If you’re already going to go on some of the coolest adventures on the planet, then you pretty much have to take photos to document your travels, right? It’s a no brainer, and describes exactly how Jake Anderson got into photography. “I was always doing sports and I was always outside,” Anderson told us. “But I never had any proof or photos of me actually doing stuff. It was a natural progression into me taking pictures. Just recording the places that I was going, the stuff that I was doing, and capturing the people around me doing it.”
The self taught photographer realized that his adventures were taking him to corners and into crevasses of the Earth that few people would ever get the chance to explore. So he became their eyes, his photos offering a portal to the breathtaking sights he was visiting. It’s a kind of magic that you only find in great photography. People can look at Anderson’s photography and, just for a second, see the world exactly as he saw it in that moment.
Growing up in the Blue Mountains of Australia, Anderson took for granted that he lived in one of the most beautiful places on Earth with some of the best canyoning in the world. But living overseas for awhile made him appreciate the sheer awesomeness of his homeland. He began to learn canyoning, soon growing obsessed with the sport, and this led him to become an expert in adventure photography.
It’s a difficult, dangerous game, getting pictures while climbing down cliffs, trekking through tundras, and fighting through torrential rain. But Jake Anderson thrives on adventure, constantly testing his limits, his courage, and his skill.
I skyped with Jake this week and he told me about the challenges of adventure photography, the joys that he gets to experience with every trip, and how extreme adventure drives him to take on the world in ways most of us could only imagine.
As an adventure photographer, you do some very extreme hiking and canyoning. How do you bring camera equipment through areas that might be wet or snowy?
With a lot of difficulty. Dry bags, basically. A lot of dry bags and being really careful.
Have you ever ruined a camera on a shoot?
Multiple! I’ve lost two big cameras to them falling off cliffs.
How did you lose them!?
I normally don’t carry a camera with a neck strap. I’d put it on for some reason. I was shooting video just before, so I had the neck strap on to help stabilize the camera when I was filming. It caught a rock as I picked it up and that pulled it out of my hand. It tumbled about 30 meters.
That must be the worst feeling!
Yeah. You watch it fall too…. for a long time.
What are the most challenging places that you shoot?
Shooting in an alpine environment is probably the most difficult. You have to make sure you don’t kill yourself to start with. Then, there’s a lot of stuff with temperature differences and stuff for the camera itself that makes it pretty difficult.
Yeah. How does extreme cold effect a camera?
It’s pretty tough because like in New Zealand, the sun’s really intense there as well. The air temperature’s so cold that your camera becomes really, really cold and the air inside the lens gets really cold. Then, as soon as the sun touches the lens, it heats up immediately inside the glass. You end up with that condensation on the inside of your lens. That’s really hard to deal with.
How do you fix that?
You have to try and equalize the air temperatures, which is easier said than done. It takes a lot of time. But once a lens gets a spot on it it’s pretty much done for the day.
You not only take outdoor, adventure photos, you teach people how to shoot in those location as well. Do you like teaching?
I do. Photography for me is revealing not just where I get to go but how I see the places when I get there. It’s my interpretation of these places. So to then help other people reveal their interpretations is pretty cool. Plus, it’s nice seeing the light bulb moments that people have in that situation. They’re not places that everyone gets to photograph.
What kinds of mistakes do people make when getting into adventure photography?
I think the biggest mistake that people make these days is just not really researching what they’re doing. Like last weekend, we came across this situation where there was a really swollen river crossing. And just 40 meters down from that river crossing there was a 90 meter waterfall. We’d been filming it on our drone from the safe side, but because we’d been standing in the rain for two hours we were soaking wet.
When we came back to the car there was a group of young people heading down towards the water. They walked past us and assumed that we’d come from the other side because we were so wet. We had to call them back because, I mean, if they had tried to cross, one of them would’ve died. When we called them back they had no idea there was a waterfall there and that they were pretty much guaranteed to die if they’d fallen over in that water.
Never think that you’re everything. So many people just assume instead of properly researching or learning off the right people. I push heavily going down the right channels. Like with the canyoning — go with guides that know what they’re doing. For the mountaineering side of stuff, do courses and learn the right ways of doing stuff so you can learn from other peoples’ mistakes rather than your own.
I think that’s it. Learn from other peoples’ mistakes, not your own.
When did you start getting into canyoning?
Probably six years ago. I was a pretty late bloomer unfortunately. I missed a lot.
What do you love about canyons?
They’re still kind of untouched. There’s still an element of the wilderness.
You’re taking pictures of areas that people don’t normally get to see.
Yeah. Like the feature I shot with Uproxx (Steve Bramucci’s trip to Claustral Canyon in Australia’s Blue Mountains), the entry to that canyon is, like, on the side of a major highway up here. 90% of people that drive by wouldn’t know that it existed.
You’ve traveled to many different places, do you have a favorite place to photograph?
Well, I think the place that’s probably affected me the most would definitely be Patagonia. That place is life-changing.
What are some of your most exciting published photos that you’ve had?
Getting picked up by Australian Geographic was pretty big. I did a job for Morton National Park in New South Wales. Doing an assignment for them was pretty insane.
I noticed that you’ve done a lot of cold weather trips. What is the discomfort like there? Do you kind of enjoy being in extremely cold climates and camping in that?
Yeah, I personally think that I have poor self-discipline, so I like to do activities where I’m put in horrible situations, like discomfort-wise. Have to mentally work through things. I like to push my comfort zones. It makes me think that I can do more than I had preconceived.
What’s next in your career, and what’s inspiring you?
I’d love to be a contributor to something like National Geographic one day. I want my photos to contribute to something larger than me. I want to be a voice encouraging people to get outside, but to learn about where they’re going, and to do it in a way that helps the place that they’re visiting rather than destroy it. To make conscious decisions.
I think bringing awareness to the environment is probably the biggest part of my life. I am lucky enough to get to these places that not many people get to see, so I want to encourage people to go there. But I also want them to stop and think about what the effects of them going there are and how they can minimize that.
I’m not one of these people that keeps locations secret because I don’t think anyone should go there. If I can get there there’s no reason why someone else can’t, and there’s no reason why someone else shouldn’t. It’s just if they’re going to do it they need to learn the right ways about getting there and how to respect it.
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Last year I missed one of the biggest storms I have ever seen due to me deciding to leave my camera at home assuming I'd make it home in time. Since that day every time a storm is forecasted I have my camera with me the whole day. Luckily for me Monday had a storm forecasted and I just happened to have my camera on me when this happened. @australia @nikonaustralia