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How Working as a Professional Mountain Sport Photographer has Changed

In a fairly remote part of Switzerland’s Wallis Alps last week, I caught myself knowing about a little water hole around a coming turn in the trail. Sure enough, moments later, there it was. The fact that I knew about it made me realize just how much time I have spent in this part of the world. In fact, since 2000, we have spent the vast majority of every spring, summer and fall in the European Alps. All this had me reflecting on our time working in the mountains and how we, as professional mountain sport photographers, have evolved in the last 10 years.

For us, here is a fun comparison of What Was vs. What Is.

Film

Film management has been replaced by file management

Then: Within every pack we carried was a drybag full of film cannisters. Velvia for saturated colors, Provia 100 for the go to film, Provia 400 for lower light, B&W for fun and a few Agfa 1000’s for grainy moods. Film was heavy, bulky and needed protection from moisture. Each roll needed its own care and details written with magic marker on the outside; push 1 stop? clip? shot at 160 instead of 50. If you don’t know these terms, you didn’t shoot film.

Now: A large drybag full of film has been replaced by a neat & tidy film card pocket. Where there was processing, now there is download, storage and backing up. We never really thought much about the fact that film had no backup, but now the thought of having digital files in just one spot is not an option, of course it needs to be backed up, in three places no less. Film took up space, digital takes up time.

Image Storage

Then: After shoots we would take all our film and head to the lab. There were always rolls needing special processing and so we would have them clipped, where a small piece of the film is processed separately. We would then return to the lab and make decisions about processing times. Once everything was determined all the film was run. 48 hours later it would be ready. With all our traveling, we decided to not have the slide film mounted, it took up too much room. Instead we had it sleeved which we would then edit and hand mount later. Today, this seems absolutely crazy.

Now: Return to computer from shoot. Download to Lightroom, backup on two hard drives. Keep hard drives in separate places, upload to remote storage if time and internet connection allows.

Regardless of what, how or where you shoot is to simply just be out – so you can shoot

Presentation & Delivery to Client

Then: This got interesting while traveling in Europe. We had no scanner so the film was sent off for review. Those same images we didn’t have mounted at the lab all had to be hand mounted, packaged up and FedEx’d off to the client for review. No backup. If the needed image was elsewhere, we begged the client to wait.

Now: Clients visit and order from our online Stock Site. With iPhone App we deliver ready for print hi-res files with one click.

Internet

Then: Traveling in the Alps, it basically didn’t exist. Weeks might go by without the option of checking in.

Now: Traveling in the Alps, it basically exists everywhere, and if it doesn’t, wait an hour or two and you’ll be in range.

Style

Then: We climbed alpine peaks, we hiked multi-day tours, we ran long distances – always making images of everything we did, whether it be for stock, commercial shoots or editorial assignments.

Now: Nothing much has changed here, except we stop to Facebook and Twitter about it all.

Attitude

Then: Psych level was off the chart, everything was new and exciting.

Now: Happy to report that 10 years later the psych level is still off the chart but with vastly more experience to make it all even better..

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Comments 3

  1. Great recap guys. Pretty cool that you experienced the cross over from analogue to digital. I believe it’s an asset to know what we came from and how the two mediums compare. Actually, I think I can see this point in your work. Folks who used to shoot film always seem to have a better understanding of “density” which just isn’t very easily explained to someone who started with digital. This is probably one of many things that make you guys effective stock shooters. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love the “Attitude” you guys bring, it makes you both special! Your photos have helped shape EasyCare’s image! Keep it up and can’t wait to see what another 10 years brings.

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      Author

      Thanks Garrett, and I hope you know that you have been a hugely positive influence for us.
      Dan & Janine

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