Today I welcome guest writer and emerging photographer Camrin Dengel. I’ve been watching Camrin’s work for almost a year and I really like her style. She’s already had a number of images published and is a frequent contributor to Women’s Adventure Magazine.
Becoming An Adventure Photographer, by Camrin Dengel
I used to think that EVERYONE wanted to be an outdoor adventure photographer. That they were just too realistic to actually chase after that dream. I mean, make a living traveling, exploring, playing outside, you know … actually living. How crazy of a idea is that? It turns out, not that crazy! It also turns out that not everyone wants to be an outdoor adventure photographer.
While talking to one of my friends about careers I naively asked her why she didn’t want to be an adventure photographer. Her response was that her level of creativity didn’t extend much beyond sewing lumpy bison stuffed animals for friends new babies or environmentally conscious city planning. She explained to me that while running around being my model is a blast, the thought of having to be the one behind the lens sounds stressful and like it would take the fun out the actual adventure. In contrast, for me and possibly for many other photographers being behind the lens is liberating, exciting and a form of expression.
So, here I am, trying to ease my way into this industry. And by ease I mean launch a career. It’s a little harder than I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, when I was first introduced to the world of adventure photography I was bombarded with negativity, harsh criticism and blatant honesty about the hardships of I would encounter.
Junior year of college I decided to attend National Geographic’s Workshop at the Summit for Adventure Photography. Aside from my professors lack of encouragement, missing a week and a half of classes during prime exam time, and having just learned to shoot manually with my cheap olympus camera kit a few days before, I went! It was a totally new world full of professional athletes, editors, and world renowned photographers. And they didn’t hold much back. I still remember a photo editor from National Geographic critiquing one of my images displayed on the wall in front of everyone and saying, “This photograph is just not successful in anyway”. Ouch!
I returned to school a little beaten down, exhausted from 4am shoots and totally pumped on photography. It’s been close to two years since I decided I wanted to make a career out of outdoor lifestyle/adventure photography.
The beginning was hard and progress was slow. Like anyone first starting out I took loads of terrible photos. At first I only knew that they were bad, but not exactly WHY they sucked so much or how to fix them. So I kept shooting. I’d come back from trips with hundreds of images and if I found one with no limbs cropped out, open eyes, not too awkward of body position and my models/athletes (or should I say my dirtbag college buddies) were wearing something somewhat exceptable, then I felt like I was moving forward. I was lucky to have friends kind enough to humor my addiction to the camera. For all the terrible pictures I took of them I’m still surprised they let me keep going at it!
Thankfully no one cut me off and I continued to shoot. Eventually I started producing some “decent” work, and feed back from professors or professionals that I reached out was slowly starting to have more of a positive spin. That was all I needed to keep me going.
I’ve graduated school now and am giving photography my full attention. I’m just starting to see bits of my work published and it feels great! But I know I’ve still got a long way to go. It’s a good thing that I really love it, huh? And not just the getting published part, but the getting inspired by other photographers work, brainstorming, actually shooting, … not always the editing part, but the whole journey is what I’m after.
So my advice to anyone getting started? Yeah, you are going to have a lot of work ahead of you and it is going to be hard. You’ll probably get discouraged a time or two, but if you really love it, you’ll keep going and eventually you’ll get there. Photographers are always growing in terms of they’re work and there are always new ideas, new skill sets and new forms of passion that will keep you moving forward. We all have to start somewhere!
An outdoor lifestyle and adventure photographer, Camrin grew up in Valdez, Alaska where she developed a passion for the outdoors. Whether she is skiing in the mountains, kayaking on the river, or just about anything in between, there isn’t much in the way of adventure that she’ll turn down. Along with her passion for photography and playing outside, Camrin enjoys brewing her own kombucha and window shopping gear stores. For more of her work check out her blog.