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!

Sneak Peek: Through the Eyes

We’ve been busy creating the first of many episodes of AdamBarkerPhotography: Through the Eyes. Check out the teaser for the first below. Special thanks to Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort for the sick location! Huge shout out to Hammers Inc Photography and Nate Balli for the mad film/edit skills.

Through the Eyes Teaser EP1 from HIP VISUAL ARTS on Vimeo.

Capturing that five-star powder shot!

Skier Ben Wheeler skiing deep powder at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, UT.

Pow. Pow. Powder!!!

Still getting through my edit from the Warren Miller shoot last week at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. This shot of Ben Wheeler happens to be one of my faves from the day. It’s nothing revolutionary by any means, but there’s something about an action-infused, frame-filling powder shot that gets the blood going.

So what’s the key to getting that powder keeper? Luck? Super rad really huge professional looking camera? Cool guy goggle tan? Yes. Yes. Annnnnnd yes. Ok not really.

In all seriousness, there are a couple of key elements to successfully capture powder shots time after time.

1. Great snow. Yes. Thank you captain obvious. But it’s true folks. Without great snow, you can’t expect to create that mouth watering pow shot.

2. Skilled skier. This is perhaps the most important element. A very good skier can make even marginal snow look better than most can imagine. There’s a huge difference between a strong skier, and a skier that knows what to do and how to do it in front of the lens.

3. Fast camera/fast lens. While these are not absolutely required, it will make it much easier for you to capture that one perfect keeper. The Canon 1D MkIV shoots 10 fps (frames per second), which is ridiculously fast. Every frame matters, however, when both the skier and the snow are changing places at fractions of a second. A fast lens (preferably f2.8 or faster) is key to stopping the action in low light conditions and separating your skier from the background with shallow depth of field shooting.

4. AF Confidence. I trade off between focus tracking with auto focus and pre focusing with manual focus. It all depends on the type of shot. In this, as we were shooting with a cinematographer, the skier must ski a fluid line, which makes it much harder (if not impossible) for the photog to pre-focus. This is when you must understand your AF system and how it functions. Read your manual. Some AF systems are super customizable, and the better you understand it, the better it will perform for you.

5. AF-on button. This is Canon specific, but I imagine Nikon has something similar. By tweaking your custom settings, you can set your shutter button so that it affects only the actual shutter operation and metering. By utilizing your AF-on button (with your thumb) throughout the entire burst shooting sequence, you allow you camera to micro-adjust focus and track the skier between each frame.

6. Pre-visualize. Understand what you want to fill the frame. Understand how the snow will react to the skier. Understand where in his/her turn your money shot is. All of this translates into which lens you use, how you compose the image, where you place the skier in your frame and how you follow him/her throughout the sequence.

Now pray for snow, and go get em’!

Canon 1D MkIV, 70-200 2.8IS, Clik Elite Contrejour backpack

Confessions of a Pro Photographer

On a near daily basis I receive emails from aspiring photographers, curious as to how I made it to where I am and if I have any advice that may help them in their quest. It is both humbling and gratifying to know that others think my thoughts have enough merit to better them as a budding photographer and business person. Let me be clear that I feel I am by no means “there” as a photographer, but I feel that I’m certainly somewhere on the way to “there”. I know I’m much closer to “there” than I was two or three years ago.

Photographer Adam Barker walking with Gitzo tripod during a commercial photographer shoot in Sun Valley, ID

Photographer Adam Barker walking with Gitzo tripod during a commercial photography shoot in Sun Valley, ID. p: Jay Burke

The truth of the matter is this: if you’re reading this blog post, we are very much alike. We have far more in common than you could likely imagine. I am still very much clawing my way to greatness, but I can recall, when I was just taking my first steps into the unknown that defines a green photographer’s career, wondering what went through the brain of one more seasoned than I. For those of you perhaps in that same situation now, here’s a glimpse into my psyche as a person and a photographer. Whether you’re a seasoned vet, or a newbie to this fine medium, I’d love for you to add your own confession in the comments field if you like.

Photographer Adam Barker discussing technique during an instructional DVD shoot with Master Photo Workshops. p: Greg McKean

Photographer Adam Barker discussing technique during an instructional DVD shoot with Master Photo Workshops. p: Greg McKean

1. I sometimes wonder if I can do this for the rest of my life, and continue producing exceptional imagery.

2. My 3-yr old son knows I’m a photographer, and I love it.

3. I dream of shooting large format film one day–just for fun.

Photographer Adam Barker with Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. p: Bryan Gregson

Photographer Adam Barker with Yellowstone Cutthroat trout. p: Bryan Gregson

4. I hate the “look at me” part of showing my work to potential clients and friends.

5. But I have figured out the difference between arrogant ego-padding, and proper self promotion.

6. There is no better motivator to work hard than knowing I have to provide for my family.

7. There is no better motivator to push my photography than knowing I’m surrounded (everywhere) by exceptional photographers.

