Editor’s note: many of you might remember guest blogger Caleb Wray from our Denali blogging epic a few years ago. Caleb’s a good photographer so we roped him in for a series of photography posts over coming months. Enjoy.
Pouring rain, paddling against the tide, and then a spirited seal jumps onto the spray skirt. Can’t make that up, no Photoshop back then.
Photography is as much a part of my backcountry experiences as reaching a summit. My companions don’t always understand it but I get more satisfaction from a great shot at 8,000 ft than I do from standing at 20,000 ft.
Don’t get me wrong, I have missed many image opportunities once the Dynafits are locked in and skiing bliss takes over my mind. But memories fade quickly and a nice photo is the ticket for a quick recollection.
We photography enthusiasts spend a lot of time and money on the craft, but my kayak seal photos always remind me that interesting images are more about being there than what we shoot with. In the old days, photographers called it “F8 and be there.” These days, that adage is probably “bring whatever device you have that contains a camera, and use it.”
Doing this is easy at your sister’s birthday party but might be a little tougher when you’re in the outback. Thus, it’s mostly a matter of habit. To assist building the habit, make sure you have a method of carrying your camera that makes it fluid to access. Also, take measures to prevent “camera paranoia” that causes you to miss shots because you’re afraid of messing up your expensive little box of electronics. Such measures could include having damage insurance, a waterproof housing, or just figuring possible destruction as a cost of doing business.
I took the seal photo a decade and a half ago with a cheap point and shoot film camera. Though the quality isn’t respectable (I was broke), the moment was priceless. Needless to say, my partner was forbidden by the teeth of a seal from paddling. I eventually managed to coax the big fish-eating mammal off the kayak so we could gain a foot on land. We still don’t know why she chose a Somali pirate boarding tactic but it sure made an interesting photo.
Again the point being: have that camera ready and use it. A seal might jump at any time.
(WildSnow guest blogger Caleb Wray is a photographer and outdoor adventurer who lives in Colorado and travels worldwide. He enjoys everything from backcountry skiing to surfing.)