like poetry—a sin­gle dis­tilled image that links us to some­thing larg­er with­out telling us every­thing. The most impact­ful sports pho­to ever made—Neil Leifer’s shot of a tri­umphant Ali stand­ing over Son­ny Lis­ton—tells us noth­ing about the fight except who won. But it tells us every­thing about Ali’s brash exu­ber­ance and gives us a sense of his inevitable tri­umph. For­get telling a sto­ry. Share an image that com­mu­ni­cates with­out need­ing a story.


Seek Uni­ver­sal­i­ty
As these exam­ples show, your job as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er is to evoke the uni­ver­sal: not tied to time and place, or for that mat­ter, to par­tic­u­lar sports. It doesn’t mat­ter that McCurry’s pho­to­graph hap­pened to have been tak­en in a refugee camp from the Sovi­et inva­sion of Afghanistan in 1984; it’s an image of the col­lat­er­al dam­age of war, all wars and the trau­ma it inflicts on the young.

Obvi­ous­ly, most of us won’t be pho­tograph­ing wars or cul­ture-defin­ing events. But the same uni­ver­sal­i­ty applies to the out­doors, and we just need to evoke it. Drop­ping into a big rapid, first tracks into vir­gin snow or being stuck on a mul­ti-pitch climb when a storm rolls in all speak to uni­ver­sal emo­tions. They can even be under­stand­able to peo­ple who don’t climb, ski or pad­dle. Thrill, joy, fear, cama­raderie, danc­ing with the ele­ments and the sooth­ing pow­er of nature sur­round us all the time.

The Egg
The good news is that you can actu­al­ly prac­tice tap­ping into these uni­ver­sal emo­tions. The first activ­i­ty I do with my pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dents is give them an egg and tell them to go pho­to­graph it. Eggs are full of implied mean­ing: white­ness, round­ness, fragili­ty, food, fer­til­i­ty and growth to name a few. Stu­dents have made great images of an egg on a tee about to be hit with a golf club, about to be crushed beneath a truck tire and hid­den against a plain white sheet of paper. From there it’s a short jump to the mean­ings we find in out­door sports and in nature.

Anoth­er way to train your­self to think in uni­ver­sal themes is to write down words about your sub­ject. Tak­ing pho­tos of your climb­ing part­ner? Write down words that describe them, in brain­storm mode: tall, tal­ent­ed, steady, goofy, fun­ny, fright­ened, cau­tious, relaxed, what­ev­er comes to mind. Make those adjec­tives your sto­ry. Your pho­to­graph­ic task is to con­vey them visually.

Pho­tographs con­vey mean­ing in two ways. The first is via metaphor. In this image of a lions’ mane jel­ly in the Pacif­ic Ocean, the black and white image with inky shad­ows cre­ates a sense of hid­den secrets. The specks of plank­ton become whites dots that resem­ble stars, imply­ing that the mys­ter­ies of the sea are not unlike those in out­er space—another hos­tile envi­ron­ment humans can’t live in for long, and con­tain­ing all sorts of strange­ness and maybe even strange creatures.

Visu­al Language
Pho­tos also con­vey mean­ing through sub­tle use of light, col­or, and com­po­si­tion. How peo­ple look at pho­tos is hard-wired deep in the lim­bic, instinc­tive part of our brains and oper­ates at a most­ly sub­con­scious lev­el. The mean­ing of lines that move in dif­fer­ent direc­tions, col­ors and the place­ment of objects con­vey a lot of mean­ing that the view­er of the image—and some­times the pho­tog­ra­ph­er themselves—doesn’t real­ize. This image of Rufus Knapp in a kayak slalom race uses a num­ber of visu­al langue cues to cre­ate a sense of ten­sion and urgency that extends far beyond his facial expres­sion. Learn how to use visu­al lan­guage to evoke the emo­tions you want.

Mean­ing First, Tech­nique Second
If you get these things right, vision and the abil­i­ty to evoke emo­tions will trump tech­nique. Not that tech­nique doesn’t mat­ter, but, as Ansel Adams put it, there’s noth­ing more frus­trat­ing than a sharp image of a fuzzy idea. Anoth­er of the most famous images ever made—Robert Capa’s image of an Amer­i­can GI com­ing ashore at Oma­ha Beach dur­ing D‑Day—perfectly sums the chaos of com­bat, the deter­mi­na­tion of sol­diers in war and moments in space and time upon which his­to­ry turns. It’s grainy, out of focus, imper­fect­ly com­posed (you can’t blame Capa, con­sid­er­ing the cir­cum­stances) and was dam­aged dur­ing pro­cess­ing. But nobody cares, and its impact endures to this day.

Get out there and shoot.


