I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville



Mar 10, 2017

Female Adventure Photographers Risking Their Lives For the Shot – Part 2

Following up on Part 1, here are more wildly talented women, the extreme mental and physical obstacles they face—being both athlete and photographer—and their tricks of the trade.


Laura Szanto

Read the first part of this series with invaluable insights from adventure photography rockstars, Krystle Wright, Camilla Rutherford and Dawn Kish, here.

Although a healthy number of us will probably never find ourselves in a squirrel suit about to jump off a cliff, we continue to enjoy thrills through the comfortable front row seats of our social media viewfinders. Popular adventure photographers around the world use Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat to make it easier more than ever for us to experience extreme sports through their lenses. Why not go snowboarding down steep spines in Alaska, or rock climb up daunting routes in Yosemite? There is no limit to what we are able to visually experience online. And it is made possible thanks to the dedicated work of photographers like the following—who are willing to go out there and capture these extreme moments for us.

JODY_MACDONALD_15052_MNCTZ2KLFL-reg-magJody MacDonald

An award winning adventure sport and documentary photographer who’s stunning portfolio will take you on an extraordinary sea to sky experience. Her images of surfing, kiteboarding and paragliding will surely quench your thirst for adventure. But if that’s not enough, she also boasts an enviable travel portfolio as well. Not only did she grow up in Saudi Arabia travelling as a child, but her sailing adventures in the last decade have brought her to over 60 countries around the world such as India, Mauritania, Panama, Caribbean and Chile to name a few.

Her dynamic, bold and fearless photography will surely inspire you to get out on the field and pursue your own adventure photography career. This is what she has to say about her experiences as a successful adventure photographer.

JodyMacDonald-GavinMcClurg-Sierra Moutains, CA, USA-WingsFinalist
Paraglider Gavin McClurg through Sierra Moutains, CA, USA. A Red Bull Illume Wings Category finalist by Jody MacDonald

My advice would be to start off by photographing the sports and adventures that you enjoy. Photograph as much as possible and be critical of your work. Study the greats. Figure out what kind of photography you like and don’t like, then understand why. Answering these questions will help shape and mould your work into your own style and help you focus on the things you are passionate about. Then shoot some more. Photograph as much as you possibly can and be extremely critical of your own work. Immerse yourself into it and start submitting to magazines that fit with the type of photography you are doing. You will likely get rejected, but it doesn’t matter… it’s all part of the process. Repeat and never give away your work for free.

Then ask yourself “is this something I can live without?”

If the answer is yes…stop. Because that’s what it’s going to take to do well in this profession. It needs to be apart of your DNA.

I became a paragliding pilot over a decade ago and have been flying ever since. It is an incredibly challenging sport to photograph, especially when you’re trying to pilot your own wing and take pictures at the same time. The logistics are definitely the hardest thing. A lot has to come together—not just light, background and all the things that usually go into making a good photo—but I have to be in the air, my subject has to be in the air, the weather has to be right, at the right time of day and we are both moving within the landscape.

Jody MacDonald - Morocco
Photo by Jody MacDonald

When you imagine the immersion that is required to shoot well when you’re on land, the challenges increase dramatically when you’re in the air. Lens caps, changing expensive lenses, changing CF cards, changing batteries—one quick slip and your gear is gone, forever. When I shoot in the Himalayas, we can often get up to altitudes near 20,000 feet or more, with temperatures well below zero. In these cases, frozen hands, nausea and hypoxia are issues. What minimises all these challenges is having a good group of people and pilots to work with, good weather conditions and then like anything, the more you practice the easier it gets.

Essential Gear
I shoot with Canon equipment for water sport photography. The camera I am photographing with now is the Canon 1DX with an Aquatech Housing and Leica’s new X-U waterproof camera. My essential equipment is surf fins, mask and snorkel and camera and housing. Less is better.

When your getting pummelled by waves you want to keep it simple.

Jody Macdonald
Photo by Jody Macdonald

Find more of Jody’s stunning work on Instagram: @jodymacdonaldphoto

Savannah Cummins16443869_10210711976509628_207811526_o

North Face athlete Savannah Cummins is an Ohio born adventure photographer and film maker. Whether it’s climbing, camping, hiking or exploration, her content is a pure celebration of mountain sports and lifestyle.

A professional climber herself, she has left no category unchecked in her climbing portfolio. From rock climbing in the desert in Utah to ice climbing in Canada, her exceptional climbing images and films have gained international recognition and publications in climbing magazines around the world.

Savannah’s success comes at no surprise as she continues to capture the essence of what it means to push the limits and thrive in the outdoors. These are her tips for what it takes to be a successful adventure photographer.

Photo by Savannah Cummins
Photo by Savannah Cummins

My advice for other adventure photographers would be that when the adventure is hard, and you’re tired, it’s usually the best time to break out the camera. It’s something I struggle with myself, but being there to capture a real and unstaged moment that won’t ever happen again is an amazing opportunity—so embrace the moment and make some beautiful images! Also, investing in a Wilderness First Aid or WFR course is something I highly recommend. Accidents can happen, and they happen fast, so you can NOT rely on your athlete(s) to help you out of a dangerous situation. These courses will help you be better prepared for the unexpected.

