Adventure Photography:How not to take shit photos

When you get to the finish line remember what it took to to get you there.

You’re about to go on your big adventure and you want to capture it for posterity. No problem; you can pick up a pretty good digital camera these days for not much moolah, but it’s useless unless you know what to do with it. When we advise folks what pictures we like on our adventures we usually tell them to capture a nice big landscape with their puny looking vehicle in it; this time we're going to go into a bit more detail of how to get something really special.

Be it a bells-and-whistles DSLR or a lightweight compact, it will probably have a load of manual settings as well as an ‘automatic’ function or two. Before you head off it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the basic functions so you can adjust your aperture to vary your depth of field or shutter speed to shoot motion shots or lower light. The great thing about digital cameras is that you can also adjust your film speed which is great for very low light conditions, you just need to remember to bump these back to 100 or so afterwards to keep your quality high in daylight.

It’s a good idea to get a tripod, a cheap lightweight one is ideal, they’re great for night or low-light shooting and essential if you want to do advanced stuff like time-lapse video or HDR shots. Even a small desktop tripod is better than nothing.

When you’re on your adventure taking pictures remember to include your sponsor logos, if you’re shooting a landscape that’ll look good in your album chances are your sponsor would like their logo in a similar shot. As nice as the landscape looks when you show your family and friends afterwards, they’ll probably be more interested if you are in the picture as well; experiment with different camera angles, shoot from up high, down low, zoom right in, take wide angle shots, play with different compositions.

When you get back from your trip try to do something with your pictures. Choose a selection and send them to your local newspaper to see if they will publish them. Print a selection and see if a local pub will exhibit them on their walls. Find out what adventure travel photography competitions are on and submit an entry. All this is great for your charity fundraising and appeasing your sponsors.

We caught up with photographic guru and Mongol Rally veteran Lukas Bausch for his tips of how to shoot your next adventure.

You're there to have fun you're not on a expedition to find a lost civilisation

No. 1 - Be stupid: A professional photographer knows everything. He doesn't try, because he knows. If you're a wanna-be-professional you just will get some cliché pics you can only put on this Instagram crap. Take loads of pictures without thinking too much; you will shoot a whole bunch of crap but who cares - you can delete the shit ones. So be stupid, be a photo-gunman: Fire and forget! And with a little bit of luck there'll be some great ones.

Be nice to the locals and they will be nice to you; they will almost always want to pose for photos

No. 2 - Be friendly: You might speak the  language - but you can smile. Be gentle, be friendly - show what you want with your hands and keep smiling, then you will get some great pictures of the locals.

You are going on a long tough adventure; take a fucking tough, big hard drive

No. 3 - Be prepared: You will go on a fucking long journey. So you should have a fucking big and tough hard disk. I had 1TB and I used over 750GB. Take a travel hard disk - because it will get thrashed every day.

The light is bright, the contrast is high

No. 4 - For hipsters: If you gonna take your original Polaroid you should get a non sensitive film - there will be sun, everywhere. True story.

No one wants to see 10,000 photos of your dashboard. Get some outside in

No. 5 - Photoshop is good, being good is better: You will visit the land of the blue sky. A camera will shoot you all kind of blue colors and a lot of solar flares. Stop that - get a polarisation filter for your DSLR. They are UV-filter and sunglasses in one for your camera and will give you deep blue skies. You should also get a lens hood - which will stop light crossing the lens and get you some really nice contrast.

Shoot in the highest quality setting your camera will allow

No. 6 - Forget JPG: If you’re using a DSLR you should be able to control your file type, but please shoot in a Raw-format like CR2. It's like the good old negative film: you can resize your pictures, change everything without killing the colors and you feel like a son of a gun. So forget JPG - compared to Raw it will look like cave art.

No. 7 - There is water in Mongolia: If you're lucky you will get no clouds. If not you will get a storm George Clooney wouldn't survive. You don't need a special water-bag for your camera - an old Aldi-bag wrapped around the camera will do and then you can shoot the mongolian water hell.

A Gopro will take a beating like a second-hand punchbag

No. 8 - Get a Gopro Hero: It's expensive. But its good. It's waterproof. You can't kill it - I drove over it more than once You can get some great time lapse captures and really good river-crossing videos - also with the new remote you even don't have to get up for great pics. (Nope - I don't get money for saying that - I just love this camera).

Tormunk taking Erwin Jnr for a spin

No. 9 - Don't be German tourist: Please. If you got a proffesional DSLR you should put it on a strap, so it can't get stolen or fall; but don't put it around your neck. It looks like a penis compensation for an old man. And then you need some white socks, sandals, an alarm clock and a towel to reserve the best sun lounger in the morning. Don't do that: wrap the strap around your wrist and you’ll feel like a pro - and you can be more flexible for better perspectives.

It pays to keep your optics nice and clean

No. 10 - Get some lens cleaning cloths: The dust will get in every crevice. And in your camera. So don't even think on changing your lenses, the sensor will get dirty like a five dollar Kazakh prostitute. Keep it clean so you will keep the deep sky blue and your camera won't look like you've spent years in the Iraq war.
 
No. 11 - Get out of the car: There are billions of pics shot from the inside of a car. So get out. Stop to do so. And if you are in a convoy put the pedal to the medal and get some distance. Stop then and take pictures from the roof of your car, under your car or on a yak. But get out. If I would drive again I would buy me a quadrocopter and put my Gopro on it.

It's important not to take life too seriously in these circumstances

No. 12 - Have fun: You will be in one car with some other humans. Or something similar. They will grow to hate you, you will grow to hate you after time. Taking pictures can then be very annoying. For your safety take care of your fellow inmates and if you are in front of the lens: have fun. You will look fat, like crap, you will look drunk, you will look like you just had a night with Charlie Sheen. Who cares. You are on the Mongol Rally - that's life.

Get up early. There's a reason they call it the 'shooting light'

No. 13 - Wake up before the sun: it's better than TV. These sunrises in Mongolia will be the most marvelous you'll ever see. No clouds, no condensation trails and if you sleep up on the Altai peak you will see the fog disappear between the mountains for more than 40km. So get up in the morning, put your camera on a tripod and set it to time lapse, then you can go back to your bed.