Thoughts on Adventure, Over-Documentation and Disconnecting

As someone who has been doing adventure photography for a few years now, one of the most significant trends I’ve seen is the increasing external pressure to document. Everything. Everywhere.

Everything. Everywhere.

“You really need to start doing video.”

“Why aren’t you on (insert social media platform here)?”

“You should really do some more behind-the-scenes.”

“With this new device, you can update from way out in the backcountry.”

I appreciate it when an audience shows interest in whatever goes into the images, and the lifestyle that surrounds it. I can also appreciate the desire to see things documented; that’s what got me into photography in the first place.

So, why am I not doing all those things I could be doing?

Part of it, I think, is that I simply have a single-track mind and can only focus on one thing at a time. That one thing consumes me and I quickly forget about the rest. And part of it arises from a conflict that instantly materializes when your work relies on having an experience with the wilderness. Pulling out the iPhone every few minutes detracts from that. So does the documentation of what is in the gear bag, or setting up a product placement in the field. So does checking for cell signal a few hours from the road to see if I can update Hootsuite.

 Nancy Ruiz on top of Ha Ling. This is actually a shoot we did for her new venture, but I thought it summed up my thoughts here.
Nancy Ruiz on top of Ha Ling. This is actually a shoot we did for her new venture, but I thought it summed up my thoughts here.

It’s very easy to quickly turn a wilderness experience into a marketing experience. The “making of” becomes more memorable than the result. I’ve been occasionally guilty of that and I know the images show it when my mind is focused on the cyber world.

Ultimately, I don’t think I can have it all. If focus leans too heavily on capturing the “making of” and an online presence, then the wilderness experience is compromised and adventures are limited to roadside stops. If I focus exclusively on the experience, then I have no cyber presence, which makes it impossible to make ends meet.

It is a delicate balance, and ultimately it comes down to priorities. I’ve found that putting the experience first has been the only way to keep this journey psychologically sustainable and truly enjoyable. And I like to think that, for me, it leads to a more genuine and heartfelt body of work. And then, let the rest fall into place. Whatever time and energy that remain (if any) can go towards sharing a little bit about the lifestyle surrounding the images, what goes into making them, and trying to get a few people to enjoy them online.

How do you strike a balance between enjoying the moment and documenting the experience?

Feel free to use the Comments below to answer!

Paul