Savannah cummins femaleclimbing
Photo by Savannah Cummins

Whether I’m shooting for fun or for a client, all projects require quite a bit of planning. If I’ve never been to a location before I try to do as much research as possible beforehand so I have an idea for what the terrain and setting that I’ll be working with is like. If the location is accessible before a shoot, I will go scout the scene(s) to figure out the best angles and lighting, as well as rigging and descent logistics. I typically try to come up with a shot list beforehand, and I always make sure that if the client hasn’t provided specific clothing or gear to showcase, my athlete or model is wearing good colours that will stand out in whatever setting we will be in.

I’d say ice climbing has proven to be the most challenging type of shoot, but also by far my favourite thing to shoot. Ice climbing is cold and requires a lot more gear, layers, food, camera equipment, ropes, jugging gear, crampons, ice tools, helmet and boots…all that weight quickly adds up! Getting lines rigged for ice is rarely an easy task, and when I’m above the athlete shooting, I’m constantly trying to avoid knocking ice down on them while trying to use any tactics possible to keep my hands and feet from going numb.

I realise I’m not making it sound very fun, but I’m always beyond stoked with the images I walk away with after an ice climbing shoot and pretty quickly forget about the suffering. I learn something new every time I go out and shoot, and that’s why I love it so much.

Needless to say, she spends some time in some unideal weather conditions. Photo by Savannah Cummins

Essential Gear
My camera of choice is the Sony A7rII. It’s pretty light compared to my old Canon set up, and although the digital sensor took me awhile to get used to I absolutely love it. My other favourite function with my Sony is the silent shutter. People act differently when they know they’re getting their photo taken and this allows me to be more stealth and capture images without letting the subject know I’m even taking photos—they usually assume I’m just changing settings and such. F-Stop is my go to with camera bags. They make organisation easy, and going climbing or adventuring already requires a lot of gear and equipment so being organised is the easiest way for me to not lose my mind when shuffling through gear at the base of a mountain or cliff.

Savannah Cummins sleepingbag
Photo by Savannah Cummins

The most memorable adventures I’ve been on have always come with a hefty degree of suffering. What they call type 2 fun, it’s usually not the most enjoyable during the moment…I’m either cold, the hike sucks, it’s scary, I forget something, mess up the beta, or it’s just an insanely long day without enough food or water. When those days are over I’m pretty happy, but after a good night sleep I wake up ready to do it again and already dreaming up my next adventure.

More of Savannah’s intensely beautiful shots on Instagram: @sav.cummins


robin-o-neill-11-2013Robin O’Neill

Robin O’Neill is an action and outdoor lifestyle photographer based in Whistler, British Columbia with award winning images and a huge client list—for good reason. Her action sports & lifestyle portfolio showcases spectacular images of snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, surfing, trail running, paddle boarding and fishing.

Aside from working with reputable athletic brands and products, she also incorporates intimate humanitarian scenes as well. Whether it’s for sports, tourism, hospitality or humanitarian work, be sure to check out her amazing work and read what she has to say about her experiences in the field.

Photo by Robin O'neill
Photo by Robin O’neill

Good light is paramount. Choose a direction of light that helps bring more depth and dimension to an image. Or create it with lights. Listen to your athletes and work WITH them. Let them select locations, features and terrain that enables them to showcase their talents; the results are unmistakably better. Composition is key to the perfect shot. Take care in where you place the subject and lens selection is a big part of compelling composition.

 A little bit is just luck. You have to be out there and taking photographs, but sometimes on that day, the environment just hands you gold.

Ha! I have two. One I can influence, but don’t feel like I can; balance. The other I can’t influence; weather conditions. Because my work is an extension of my life, meaning I am documenting what I love to do, it’s easy to work and travel too much, to feel pinned and depleted. But the work is so exciting and it’s hard turn down opportunities. As for weather and conditions, it affects ski photography the most. But camping in the rain day after day on a MTB shoot, can also become challenging. It can be tough just to keep gear dry and functioning.

Usage: Arcteryx (2016)
Photo for Arc’teryx by Robin O’neill

Essential Gear
I depend on all my gear! Canon is my go to for camera gear—the 1Dx Mark II is my right-hand. The 50mm 1.2, I couldn’t live without that one either. The 14mm and the 70-200mm. I love my Cecilia neck straps, and my F-stop packs.  And I rely on my Arc’teryx outerwear to keep me dry and warm.

Photo by Robin O’Neill

 Build relationships, work hard, take chances on opportunities, and give athletes feedback to keep them fired up on what you’re shooting. Plan everything and then expect it to change at the last minute. Don’t give up.

Follow more of Robin’s stunning life in the mountains on Instagram: @robinoneill

Feature image by Robin O’neill

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Athletes & Explorers

Sep 06, 2018

Getting to the Bottom: What It Took for Priyanka Mangesh Mohite to Climb Everest

Summiting Everest is difficult. However, it’s not all about climbing the mountain itself, especially when you’re 21 and on a budget.



