Instagram continues to grow as a marketing tool and a way to tell your brand’s story. It’s much easier to keep an up to date Instagram account than it is to update your website with new work, whether you’re a photographer or a brand. We asked some of our photographers who either have large followings or are being recognized as Instagrammers to watch for some tips:
Be Engaged. Most people who don’t do well on social networks forget that it isn’t all about you; you need to interact with other people on the network by liking, commenting and following other accounts. Building relationships with other users will really help boost your own account’s engagement.
Be Consistent. Posting once a week isn’t going to cut it. Nor is posting a beautiful landscape one day and a furry kitten the next. Consistency across the board is key. You want to be posting at least 5 days a week (7 is ideal). That said, you don’t want to over-post either. If you overload your followers with 4 posts in an hour they are likely to dump you. For content, you want to stay true to yourself and your brand. When someone looks at your feed the work should look and feel cohesive, just like a portfolio.
Look Outside Your Immediate Target Audience. I specialize in fly-fishing and outdoor adventure travel, but I’ve seen an increase in fitness and general travel followers when I tailor a post to less-technical viewers. A fun one-liner with a post about my favorite sandals for airplane rides? That’s guaranteed to land a few new followers outside my normal “dude with a beard and a fly rod” genre.
Tell Stories. An image is worth a thousand words, as they say. When someone is flipping through their feed, I want the image to make them stop and look deeper. It’s a tenet of strong photography, and it’s important here too. Instagram is a great tool of escapism… enable that a bit; let people into the story. They’ll respond.
Let People in to Your World. Adding a ten-second video into your feed once in a while allows viewers to feel like they’re behind the scenes. In the past few months I shot iPhone videos of helicopters landing on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, people passing through the Lima airport at 1AM and a team bumping along a backcountry road in the Amazon jungle while dodging bamboo overgrowth. Video is a fantastic tool to relate to your audience… show that it’s not all fun and glory and good times! Sometimes the job is sleeping on airport floors, dealing with infected wounds and burning time on long car rides. Let’s not be afraid to talk about that!
Be True to Yourself. It’s important that I am excited about posting and it helps if I keep things fresh and post very recent work rather than spend time ‘mining’ my archive looking for something to post just because I feel pressure to do so! I think of my Instagram feed as a portfolio for my adventure travel photography, so I only post high quality images and I keep it ‘real’ in terms of any post processing, to ensure my feed is an accurate reflection of the style of work I deliver to clients.
Find Partners. I’m very lucky to be able to travel widely, so I make sure to post images across a range of subjects and locations to appeal to those looking for adventure travel inspiration on Instagram. Occasionally I’ll also share my work on a feed with a larger audience. By establishing personal connections with relevant people at companies with huge Instagram followings – Lonely Planet, for instance – I’ve gained an avenue to share my work with a broader audience.
#Trending! Posting images relevant to current natural events seems to give my post an extra boost in interaction. Whether it’s season specific, ie. snowy scene during the Winter months, or an Aurora post during or after a solar storm, finding images that people can relate to as something they’re experiencing or thinking about is a strategy that pays off for me.
Ask Questions. I post a a mix of images as they happen, along with classic surf images from my days as a magazine photographer, to keep the content interesting and different as much as I can. I try to engage my audience as much as possible. Ask them a question about the picture, or in my case, I ask them to name the photo and reward the winner with a few 8×10’s. I see that as part of my advertising budget, so to speak.
Share Personal Work. For over a dozen years I’ve collected portraits and interviews of people I meet, most complete strangers. With over 400, I turned to Instagram to post one per day for 2017. It’s a fun way to stay both consistent and unpredictable. I was a writer before I was a photographer so I like digging beyond the pic. And part of me hopes to learn some secret to life from the people.
Join the Celebration. I like to upload photos on days that are celebrating something, like for example National Dolphin Day. I think that by celebrating something everyone talks about that topic and in the same way you can make your audience aware of conserving those important elements and taking more care of the planet.
PDN just announced the 2016 winners of The Great Outdoors photography contest in categories including Action/Adventure, Landscapes, Beaches/Underwater, and Wildlife/Insects. Open to both pro and amateur shooters, The Great Outdoors contest celebrates the beautiful vistas, diverse wildlife and adventure that make our planet so unique.
We’re excited to share that several Aurora photographers, which we entered into the contest, were selected as winners in 3 out of the 4 professional categories including Sean Naugle who won the Grand prize in the Professional Action/Adventure category.
Our first place winners included Paul Zizka in the Landscapes category and Sergio Villalba in the Beaches/Underwater category. Chris Schmid and Chris Ross were also selected as winners in the Action/Adventure and Beaches/Underwater categories. Additionally, 3 more of our photographers, Adam Clark, Krystle Wright and Alasdair Turner won with their own independent entries in the Action/Adventure and Wildlife/Insects categories, respectively.