©istockphoto/standretDecades ago, pho­tog­ra­phy gear was expen­sive, heavy, and dif­fi­cult to use. Today, it’s read­i­ly acces­si­ble and high qual­i­ty, allow­ing just about any­one to make images and share their work. Free from the usu­al bar­ri­ers of gear, tech­ni­cal knowl­edge, and the inter­net, the only dis­tin­guish­ing fac­tors that sep­a­rate today’s pho­tog­ra­phers is vision and skill. Vision and skill are also the most sub­jec­tive of considerations.

In today’s pho­tog­ra­phy, the key skills that sep­a­rate the casu­al from the great out­door pho­tog­ra­phers have changed. Being an out­door pho­tog­ra­ph­er is easy. Being a great one is not. But there are a few things that all great out­door pho­tog­ra­phers have in com­mon. So, I’ve com­piled some indus­try secrets that can’t hurt.

Know Light
Whether you’re shoot­ing with a $50,000 Epic Red Drag­on or a smart­phone, light remains (and always will remain) the raw ele­ment of pho­tog­ra­phy. And dig­i­tal sen­sors, despite the fan­cy algo­rithms that get fanci­er by the day, are not near­ly as capa­ble as your eye and don’t see in the same way. “Good light” is almost always push­ing the abil­i­ty of a dig­i­tal sen­sor to cap­ture it. Learn how light works, and how to make strong images in rich and chal­leng­ing light. Nerd­ing out on col­or, Rayleigh scat­ter­ing, and the zone sys­tem will make cre­at­ing a good image in chal­leng­ing light sec­ond nature.

Be Cold, Wet, and Sore
One of the most basic skills that sep­a­rate great from less-than-great out­door pho­tog­ra­phers is a sim­ple will­ing­ness to be uncom­fort­able. Wait­ing for light on a frigid morn­ing, kneel­ing for hours on a slip­pery riv­er rock to shoot kayak­ers, wak­ing up absurd­ly ear­ly to chase light that may or may not appear, and haul­ing gear up and down ridges while your friends flit about with light packs, are all part of the game.

Bal­ance the Artist and the Nerd
Great pho­tos must have two things. The first is a com­pelling sub­ject and the artis­tic vision to tell a sto­ry. The sec­ond is the mas­tery of craft, the abil­i­ty to make and refine qual­i­ty images. Pho­tog­ra­phers must strad­dle two worlds: that of the free-think­ing, cre­ative artist giv­en to abstract, non-lin­ear think­ing, and the tech­ni­cal thinker who can metic­u­lous­ly man­age col­or, expo­sure, dig­i­tal post-pro­cess­ing, and print­ing. It’s hard to bal­ance the two. Most pho­tog­ra­phers come more from one world or the oth­er, and enter the oth­er grudg­ing­ly, with a slow learn­ing process. But learn both, we must.©istockphoto/Simon Bradfield

Embrace Mys­tery
The best images leave ques­tions unan­swered. What hap­pened next? Who was that per­son? What is hap­pen­ing just off the edge of the frame? A sense of mys­tery lets the view­er use their imag­i­na­tion. Unless you’re shoot­ing video, for­get about telling a sto­ry in a lin­ear fash­ion with a begin­ning, mid­dle, and end. Still, photography’s sto­ry­telling is more metaphor; a sub­tle use of visu­al lan­guage than action. Think of stills as poet­ry to video’s prose. Google gives us answers to what­ev­er we want in the infor­ma­tion age.  It’s the ques­tions, not the answers, that are interesting.

The best out­door images tap into fun­da­men­tal human emo­tions that cross cul­tures and time. Think of Galen Rowell’s image of climbers cel­e­brat­ing the first sight of green grass after weeks above the snow line. While the image was shot of a par­tic­u­lar set of climbers in the Karako­rum Himalaya, it cap­tures a sense of relief and joy that all out­door adven­tur­ers feel at some point, regard­less of the sport or set­ting. Or Steve McCurry’s image of Shar­bat Gula, a por­tray­al of the haunt­ing impact of trau­ma on the human spir­it. Both of these images con­vey mean­ing well beyond the time or place they were shot or the par­tic­u­lar sto­ries of those indi­vid­u­als. They’re sym­bols of a larg­er shared human experience.

Be Part of A Community
Being a pho­tog­ra­ph­er is often a lone­ly expe­ri­ence: most of the work is done solo, with long hours in the dig­i­tal dark­room. This kind of iso­la­tion, as well as wear­ing on the spir­it, can also short-cir­cuit learn­ing. Find a com­mu­ni­ty of pho­tog­ra­phers who shoot dif­fer­ent­ly, share ideas, keep each oth­er updat­ed on the lat­est tech­niques, and inspire each oth­er with dif­fer­ent approach­es. If there isn’t a pho­to­graph­ic com­mu­ni­ty like this near you, start one.

