The What/When/Why/How: Question 1

I recently answered several interview questions for a photography student and one of their projects. Thought it might interest some of you readers out there. I’ll post several of these questions/answers in coming weeks.

Q: You cover a variety of fields – how did you get into each, do you feel more passionately about one over the other, does one bring in more work?

A: I found my passion for photography in scenic landscape work. That really made up the majority of my portfolio early on. It was natural for me, and I loved the fact that I didn’t need to rely on anyone else to excel at this type of photography. It was just me and Mother Nature. No athletes, no truckload of extra equipment. No stylist. No creative director. No one—but me. That meant that the entirety of my success or failure could be blamed on or awarded to one individual (myself), and ultimately it made me into the intense self critic and perfectionist that I am today.

Soon enough, I began to shoot more active lifestyle work, but it was much more difficult for me to commit to shooting activities like fly fishing and skiing. I loved DOING them too much to put my photography first. I still have a great time participating in these activities, but I know when to put my photography first. I also know when to put the camera down, and cave to my need for a little “me” time on the mountain or the river.

As I began to look at photography from more of a business standpoint, I realized that a) scenic work was difficult to sell/license and b) active lifestyle work was much easier to sell/license. After that came the epiphany that although there was money to be made in the action sports arena, it wasn’t prolific. Soon, I began looking into commercial architectural work, and in a broader sense, I began to hone in on travel/tourism and destination clients. My ideal commercial client is one that needs superb imagery that conveys a sense of place and experience. They need scenic work, active lifestyle work and architectural work—think destination resorts.

To this day, I still love scenic landscape work most. It’s what first made me fall in love with photography. Active lifestyle is a close second—it gets me out doing what I love, and the more I shoot it, the more opportunity I find to share the experience in unique and different ways. Commercial destination work pays a good part of my bills. I enjoy it for sure, but it’s definitely not first on my list by any means.

Southeast Asia Photo Tour

Laotian man in market at Luang Prabang, Laos shot by AdamBarkerPhotography with M&M Photo Tours.

It’s been a fantastic first week of our photo tour through Southeast Asia with M&M Photo Tours! Time is always scarce on these jam packed jaunts, so I’ll just throw up a few images and hopefully get a bit more time to delve into the details later. So far, highlights have included seeing the annual lantern festival in Luang Prabang, visiting the crazy markets in Hanoi and wandering the terraced rice fields of Sapa. We take a night train back to Hanoi tonight, and then it’s off to spend an evening on one of the most beautiful areas of shoreline in the world: Ha Long Bay. 84 gb of memory shot so far, many bowls of pho devoured, far less mosquito bites than one would expect, and countless unforgettable experiences. Here’s to another week through Indochina!

Buddhist monks eating breakfast at Luang Prabang, Laos shot by AdamBarkerPhotography with M&M Photo Tours.

CIty view of Luang Prabang, Laos shot by AdamBarkerPhotography with M&M Photo Tours.

Girl at lantern festival at Luang Prabang, Laos shot by AdamBarkerPhotography with M&M Photo Tours.

Boat races near Luang Prabang, Laos shot by AdamBarkerPhotography with M&M Photo Tours.

Tree in mist near Sapa, Vietnam shot by AdamBarkerPhotography with M&M Photo Tours.

Recap: Telluride Photo Festival

AdamBarkerPhotography image of Dusk at the Dallas Divide near Telluride, Colorado

I had the recent pleasure of participating in the Telluride Photo Festival. As its namesake implies, this festival is located in one of the premier locations for fall foliage in the Rocky Mountains. Telluride is hopelessly beautiful, rugged and even a bit remote. It’s a classic mountain town, with over the top log homes, deluxe lodges and a bustling main street with an eclectic array of galleries, eateries and boutiques.

AdamBarkerPhotography image of Telluride, Colorado in fall.

My focus throughout the week was threefold: teaching a  three-day workshop on capturing the complete outdoor image, attendee portfolio reviews, and a seminar on environmental active lifestyle imagery. All told, it was a busy week full of beautiful imagery, lots of laughs and new relationships forged with wonderful people. I was joined by my trusty assistant/sidekick, Nate Sorensen and we had a blast driving countless dirt roads through a winding maze of foliage, underbrush and cattle guards in search of inspiring locations for my workshop. The Mark Miller Subaru Outback was a rally machine! Minor note, however: the road tires that came with Suby are not meant for some of Colorado’s finer dirt road shred sessions.

AdamBarkerPhotography image of Mark Miller Subaru Outback at Dallas Divide near Telluride, Colorado

Located at the head of a deep box canyon, Telluride (elev. 8,750 ft.) is already a significant hop, skip and jump above sea level. That should give some indication as to how tall the surrounding peaks are. The San Juan mountain range makes up a healthy portion of those surrounding peaks, and they’ve long been a fall photography destination at the top of my list. They did not disappoint.

An AdamBarkerPhotography image of fall foliage in first light at the Dallas Divide near Telluride, Colorado

Huge, sprawling stands of aspen were peppered with yellow, orange and green splotches of color, only to stand in stark contrast against sky scraping peaks like Wilson Peak and Mt. Sneffels. Spending the whole week in the area, it was interesting to see nature’s subtle nuances as colors ebbed and flowed each day. It’s amazing how much an area can change overnight, and we were certainly witness to this in many of the classic drives in the area.

Photo of Adam Barker teaching a workshop at the Telluride Photo Festival

There are countless sunrise/sunset photo locations in the area, and we were fortunate to have gorgeous dawn skies at both the Dallas Divide and West Dallas Creek Road. Especially with clear skies and uninteresting weather, dawn/dusk are some of the best times to capture saturated, even colors with deep skies. The lack of direct light, and the glow emanating from the far horizon make for fantastically detailed landscapes that have a rich, subtle glow to them. It wasn’t uncommon to see most people show up to similar locations 20 minutes or so after we’d begun shooting. By that time, skies were pale, and we were preparing for first light.

AdamBarkerPhotography image of fall color at sunset at Lizard Head Pass during the Telluride Photo Festival

We were blessed with ominous clouds and killer color at Lizard Head Pass one evening for sunset. Low light and intermittent overcast skies made for fantastic directional lighting as well as soft, diffused indirect light. The greatest thing about fall is the way the landscape and color changes with different types of light. The workshop was a huge success, and my group of students was fantastic–always eager to learn and practice some of the new technique they’d learned with their Singh Ray Filters.

AdamBarkerPhotography image of Mark Miller Subaru Outback at Dallas Divide near Telluride, Colorado

Towards the end of the week, five straight days of 5 am wakeup calls had caught up to us. I took a breather from sunrise shoots and focused my efforts on portfolio reviews. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of work. It’s always an inspiration to see work from other photographers (whether aspiring or veteran) and it never fails to give me a new outlook on the world in which we live.

I wrapped up the week with a seminar on environmental active lifestyle imagery. Many thanks to my sponsors Arc’teryx, Clikelite Backpacks and Mountain Khakis for providing some schwag to share with the crowd. I can honestly say there are few places as majestic as Telluride. The photographic opportunities are endless, the people are kind-hearted and the Telluride Photo Festival proved a perfect forum for learning and photographic enrichment from some huge names in the business (Tim Kemple, Rob Haggart, Kristen Fortier (Men’s Journal), Mark Lesh (Skiing mag), Julia Vandenoever (Backpacker Mag) Tom Till and many, many more. Keep an eye out for next year’s lineup–should be a doozy!