expeditions are exciting. exploring new places, meeting new people, reconnecting with the wild. but what happens before expeditions? i thought i would give a little insight as to what i do as a photographer pre-expedition.
after establishing where i am going, i research the culture. especially as a woman, you have to be careful about what you wear. for example, going to standing rock, as a native american woman, it is respectful to wear long skirts and dress modestly. since i am not native american, baggy jeans sufficed. finding out more about the culture is important to helping tell the story visually because it gives you the chance to connect with where you will be and the people you meet. get to know more about the religion, common meals, and even some greetings in the language (thank you, please, help, fire, bunny, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious) you know, the basics.
2. most people will be tempted to research pictures, but i specifically try not to, as that could alter my creative view. before i went to iceland i took to instagram and constantly researched places i wanted to see. after looking at all these photoshopped pictures i had an idea in my mind of what iceland would be like, and i hadn’t even been there yet. when i arrived, i wasn’t let down (as it is one of the most beautiful countries), but it was nothing like the pictures i had researched. my lesson was learned. this is obviously a personal choice, but it is something i have found most helpful when traveling.
3. being an expedition photographer you do the adventure, but with camera gear attached to your hip. you might have no part in planning the route, establishing the itinerary, or knowing the weather conditions. you have to be doing a different kind of planning. before going to norway, i looked into the weather charts from the past few years, just to get an idea of what i could expect. around june, there was always rain. so i started planning around that. i use adjectives as a prompt when photographing. here is a few ideas on what kind of questions to ask:
how can i use rain to my advantage?
what senses do i capture? warmth from shelter? cold after putting a tent up?
rain brings emotion: are they upset? rushed? thankful? stressed?
how can i use sun to my advantage?
heat and exhaustion? sweat?
splashing cold water onto their faces?
will they be resting constantly?
here are some examples:
4. the next thing i do to prepare is spark my creativity. i own a variety of photography and art books that i spread out on my floor. gather some sticky notes and start marking the pages of photographs that inspire you. it is okay to find inspiration in other people's work, as long as you don't copy. keep in mind that you don't have to stick to one genre of photography to inspire you. i find pieces of van gogh and even nude portraits that i can incorporate into my expedition. when looking through other photographs keep in mind:
5. buy a good journal that you can start writing down ideas in. maybe you want to photograph the adventurers right when they wake up? does their expression convey the aches of yesterday? think of ways you can document the journey in a unique way. start drawing, writing, photographing, painting. anything to provoke your creativity. you will see a vast improvement in your photography if you go the extra mile to see things differently.
6. make time to take care of your health. i can not say this enough. before any big trip i always get a cold. it is caused by stress, late nights planning, eating quick meals so i can get back to researching. it is important to be committed to your expedition, but double check you are getting sleep and eating healthy. traveling to foreign countries and being in airports, it is almost inevitable to get sick. pick up some extra vitamin c tablets and hand sanitizer. you'll thank me later.
7. being in a world full of endless technology it is easy to get wrapped into dslr cameras and sd cards and polarizers, etc. before an expedition, i start shooting with my film camera to bring me back to the basics and not get blinded by all things digital. photograph the little things, on your daily walk, your back garden, the streets, textures, anything that interests you.
8. after your preparations are completed, have a drink. a very strong one.