When the weath­er turns sour and the ama­teurs turn in, it’s time to break out your cam­era gear and get the shots that every­one else is miss­ing. Here are some quick tips for cap­tur­ing the most mem­o­rable pho­tos dur­ing the cold win­ter months.

Shoot Wildlife
Win­ter is one of the best times to cap­ture wildlife. Crowds in nation­al parks have slowed to a trick­le and the big guys (elk, deer, bison, moose) roam all day. Still it’s best to find you sub­jects dur­ing the gold­en hours (before 10am and after 3pm in the win­ter). Take advan­tage of bison in open prairies, and bugling elk just before the hunt­ing season.

Get a fil­ter if you can afford it
Get­ting some sort of fil­ter is the best thing you can do for your shoot­ing. A UV fil­ter will do won­ders to bal­ance the tones of your pho­tos and bring out the col­ors that may get washed out by bright con­trast. Even bet­ter, a cir­cu­lar polar­iz­ing fil­ter will allow you to decrease the glare of the sun on the snow, and make the skies much richer.

Keep it warm (and dry)
It often takes more than just a lit­tle per­sis­tence and willpow­er to get the best win­ter shots. And if you’re shoot­ing your friends hit­ting kick­ers all day, you’re usu­al­ly sit­ting on your ass wait­ing for a shot. Always pack plen­ty of hand­warm­ers with you not just for you but for your equip­ment as well. Your pho­tos, believe it or not, will def­i­nite­ly reflect your lev­el of stoke and if all you can think about is your soak­ing wet socks, you won’t be shoot­ing any­thing. Dress in lay­ers and warmer than you think you’ll need. Don’t for­get the rain gear, includ­ing ziploc bags if you need to keep your lens dry. If you do get some water on your glass, use the defroster in my car to dry my lenses.


Learn this meter­ing trick
One trick on point and shoot cam­eras involves the cam­er­a’s auto meter func­tion. If a scene has a large con­trast between fore­ground and back­ground, snag a meter point from the bright area by point­ing the cam­era direct­ly at that part of the frame, say a snow-capped peak or a bright blue sky, then while still hold­ing the shut­ter-but­ton halfway down, frame the shot and take the pho­to. This will keep you from blow­ing out your skies or your bright, snowy foregrounds. 

Over­ex­pose your shots
Snow plays tricks on your cam­er­a’s meter­ing mak­ing it think it’s pro­cess­ing 18% grey. Always over­ex­pose your scenes either using meter­ing com­pen­sa­tion on your cam­era or using a high­er ISO. Most mod­ern cam­eras go all the way up to 3200 but 800 should be plen­ty fast in most cas­es. It sounds like overkill but a vibrant white moun­tain is more inter­est­ing than a dull, grey one and a high ISO gives you the free­dom to manip­u­late your set­tings freely.

photo by Derek Schroeder

Have fun with the aper­ture
Because there is so much light to work with, win­ter is the per­fect time to shoot every­thing from vibrant macro shots with a crisp con­trast, to the infa­mous star trails pho­tographs that real­ly con­nect you to the con­cept of star­ship earth. To exper­i­ment with star trails prac­tice com­posit­ing mul­ti­ple expo­sures tak­en over the course of a few hours. Or take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to shoot some soft water. Win­ter is a time to catch great sub­dued tones.

photo by Derek Schroeder

(pho­tos by Derek Schroeder)

Joan Blaustein

Joan BlausteinThe mod­ern his­to­ry of the Grand Canyon is per­haps best embod­ied through the life’s work of pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er John Blaustein. Since his first trip down the Col­orado Riv­er aboard a decked-over dory in 1970, this anthro­pol­o­gy major from UC Berke­ley has built his career tak­ing pic­tures while indulging a per­son­al pas­sion for white­wa­ter adven­ture. First under the appren­tice­ship Joe Mon­roe, a free­lance pho­tog­ra­ph­er with cred­its in Life Mag­a­zine, Nation­al Geo­graph­ic, Time and For­tune, Blaustein learned the craft of pho­tog­ra­phy while build­ing his skills row­ing the mighty riv­er with vet­er­an guide Mar­tin Lit­ton. Com­bin­ing his exper­tise in both dis­ci­plines, he cre­at­ed the images for his sem­i­nal trea­tise called The Hid­den Canyon: A Riv­er Jour­ney in 1977. With text by the great essay­ist Edward Abbey, the book, though out of print, is still known as one of the best ever writ­ten on the Grand Canyon and set Blaustein’s long career now span­ning 40 years in motion.

 “I nev­er set out to do the book,” he told the Clymb “But it became the key­stone of my pho­tog­ra­phy. From there I kind of stum­bled from one thing to the next with­out a mas­ter plan.”

