Defining Adventure Photography
If you’re into how how photography can change your life, then you are likely interested in adventure.
Adventure photography is a term that brings to mind climbers picking their way up frozen waterfalls and divers lost in watery chambers deep underground. Somebody takes pictures, and that is an adventure photographer. If you want a good dose of this, follow Jimmy Chen on Instagram (warning: you will develop a burning need to climb mountains).
But here’s the thing. It’s all relative. What appears totally extreme to one person (frozen waterfalls and pitch-black, waterlogged caves) is sometimes just another “day at the office” for another. That’s not to say that certain activities and moments aren’t risky or have potentially harsh consequences (they do), it’s just that truly being adventurous is actually about how a situation makes you feel rather than how it makes other people feel.
Each of us has our habits and our modes. When we do something over and over, there comes a point where we have to change the situation in order to challenge ourselves again. Hence the expression “living on the edge” – the blurring of the boundary between control and chaos, and the chasing of that fine line.
The fact is that adventure cannot be boxed up, packaged, and put on a shelf. The moment you do that it dies. Adventure is the antithesis of the knowable, the comfortable, and the completely figured-out.
Being adventurous is not any given set of circumstances that one can simply insert themselves into; it is a state of mind. Adventure is different for everyone, and for each of us it is ever-changing.
Adventure photography, then, can be thought of differently than simply documenting “adventurous” activities. It is also a way of doing photography – it is when you use photography to live in an adventurous way, no matter the subject.
Follow Your Camera
This is how your camera can lead you on some of the best adventures you will ever have. Identify a place, a thing, or a concept that you are curious about. Go and photograph it. And that doesn’t mean just taking one picture. I mean really photograph it – by using your camera to figure out things you didn’t know before. If you do this you are going to have an adventure.
The adventure of the real. The adventure of seeing. The means of the camera for awakening you to everything which you are moving through and working in. Textures, shapes, and faces. Push the limits of your camera, and it will push yours. Follow it places, let the sun go down, stick around to see what happens next. Let it give you a reason.
The end result – the photographs – of such escapades need not scream adventurous or extreme. The image of the boat above is the defining moment of a rewarding, spontaneous, and somewhat disastrous ramble of mine across Southeast Asia. A turbulent time, yet it is perhaps the most calming image I have ever made.
It is a reminder, then, that even in the most serene of settings adventure beckons our curious and creative tendencies from just below the surface.