I’ve been shooting adventure photography since my medical release from the military in 2009. I became an army wife and followed Andrea when she was posted to NORAD in Colorado Springs, CO.
At the time I was thinking “This is a great opportunity. Colorado Springs is the head of Space Command, and there will be an opportunity for me to use my space science/physics degree finally.”
I wanted to be a part of the Space Force before it existed…ha
But what I hadn’t considered was that when we were posted to Colorado it was at the height of the downturn in the USA, in 2009 the economic climate wasn’t right and it barely seemed like Americans were getting hired let alone a transplanted transient Canadian…America First!
Because I was medically released from the military, I had some time to transition to civilian life before my pay ran out. I had been climbing and taking pictures for the year or two before moving and was receiving positive reactions back before liking and sharing were as prominent as they are today.
This encouraged me to take a stab at adventure photography, something I had always been interested in. 10 years later I am still as stoked on it as I was then.
Fast forwarded almost a decade…Earlier in 2017, I was looking through my shots to find one to post on Instagram, and I noticed that many of my photos I had been posting were the same. The images displayed looked to me to be similar top-down shots without a great variety. I didn’t have a full breadth of photos, and most of them were of my friends that I had taken on our climbs together. I mostly used my 17-40mm wide angle lens and had slightly above average shots.
So, it hit me, if I want to shoot climbing professionally I need to start putting more effort into it. It was a tough decision for me to decide to actively climb less last year and spend more time trying to shoot different angles and leverage opportunities that I was presented with. Too often in the past, I would just climb and settle with an average photo, one that I could share on Instagram, not one that I was proud of.
This summer while Reek Rock was in town I got to watch Adam Ondra project and work some of the hardest routes in North America for around a week. A fantastic opportunity but I had zero time to climb for myself during the height of the climbing season in the Canadian Rockies. I envisioned myself getting home and heading to the gym for a quick climbing session, but it never happened. We would get back, and I’d eat, edit photos and upload them before going to bed to start early the next morning.
But I had made a conscious decision to put in more work and focus more on photography and building relationships, so something had to give.
Now, fast forward to today, and I’m currently planning a trip to Quebec to shoot with Jeff Mercier again but this time for Rab. The first opportunity with Petzl led to this second trip with Jeff that we pitched together to shoot ice on the Cote-Nord in Quebec.
I had a choice last year, if I wanted to get better at photography, I would need to dedicate more time to shooting.
Tommy Baker, a CrossFitter turned author discusses in his book the 1% Rule a formula for self-improvement. Daily application + persistence + time = success
I made the decision to focus on shooting more consistently, was persistent and put in the time. It didn’t happen overnight. Seems like it might be a successful formula! And it’s way easier than fancy algebra.
So what did I do? I decided to dedicate at least two days a week to strictly shooting photos, some days I would get to climb with the athletes but others I might stay on the ground with a long lens and not get to climb at all. Basically, many of my days were just long hikes compared to the adventurous days of the athletes I was working with.
Taking more photos also means more time spent editing and pitching those shots. Mo photos mo problems…
It’s a catch 22, you want to be outside shooting more but because you are outside shooting more you have less time to be outside…
I’ve been pleased with the results from the last year. Via an additional commitment to my photography, I’ve been fortunate enough to have covers for Rock and Ice, Explore and Gripped along with the opportunity to shoot with Jeff Mercier for Petzl and Adam Ondra with Reel Rock just to name a couple of the highlights from the year.
I have always known that if we genuinely want to get better at something we have to dedicate time and energy to it and usually do the things we don’t like to do. I had to sacrifice fun climbing days to get better shots and spend more time on the computer editing and pitching. The extra time focused on photography over the last year has been worth it, and the improvements continue to compound.