Blaustein’s work as pho­tog­ra­ph­er has appeared in pub­li­ca­tions that include Out­side, Sports Illus­trat­ed, Smith­son­ian and many oth­ers. With his book as a port­fo­lio of sorts, he was suc­cess­ful in secur­ing sev­er­al promi­nent cor­po­rate clients such as Apple Com­put­er, AT&T, New York Life and Unit­ed Air­lines. But tru­ly his great­est love has always been cap­tur­ing com­pelling images at water lev­el while on more than 85 trips through the Grand Canyon. It was dur­ing these ear­ly expe­ri­ences while row­ing the Col­orado Riv­er that Blaustein feels most for­tu­nate for hav­ing begun a pas­sion­ate obses­sion that inspires his life to this day.

“I had a lot of good luck. What I mean by that is stum­bling into the Grand Canyon when I did, meet­ing Mar­tin Lit­ton when I did, the fact that he would give me a chance,” Blaustein said. “If ever any­one was a fish out of water as boat­man in the Grand Canyon it was me.”

Now at the age of 66 Blaustein makes at least one plunge down the Col­orado every year. Thrilled by the prospects of dis­cov­er­ing more of its mys­ter­ies he pad­dles for­ward with his cam­era through the Canyon look­ing for that next excit­ing image around the bend.

The Clymb: What can you tell us about the inspi­ra­tion behind what can only described as icon­ic work tak­ing pho­tographs in one of the most spec­tac­u­lar nation­al parks in the country?

Blaustein: I was there. I was cap­ti­vat­ed by the dories, by the riv­er. I feel like I picked up my cam­era and I react­ed to it. I just think the place is mag­i­cal and the con­nec­tion that I devel­oped with the riv­er by being a guide, row­ing those won­der­ful lit­tle wood­en boats and just open­ing my eyes and react­ing to it is just what hap­pened. I am not one of these pho­tog­ra­phers  who writes a lot of flow­ery lan­guage about my pic­tures. A lot of peo­ple do. I don’t, maybe because I’m not artic­u­late enough. I was lucky to be there through the 70s. I’ve done about 85 trips, plus or minus, down the riv­er includ­ing recent ones, any­where between 15 and 21 days. You can do the math. I spent a lot of time at the bot­tom of the Grand Canyon. In the ear­ly days I was a dory guide, which I did from ’70 through ’77 or ’78. In recent years I’ve rowed a bag­gage boat. I do that because I don’t have guide’s license. I don’t have any of the first aid cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, which I would need to row pay­ing pas­sen­gers in a dory. It’s not worth it to me to get all that do one trip a year. So I’m thrilled to do a bag­gage boat, a raft so I can go along on a dory trip. Dur­ing those years in the ‘70s we were just down there learn­ing to run the rapids, tak­ing peo­ple down the riv­er, hav­ing a great time. And oh yeah, I had my cam­era. I was already inter­est­ed in pho­tog­ra­phy. I just had the time of my life shoot­ing what­ev­er I want­ed to on the river. 

The Clymb: You might have adopt­ed any riv­er in North Amer­i­ca. What was it about the Col­orado that was so appeal­ing to you?

Blaustein: I’ll give you a one-sen­tence answer. There’s only one Grand Canyon. As luck would have it, that’s where I end­ed up. I didn’t look at a map and say, “Let’s see, which nation­al park should I go to?” When I grad­u­at­ed from col­lage with lit­er­al­ly noth­ing to do for the rest of my life, I had no idea what I want­ed to do as a career. I was inter­est­ed in pho­tog­ra­phy. But I didn’t have a clue of how to pur­sue that or what to do with it. And this guy named Dave Bohn, with whom I stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy at Berke­ley, intro­duced me to a guy 15 min­utes from Berke­ley, Joe Mon­roe who was free­lance pho­tog­ra­ph­er. He did Life Mag­a­zine, and he knew Mar­tin Lit­ton through the Sier­ra Club. Dave said to me I’m sure he wouldn’t mind talk­ing to you. It was through Joe Mon­roe that I met Mar­tin, and Mar­tin invit­ed me to go down the riv­er to wash pots and pans as a cook’s assis­tant in 1970.

Short­ly before we left Mar­tin called me up and asked me what I was going to do after our riv­er trip?  I said, “I have noth­ing to do for the rest of my life, why?” So he says he’s think­ing about doing a sec­ond trip down the riv­er and he need­ed a boat­man and asked me to come along. I said, “Mar­tin, you’re crazy, I’ve nev­er been in a row boat!” So to answer your ques­tion, I didn’t pick the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon picked me.

The Clymb: You’ve been down through the Grand Canyon dozens of times in your life, but it doesn’t seem like it’s get­ting old to you. So now at the age of 66 in your mind is there a pic­ture in the Grand Canyon that you haven’t tak­en yet?

