3 Basic Rules of Adventure Storytelling & Expedition Photography
Extrait du site internet de Jimmy Chin
I’ve been at this job for some time now, and while the pictures may make things look all fun n games n adventure, there’s no question that it’s an endless struggle. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I pinch myself constantly to remind myself that yes, this really is what I’m doing for a living.
I’m by no means the expert but I’ve had plenty of time to think about what is required to do this job well. This isn’t the definitive list, but I think it’s a good jumping off point for anyone looking to get into the business of adventure storytelling. So what does it take?
1) You cannot be the weakest link. Ne pas être le maillon faible
It doesn’t matter what you (or those you are filming/shooting) are doing. It can be climbing, skiing or high altitude mountaineering. Whatever it is, especially in participatory scenarios, you need to pay your dues and make damn sure you are solid at what you are doing and shooting. At best you’ll slow everyone down. At worst you’ll become a liability and may put your life — and the lives of others in the group — at risk. It helps if you are passionate about the sports you are shooting. It’s going to take a lot of time and heart to get good at something. Your due diligence will pay off in terms of being part of the team (instead of being an outsider), understanding the athletes, the sports, the culture around it and, most importantly, gaining the respect of the talent you are working with. If you’ve paid your dues, you’re more likely to get the call to shoot.
In my humble opinion, this is what keeps this little niche from becoming overrun by the many, many amazing photographers and cinematographers out there. Some of what we do is just impossible to do unless you’re highly skilled and knowledgeable about the sport. In my case, I was a climber, skier and into this lifestyle before I was into documenting it. The skills I’ve learned going on expeditions, climbs and travels across the globe get used on just about every shoot I go on. I’m comfortable grabbing my camera hanging from the wall because, first and foremost, I’m comfortable hanging from the wall. Make sure you are, too.
2) Be prepared to work. Hard. Soyez prêt à bosser. Fort.
This is not a vacation. You will not be sleeping in. Forget about the late night parties and leisurely breakfasts. If you want to get the material, the footage, the shot, you need to be prepared to work some insanely long hours and stay awake longer than everyone else. It helps if you are passionate about what you are shooting (see above). For adventure photographers and videographers, getting into position and getting the right light is everything. This means knowing how long it’s going to take to get where you need to be, where the sun is going to track (homework) etc. It means waking up ahead of everyone else and staying up long after the sun goes down. It means setting up your time lapses, reviewing dailies (see my filmmaking jargon post), planning out the next day’s activities. You need stay organized, plan endlessly and do everything you can to set yourself up for success because when the action happens, especially if it’s a once in a lifetime shot, you better not miss it. I’m tired just thinking about it.
But if it’s what you’re meant to do – if it’s what you love – you’ll hardly notice the lack of sleep. I promise.
3) Timing is everything. Bien planifier est essentiel.
At the end of the day, I’ve only captured a few shots that I’m really proud of. And when I look back at them, I realize that much of it had to do with timing. When I say timing, I mean being ready at all times because some of the best moments happen when you least expect them. You never get to switch off. In fact, you need to be at your best whenever you think it’s ok to turn off. Some of my best images have happened right before or after the main event. Take off the blinders. It’s easy to miss those moments when you’re focused on the shot you’ve been imagining for weeks leading up to the shoot. On expeditions, there’s very little time to switch off as it is. Add photography into the mix and you need to have your brain duct taped into the “on” position. It’s exhausting, but keep it that way. Got any tips you’d like to share? Sound off in the comments below.