A LOT OF PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES ARE KEEN PHOTOGRAPHERS. COMPETING IN THE MOST SCENIC, DRAMATIC, TENSE, AND FRAUGHT ENVIRONMENTS IN THE WORLD, MANY LIKE TO CAST A KEEN EYE OVER THEIR SURROUNDINGS AND TAKE SOME IMPRESSIVE PICTURES. BUT HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TIME UP A MOUNTAIN, OR ON A TRACK, OR BY A BEACH?
This is the fourth of a series of interviews, where we reached out to some amazing action photographers, to ask them for some tips and tricks that could help anyone competing up a mountain or on the waves, take some incredible shots.
Based out of Queensland, Australia when she isn't traversing the globe, Krystle has been an adventure photographer for a number of years, and developed something of a reputation for pushing herself to the extremes. We spoke to Krystle to get some info on how she gets the best shots, and what advice she has for athletes who are travelling and want to improve their own photography...
What is your go-to camera set-up for outdoor/action photography (equipment-wise)? "When I head out on expeditions, I always carry two cameras and a few lenses. I've unfortunately damaged equipment before and it was a lifesaver to have a second camera to save me. It will depend on the type of activity and such in what I can bring. I wish I could only carry my Canon 5DS R and 35mm 1.4 but usually, I have clients to shoot for and so I also carry a Canon 1DX MII, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 14mm, 100mm macro and a 2x extender. Sometimes flash will be in my kit and I have a few more fixed lenses but it all depends on the nature of the shoot and whether I am filmmaking".
What is your go-to camera set-up for landscape photography (equipment-wise)? "I love using my Canon 5DS R with a 35mm 1.4 lens. I do also carry a 70-200mm in case I am far away from my subject and need to compress the images but generally, I love wider shots. A big tip with wider shots is to try and not go wider than 24mm as I find that I would lose the scale of the mountains. 24mm seems to be a great distance to work with as you can still capture a lot of the scene but not lose the scale".
What non-photography equipment is essential to a good photographers kit? "I carry water protective gear such as weather shields from AquaTech to protect my gear from the elements. The backpack is always a huge factor for photographers and I carry F-Stop bags as their setup has always made my shoots very efficient by accessing the back of the bag and being compartmentalised properly. Through my travels I am carrying my laptop and a huge key factor is carrying enough storage on portable hard drives such as the rugged 5TB Lacie drives that run off only USB. And of course I always have a gortex jacket and a few snacks tucked away. Time seems to disappear and too often I forget to eat and having snacks has been a lifesaver so often when I least expect it".
As an adventure/outdoor photographer, what is the biggest obstacle (i.e. light, weather, location, time, etc)? "The greatest challenge of adventure photography is to work with what is given to you by mother nature. For me in particular, light is everything in photography and if one can do some extra planning such as checking the weather and planning an ideal time that is certainly helpful. But sometimes its best to just go with the flow and see what happens as the best moments are those that are unexpected. A photographer needs to be able to put themselves out there constantly to eventually be 'in the right place at the right time,' we create our own luck by being there".
What is the biggest obstacle to overcome with respect to Landscape photography? "The biggest obstacle I believe is to see more than just the landscape. What I mean by this is not to just stand there and think that's good enough. Is there a way to layer the photograph with more information such as people, buildings, nature etc. As a mentor of mine taught me, depths layers and dimensions. Photography is about story-telling and landscapes can be much more than just a photo of a mountain. If there is no way to add these layers, perhaps the weather is doing something incredible or the light and just remeber the rules of composition and thinking of the thirds is a great start".
What has been your best adventure/outdoor photography experience? What was the worst? "It's like asking someone what is your favourite location. Every adventure has a different experience and I could never pick a favourite. Perhaps a standout memory was remembering that time a group of baby goat and sheep took a fascination to our tent whilst camping on the Mongolian Steppe. Being prepared for the unexpected moments is tough but it was such a fun spontaneous moment that unfolded that morning as my teammates slept off their hangovers in the tent. One of my worst memories is when I was injured in a paragliding crash in the Karakoram Range. I was lucky to survive without major complications where things could've been much worse as it took 12hours to get to the military hospital. Funnily enough, I am thankful for this moment because it became the catalyst moment in my life where afterward I ended the shitty relationship I was in, packed up and left Sydney and figured it was now or never to see if I could become a full-time adventure photographer."