Blaustein: Sure. It’s fun­ny the guides that do this over and over again get asked that ques­tion a lot. I think if I weren’t row­ing I would nev­er say it’s going to be bor­ing. I think what keeps me com­ing back is the chal­lenge of the rapids, the white­wa­ter, being at the oars, and the great rela­tion­ship I have with the oth­er guides. I don’t think any­one would ever fin­ish pho­tograph­ing the Grand Canyon. I won’t ever feel that I’ve been there, done that.

Every time you go down the riv­er at any giv­en place, the light is always dif­fer­ent. You’re there at a dif­fer­ent time of day, because the pace of each trip is always slight­ly dif­fer­ent. There’s always going to be cer­tain places where I’ve seen it in board day­light, at high noon with no clouds. I’ll nev­er say that I’m fin­ished shoot­ing the Grand Canyon. I would say that hav­ing spent as much time as I have there and hav­ing shot as much as I have there I can be much more selec­tive than I was at the beginning.

I have the advan­tage of all my years of expe­ri­ence where I can antic­i­pate cer­tain parts of the Canyon that will look maybe bet­ter at cer­tain times of the day and that’s when I’ll be pay­ing more atten­tion. But I think any pho­tog­ra­ph­er will tell you, it’s all about the light and that’s chang­ing all the time. There always the oppor­tu­ni­ty that an area of the Canyon you’ve pho­tographed 5 times before the next time the light could be all that more spectacular.

 The Clymb: After all this time you prob­a­bly have a pret­ty good read on what you need to do a trip through the Grand Canyon suc­cess­ful­ly. What are the crit­i­cal pieces of equip­ment that are must-have items in your kit?

Blaustein: I guess num­ber one would be a life jack­et. You need fast dry­ing swim trunks and a long-sleeved shirt to keep as much of your body cov­ered from the sun as you can. And you need a great pair of riv­er shoes. We start­ed out in the 70s wear­ing Con­verse high-top All-Stars, a bas­ket­ball shoe. They were a joke because you’d have to wear cot­ton socks or the can­vas would rub holes in your feet, which were wet all day. Of course now there are Tevas and KEENS to give your feet a chance to air out a lit­tle bit. You have to pro­tect your feet while you’re mak­ing your way through the rapids and with the new high-tech san­dals; one pair of shoes is all you need.

The Clymb: What can you tell us about one of your most mem­o­rable moments in your career? 

Blaustein: I cer­tain­ly remem­ber flip­ping a dory in Lava Falls, get­ting too far out in the mid­dle and lit­er­al­ly going over the falls and going under long enough that I thought what the F*** is going on! It’s not like my life flashed before my eyes and I thought I was drown­ing, but I was feel­ing the rocks on the bot­tom of the riv­er and I was not pop­ping up the way one hopes to. That was cer­tain­ly mem­o­rable. But I can tell you, stand­ing above some of the rapids, notably Hance, Crys­tal, Lava Falls, when the water lev­el is not, I should say, advan­ta­geous, because as you know the riv­er fluc­tu­ates, it’s impres­sive. You look at in it and you say “Man! Do I real­ly have to do this?” But that’s part of the chal­lenge. That’s part of the adren­a­line rush. You get to bot­tom and you say, “I fooled’em again!”

Check out some of John’s incred­i­ble Grand Canyon pho­tog­ra­phy in our two-part fea­ture, The Gold­en Age of Guid­ing: Part One  |  Part Two       


Amaz­ing pho­tographs often inspire oth­er pho­tog­ra­ph­er to learn new cam­era skills. Steve Lenz, pro­fes­sion­al storm chas­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er, is known in the pho­tog­ra­phy world for his use of col­or with sun­ris­es, sun­sets and espe­cial­ly, thun­der­storms. Below he shares some of his favorite tips for pho­tograph­ing in the out­doors, as well as some of his most dan­ger­ous encoun­ters with lightning.

Eliz­a­beth Kovar: What got you into pho­tog­ra­phy?
Steve Lenz: As a young child I was fas­ci­nat­ed with nature and art. I spent a lot of time out­doors watch­ing, catch­ing and col­lect­ing things from nature. When I wasn’t doing that, I would be look­ing at pic­tures of nature in mag­a­zines and books, and then sketch­ing what I saw with pen­cils. Around 8 years old my par­ents bought me my first cam­era, and I was hooked. Ever since then, I have been join­ing my love of nature and art into this one medium.

EK: How long have you been a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er?
SL: I start­ed my appren­tice­ship in 1991 and have been pro­fes­sion­al­ly active ever since. My pho­tog­ra­phy skills have been paired with a vari­ety of jobs includ­ing web devel­op­ment, adver­tis­ing pro­duc­tion, and my cur­rent work as the art direc­tor for a region­al magazine.

sl1EK: Do you have any sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments that are you proud of?
SL: Being pub­lished is always a great feel­ing. I have been in La Vie Claire, Newsweek, inter­na­tion­al news­pa­pers, and region­al publications.

