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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Adventures In The Landscapes

Adam Barker has achieved perfect balance, melding the personal with the professional in his outdoor photography

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Angler Rob Wood in Montana.
"Having an active lifestyle component to the imagery kind of closes the loop," he continues, "because I've been a participant in these outdoor activities my entire life. I think there are lots of people who look at a pretty picture and they're just like, 'Eh, it's okay, but it's just a pretty picture.' However, once you put somebody in it doing something that these people can relate to—maybe they're a fisherman, or they love hiking or trail running or camping, or maybe they have a cabin in the woods, or they go on a ski vacation—all of a sudden they can relate to the image on an entirely different level. It kind of opens the door to them in terms of appreciating the image, and maybe the medium of photography, in general."

For example, Barker made a photograph of a beautiful sunset over a river bend in Montana [previous page]. It's one of his favorite places, and it surely could stand on its own without a human element anywhere to be found. But the subtle inclusion of a fly fisherman changes the overall impact of the image. It's a shot the photographer nearly missed.

"This is an image of one of my absolute favorite stretches of water on the planet," Barker says. "Montana not only is an angler's paradise, it's also a photographer's heaven. Believe it or not, this was, by most accounts, a second-best photo shoot. The previous night I watched one of the most glorious sunsets I had ever seen, from the comfort of a diner bench in West Yellowstone. I was holding back tears between bites of my hamburger. I guess Mother Nature took pity on me, as this evening produced an exceptionally beautiful sunset, as well. Fly-fishing and landscape photography couldn't be better suited to each other. Fly-fishing has taken me to some of the most spectacular locations this planet has to offer, and the sport itself is incredibly aesthetic. In my opinion, it's the perfect marriage of sport and landscape."

Small cactus in Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Adding people to a landscape does make more work for the photographer. Sometimes he's able to piggyback a personal shoot onto a commercial gig, but more often than not he has to take on the preproduction for himself and recruit models and subjects who are ready, willing and able to go into the wild at a moment's notice, when the weather and light are just right. So, it's important that shoots like these are as much fun as they are aesthetically rewarding.

"Most of the time," Barker explains, "unless it's a paid commercial or editorial shoot, these athletes or models are just out there because they love it. There is incentive for them—if they have sponsors, for instance, if they're a skier and they're sponsored—if they get published with legible logos, they get paid. It's an 'I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine' sort of thing. However, with a lot of these shots, they're simply out there because they love it. And that's where it's important to them to have a photographer who can make it fun and enjoyable because they're not getting rich, I'm not getting rich, but we're both out there having fun doing it. It does take foresight, forethought and some planning to make these things happen."

Because his commercial work often involves active lifestyle photographs made in the outdoors, it's not uncommon for Barker's personal and professional needs to overlap. He works to capitalize on every opportunity for convergence in order to shoot for himself.

"I had the stars align for a week this past year," he explains, "when I shot the campaign for Manfrotto's new BeFree travel tripod. For seven days we took a motor home through California and visited some of the most iconic photo locations in the state. It was a dream job—other than the fact that we had super-clear skies for an entire week, which is tough for landscape photography. But I was shooting purely landscapes; I was doing what I would be doing if I were just by myself, but I was getting paid for it. It was just a dream. I don't know if I'll ever have another job like that."


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