Although it’s always a challenge to select only a few pieces to submit from our photographers’ great body of imagery it’s also extremely rewarding and validating to have their fantastic work recognized on such a big stage by a wide variety of judges.
Congratulations to all of the winners!
Check out our photographers’ winning imagery below and browse the entire winner’s gallery here.
Any worthy outdoor adventure must also be a quest. Whether physical, emotional or geographic, the art of exploration and discovering the unknown is what distinguishes historical importance. Being the first to ascend a newly formed frozen waterfall contains a lot of unknowns and, as a result, is quite a prize. This is exactly what Aurora contributor Kennan Harvey witnessed and photographed while he was visiting Banff National Park in Canada with his close friend and professional athlete Will Gadd.
After giving a talk at the postcard-perfect Chateau Lake Louise, Gadd walked out onto the ice and the snow-covered Lake Louise to the base of the frozen Lake Louise Falls which tumbles steeply down a side creek. Intending to just gather his thoughts for another motivational speech, he noticed a slender and elegant column of ice had recently formed along the right side of the 330-foot cascade. Being a local, he knew this was a rarity – and an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.
Harvey was also visiting the area, so Gadd asked him to go along the next day to photograph while he climbed the icicle. The resulting images appeared on media outlets and outdoor websites including Daily Mail, and one image from the series was even chosen as the official photograph to represent the 2014 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival sponsored by National Geographic and The North Face.
We caught up with Harvey to hear about the images he produced and to find out more about his experience documenting one of his closest friends perform a very perilous climb.
What kind of gear and what technique did Gadd use to climb the ice?
Will used rigid boots with metal spikes (called crampons) attached to the soles. Gripping an ice tool in either hand – a hammer-like metal shaft with a down-sloping, sharp metal pick – he swung them above his head, very much like a carpenter hammering a nail, often several times until each pick was buried “securely” in the ice. The technique for incrementally moving upwards involves securing both ice tools for hand-holds and then kicking each cramponed foot into the ice to provide enough balance and purchase to stand up and reset each ice tool a little higher. Will also used a rope secured to a waist harness. Occasionally, he would stop and twist in a threaded ice screw with a carabiner, or a metal oval with a spring loaded gate, to attach the rope to the ice screws.
Was there anyone else or anything else supporting him?
At the other end of the rope his partner, or belayer, used a friction device to lock off the rope in the event of a fall. Assuming the ice screw is solid a climber only plummets twice the distance he or she is standing above the last ice screw. As compared to rock climbing, ice climbing falls include many more variables and are phobically avoided. During a successful ascent the rope is never weighted, however, as a “clean” ascent requires that Will holds on and climbs only with his own hands and strength.
How did Gadd originally approach the climb, and what role – besides photographing – did you play in helping him succeed?
The climb is about 100 meters tall, or two climbing rope lengths. The pillar was formed near the middle. I hiked around and rappelled down from the top, kicking the icicle to make sure it was strong enough to hold a climber.
Will is very experienced and although the climbing was not at his limit, he is always very cautious and careful and delicate. There is a saying that “there are no old and bold climbers.” Will has his eyes on the former and believes that the mental aspect of risk assessment is paramount!
Although equipped with ice screws for protection Will decided the slender pillar was not strong enough to use them for that section of the climb. So, as a result, he had to climb for a long length without any protection in case he fell. Essentially he was soloing.
Wow. So, clearly falling was a very real possibility. What else could potentially go wrong? What were you worried about most?
I needed to be very careful not to knock any ice down upon Will while leading but our biggest worry was that the pillar would break under Will’s weight. He climbed it like a rat steeling cheese from a trap.
How did you approach this situation from a photographer’s perspective?
I believe the essence of climbing is the grand outdoor environment so I looked for perspectives including the surrounding mountains and the powerfully sparkling sun which sharply defined the newly formed icicles.
What were some of the challenges you faced when trying to get these shots?
Ice climbing photography is cold, often wet, and vertical. It is important to become as intimately familiar as a blind person reading Braille with ropes and climbing equipment in order to be perfectly positioned and ready to react quickly when the perfect moment arises.
What kind of gear do you use and why?
I really appreciate the DX camera format as it has wider autofocus coverage which I find valuable when operating my camera with only one hand while dangling above an ice climber. I also used a prime, fisheye lens as a prime lens has less sun flare when shooting directly into the sun and the wide angle coverage was important to show the vast environment. Thin gloves made from Windstopper Goretex are also vital.
About Will Gadd & Kennan Harvey
Will Gadd is a multifaceted athlete – climber, paraglider pilot, kayaker and author who has been competing and exploring at the top level for almost 30 years.
Kennan Harvey is even older than Will! After a productive career of climbing and photographing remote granite spires around the world he now specializes in capturing the artistic passion of all outdoor adventurer’s, especially his ten year old daughter, beyond the reach and format of Instagram.
