In a field heavily dominated by men, it takes a few dedicated, badass women to push the limits and influence their industry. Here are tips from some of the most talented female action photographers thriving in adventure photography, giving us a look through their lens.
More adventure visuals in Part 2 with the wildly talented Jody MacDonald, Savannah Cummins and Robin O’neill here.
Adventure and action sports have drawn our attention for decades. Regardless of which specific adventure sports we are drawn to, we find meaning in the pursuit of psychological thrill despite its inherent risks. It allows us to explore new territories, test physical limits, and most importantly, to feel alive.
Passion, persistence and hard work are all imperative driving forces in an adventure photography career. Days in the field can be long and adverse circumstances such as terrible weather can make it especially exhausting. However, challenges aside, there are adventure photographers out there who know how to push the limits and deliver incredible work.
Female adventure photographers are a less dominant, but an equally inspiring and influential group of talented athletes, who risk their lives daily to produce captivating stories and compelling sports imagery.
To celebrate the lives of these extraordinary women and get a more personal look at how they do what they do, here are the first 3 of 6 interviews exploring their challenges, pro tips and types of essential gear needed in their exceptional adventure photography careers.
Australian born extreme sports photographer Krystle Wright is known for her fearless and ambitious photography projects. From paragliding above the Karakoram Range in Pakistan to hanging outside of helicopters to capture base jumpers in Utah, Krystle doesn’t shy away from even the most precarious of opportunities. Krystle has earned a top spot as an adventure photographer and has had her photography showcased in variety of international magazines, publications and contests. Her extensive portfolio includes sports such as base jumping, rock climbing and paragliding, surfing, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, mountaineering, slack-lining, freediving—and even elephant polo. Is there anything out there that she hasn’t photographed yet? Earning her title as a Cannon Masters ambassador, Krystle’s creativity is as limitless as it is bold. If you want some great insight into a day in the life of an extreme adventure photographer, take a look at her personal experiences and advice.
There have been so many challenges in my career but to be relatable to the present, I’m currently struggling with balance. Being a freelance, there’s no set hours and I find it a huge challenge to balance between running my business, training, actually shooting and maintaining relationships with friends and family. It’s been a big learning curve in learning how to prioritise my time and use it well.
For any aspiring photographer I always tell them that you will need patience and persistence. This is not an easy career to break through but any career that is a passion will always take the extra mile of hard work. The other challenge of being a new photographer is that I think it’s essential to develop a thick skin because not everyone is going to love your work and it’s important to take on criticism in order to evolve and grow as a photographer. Finally, when it comes to adventure photography, this is a lifestyle, not a job.
Well I rely on everything in my kit to work. I use Canon cameras and lenses, AquaTech underwater housing, Western Digital hard drives, Goal Zero for solar and battery charging equipment, KEEN to make rad shoes, F-Stop Gear for the most durable camera backpack I’ve ever owned and SanDisk for CF cards. There’s nothing in particular that stands out because depending on the job whether it’s in the ocean or on the mountain, I need to rely on everything I have.
Find more of Krystle’s limitless work on Instagram: @krystlejwright
This Arizona based outdoor adventure photographer is unique in how she engages her audience with playful and humorous imagery. Her portfolio ranges from stories of people with odd jobs, to videos of a day in the life of her quirky photography adventures. Amusement aside, she also showcases award winning imagery of glacier crossings, wanderings in the desert, slacklining, ice climbing, rock climbing, white water rafting and mountain biking. She covers everything from action sports photography to archeology—but not without her own playful flare. Prepare to be inspired by Dawn’s incredible and creative portfolio and her experiences as a successful adventure photographer.
It helps to go light so you can go fast and work with the light you have. Pay close attention to the weather because you really can make or break a photo if you’re not observant. Also, make sure you know how to survive out there. It helps to take Wilderness First Responder courses or any backcountry course. If you can, I would scout locations as this is very beneficial. You need to have everything working in your favour out there in those wild places.
Being a photographer is hard work. If you have a good work ethic, you will go a long way. Also, you have to become a business person which is really difficult because all you want to do is take the photos and travel. Sorry gals, you’ve got to get a plan together.
Outdoor photography is a challenge. Keeping things dry or dust free with many environmental changes are always a factor. Never change a lens in the wind. Batteries in cold weather suck so I put them in your pocket to keep them warm. Being on a river, well, waterproofing is always difficult. Freezing your knees off in the snow is not fun so i wear knee pads. You learn and suffer over the years to make things work better for you.’
I have all types of cameras and lens but I mostly shoot with Nikon. But, a camera is a camera, it is your creative eye that makes you and not the gear. I use my iPhone a bunch and just had a portfolio published just from my phone. Gotta love that.
Extra Words of Wisdom
Photography should be fun and creative so make sure you have a blast out there. Have respect for your lovely models and make sure you pay them whether it is with beer or your beer money.
Have respect for the environment you are in and leave it better than you found it.
Encourage each other. Photographers should help each other out and not become competitive. We should not take things so personally. Try to inspire and keep your chin up when things don’t seem fair. A positive attitude goes much further in life. Who cares what other have going on. Focus… hahaha… get it?
Find more of Dawn’s beautifully quirky work on Instagram: @dawnkishphoto
Camilla Rutherford is an adventure, commercial and travel photographer based in New Zealand. Her reputable photography in sports such as mounting biking, snowboarding, hiking, base jumping have earned her international publications and awards around the world. Aside from her successful editorial work, Camilla is also a passionate traveler. Her journeys to Nepal, China, Japan, India, Switzerland and New Zealand will surely inspire you to explore new perspectives and discover the unknown. Her talent will blow you away. With Camilla’s extensive amount of experience in the field, these are some of her invaluable suggestions.
to be in it a thousand percent to make it work. I’m still trying every day to make it work.
I don’t think you ever stop.
Ski shot tips
Shooting skiing is very hard. There are so many elements to make a great ski shot. Experience, I think, is the best thing that’s going to make you ‘good’. Being at the right place, at the right time, and communicating with your athlete are only small portions of what it takes to get a great ski shot. Light, snow and luck come into it hugely. It is harder than anyone could imagine to get that perfect powder shot, and many times its just one turn on the right spot that gives you the gold.
I shoot on Canon and I almost always use my Canon 24-70 f2 lens. It’s the most versatile lens when carrying gear and weight is a serious issue. Unfortunately for outdoor photographers who have to hike/ski/climb with gear a pack full of prime lenses is just not possible, unless you are iron woman! F-Stop Gear adventure camera packs and Peak Design clips and straps are also the way to go for anyone shooting outside.’
Find more of Camilla’s inspiring perspective’s on Instagram: @camillarutherford_photography
Part 2 being published soon with more wildly talented and limit pushing photographers.
Feature image by Krystle Wright