How To: Document Your Frontier

June 20, 2017

Adventure Photography Tips From The Experts at Peak Design

We’ve been friends with the team at Peak Design for years now. Since the moment they launched on Kickstarter, we knew they were onto something great. And years later, they still make some of the best products for transporting camera gear. At the same time, they consistently impress us with the interesting perspectives they capture and share across blogs and Instagram (all of which include a bit of humor that remind us all to take the load off).

Before you head out to capture the epic moments you encounter on your frontier, we asked our buds at Peak Design to walk you through their top adventure photography tips.

There are many reasons to push yourself into strange new places: see the world, change your perspective, grow closer to your friends, learn more about yourself, relax, the list goes on. In all cases, finding your personal frontier is a special experience—one that you’ll probably want to (but don’t have to) document and share. And if you’re going to make an effort to do that, we’ve got a handful of suggestions for honing your photography game.

Bring A Camera.
Northern California - Private Campsite

As Thomas Jefferson said, you’ll only regret the pictures you don’t take. We’re pretty sure he said that. Maybe it was Bono. Either way, get into the habit of bringing your camera places you normally wouldn’t. This applies to environments you might think are too inhospitable (the Kalahari desert) or too mundane (the laundromat). Keep your camera close at hand (shameless plug: easy-access camera carry is kind of our schtick) and don’t just pull it out of your bag when you’re standing on a mountaintop or watching sunset from the beach. Capturing the in-between moments helps you build context around the high points of your adventure. And for crying out loud, bring spare SD cards and batteries.

Lay Off The Landscapes.
Catskills, New York - Cabin

You’re never going to get home from a trip and wish you had taken more pictures of mountains, trees, prairies, beaches, and cityscapes in the distance. Those will always be the first things you think to snap photos of...they are big, beautiful, and captivating. Don’t get us wrong, you should take oodles of landscape shots. But you should try and balance it out with some other stuff (see the next few points).

Don't Let People Scare Ya.
People photo

People are really, really interesting. Their body language and facial expressions convey emotions and situational nuances that inanimate things can’t. Photos of people will instantly transport you to moments that you might have otherwise forgotten. Don’t be afraid to point that camera towards your friends, or even towards strangers, provided you adhere to common decency and local etiquette. Posed portraits are great, but candids often tell a deeper story. (Pro tip: Try shooting from the chest once in a while. It takes a bit of practice but gives you a different perspective and can result in truly unique shots).

Get The Deets.
The Details

You’ve got the landscapes. You’ve got the people. Now round that story out with up-close shots of still-life minutiae that glues the whole scene together. The pile of muddy boots sitting by the campfire, the bent-up subway map on the hostel nightstand, and the grimy keys sitting on your dusty rental car dashboard make your story real.

Get A Fixed Lens. 

If you’re semi-serious about photography, you’ve probably gone and got yourself a DSLR. If you’re willing to make that kind of investment, then you should snag a wide-aperture fixed lens while you’re at it (our favorites are 28mm, 35mm, and a good 50mm). The fixed focal length will force you to think more creatively about the composition of your photos because you aren’t zooming in and out, and the wide aperture will enable a shallower depth of field (prettier portraits) and allow the camera to take in more light (meaning your shots will be less busy in dark conditions).

Use The Rule Of Thirds.
Weed, California - Shasta View Campsite

This is one of the simplest rules in photo composition: when looking through the viewfinder, imagine a 3x3 grid overlaying your subject (some cameras can be programmed to show this grid in the live view). Rather than centering on your subject, align the subject (and other linear elements of the shot) to one or more of these imaginary grid lines. Think about creating visual balance in exciting and asymmetrical ways.

Edit Consistently And Conservatively. 

If you’re going to edit your photos (not necessary, but once you get into the habit you’ll never go back) try to be consistent, especially with shots taken at the same time/location. And while quirky Instagram filters and Lightroom presets can be fun at first, they can also look harsh and/or cheesy a year or two down the road. We think you’ll love your photos more if you edit with restraint. In college you might have thought that vodka and Jolly Ranchers tasted good. But in the long run, most of us would prefer the subtle tones of a decent glass of wine.

Stay up to date with the latest from Peak Design via their site or on Instagram.

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