EK: You are known for your keen eye for col­or. What can ama­teur pho­tog­ra­phers do to enhance the col­or in their pho­tographs?
SL: The most impor­tant thing is get­ting your expo­sure cor­rect. Under­ex­posed and over­ex­posed images will wash out col­ors. Famil­iar­iz­ing your­self with your cam­era using the own­ers man­u­al is very impor­tant so that you know how to adjust expo­sure. Most cam­eras, even inex­pen­sive point-and-shoots, will allow for expo­sure adjust­ments. Usu­al­ly it is with a + and — sym­bol. Sim­ply, if you want it brighter, push +, and dark­er, push — (refer to your man­u­al). You can see on the pre­view screen on your cam­era how this affects the image. Anoth­er tip is to learn col­or the­o­ry. Com­ple­men­tary col­ors when placed next to each oth­er will make them seem more vivid. Yel­low leaves against a blue sky is an example.

Last­ly, learn­ing your pho­to soft­ware is impor­tant. This is the mod­ern-day equiv­a­lent of the dark­room. Peo­ple crit­i­cize dig­i­tal manip­u­la­tion but most of what the soft­ware does was being done in the dark­room. The trick is to not over­do it. Col­ors can be sat­u­rat­ed and expo­sures cor­rect­ed with soft­ware. This was also done in the dark­room. I rec­om­mend only cor­rect­ing images to match what you saw with your eye. Oth­er­wise, the image becomes more dif­fi­cult for the view­er to con­nect with and cross­es over from pho­tog­ra­phy into impres­sion­ism. This is my opin­ion though and not a rule. Rules are stifling.


EK: What is the best way to shoot sun­ris­es and sun­sets?
SL: I watch for inter­est­ing weath­er pat­terns and plan ahead. If you see a beau­ti­ful sun­set in progress and then go find a place to shoot it, it will be too late. When I see the clouds are look­ing dra­mat­ic a few hours before sun­set, I will start look­ing for the fore­ground I want and then wait there as the sun drops. Expo­sure is impor­tant here.

Ear­ly on in the sun­set, the sun is very intense and will make your cam­era dark­en the image too much. This is where you can use the +/- but­ton to bright­en up the image. Usu­al­ly +2 will help cor­rect the expo­sure. As the sun gets low­er, more orange, and less intense, you can adjust this back to +/- 0. A sun­set by itself is beau­ti­ful, but can be trite. Find­ing ele­ments to add to the image make it more inter­est­ing. Trees, moun­tains, lakes, ani­mals, etc. Sun­ris­es are basi­cal­ly a reverse of the above, but start­ing a twi­light before the sun is peek­ing out.

EK: So you shoot thun­der­storms, what is that like?
SL: Storms are very excit­ing! It is moth­er nature at her most dra­mat­ic. The scenes are much more dynam­ic with big­ger-than-life clouds, dark skies, wind-blown land­scapes, pound­ing rain and hope­ful­ly light­ning. Areas that, dur­ing good weath­er, can some­times become bor­ing will trans­form into fan­tas­tic scenes. There is also a pri­mal ele­ment of being in the dan­ger zone that ener­gizes my spir­its which then ener­gizes my creativity.

EK: Have you ever encoun­tered a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion while shoot­ing?
SL: Yes. In the sum­mer of 2012 I was out chas­ing an unusu­al­ly intense light­ning storm. I found myself in the hills south­west of Wal­la Wal­la. These are exposed tree­less areas. Some incred­i­bly intense strikes were hit­ting ground a few miles away and I was so engrossed in pho­tograph­ing them, I didn’t notice how swift­ly things were chang­ing around me. For­tu­nate­ly at this point, odd­ly enough, my shut­ter broke after 122,644 pho­tos being tak­en over about 5 years. My heart sank as this was the most mag­i­cal storm I had been in. Dis­ap­point­ed, I got in my car and that’s when the light­ning began ground-strik­ing all around me. Know­ing how obsessed I was with tak­ing pho­tos at that moment, I would not have got­ten to the safe­ty of my car with­out the break­down. For the most part, I am very safe with what I do. But now and then a moment can over­pow­er your sen­si­bil­i­ties and the awe will out­weigh the reason.

sl3EK: How can the aver­age pho­tog­ra­ph­er shoot clear light­ning bolt strikes? 
SL: What I do is watch for the storms and get a feel for where the strikes are most com­mon. An area with wide panoram­ic views, such as wheat­fields, is help­ful so that trees aren’t hid­ing the light­ning. I will then tri­pod mount my cam­era, aim it in that direc­tion, and leave the shut­ter open for a long time. Cam­eras will vary on their abil­i­ty to man­u­al­ly set their shut­ter speed. Your user’s man­u­al will help with this.

