Good adventure photography inspires its viewer to explore, dream, discover, but what really goes on behind the lens is less than picture perfect. We sat down with 14 regional outdoor photographers to glean the unfiltered stories of hard work, stubborn perseverance, and sometimes, damn good luck, that goes into getting the shot (and how you can get it too).
WHEN TALENT FLIES
Based in: Asheville, N.C.
Started shooting in: 2004
Specializes in: Adventure sports and lifestyle
Shoots on: Sony Alpha a9 with Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
Most memorable photography faux pas: Accidentally erasing all of the images for an editorial assignment to shoot Vice President Dick Cheney’s speech at the opening of Grand Teton National Park’s new visitor center.
Mountain biking by nature is an accident-prone sport. Derek DiLuzio has seen his friends break bones, bust bikes. It comes with the territory. During one particularly memorable shoot, a friend was sessioning a 25-foot jump at Bailey Mountain Bike Park in Marshall, N.C. The two had a rhythm going—DiLuzio got into position, signaled the ready, rider dropped in, shutter snapped. The going was good. But then his friend cruised down, unannounced, and landed a perfect 360, the only one attempted that day. And DiLuzio missed the shot.
“Nobody had done a 360 off that jump period,” he says. “I wasn’t anticipating it. There was no communication. He just went for it.”
DiLuzio convinced his friend to try again, and this time, he would be ready. He situated himself beneath the jump, gave the rider the green light, and started snapping away. This time, his friend didn’t stick the 360. He bailed at the height of the jump, falling more than 25 feet to the ground.
“That picture is moments after he kicked the bike away,” DiLuzio remembers. “He didn’t break anything but he bruised his heels and couldn’t walk for a week. He banged himself up pretty good, all because I missed the picture.”
• Clear communication is key.
• Don’t delete images in the field.
• Shoot on duplicate SD cards.
THE WAITING GAME
Based in: Roanoke, Va.
Started shooting in: 2015
Specializes in: Adventure sports
Shoots on: Sony A7R II with Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 lens
Most memorable photography faux pas: Leaving a $3,000 camera and tripod setup on Spy Rock while making camp, only to have both stolen from two hikers.
Operating at all hours of the night, rising well before dawn. Kenton Steryous is used to going out while everyone else is fast asleep. His seven-year-old son Ethan, however, is not. That didn’t stop Ethan from asking his father if he could tag along for his next late night excursion, a night hike to McAfee Knob to shoot the Milky Way.
“I wasn’t sure what was even possible to get, but Ethan told me he really wanted to do this,” Steryous says. “The hardest part was getting him awake out of bed.”
The forecast called for the clouds to clear around 3 a.m., so Steryous, Ethan, and a couple of friends set out on the 4.4-mile, 1,700-foot ascent at one o’clock in the morning. When they arrived at the rocky expanse some two hours later, the clouds still had not cleared. Even worse, the temperature was down in the 40s and the wind was brutal. Steryous shot for a half-hour, but knew in his heart the Milky Way image was a bust.
Ethan, who until that point had been a total trooper, started to get cold. He asked if they could go back to the car, but Steryous wasn’t about to turn around just yet. He set up a hammock, gave Ethan his spare jacket, and settled in for the long wait till sunrise. Three hours later, just before 7 a.m., the heavens parted
“My first thought was, ‘man I’m so glad I stayed.’ So often as a photographer, you go out with a particular objective in mind and if that doesn’t happen, it’s so easy to just turn around and go home,” says Steryous, especially when you’re cold to the bone and have a seven-year-old in tow.
• Use graduated neutral density filters.
• Shoot a place you’re familiar with at different times of the day and during different seasons in the year.
• Have patience in spades.