Jahnvi Pananchikal

“How did you do it? But you’re really young!” That was what Priyanka Mangesh Mohite began to hear, when she told people about her successful ascent of the planet’s highest mountain. Mohite climbed Everest when she was 21 years old. As remarkable as the feat itself may be, what is also remarkable is her backstory, and the small circle of people that supported her in a part of the world and in an ecosystem where climbing, especially big mountains, is about much more than about just getting up the peak.

“You feel a question mark [on yourself] when others doubt your abilities.”

When we spoke to Mohite, all we heard was laughter and gratitude while describing repeated trips to the mountains, and the people she respects. She continued to smile even when remembering difficult times of self-doubt and lack of financial support.

Mohite is a young and dedicated climber from Satara, Maharashtra, who got very lucky. She wanted to climb Everest, and had just been selected for a government-supported expedition to the world’s highest mountain. But she needed to raise additional funds to round up her share of the budget. Mohite spent six months visiting every corporate office in her town to pitch potential sponsors. She only had two previous mountaineering expeditions to show on her climbing résumé, which certainly wasn’t enough to help her case, despite her confidence. “You feel a question mark when others doubt your abilities,” she recalls. The experience of repeated rejection forced her to reconsider many times, and she came close to giving up the idea altogether. But she kept at it, and eventually, raised seven lakhs rupees (US$10,000) from several small companies and individuals. Then her parents stepped in to help, giving Mohite the remaining ten lakhs rupees (US$14,000) that she needed. [Ed’s note: Everest is most often climbed with commercial expeditions that charge between US$25,000 to US$50,000 per person].

Photo: Neema Thenduk Sherpa

Given her lack of experience, Mohite was not confident about making it to the expedition. She had completed basic and advanced mountaineering courses at one of India’s several mountaineering institutes, and regularly went rock climbing near her town. Despite the fact that today Everest is a commercially-guided peak, someone planning to climb Everest should ideally have been on at least one 8000m mountain, or several high-altitude peaks in a series of serious expeditions. Mohite had only done two serious climbs before, including one 6500m peak – just about the altitude of Camp 2 on Everest. She wasn’t quite experienced yet.

However, with a strong desire to succeed, Mohite found herself a supporter. Colonel Neeraj Rana, former principal of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was running selections for an Everest expedition they were backing. During training sessions, he noticed how she kept going despite injured knees on a 30km hike. The next day, he took a chance on her, inviting her to join his Everest expedition.

In 2013, Priyanka Mangesh Mohite became the third youngest Indian to climb Everest.

With financial support from parents and a few individuals, and knowing that Colonel Rana trusted her abilities, Mohite embarked on her Everest expedition. In 2013, she became the third youngest Indian to climb Everest. Since then, she’s continued to knock ’em off –  including Lhotse, Elbrus and Kilimanjaro.

Photo: Priyanka Mangesh Mohite

She is not a big fan of groups; others slow her down, she says, and often the expertise of many trip leaders seems questionable. In 2015, after climbing Everest, she went to Menthosa, the second-highest peak in Himachal Pradesh, India. The trip was led by climbers who took a group of 15 people to an advanced camp without checking for incoming weather conditions. The group turned around before the summit due to a huge avalanche, and returned to base camp the next day. Bizarrely, they blamed their lack of success on Mohite, telling her she’d been too slow, with insinuations about her weight.

“It’s hard to go in groups. You should know them; they should be your friends. Plus, you need to feel comfortable following the leader.”

Mohite prefers and respects the disciplined approach and rigorous training methodology of Colonel Rana. They regularly go on expeditions together, along with a couple of Sherpas.  “It’s hard to go in groups. You should know them; they should be your friends. Plus, you need to feel comfortable following the leader. I have that rapport with Colonel Rana,” she says.

Photo: Pemba Sherpa

Mohite feels a certain sense of pride. Her financial troubles are behind her after Everest. Since then, she’s had no more trouble raising sponsors. She met Shriniwas Patil, the former Governor of the Indian state of Sikkim, at an event after her big climb. Patil gave her his personal phone number, telling her to contact him in case she needed help. For her next expedition, she gave him a call, and Patil found sponsors to fund her entire expedition within ten days. This is yet another example that summitting the world’s highest peak despite adequate experience, is often an Indian climber’s escape from financial difficulties, in a country that lacks a healthy ecosystem for outdoor sports.

“I’ve heard Lhotse is very difficult and I really want to climb it.”

When Mohite returned to Everest Base Camp after summiting, she had a chance to speak with her family. Her mother was worried and crying, and her father put her on the speakerphone for everyone to hear. He told his daughter, “I’ll give you anything you want when you come home.” Mohite replied, “I’ve heard Lhotse is very difficult and I really want to climb it. Will you please let me go?” Her entire family burst into laughter. Her mother insisted that she returned home before heading off again on expedition. Mohite simply smiled, dreaming of climbing her next big mountain.


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