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Adventure Photography With Lucas Gilman

Adventure Photography With Lucas Gilman - Stuart Fawcett went along to meet Lucas Gilman at an event all about his adventure photography.

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Lucas Gilman is an excellent adventure photographer from the US and he has recently been demonstrating his work around the world with sponsors such as Nikon, G-technology, SanDisk and also Apple. His passion and commitment to get the shot and deliver results mean that he has been a successful professional photographer for fourteen years now. He’s been published in National Geographic as well as the New York Times and if you do a quick web search it will reveal far more of his achievements!

© Lucas Gilman
© Lucas Gilman

Lucas kindly agreed to answer a series of questions for ePHOTOzine and I hope you find his answers helpful. Then, further down the page you'll find more information on the event that took place at the Apple store in Covent Garden and the tips Lucas offered throughout the presentation. 

How did you first get into adventure photography?
I grew up skiing in the mountains of Colorado in the US. My dad was a fly fishing guide and I always wanted to have a job that would keep me outside and traveling.

What are your tips for those wishing to venture into outdoor and adventure photography?
Find a sport you are passionate about and learn the nuances of that sport. Live, eat, sleep and breath photography and push yourself to make better photos every day. I moved to the small remote town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the US to focus on building my portfolio. You have to invest the time in yourself to truly learn the craft.

Do you have any simple tricks for producing striking images?
Shoot early in the morning and late in the evening when the light is good and align yourself with great athletes. Use fast shutter speeds (1/3000 of a second or faster) to freeze the water or snow in an image. Also, shooting slow shutter speeds ( 4, 5, 10 seconds) will make water look surreal.

© Lucas Gilman
© Lucas Gilman

What is your advice for staying safe in the field?
Do lots of research and know what hostile elements you might encounter and remember it will probably be wetter and colder than you assume. Always have a backup plan and carry something like a SPOT emergency beacon in case you get into a dire situation.

What essential kit would you recommend for beginner adventure photographers?
One good body like a Nikon D600 or Nikon D7100 and a couple of fast affordable prime lens like a NIKKOR 24mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.8 as well as a zoom in the 70-200mm range. I also recommend that anyone serious about photography should get a good backup strategy in place. I recommend backing up all images in the field on at least two external drives. I love the G-Technology G-DRIVE ev series for this as they are rugged, fast and plugin via USB 3 - you never want to come home without your images! 

What characteristics does every adventure photographer need?
An adventure photographer needs to have a love of being out in the wild, has an open heart and a keen eye. Persistence is key and the ability to perform in all kinds of harsh weather conditions definitely helps.

Finally, what is the best piece of adventure photography advice that you have ever been given?
Dream big and be prepared for success. You never know when it might come knocking.

© Lucas Gilman
© Lucas Gilman

Through Lucas' presentation he was more than happy to give tips and share his knowledge on adventure photography. One tip was to pre-visualise the scene before it happens so you can plan your shot and Lucas typically does this from the background forward, getting the scene to do the work of describing the location's story and then setting exposure ready for the few10th of a second that the action might occur.

In some situations Lucas has visited a particular scene for four years in a row to capture the perfect shot - which goes to show patience and persistence can pay off! While in other situations he's caught amazing pictures more quickly on simple point and shoot cameras - it's often said that the best camera you have is the one you have with you!

Another tip given was to find new perspectives as Lucas attributes his edge to forever trying new views and ideas, whether this is abseiling down mountain sides wrapped in packing tape to avoid poisonous foliage or utilising new technology to make shots possible which includes using ISO5000 to capture fast sports sequences. However, the one tip that really stuck with me was the idea of putting a camera on a pole and getting it up high. Also, trying, if you can, to get the point of view across of the sportsperson who is taking part in the activity you're trying to capture was something I found interesting.

A vital piece of advice all photographers should take on-board which was discussed is key wording shots so you can find them later. Lucas uses Aperture for this and was once required to pull up a 6-year-old image for a quick sale, which goes to show that key wording is worth the effort! Other software tools discussed were the niksoftware Plugins and also Final cut pro for video work.

Turing our attention back to the photography process and a discussion came up which is perhaps particularly suitable for the British weather and that's to shoot in black and white when it's grey outside. When doing this remember to extract lots of contrast from the scene, don’t forget to get some detail interest and remember early and evening light is almost always better to shoot in.

Lucas often gives himself assignments and projects to keep challenging himself, including shooting 10 cool images in a 100 metre square space and he almost always carries small pocket cameras around, even when not on a job, so he can still 'get the shot' when it happens. 

Further tips included light painting dark scenes with flashlights, not lighting all of a subject to create more interest and mixing up fluorescent & tungsten white balance on the camera with Orange gels on the flash.

Lucas Gilman
© Stuart Fawcett

The final, unrelated to photography, surprise was the deaf signer provided to interpret Lucas' presentation to 3 members of the audience who were deaf photographers – nice move guys.

I think you will agree, Lucas' talk at the Apple store was packed full of great tips. In fact, so may tips were offered throughout his talk that the summary booklet on outdoor photography tips produced by Lucas and G Technology was most welcome -  thank you.

Of course there is loads more to see and read up on about Lucas, so here are a few links relevant to the presentation:
You can also visit Lucas' website and take a look at his Twitter feed. 

Event report by Stuart Fawcett (JackAllTog)

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