Safety Tips for Action Photographers
I just wanna make one note around safety, and that note, and this is... This is real in the action sports adventure world. You know, there's no photograph that's worth taking big risks for. What makes this career, what makes this passion so amazing is that you have these incredible experiences and then you get to come back and tell great stories and share photos and you're friends forever. And as soon as people start getting wiped out and hurt or you get hurt, all the fun disappears. Or worse case scenario, someone actually gets killed. It's no longer fun. And it's a rule that I live by. There's no photograph that's worth risking someone's health or life. And I think it's a really important, you should never, ever, ever let the fear of, or the pressure of you need to deliver... As soon as something doesn't feel right you call it. Like you literally... The athletes not feeling it, you're not feeling it, the conditions aren't right. There's something in the back of your head that says th...
is might not work. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying don't take risks. You know, risk is part of the game. I wanted to show this photo just so you're not looking at a slide that says safety, and I think our job is to sort of understand where that fine line between risk and reward really is. This is a photograph... If you're wondering that is the same ladder that you have in your garage. You can buy it at home depot, and I think we broke every direction on the box on how to use it. This is not what their legal team advised. But, we sort of weigh the odds and we weigh the risks. Will this kill me? Absolutely not, if I fall off the end of the ladder I'm gonna slam into the wall, and it might break a D4 camera and it might hurt my face and I'll skin up my knees... So I weigh that, I say is this gonna make a cool photograph? Yes, it might. Is it going to kill me or hurt me? It won't kill me. Will it hurt me? It will definitely hurt me. But will I hit the wall? No, I shouldn't. This is a controlled environment. I don't think the ladder's gonna fail. I mean it was awkward and precarious to get out on the end of that ladder but that's how you make interesting pictures, right? That's how you get into intriguing, surprising positions. Now, but there's another layer to this photo. This is Alex Honnold. Alex is maybe the biggest name in rock climbing ever, and Alex made a name for himself by climbing without a rope. He was on the cover of National Geographic, 60 minutes, and he is an incredibly intelligent human being. Incredibly gifted athlete. But the real fear here, what I'm very conscious of, I'm taking myself out of the equation. If I slam into the wall that's my problem. What I'm really conscious of, we're in Joshua Tree National Park, Alex is climbing on a 5.12 plus crack climb that's 50 feet off the ground, is... Does he feel comfortable? And it's putting... And he has no rope, but it's really putting zero pressure on Alex. Alex as soon as this does not feel right, and this is a conversation that I have before we start shooting. Alex, the instant it doesn't feel right, you just call it. You just call it. If we get to shoot it once that's fine, if I never get to shoot it that's okay. We've explained this to our client, that's what makes the magic here. And I think creating that atmosphere of wanting the athlete to be safe is incredibly important. And I can tell you the way that it went down. We shot two days. I think the first day Alex climbed it three or four times, which was more than I thought we would get and on day two it was warmer. Alex did one lap. On the second lap he got up and he... He was fumbling and sweaty and he said, "I'm just not feeling it. "Can you guys throw me a rope." And we lowered a rope, he down climbed and that was it. And it was that freedom and comfort to sort of say hey, like white flag, I don't wanna do this anymore, and you know, that is why Alex will lead a long life, is that he actually knows when to call it. But that starts with you actually saying it's okay and reinforcing that on a regular basis as a photographer. You know, I show this photo and I'm showing this for two reasons. Not because it's appealing aesthetically. But I show this photo... This goes way back. This is like one of the first photographs that I ever had published. This is a Patagonia ad. It's a surf trip gone bad. This is my buddy that lived down the hallway in the dormitories, and sort of everything went wrong that could go wrong on a trip. Tom got stung by a bunch of jellyfish, went into anaphylactic shock. He had a stomach infection from Hell, kidney stone. And the only woman in the small fishing village who could administer an injection happened to be the same waitress at the only cantina in town where we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, on these same tables. And I show this picture because it's a reminder that these are the best trips. This is why we do it, right? We want the discomfort. We want things to go wrong, it makes amazing photos, it makes for great stories. But there's a reality check, when the shit hits the fan like have a contingency plan. And maybe that's as simple as you have a first aid kit. Maybe it's as simple as you have your phone and there's cell coverage and you know how to dial 9-1-1. Or when we go to really remote places you rent a satellite phone, and you get insurance so that if something really goes wrong there's a way to get someone who's injured out of that place.