What is the story behind your own favourite photograph/set of photographs? "That's certainly a tough one to answer but one of my favourite images has always been this image I took on Baffin Island during my first expedition. A blizzard was raging through Sam Ford Fjord where this inuit appeared out of the white with his dog sled and came into our camp for a few days. The shot is very simple but I have found that its so tough to find these moments that appear so clean and simple with a lot of space in the image. I feel this image really dictated how I like to see the world and ever since I have searched for these moments where I feel that I am problem solving with my camera where the image is the answer to a complicated situation".
On an adventure/action shoot, you could be out of the house for days at a time; what sort of meals/drinks are you taking with you? How much can you carry with you? "Well, it all depends on how long and of course where I am headed and what activity. There is a huge difference between kayaking where its possible to carry more rather than hiking where everything must go on the back. I try to keep things simple but making sure I get the right protein so I don't crash and burn energy wise. I now pack magnesium with me to mix into my drinks as I find its great for muscular recovery and I sleep easier at night. Staples for snacks always include a mixture of nuts and chocolate and I do enjoy Luna or Pro Bars. I'm not a coffee drinker which people are horrified and don't understand but I pack hot chocolate mixture as I do enjoy a hot drink but find I don't need caffeine. When it comes to dinner, one of my favorite meals is black bean burritos with rice and whatever assortments I can carry such as rice, sweet potato, avocado. Avocado is an absolute luxury but I try my best to pack good food because to me, food feeds the soul and if I eat well then I feel good".
For athletes on a beach, or up a mountain, what should they be looking for to get that perfect shot? "Keep a keen eye on the light and how it is always changing as it will also dramatically change the feel of the landscape or subject. Learn to be patient with photography. We talk about that perfect shot but because of the nature of photography and art, in general, is subjective, there is no 'perfect shot'. Instead, what will help connect and engage with the viewer. Photography is all about breaking the rules and thanks to digital it is so easy to experiment and delete if it doesn't work out. Watch the light, don't be afraid to change up your angle by getting low or get up high, and always have fun with it!"
What do you feel are the most common mistakes in action/adventure photography? "A particular theme that dominates social but a style that I am particularly not fond of is the images taken behind the head in a wanderlust landscape or the black silhouette figure just standing there. Sure that is a pretty photo but what I wish to encourage others to think about is creating a story with their images. Particularly with athletes, what sport are they doing in the landscape and how can you best communicate to your audience a real perception of your sport and not just a pretty picture to just get 'likes'".
Are there any photographers you really admire or find inspiration on their work? "There are many photographers I am looking up to. The work of Daniel Berehulak, Sebastian Salgado, Jody Macdonald, Ben Knight, Jimmy Chin, Tim Kemple, Lindsey Addario and many more".
Are there any tips you might have for athletes & adventurers who want to improve their own photography in very scenic locations, and any tips for athletes who might be in slightly less picturesque settings? "One simple trick I was taught early in my career is to keep it simple. It seems so straightforward but it's amazing how long it took for me to really learn that. If it's a messy non-picturesque setting then there is no point trying to force something to work. Instead look for a simple background, a texture to work with. Perhaps instead of a landscape, it is a scene better suited for a portrait. When in doubt, keep it simple!!! Look to other photographers for inspiration and understand why you like certain shots and try to apply similar rules to your own photography to learn".
How different is your prep before a shoot, between going to a hot climate & a cold climate? "It is incredibly different!! Both have huge obstacles to overcome. Extreme humidity in a hot environment is probably just as bad as the Arctic freezing winds. I need to research thoroughly to make sure I have the right equipment with me. The freezing cold will be more challenging on the batteries but humid temperatures can create condensation, fog and a host of other problems for electronics to work. The one thing about the cold is thankfully no bugs as I will admit that can be my breaking point at times when a horde of mosquitoes and gnats are attacking my skin and dive bombing my meals".