Gadd and Harvey have known each other for many years. In addition to being close friends, the duo often work together to capture the thrill of climbing for Gadd’s sponsors and fans.
Adventure photographer Rachid Dahnoun has never met a mountain he didn’t like. So when Backpacker contacted him to shoot a feature story about Dominica’s 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail, he immediately jumped on board.
Dahnoun and writer Kelly Bastone spent 10 rainy days hiking and documenting the new long trail on the not-so-well-known Caribbean island, which was completed in 2011 as an effort to promote tourism. To date, the WNT has been the largest non-road infrastructure project ever attempted on Dominica. During the trip, Dahnoun and Bastone met the locals, explored the terrain and went on some incredible hikes. The feature recently ran in the March edition of Backpacker.Read the article here.
We sat down with Dahnoun to hear more about this assignment. Here’s what he had to say about his career, hiking the WNT, and his advice for aspiring adventure photographers.
What originally inspired you to become an adventure photographer?
Before starting college I took a NOLS (National Outdoors Leadership School) semester, and that was one of those mind-blowing trips. The entire semester was 3.5 months in the backcountry. We completed 3 weeks of winter touring and telemark skiing in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, a month backpacking in Canyonlands National Park, 2 weeks whitewater kayaking on the Green River in Utah, another week on the Dolores River in Colorado, rock climbing in the City of Rocks National Preserve in Idaho for 2 weeks, then Split Rock in Wyoming for another 2 weeks. I made some of the best friends of my life and I got to see some of the most beautiful and iconic places in the American West.
Afterwards, I moved to Baltimore for art college, took one photo elective class the beginning of my sophomore year and that changed everything. I immediately shifted my major to photography, and I couldn’t get enough. I focused on photo for the next 4 years, but as soon as I was done with my degree I couldn’t wait to move out of the city. Diploma in hand, I packed up everything in my truck and drove west. A friend from that NOLS semester found out I was moving and told me he was living in Lake Tahoe and had a spare room for rent. I figured I would spend one winter in Tahoe and then I’d try to be “responsible” with my life again. But that never really happened.Winter turned to summer, summer turned to winter and here we are 15 years later and I still love every minute of my life in the Sierra Nevada.
The first few years in Lake Tahoe I didn’t even pick up a camera. All I did was snowboard, climb and backpack, spending all of my time in the mountains. I loved photography, but I had no idea how to make a living doing it.After a while my camera started showing up in my backpack. I was going on all of these adventures with my friends who were semi-pro and pro athletes, and I decided to start documenting them. That started happening more and more and I found myself building a portfolio of images that I was really proud of.
Years later, a friend introduced me to Corey Rich, who offered me a contract with Aurora, which really set things off for me. All of a sudden, I started seeing my work in national and international publications and used commercially.That market presence compounded and I had other magazines and brands approach me individually for different projects and assignments. Within the year, I started to feel my career catapult and that’s when I believed I could really do this full time. There’s been a fire ever since to go after bigger projects and assignments and keep going on trips that no one else wants to go on. It’s been a wild ride, and Aurora and Corey were a big part of that, right at a key point of my work.
For the Backpacker assignment, you spent 10 rainy days hiking on some gnarly terrain. How do you prepare yourself physically and mentally for a long project like this?
The physical aspect is pretty straightforward. I live in the mountains and I try to get outside as much as I can. I’m always out snowboarding, hiking, biking and climbing depending on the season and I’m doing it at elevation (Lake Tahoe is 6,200 feet above sea level). That keeps me where I need to be so when the phone rings I’m ready to go to any part of the world and jump in with whichever athletes I need to follow.
Mentally, I’m adamant about doing as much research as possible about the location I’m traveling to. In this instance for Dominica, I read as many articles as I could. I researched a lot online and talked with the writer, Kelly Bastone, quite a bit because she had already done a lot of research herself. I also pulled images, made inspiration boards and picked out locations I hoped to see. That helped me get my head in the game for what kinds of pictures I could make and how that would facilitate the creation of a great photo story.
You did and saw a lot – from drinking traditional “bush rum” to visiting the “fumarole-ridden wasteland called the Valley of Desolation.” What was your favorite or most memorable moment(s) of the hike? What would you say is a must see / must do / must pack for a trip to Dominica?
The Valley of Desolation and Boiling Lake, which are world heritage sites, are absolutely stunning and are not to be missed. Honestly though, I think what I remember the most about the whole experience were the people. They were so kind and generous and they opened their doors to us every day we were on the island. Whether it was camping along the trail in a small village or staying in more developed areas, it didn’t seem to matter who we ran into, they were all so open and proud of their culture and wanted us to have the best experience possible. I thought that was just amazing. It’s rare to run into so many kind people in such a short period of time.
