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Behind the Adventure

This assignment ran from Dec 19 to Jan 12, 2015.

Outdoor adventures—hiking, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing, surfing, etc.—are rewarding because they allow us to explore the most beautiful places in the natural world, to challenge ourselves physically and mentally, and to build deep bonds with the friends who share these experiences with us. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of our Adventurers of the Year (vote for the People's Choice through January 31, 2015), we have an outdoor adventure-themed assignment for you.

We want to see photos that show what inspires you on an adventure. We'd love to see your glory shots—the moment when the mountaineer reaches the peak's summit, the skier makes a perfect turn on a glittering slope, or the rock climber passes the crux of the route. But we also want to see images that show the behind the scenes of what it takes to summit that mountain, ski that slope, or climb that route. They could be photos that show the personal, transformative, uncomfortable, humorous, and even painful moments of the adventure. More

Curated by:

Mary Anne Potts
Editorial Director, Adventure

Jimmy Chin
National Geographic Photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

    Everyone’s welcome to contribute their best shot to open assignments. Learn more.
  • Closed

    Completed assignments—with our favorite photos included—will be published online. Learn more.
  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Jan 23, 2015.
Thank you for your contributions!

The Final Push

Posted jan 7, 2015

I’ve been impressed with the diversity and breadth of imagery being submitted for the Behind the Adventure assignment. Our assignment is purposefully broad so people can not only get creative in the images they're taking but also in the interpretation of the idea.

We are extending the assignment a few more days so we can get a few more submissions in the new year. Remember, at the end of the day we’re looking for outstanding imagery around adventure. I know it’s easy to ask for “outstanding” imagery, but what exactly does that mean? Let’s get back to the basics. After all these years of shooting and editing, I am still always looking for some of the same basic things. Here are a few thoughts to consider when shooting or editing images for your submission:

Composition - In the simplest terms, composition is how you compose an image. In general, unless you're shooting a portrait, you don’t want to put your main subject in the middle of the frame. It doesn’t allow the viewer's eye to go anywhere. Most of you have probably heard of the rule of thirds. For those of you who haven't, the rule of thirds is a simple concept to help you compose an image. This concept just means dividing the image in your viewfinder into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Instead of placing your subject in the middle third, place them or it in one of the right-hand or left-hand thirds. If you pay attention to a lot of imagery out there, you’ll notice people’s use of this concept. If used well, the rule of thirds can help make your image much more dynamic because it gives your viewer some room to breathe and forces them to move their eye through the frame a bit instead of staring straight into the center of your image.

Light - Beautiful light can do some amazing things for your photography. The obvious times to shoot are during the “golden hours,” when the sun is low on the horizon at or around sunrise and sunset. Just before sunrise or just after sunset are beautiful times of day to shoot as well. Always try and use the light to your advantage. Sometimes stormy or cloudy days produce amazing, even light that saturates colors. Broken clouds can create dramatic landscapes of dappled light. Most people use the sun to front-light their subjects, but take some chances and use the sun as your backlight. A so-so image could become an amazing image if you turn around and shoot into the sun, with your subjects backlit. Light helps shape the landscape and your subject. Pay close attention to it and use it wisely.

Subjects - Often a great image is made from shooting great subjects. Figure out what that subject is for you. In this assignment it's adventure, so think through what adventure means to you. Where can you find adventure? What is going to best visually represent adventure to you? Who best represents adventure to you? Where and how are you going to capture it? I find it’s easiest to shoot adventure by going on one. Keeping your camera ready, anticipating moments, and keeping an open mind while you're out exploring in the mountains, deserts, cities, or wherever with your friends will be key to capturing your adventure. Force yourself to look for interesting angles. Remember that eye-level, medium-frame images are the most uninteresting images because that's what your eye is used to seeing. Get on the ground, crawl behind some trees to add some foreground elements so there's depth in your images, slow your shutter speed and get some motion blur, line up a graphically interesting image.

Finally, I'm going to give you an assignment within the assignment. Take a look through the current submissions and think through specifically why you like certain images. Write your thoughts down. Look them over. Now look critically at your own images or think through your comments about what you liked about certain images, and why, when you're out shooting. Shoot and submit the images that you think are better than what you’ve seen out there. We want you to push yourselves creatively. I’m really hoping one of your images will be published in the magazine. 

Get to work! : ) —Jimmy 

It's Personal

Posted dec 30, 2014

One of the great opportunities with adventure photography is to tell a story. It’s personal; it’s transformative. Whether climbing a peak in the Himalaya or hiking your favorite local trail for the 25th time, each adventure has its rewards—in success and in failure and disappointment. Shoot this story from many different perspectives, from start to finish, so that there is visual diversity to help pull the viewer along your adventure.

Your visual story starts well before boots hit the ground. It begins when your friends’ gear is strewn around the living room floor and logistics are being locked down on GPS units and Google Earth views. It’s when your equipment is stacked up at the airport, loaded in the car, and getting lugged to the trailhead. A note of caution: Don’t overshoot the pre-departure, either. You’ll need that battery power and storage for your field time.

Mix up the scale and composition of your photos. Definitely shoot that classic landscape shot that gives a sense of place with your adventurers doing their activity—at the end of the day, this is the shot people remember most. But go a step beyond that.

Make it a priority to get closer. This means you are going to have to hustle. You might have to scurry up the trail in front of the group to get photos of the faces of your team, rather than their backpacks. Take portraits that reveal something about your adventurers—a wise, weathered face, the unmistakable look of fatigue and satisfaction after reaching a goal.

Take detail shots. Maybe there’s a nasty blister getting bandaged by a trail runner or gnarled fingers from a climber’s crack climbing. Show us what you are eating. How it’s prepared. What it’s like to hover by the campfire or stove or snuggle down into your sleeping bag. Show us the secrets seasoned adventurers know—do you sleep with your ski boot liners in your sleeping bag? What tricks do you have for keeping your batteries or water bottle warm?

Don’t miss the action, the ups and downs of the adventure. The struggles and the triumphs. The weather that influences every decision you make. Keep that camera ready, but remember safety is always the top priority.

Moments In Between

Posted dec 18, 2014

In this video taken on a Your Shot photo walk in Banff National Park, Jimmy talks about four types of images that help tell a story—a landscape, an action shot, a detail shot, and a portrait. Keep this variety of shots in mind as you document your future adventure stories. Often times, the moments in between tell the true story.

Mary Anne Potts

Mary Anne Potts

Editorial Director, Adventure
Mary Anne Potts has been editing, writing and producing stories about outdoor adventure for more than a dozen years. As the editor of National Geographic Adventure, she stays closely connected to the outdoor industry's top adventurers, explorers, filmmakers, photographers and writers to create award-winning storytelling about adventure and exploration—including scouting for the next Adventurers of the Year.

Jimmy Chin

Jimmy Chin

National Geographic Photographer
Jimmy lives a life of art and adventure, combining a career as a National Geographic photographer, documentary filmmaker and a 14 year veteran of The North Face Athlete Team. In the past decade, Jimmy has collaborated with, filmed and photographed some of the most progressive athletes and explorers in the world, participating in many break through expeditions. He has climbed notable first ascents in the Karakoram, traversed the Chang Tang Plateau in Tibet on foot and skied first descents in the Himalayas. He is one of the few people to ski Mount Everest from the summit and recently climbed the much coveted first ascent of the Shark's Fin on Meru. His photography has graced the cover of National Geographic Magazine and garnered numerous awards. Jimmy lives in both New York City and Jackson Hole, Wyoming with his wife Chai and daughter Marina.