No matter how glamorous Instagram makes it seem, the job of adventure photographer is a hard one. Picture yourself packing for a week-long camping trip; you’d bring everything that’s required to live in the wilderness including a shelter, bedding, a packable kitchen setup and plenty of clothing, as well as a handful of accessories, which presents another packing list altogether. If you’re an outdoor photographer, add another 20 pounds of camera equipment on top of all that, and you’ll be ready for the trip.
The camera is the apparent tool required to make photographs, but in actuality, a lot more gear goes into taking pictures in the wild. Often it’s the seemingly less important things that make a good photo possible — as well as a substantial amount of prior planning. To find out what those things are, we asked the pros.
After a shoulder injury put Savannah Cummin’s climbing career on hold for a season, she found a new way to approach the sport by picking up a camera. Now she climbs and shoots photos for The North Face.
"This is always in my camera kit! Being outside while changing lenses gives dust, dirt and sand lots of opportunities to land in my camera sensor. This is usually my first step in cleaning my sensor in the field when it’s necessary."
"I haven’t quite found a camera bag that is lightweight, fits me well, and fits all my camera gear and climbing equipment for both shooting and climbing. So if I’m going to be climbing, hiking, exploring and also plan to shoot photos, I typically carry an F-stop ICU in a Phantom 50L and I’m able to fit everything, and be comfortable!"
"A lot of times when I’m out with friends climbing, hiking and exploring I want to shoot photos, but don’t want to slow anyone down in the process. Approaches are often times a big part the overall experience and capturing that helps tell a story. If my camera is stored away in my pack I’m not very likely to stop, put the pack down and get out the camera try to shoot a few photos and do it all in reverse. That typically takes too much effort and slows me (and everyone else) down. I like to keep the Peak Design Capture Pro on my backpack strap so my camera is easily accessible at all times. I never have to stop to take off the pack — it’s easy to take on and off and doesn’t slow me down from getting an epic shot!"
"Lightroom is a huge part of how my photos come to life. I use Lightroom to edit all of my photos!"
"Always bring extra SD cards and a case to keep them safe! This is always in my camera kit with extra SD cards. I never want to run out of space while I’m shooting photos and have to go through and delete photos. I always save deleting bad images until I have my photos backed up on at least two hard drives. It’s important to keep these things in a safe place — I’ve damaged and lost plenty of SD cards and I think having a special place for them prevents this from happening."
California-native Jeff Johnson is a freelance photographer whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Surfer’s Journal, Alpinist, Surfer, Climbing, and Outside. Johnson has undertaken a variety of large projects, including writing on the acclaimed film 180° South.
"It’s a strong, light, simple and unobtrusive camera strap by Peak Design. It doesn’t get in the way."
"Sleek, streamlined, simple everyday backpack by Peak Design. It’s light and durable."
"Small yet powerful headlamp with a simple design. You never know if you’ll be caught in the dark."
"A small, packable, lightweight shell for rain and wind. Fits easily into your camera bag."
"An energy bar with protein. You need a lot of protein for long days outside."
Chris Burkard is one of the most well-known adventure photographers. He has traveled all over the world producing award-winning work for an extensive list of clients and publications.
"To keep your camera lens clean. The bigger the better; you can use them to keep your camera dry in the rain, and this way you have enough surface area to cover your whole camera with."
"All-natural caffeine from green tea extract. For when the going gets tough and you need a little help getting going. I save these for emergencies."
"Rechargeable, high and low output options, with a red light feature that’s perfect for when you’re trying to preserve your night vision between long exposures."
"I keep one in every camera bag — never know when you need to adjust a tripod mount or perform an emergency in-the-field camera fix!"
"Just what you need and nothing more, easy to take on and off if you’re taking your cameras in and out of housings a lot."
"The only thing my cameras live in. I can shoot out of it and transport cameras in them safely. It’s been a multi-year project, but I can’t imagine shooting out of anything else."
"Google it and you’ll know… because you never know…"