In the article, the author refers to you as a “mountain-climbing machine.” How was this hike/climb different from the others? How did the trail compare to what you’re used to in the Sierras?
The Sierras are a great training ground but the WNT was different because it is really steep, unforgivingly steep, and almost vertical in some places. Trails in the Sierras and anywhere else in the US are a lot more graded and they’re just built that way. But in Dominica, it’s a lot of straight up and down hiking in the rainforest and every step is wet and slippery. All around I would say the hiking is pretty difficult.
Were there any scary moments?
There was definitely one real scary moment on the trip. There was a lot of unseasonable rain when we were there and we had gone to check out Middleham Falls along the WNT on day 4.It had been raining heavily for days. When we arrived we couldn’t even see the falls because the spray was so thick and powerful. We realized we could be in a pretty dangerous situation with that much water moving and not knowing what was above us. We opted to get out of there quickly, but as soon as we turned around we saw another waterfall had broken off of the cliffs and cut us off. Now we were stuck between two massive waterfalls and possibly another wall of water above us. We knew we had to get out of there quickly, and made a human chain to get ourselves across the newer waterfall that hadn’t even been there 10 minutes before. Eventually, we were able to wade ourselves through the rapids and get to safe ground. It was one of those situations you get through, take a breath and say, “Okay, well that could have been a lot worse.”
Another scary moment, more of a personal one, are the snakes on Dominica.There are a lot of snakes, no poisonous snakes, but there are a ton of snakes on the island, and I hate snakes. It was day 10 and I still hadn’t seen one, but all I kept hearing about was how there were so many boa constrictors on the island. So there I was, hiking up this really steep hill and I went to take a step. I looked down and this huge boa constrictor was coiled up and hissing at me. I cried like a baby, fell backward, and tumbled back down the mountainside. I collected myself and our guide just started laughing at me, staring at the thing and saying, “that’s just a baby boa!” I said, “Okay, good, but it’s 6 feet long so that’s not encouraging.” I got back up, put the long lens on and begrudgingly made some frames of the boa for the photo story.
What were some of the most surprising things you learned about the WNT and/or Dominica?
There are no white sand beaches, which is very much in contrast to the rest of the Caribbean. But it’s also a testament to why Dominica is the way it is and why it’s more of an unknown, less visited, destination by tourists. In fact, it doesn’t have many beaches at all. What beaches it does have are beautiful, but they’re black sand beaches and most of the rim of the island is all just huge cliffs. It’s really rugged and that comes across in their tourism and branding; they call themselves “The Nature Island.” They’ve done a really good job figuring out which resources they have and which they don’t. If you’re looking for the Carnival Cruise stop, this isn’t going to be it.
What are the similarities and differences between Dominica’s view of conservation, wilderness, nature and enjoying the outdoors and ours?
They have a deep respect for their home and the conservation of it. Opinions weren’t as mixed as they are in the United States where people do and don’t believe in climate change. I’m fairly certain everyone on Dominica believes in climate change. They’ve had some huge hurricanes that have decimated the island over the years, so it is really at the forefront of everyone’s mind.The idea of conservation was ingrained with everyone I met.
You’ve been shooting for 13 years now. What’s your advice for someone looking to get into outdoor and adventure photography?
My number one piece of advice is to shoot what you love. If you’re not shooting what you love you certainly won’t be creating the best possible pictures that you can make. You’re never going to be able to tell a compelling story unless you have some sort of connection to the imagery you’re creating.
Also, a lot of people think that I’m outside every day on some new adventure but I also spend massive amounts of time on my computer, on the phone, in the office, marketing, networking, working on my portfolio, stock submissions, doing everything I need to do to keep a business going. In the end, you’re running a small business and you have to take that into account. A lot of times you’re going to be a one-man band for the beginning of your career. You’re easily going to spend the same amount of time in the office as you will out shooting, and I think that’s something that’s really important for people to understand.
Finally, have thick skin. There’s so much competition out there. There are so many different editors and marketing directors with different opinions on what kind of work they like, what kind of stories they like, even whether they like to communicate via email or not. You’re bound to run into the word “no” quite a bit especially in the beginning of your career. If someone tells you no, don’t let it bother you too much. Figure out how to push through. Communicate with them or show them a better body of work at a later date, or simply realize the relationship may not work and move on and find one that will.
About Rachid Dahnoun
Rachid Dahnoun combines his love of outdoor adventure with his artistic vision to create a touching photographic journal of the natural world. From breathtaking landscapes to gritty action photos, Dahnoun delivers compelling imagery to commercial clients, magazines and art galleries across the globe. His work has been featured with clients such as: National Geographic, ESPN, The Travel Channel, American Express, Microsoft, ARAMARK, AAA, Travel and Leisure, Expedia, Lowepro, SKI Magazine, the New York Times and many more.