What I do is set the shut­ter speed for 30 sec­onds at about F8 at ISO 100, some­times ISO 400 depend­ing on the bright­ness of the light­ning, and just keep press­ing the shut­ter hop­ing for a few good strikes in that 30 sec­ond win­dow. Focus­ing the cam­era is impor­tant too. Some­times set­ting it on infin­i­ty is enough. Some­times the light­ning is clos­er than you real­ize and you need to focus on some­thing that is par­al­lel to it. On point-and-shoots, set­ting it in Scene mode and select­ing the moun­tain icon, or scenic set­ting, will be best.

EK: Got any words from the wise?
SL: Be safe! Fol­low the rules about light­ning so you don’t get zapped. Stand­ing out in open areas with a met­al tri­pod is not a good idea. Stay ahead of and away from the actu­al storm and zoom in on it. Set the cam­era on a tri­pod, then wait in a car or build­ing dur­ing the long expo­sures. Cov­er the cam­era with a water­proof bag as freak rain storms can wreak hav­oc on unpro­tect­ed equipment.

See more of Steve’s pho­tog­ra­phy on his web­site.


What do I like best about work­ing at The Clymb? Sure, get­ting hooked up with great deals on rad gear is pret­ty cool (mem­bers get first dibs though, I swear!), and get­ting to test said gear is even cool­er. But what stokes me more than any­thing else is get­ting the chance to meet some tru­ly inspir­ing and influ­en­tial peo­ple. One of those peo­ple is Boone Speed. Now one of the plan­et’s most sought-after out­door pho­tog­ra­phers (Patag­o­nia and Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Adven­tures are amongst his clients), Boone is an icon in the sport of rock climb­ing as an ath­lete and inno­va­tor. It’s just my luck that he now lives in Port­land and hap­pens to be a mem­ber of The Clymb. We recent­ly had a chance to dia­logue on the sub­ject of climb­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and rock ’n’ roll.

You’re an accom­plished pho­tog­ra­ph­er, but also con­sid­ered ‘The God­fa­ther of Mod­ern Boul­der­ing”, has pho­tog­ra­phy always been a part the climb­ing expe­ri­ence for you?

Ha! (laugh­ing) I’ve heard that moniker before. I guess the quick ver­sion of how I stood out is that in the ear­ly nineties I was part of a group that set off in pur­suit of the hard­est sin­gle gym­nas­tic moves done on rock. We trav­elled all over the world look­ing for new climb­ing venues where we did­n’t need ropes or a lot of gear. In short, we just went on a search for new boul­der­ing areas. And we were suc­cess­ful and had a good laugh along the way. I was always one of the strongest in the group and that cou­pled with my abil­i­ty to tell a good sto­ry through pho­tog­ra­phy, video and writ­ing made me a fig­ure­head as boul­der­ing grew into a sport all its own. So yes, pho­tog­ra­phy has been a big part of my climb­ing expe­ri­ence. By the late nineties boul­der­ing was the fastest grow­ing dis­ci­pline in climb­ing and spawned an indus­try with­in the out­door indus­try. At that time, a cou­ple of my friends and I start­ed a com­pa­ny called Push­er. Dur­ing Push­er’s short life it had a mas­sive effect on mod­ern­iz­ing the aes­thet­ic and the voice of climb­ing, which at the time had become stag­nant. I was in the right place at the right time and became Push­er’s pho­tog­ra­ph­er. And that pret­ty much marked the begin­ning of my move towards pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phy. My work for Push­er still holds up today. I’m real­ly proud of what we did there.

You’ve made a career shoot­ing for high pro­file brands & pub­li­ca­tions, do you get much oppor­tu­ni­ty to shoot per­son­al work?

I would say that still ful­ly 80% of what I shoot is for me. I love the pho­to­graph­ic process, which is obvi­ous­ly dig­i­tal nowa­days, but dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy is based com­plete­ly on how the pho­to­graph­ic process works. It’s how light inter­acts with our sur­round­ings, and you can see exam­ples of it every­where, like in shad­ows or reflec­tions. It takes years to get a good grasp of let alone mas­ter. And it’s not like you can just pick up a cam­era and you’re a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. I love that every­one is get­ting into pho­tog­ra­phy now…everyone’s got cam­eras on their phones and whatnot…and no doubt a lot of great pic­tures will be made by a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple. But it will also make peo­ple appre­ci­ate how intri­cate the process actu­al­ly is. They’ll quick­ly real­ize that a lucky shot here and there does­n’t mean you’re a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. Look at it this way, it’s like every­one owns a pen­cil and paper but few peo­ple con­sid­er them­selves a writer, make sense?

As a climb­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er you face the same envi­ron­ments and phys­i­cal demands as the ath­letes you’re shoot­ing, not to men­tion the addi­tion­al bur­den of pho­to gear — how do you pre­pare phys­i­cal­ly for a shoot?

