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4 Adventure Photography Tips From Behind-the-Scenes at Big Sur and Pinnacles with Triple Aught Design

May 13, 2013

Adventure photography for one of the most epic brands we know means going on amazing shoots.  We’re taking you behind-the-scenes of our most recent shoot for Triple Aught Design‘s spring season with some quick photography tips to guide the way.

Triple Aught Design, Stealth LT, Gamma Nine

Tip #1: Rise before the sun, and be rewarded with golden-hour light.


Our three-day adventure began with getting up to Big Sur and setting up camp in the evening. By the light of lanterns and headlamps we pitched tents and settled in. We crashed by midnight and a few hours later we were up again… in the dark. Time was precious as we prepared gear, props, and equipment. As soon as dawn broke and we looked at the direction and quality of the morning light and with all-hands-on-deck we quickly developed our camp “set”.  The window of time where the “look” conveyed morning-ness was barely an hour.


Note: a tent that opens on two sides makes shooting from “inside” a tent possible.

Tip #2: Find your angles, the best shot might be from (very) far away.


While our mornings were at the campsite, by day we embarked deep into the terrain. During our exploration, we were constantly on the lookout for scenes of powerful landscapes and unique features that reinforce the Triple Aught Design brand design and aesthetic.

The most majestic and grand locales can lack inspiration and soul if you don’t have the proper perspective to capture all of it and successfully showcase the scale of the beauty. The vantage point for the image above was on the other side of the valley.



Note: Two-way radios are useful to communicate and coordinate — for the photographer and subjects when shooting far apart, and for a scout to hike ahead.

Tip #3: Submerge your subject in the environment, and realism and intensity comes naturally.

TAD NL Comp - 600px wide

Compelling adventure photography is always…. well, an adventure. If you’re crossing a river, do it with intent and purpose: make sure your subject ignores the camera and let the action speak for itself. No posing needed.


Obligatory safety warning: Rivers rapids move deceivingly fast! Do not attempt to enter or cross a river without proper training, experience, or equipment. Our team scouted up and down the river, and the first and primary criteria for the “best” spot to cross was a location that was safe.

Tip #4: Carefully add light, and you can make the scene look darker.


Our trip ended at Pinnacles State Park, which is known for its amazing rock formations, and equally note-worthy caves.  Unlike bats or other animals that do well in the dark, cameras like light — and a lot of it.

To convincingly convey “the dark”, an image still needs to have a range of brightness: something very bright as a reference point, along with the subject being adequately lit, and then deep blacks. In the pitch black of the caves, the deep black was everywhere.  As we explored with headlamps and flashlights, we used those same lights to shoot photos: the subject’s own headlamp in the shot provided the very bright reference point in the shot, and we were able to point our flashlights at different parts of the subject and rocks to create a more natural look than with a flash/speedlight.

Thanks to Triple Aught Design for another incredible project, and Lowepro for outfitting us with the packs and cases that help us shoot effectively and safely — our Pro Trekker 400 is hands-down our new favorite camera bag for carrying all our primary photography gear through these adventures, and our new Photo Sport 200 and Lens Exchange 100 did not skip a beat allowing us to move agilely when switching lenses and capturing behind-the scenes-images, even in the midst of climbing up rocks and scrambling through caves.

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