Photographer Adam Barker shooting Agua Canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, UT. p: Drew Stoecklein

Photographer Adam Barker shooting Agua Canyon in Bryce Canyon National Park, UT. p: Drew Stoecklein

8. I am ridiculously anal about having tack sharp images. I throw away most anything that isn’t tack when it’s supposed to be.

9. I, too, have an equipment wish list a mile long.

10. I love to teach photography. Someday I hope to make that a more significant part of my job.

Photographer Adam Barker reviewing images on Canon camera at a commercial shoot in Sun Valley, ID p: Jay Burke

Photographer Adam Barker reviewing images on Canon camera at a commercial shoot in Sun Valley, ID p: Jay Burke

11. My favorite time to shoot is sunrise, when everything is quiet and Mother Nature is the one doing the talking.

12. I am constantly wondering if I’m good enough. I have learned to deal with this in a positive way, and I hope this sentiment never leaves me.

13. I use gear I believe in, not just gear I get for free. That doesn’t mean I don’t love free stuff.

14. I am screwed without my Grad ND filters. Really.

15. My office is a freakin’ mess.

16. One of my greatest inspirations has always been David Muench.

17. The day goes by so much quicker when I’m working for myself. That’s not always a good thing.

Photographer Adam Barker shooting a Lamborghini Murcielago during a commercial shoot on the Bonneville Salt Flats, UT. p: David Watkins

Photographer Adam Barker shooting a Lamborghini Murcielago during a commercial shoot on the Bonneville Salt Flats, UT. p: David Watkins

18.  I am afraid of flash photography.

19.  My workflow is a freakin’ mess.

20. I think my favorite places to shoot are National Parks. They are so beautiful and grand. I wish I could have been around when they weren’t quite so crowded, but it’s great to see people out there enjoying them.

Anatomy of a Commercial Lifestyle Shoot: Loon Outdoors

Ever wonder what’s involved in a smaller scale commercial lifestyle shoot? Have a read.

AdamBarkerPhotography commerical shoot with Loon Outdoors in Sun Valley, Idaho

AdamBarkerPhotography commerical shoot with Loon Outdoors in Sun Valley, Idaho

This past week I was fortunate to work with Loon Outdoors, a company committed to providing environmentally friendly fly fishing products to anglers. We had arranged for a one-day shoot up in Sun Valley, ID. In the days leading up to the shoot, I’d been checking the weather incessantly, hoping for something other than the obvious–rain and cold and general nastiness on the day of (and only the day of) the shoot. Murphy’s law was definitely proving itself on this one. After a bit of dicussion with company president Alan Peterson, we decided to go ahead with the scheduled shoot.

Alan Peterson and Jay Burke looking for lunkers above the Big Wood River in Sun Valley, Idaho

Alan Peterson and Jay Burke looking for lunkers above the Big Wood River in Sun Valley, Idaho

The truth of the matter is this: some weather is fantastic for photography, and fly fishing photography in particular. It provides for interesting shooting conditions and unique atmospheric opportunities. Too much weather, however, can be a literal game ender.

AdamBarkerPhotography commerical shoot with Loon Outdoors in Sun Valley, Idaho

AdamBarkerPhotography commerical shoot with Loon Outdoors in Sun Valley, Idaho

My alarm clock went off on the morning of the shoot and without even looking out the window I knew I would be encountering some unique weather-related challenges throughout the day. I could hear the rain drops on the windows. Not so good. I parted the curtains and was surprised to see 2″ of snow had fallen overnight. Wow. Cool! Snow would provide for something a bit different. Throughout the day on the Big Wood River, we had steady rain moving in and out, providing for alternately inspiring conditions and  an utterly miserable, wet hell for a photographer. By late afternoon, the skies had dropped the majority of their bounty and we decided to head south to Silver Creek for what turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous evening of dramatic skies and golden light. We returned to the cars under waning dusk light low on energy and high on life. I was spent, but the client was grinning and the mission was accomplished.

A fisherman strips line out on the Big Wood River, Idaho

A fisherman strips line out on the Big Wood River, Idaho

I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on this shoot with its associated expectations placed upon the photographer. There was a bit of extra pressure considering we were allotted just one day to capture a wide range of images. These are certainly challenging times for many photographers and business owners alike. There still remains, however, a noticeable gap between the true professional and eager amateur. A true professional will always deliver, regardless of conditions or obstacles placed in his path. He/She relies on past experience and draws from his technical skill and creative vision to create something out of nothing (when nothing is presented) and to capture the magic in a quick and proficient manner when Mother Nature decides to lend a hand.

To see more of the images from this shoot, check out the online gallery. Special thanks to Simms, William Joseph and Clikelite backpacks for helping to make this a productive shoot.

A trio of fishermen pose for the camera after an evening on SIlver Creek, Idaho

A trio of fishermen pose for the camera after an evening on SIlver Creek, Idaho