The Adventure Life with Steve Casimiro Adventure Photography: Stop and Shoot the Roses
Text and photograph by West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro
Over the years, I have received countless tips and bits of advice on photography. Only two resonated and stayed with me. Yes, just two. But these two are so powerful, they run through my brain every time I shoot. Together, they’ve made improvements in my photography so big I can only begin to measure them.
I’m going to give you one today. Hey, when you only have two, you need to ration them.
We were shooting National Geographic ADVENTURE’s 2007 fall apparel and travel guide in Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia, five of us squeezed into a tiny white pickup we dubbed El Canejo (“the rabbit,” Spanish misspelling intended, though I can’t remember why), when we came around a corner and—blammo, there it was, one of the most beautiful scenes in one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. The water was dead still, the lake a flawless mirror. Given that Patagonia is one of the windiest places on Earth, this alone seemed like a minor miracle.
I slammed on the brakes, grabbed my camera, and started banging off shots—vertical, horizontal, different exposures. I scrambled to get the models in place, clambered on the roof of El Canejo, and shot more. Within four minutes, a slight breeze came up, ruffling the water. (Four minutes, 45 seconds, actually—I looked at the shooting times buried in the images’ metadata.) Though barely perceptible, it was enough to blur the mirror. By 18 minutes, there were ripples on the water and the magic was gone. When we came back later that afternoon, the wind was howling and there were whitecaps on the lake. The next day, ground fog covered the entire park and wouldn’t dissipate until after we left.
So, here’s the advice: If you’re thinking about taking a shot, take it. If you’re thinking about shooting something, shoot it.
I know what’s going through your head. “I read all the way down to here and that’s it? Just ‘shoot it’?”
Yes, just shoot it. If you’re driving down the road and something catches your eye, shoot it. If your kids are doing something charming and you wish your camera weren’t upstairs, go get it and shoot it. If you hike through the trees and see an insanely beautiful vista, make the time to dig the camera out of your pack—and shoot it. Do not procrastinate. Don’t “catch it on the way back.” Shoot it and shoot it now, because the scene will never look the same again. The light will change, clouds will roll in, the wind come up, your progeny will spit up on itself. Serendipity is fleeting.
If you shoot every time something sparks your creativity, you will find that those images are often your best, most insightful, and most memorable. It sounds ridiculously simple, and it is.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Photography isn’t about what camera you use, whether you shoot film or digital, or even whether you’re shooting for yourself or for your job. It’s about vision and communication and creating. If you don’t push the button, you aren’t creating. Remember, we are visual creatures—long before we had words, we relied on what we saw to stay alive. If something triggers you visually, even if you can’t articulate why, there’s a reason. Capture it and find out.
Time and time again, an image will pop into my head—lots of times when I’m behind the wheel—and I’ll groan because it means busting out the gear, taking the time, getting home later, etc. etc., waah waah waah. Most excuses for not shooting boil down to laziness and inertia. I guarantee you will regret your sloth. Some of those moments will disappear from your memory and ignorance will be bliss, but some will lodge in your head, never to leave, and you will continue to kick yourself years later.
And yes, sometimes what seems fantastic in your head looks goofy in a picture. Your kid doesn’t seem as cute, the lighting not quite so spectral. I’ve put many a model through silly contortions only to end up with photos that look lame. So what? You can throw them out or delete them. And no matter how bad they are, I can promise that the “worst” photos will be the ones you simply don’t take.