Environmental Lifestyle Imagery: Don’t be Average

Angler Geoff Mueller casts to cruising bonefish at Bair's Lodge, South Andros, Bahamas.

What is an environmental lifestyle image? Seems pretty self-explanatory, right? It’s an image that gives as much (if not more) attention to the environment, as it does to the activity taking place. It’s the perfect marriage between location

and recreation. It’s the type of image so many of us fall in love with because it highlights both an action or activity as well as a beautiful place. It’s an image that is both beautiful from a straight photographic standpoint, and one that connects with many viewers on a more personal level depending on their experience with the activity actually taking place in the image.

For me, it’s like having my cake and eating it too. I discovered my passion for photography in scenic landscape work. I have also been an avid participant in many recreational pursuits since a young age. It’s a combo that takes me to many beautiful locations, while watching and/or participating in the things I love to do.

This image embodies everything I love about fly fishing on the ocean. Clean, open air. Limitless space. Uninhibited motion. Surreal landscape. Endless skies. Soft, barefoot sand. Whether approaching it with a camera, or a rod in hand, it is an absolute dream.

This image was captured about 15 min before sunset. Having that sun low on the horizon emphasized the repetitive texture in this spit of sand. The location was perfect here. The activity was spot on. But the light it what brought this image to life. Without light, this image is an average shot of a dude casting to bonefish on a pleasant spit of sand in the middle of the Bahamas. And we all know that average is just as close to the bottom as it is to the top.

Don’t be average.

11 Best of 2011 from AdamBarkerPhotography

2011 was a spectacular year on all accounts. Foot upon foot of pow skied, fish from Wyoming to the Bahamas hooked, festivals in the far corners of the earth, ancient pathways crossed–all contributed to what could perhaps be one of my most productive years behind the lens. Cliche as it may be, I can’t help but look back in review and share some of my favorites from the past year.  As always, many thanks to my sponsors: Arc’teryx, Suunto, Mark Miller Subaru, Mountain Khakis, Manfrotto School of Xcellence, Clikelite Backpacks and Singh Ray Filters. Hope you all enjoy, and here’s to an even better 2012! (click on images to view larger versions)

1. Jesse Hall takes a moment to ponder human flight, as he stands inside the hot air balloon from which he’ll subsequently launch himself into gravity’s liberating grasp. Park City, UT.

2. Angler Al Chidester finds himself surrounded by all that is good in this world: fresh air, fall foliage…and fantastic fishing in some of western Wyoming’s most treasured water.

3. Fire and rain over Warm Creek Bay, Lake Powell, UT.

4. Hazy skies make for ethereal and ancient interpretations of East Jerusalem, Israel.

5. First light envelopes Agua Canyon in a glow only Mother Nature could furnish. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.

6. Ralph Lauren’s Double RL Ranch shows its true colors in crisp early morning light. Dallas Divide, CO.

7. Angler Geoff Mueller admires a healthy bonefish (caught and released) in Abaco Island’s skinniest of water.

8. Calm in the chaos of Hanoi traffic, Vietnam.

9. Bavaria’s finest color smiles upon a lone farmer’s shed in the fields near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

10. Skier Drew Stoecklein can, in fact turn right. At just the right time. In just the right place. Alta Backcountry, UT.

11. Angler Geoff Mueller and Oliver White tense up as they ply the waters off Abaco Island for huge permit.

The Over/Under: Quick Tutorial to Underwater Fly fishing Photography

Angler Geoff Mueller sizes admires a bonefish caught and released on the fly at Abaco Lodge, Bahamas

As skinny as it comes!
And I’m not talking about the fish here. In saltwater flyfishing, shallow water is commonly referred to as “skinny” water. Let’s just say this stretch of water at Abaco Lodge, Bahamas was on a tidal diet on this particular morning.
Underwater photography is unpredictable and challenging, but that all contributes to an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction when it all works out.

Over/under shots like this are heavily dependent on the right equipment, knowledge and always a bit of luck. It’s key to have a legit housing with a dome port. If you don’t have a dome port, you can still pull these types of shots off, but it’s much more difficult. I always spit on the dome glass and rub it around before getting it wet–this keeps the water from beading up on the part of the glass that remains above water.

Ideally–you will set your exposure just before shooting the sequence (on manual mode, of course). It’s always an approximate guess on lining up all the elements and shooting away. Here, I am kneeling down in the water, holding the housing at waist level or so. Obviously, there’s no looking through the viewfinder, so you need to understand very well what your chosen lens will include depending on where you hold the camera. Pointing and shifting the housing slightly up or down can drastically affect where the dividing water/air line will be in your frame. Experiment each and every time until you start to get a better idea of where that line will fall.

Note that even if you’ve put that line right in the middle of the dome port, it may not be dividing your image in half. Water moves up and down very quickly, and you’re much less steady than you think when holding the housing.

Two last tips! Get a diopter to place on the front element of your lens (before it goes in the housing). This will help mitigate the softness on the corners that is a constant issue when shooting through domes and it will also decrease your minimum focusing distance for your lens–which is key when trying to fill the frame when shooting.
Annnnd, shots like this benefit from front and/or sidelight to properly expose the image both above and underwater. Obviously, the brighter the ocean/river bottom is, the better it will balance with the sky.

UW housings are pricey, but they’re worth every penny. Rent one for a day from manufacturers like AquaTech and see if it might be a good fit for you. Have fun!