Good obser­va­tion. The hon­est answer is that I don’t. I’m just out all the time, and I’m rou­tine­ly car­ry­ing a 40lb back­pack. So I just nat­u­ral­ly stay pret­ty fit. But when I go out with guys like Con­rad Anker into the moun­tains, he’s a guy that’s sum­mit­ed Ever­est a few times, I become very aware of how much more fit I could be. Espe­cial­ly when i have to car­ry my climb­ing gear plus my pho­to gear. I mean, some­times I feel like I’m on hid­den camera…it’s like, watch this…let’s give the weak­est guy the heav­i­est pack. Psyche!

You’re the house pho­tog­ra­ph­er for a well known rock (and roll) venue in Port­land. How does music fit into your day?

All day every day. And hav­ing all-access to Doug Fir is great because it’s relaxed. I’d rather see an obscure band in a small venue than any­one in a big venue. I can hon­est­ly say that I like all types of music. And the ran­dom set­tings on my ipod or pandora…just cast off…especially when I’m work­ing at home. The ran­dom­ness is great for my cre­ative thought process…ya know, it jars my thoughts when I don’t know what’s com­ing next.

What are your 5 favorite pieces of gear (could be a cam­era, a jack­et,  a har­ness, etc)?

I’d have to say my iphone is far and away #1. Then my Cameras…most notably my 5d‑2 and my 24mm 1.4 lens, ‑which is this mon­th’s favorite lens. Then my com­put­er, where it sits, because that’s my office. Then my Lowe­pro Com­pu Primus back­pack which allows me to car­ry 40 lbs eas­i­ly and con­ve­nient­ly but also can load up with near­ly 80 lbs when I need it to. And I don’t have a 5th. I don’t need much. (laughs)

What are your favorite and least favorite des­ti­na­tions for climb­ing and/or shooting?

Mal­lor­ca. Absolute­ly my favorite place for climbing…and good for shoot­ing too. And for the life man…it’s Spain for cryin out loud. The entire west coast of the island is rimmed with 60′ lime­stone cliffs above the mediter­ranean. We climb there with­out ropes, so if you fall you just go to the sea. It’s bril­liant. In fact, it’s kin­da spoiled me for oth­er kinds of climb­ing actu­al­ly. And I love mex­i­co for surf­ing. My plan is to retire there as soon as pos­si­ble. Which reminds me that I need to learn span­ish… And I don’t real­ly have any least favorite places. I like wher­ev­er I’m at. And if I ever find myself feel­ing down about a place I just remind myself how lucky I am to be able to do what I do.

We would like to thank Boone for his time and photography!

Our brand event this week is Moun­tain­smith which starts today at 9am PST and runs through Sat­ur­day morn­ing 9am PST, you can save up to 70% off Moun­tain­smith gear includ­ing packs, cas­es, rollers, and more. It is a mem­bers only event so you can ask a friend who has a mem­ber­ship or con­tact us on Twit­ter @theclymb, on Face­book, or via e‑mail kevin (@) theclymb.com.

When we start­ed this blog one of the main things we talked about was using it not to just pimp brand events but also use it to share things we find inter­est­ing in the out­door com­mu­ni­ty. We have been work­ing on build­ing some Twit­ter lists of dif­fer­ent blog­gers by inter­est area. (More on that in weeks to come.)

Today we want­ed to share some of our favorite out­door blogs that have spec­tac­u­lar photography.

Pic­ture from: http://blog.adampaul.com/

Cur­rent­ly Adam is shar­ing some pic­tures from Prague and they are flat out amaz­ing.  I per­son­al­ly spent some time there almost ten years ago so I have real­ly been enjoy­ing this series.

Pic­ture from: http://www.baoutdoors.com/

Dave Miller has some excel­lent pho­tos from the North Dome Loop at Yosemite includ­ing this awe­some shot where he used a 5 minute exposure.

Pic­ture from: http://gambolinman.blogspot.com/

The recent set done on this blog has intro­duced a fall col­or palate, nice change from all the West­ern based pho­tog­ra­phy blogs I usu­al­ly read.

Pic­ture from: http://ihavedrive.com/

Climb­ing blogs usu­al­ly have some real­ly inter­est­ing shots and Tamara’s live.love.climb blog is no dif­fer­ent. Prob­a­bly some of my favorite action sets.

We know that this is just the tip of the ice­berg and will be fea­tur­ing more blogs in the future. Take the time to check out these sites and sub­scribe to their blogs, it will be well worth it.

So what are some of your favorite out­door blogs that have amaz­ing photos?

(Don’t for­get today is the last day for our Out­door Research brand event. Save up to 70% off the price of over 70 dif­fer­ent Out­door Research mod­els. If you need an invite us send us a tweet or you can e‑mail us a kevin.p [at] theclymb.com.)