K-Jak is a travel agency that specialises in canoeing trips in Scandinavia. All their trips provide travellers with an adventure in a gorgeous and unspoilt environment. K-Jak is one of my favorite clients, because shooting for them is an into the wild experience that challenges me physically and mentally.
On any trip with K-Jak, my goal is to shoot lifestyle images showing the ideal traveller’s experience. K-Jak uses the images in marketing campaigns to showcase their trips. The images are also supplied to its partners and magazines for publicity.
Expert skills this project called for:
physical fitness, working with minimal gear, shooting lifestyle images, drone photography, working in a harsh environment, creating authentic moments
While some of the images are set up and others are shot on the go, they should always look authentic. The perfect image will make viewers think: I want to go where this was shot and experience this myself.
Shooting these canoeing trips is challenging because there’s a profound physical aspect to them. Canoeing for hours on end, day after day, into a possible headwind and braving some waves requires quite a bit of fitness. When transferring from one lake to another, you have to pull your canoe for many kilometers on gravel roads, fully loaded with all your equipment.
I have worked with Bram a lot and always with great pleasure. He communicates clearly, is open to ideas and looks for the best result for me as a client. You notice that he has a lot of experience and immediately understands what you have in mind. In addition, Bram is good company. I’ve been in a canoe with him for many weeks and I survived it just fine.
There will be days when you are totally exhausted and stop paddling late, then still have to set up camp in the middle of nowhere, possibly in a rainstorm and then prepare dinner, all while braving swarms of mosquitoes.
It’s one of those photography assignments where you have to be like the people you’re photographing. On top of that, as a photographer, I’ll still need to have a fresh mind in order to be creative and be ready for strong moments when they arrive. For that reason, I always try to be the most physically fit person in the group. I also try to be ready packing before everybody else, so I’m always able to start shooting photos.
We operate on a basic schedule of where we want to go to shoot photos. Still, shooting often comes down to improvisation, working with the best light when it hits.
While improvisation is a big factor, it helps to plan ahead when setting up camp for instance. Camps have a tendency to get messy quickly, since for most trips we travel with a crew of 6. Especially when shooting with a drone, this can ruin a photo. I try to have two camps set up: one ‘real’ camp where we eat and sleep, and one camp that will be our photo set.
Another example is thinking about canoe setup. Canoes should look tidy, with no plastic bags or loose objects lying around. K-Jak also feels it’s important to emphasize it doesn’t offer group travels, so having more than two travellers in a photo should be avoided.
When working in this challenging environment, reliable gear is key. With no power outlets available for a whole week, I have to manage my batteries. I pack plenty of camera batteries, but drone batteries take up quite a bit of room and weight. Therefore, rationing drone flight time is imperative.
Gear safety is a major issue as well. I carry my camera equipment in a waterproof bag that is always close to me in the canoe. It’s closed unless I’m shooting. I shoot to two memory cards simultaneously so there’s redundancy in case a card is damaged.
I like to go lean & mean when shooting on the go lifestyle images in challenging environments. This means using two camera bodies with relatively simple lenses. This equipment should also be able to take a bit of a beating and stand a bit of rain. In the end, the challenge on these trips is to always deliver, regardless of how physically and mentally challenging the trip might be, or how bad weather and conditions get.