By Richard Sidey
Years ago, as my professional photography career developed and transformed my life-long hobby into a primary source of living, the inevitable happened and the fun slowly began to wear off.
When I wasn’t working and off on my own adventures, the camera joined me less and less. Not only did I not want to carry my heavy and expensive equipment on top of my outdoor necessities, but over years of travel photography I had resolved that a camera has a way of building an invisible wall separating observation and connection. Being present and camera free, I found, was liberating and far more rewarding than having the constant distraction of photography.
Then the smartphone happened, very quickly a portable, powerful and multi-functional tool changed everything. I started photographing my adventures again, but with a completely different mindset to the one burdened down with heavy gear and insurance claims. Action cameras also came along, and now mirrorless SLRs have reinvented the way I approach adventure photography.
Above French Ridge Hut (mirrorless)
In developing this mindset, the first step was to ask myself: For what purpose was I taking photographs? Was it for a commercial purpose? Promoting an activity? Inspiring conservation, or just for fun? Were the images intended for general exhibition? Sharing with friends? Or simply for myself? And if so, what was I going to do with them? I am well aware these days that the majority of photographs taken never get looked at, so what’s the point?
I resolved to document my wilderness adventures, be it tramping, bikepacking, paragliding or packrafting – for my fellow adventurers, my own records, to inspire others to try new activities and to promote the clubs with whom I was associated.
With a specific purpose in mind it was easier to see the shot I wanted, and not to overshoot. I was able to equally be a part of an expedition as well as document it. Usually it was only one or two images per day on a particular excursion that I was after. Great light is always important and capturing a unique perspective was the goal, something that wasn’t shot at our everyday eye-level and common viewing. Small, lightweight, portable and occasionally indestructible cameras were a big help in making that happen.
Packrafting at Hooker Lake (iPhone)
On returning from the wilderness, a prompt download of material while it’s still fresh in my mind, followed by some simple file management, carries on the efficient workflow. My personal method is to sort my media into individual folders, labelled with the specific adventure, and place this in an annual parent folder.
The photos are quickly rated from zero stars to five stars, where zeros will be deleted and fives are up there with my very best images of all time. The edited, starred images are immediately shared via Dropbox to my adventure buddies, whom are often doing the same. One or two may go on social media to promote the sport, club, or just because it’s a cool shot. It is far more effective to share one or two really great images than a dozen or more mediocre ones.
And then? Will the files sit on a drive for all eternity and never see light again? Maybe. I like to print my work, and have resolved to make an annual photo book via online bookmaking. Create your own manifesto and stick to it. I limit myself to 100 images per year, on 100 pages. This could be a long and difficult selection process if your editing discipline over the year hasn’t been high, but if all it takes is to pull up the four and five-star images from your library, well that’s pretty simple.
This article has been republished from the August 2019 edition of ‘Backcountry,’ the quarterly bulletin of Federated Mountain Clubs.
All photos credited to Richard Sidey at www.richardsidey.com.
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