Scaling mountains, hiking treacherous trails and making it to the top of slippery summits often comes with the territory when you’re an adventure photographer. Luckily, Eliza Earle and Ted Hesser wouldn’t have it any other way.
Last week we sat down with Eliza and Ted to hear the stories behind some of their favorite shots, discussed their go-to gear for photo assignments and expeditions, how personal projects have impacted their work with brands and more.
Watch to learn:
- How Eliza and Ted got their start as adventure photographers
- What it’s like working for brands like Patagonia, Black Diamond and Mountain Hardware
- Stories behind some of their most memorable photo fails
On-Demand Webinar: A Conversation with Adventure Photographers Eliza Earle and Ted Hesser
All your questions answered
A big thank you to everyone for submitting questions throughout our conversation with Eliza Earle and Ted Hesser. Read through some of the answers below and feel free to tweet any lingering questions @photoshelter.
This Q&A was lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you share a little about your go-to photo and travel gear?
EE: I shoot with Canon, the 5D Mark IV and I have an array of their lenses. Honestly, the only other camera I’d say that I pack with me all the time is a Sony RX 100. Highly, highly recommend that camera. It’s a teeny, tiny little pocket camera, takes really good photos and also films 4K. It can just fit into a breast pocket, or clipped to your harness, and is great when the adventure is the priority and the photos are the second priority.
If the photos are more of the first priority, I always bring my Canon with me. I think Ted would agree with this: most people in the adventure photography world, we try to bring the smallest amount of gear with us as possible because you want it to be really light.
You want every single expedition to be as light as possible. You don’t want to be carrying more than you need. So typically for me, I would say on average, I’ll bring two lenses. My go-to lenses are probably the 24-70mm, 2.8. Then, I’ll bring a 35mm, 1.4 with me for low light, keep it wide.
In terms of adventure gear, you gotta test things out. There’s not one type of backpack or one type of running vest. You just have to see what works for you.
If you’re a runner and you want to shoot more trail running and you’re worried about the gear, I’d just throw in the RX 100 for now. Even an iPhone, it’s a good thing to just start practicing with. Then, as you want to get more and more professional shots, you can see what running with the DSLR or mirrorless in your backpack feels like. It’s a fun experience.
What about you Ted?
TH: Yeah, similar philosophy for sure. Try to keep it as light and minimalist as possible. I shoot on Nikon cameras, on the Z7 mostly, their newest mirrorless camera – which for still photography I do believe is best among the Sony, Canon and Nikon.
I think maybe more of a general point is it’s really easy right now and just in general to get overly focused on the gear side. There’s so much marketing and internet research and activity around latest camera specs and latest cameras. It’s like an arms race among these companies to be one-upping each other.
For most scenarios, you don’t need to keep up with that arms race.
You don’t need to obsess over which lens is the sharpest or which camera has the most megapixels, or which auto-focus system is better, which one has more high dynamic range. The gear is good, just get out and use it.
What advice do you have for marketing yourself in this industry?
TH: It’s a really hard industry… I personally really focused on social media because I think social media is how one markets themselves in today’s day and age, especially how an artist or creative markets their work.
I think the truth with the adventure photography space is it’s extremely competitive. It’s a really tough space to crack into. The reason I left a career that frankly was a lot better paying and a lot more financially secure was because I couldn’t imagine living my whole life not pursuing this. That was too deep of a regret.
So, I think if you love something that much, if you’re just intrinsically motivated by something and by the fundamental process of it, not just the end result – but you love hiking up mountains, you love rock climbing, you love trail running – Just do it, and it will work out.
It’s going to be hard. It’s not an easy road to travel, but it will work out if you really put your time in, and you develop your craft and you build it up. I really believe that.
Anything to add Eliza?
EE: I would mostly agree with Ted. It’s a super hard industry to crack into, but one of the things that I think goes a long way is if you’re interested in these sports, go to these places where a lot of these people are going to be recreating. I’m not necessarily saying you go and try and find pro athletes. I think you can go out with your friends.
I do think there is something to be said about building your network within this industry, and it’s a little bit easier said than done because so many of these people that you want to meet and want to be in touch with, and want to get your foot in the door, they’re going to be climbing next to you at the crag, or they’re going to be mountain biking outside.
It is easier to actually bump into these people if you’re in the right spaces, and you’re spending some time there. Granted, it is a huge privilege to be able to have that time, and space, and resources to go live in Yosemite for a number of weeks.
Someone asked about the increasing use of drones. Do you feel like they’ve affected your businesses? Do you use them?
EE: I was going to say that drones are so annoying, but they produce incredible visuals. It’s next to unheard of now to go on a film shoot and you don’t have a drone. It is really difficult though, if you’re trying to film in national parks. Obviously, they’re prohibited in all national parks.
A drone is the easiest way to enhance any film, hands down. At this point, they’re so easy to fly. They’re not even that expensive. I mean, all of the frat bros have them. Everybody has a drone at this point. So yeah, I do think they’re really great for elevating a film.
TH: I totally agree. In terms of them challenging, or taking away work, I don’t think that’s a thing. For a few reasons, you can’t recreate getting an actual person in a position with a real camera with different focal lengths.
I mean, drones are basically all 20 millimeters on a sensor. That’s smaller than your iPhone sensor. It’s really good for video because it’s so stabilized. It’s so smooth. So, it’s great for video but for photos, it’s equivalent to like, “Yeah, you can fly an iPhone anywhere in the sky, but that’s really different than being there and shooting it with a professional camera with an array of ways.” So, I don’t really think that’s so much of a threat.
I think it’s an opportunity. We have so many tools for content creation and that’s awesome. Staying up on as many as possible is totally a full time job and learning new skill sets. You can do it for the rest of your life. If you’re motivated by that, that’s rad.
FPV drones are really cool right now. It’s on a more bleeding edge of the drone spectrum. But it’s really hard to get permits for drones. You’re on a different level of production: you’re getting permits, you’re applying six months in advance, you have to have a license, you have to be a licensed pilot.
EE: It’s really regulated.
TH: For good reason.
For a detailed look at some of Eliza and Ted’s favorite photos and personal projects mentioned throughout our conversation, watch the on-demand webinar today.