Do You Need to Be an Extreme Athlete to Photograph Extreme Sports?


Do You Need to Be an Extreme Athlete to Photograph Extreme Sports?

We’ve seen the photographs of extreme sports action in the various magazines and books and often think “wow” how did they get there? Depending how extreme the sport is may require the photographer to be an extreme athlete.

The best rock climbing photography comes from rock climbers. Same with alpine climbing! The photographer usually cannot photograph those activities without being a participant in that sport.

Rock and ice climbing, hang gliding, mountain climbing, base jumping, and so many other extreme sports are best illustrated with point-of-view (POV) photography, taken in the midst of the action will bring the viewer right in close.

A photograph of a rock climber taken from the ground looking up does not have near the impact of an in-your-face shot taken by a photographer on the wall, right next to the climbing subject.

Rafting in winter, taken from bow of the boat as wave crashes over.

Here the supply issue comes into play. One photographic approach is easy while the other is not. The image taken up on the wall next to the climber draws a more enthusiastic response from the viewers. Standing on the ground shooting climbing is easy, but may result in dismal sales because the image lacks the impact that the POV image has.

Check out the great climbing archive of veteran photographer Greg Epperson. He’s on the wall for most of his most dramatic climbing photos.

Chances are if you are not planning to learn to climb or hang glide or anything extreme you won’t get in on the great POV to photograph those extreme sports. But think about other recreational and adventure activities and you will find many and some even more popular than those extreme sports.

Popularity means demand for images.


There is a niche magazine for just about every outdoor activity. Besides extreme sports publications, there are publications related to camping, hiking and backpacking, water sports, equestrian, walking, fishing, and many more.

Camping in Grand Canyon

Find your niche and settle in.

I love whitewater rafting and have photographed many trips throughout the west and the Grand Canyon 3 times. Here you can capture great POV perspectives by sitting in the front of the boat shooting at the others also in the boat. Then there are the boats in the rapids shot from shore, camp scenes, hiking, and other activities.

If you backpack or do winter camping you can photograph all aspects of the adventure from the hiking to camp shots, people amongst the scenery, the dome tent lit up at night, and nature as well.


There is still plenty to do that does not require you to camp, hike miles, or take an extensive trip, just a little planning and getting up early to make it happen.

  • Go for a hike with a friend(s) and photograph them hiking, having lunch, sipping their water bottle, and enjoying nature.
  • Buy a cheap and colorful dome tent and take it on your shooting forays. Set it up and photograph it in scenic settings, but make sure it is believable. A tent by itself without props like backpacks or camp chairs and people is not believable.
  • Take a couple mountain bikers out for an afternoon to a popular spot for biking and capture all the riding action and in-between the riding action like fording creek with bikes on shoulders, etc.

    Tripod strapped to back of raft provides crows nest view.
  • Fishing is a huge market and does not require the photographer to have any special adventure skills. Both in-close and tight shots of the fisherman in action and the wider scenic with the fisherman have broad appeal. Don’t forget holding the fish in the water, the close up of the fly, fish in the frying pan, and even camp shots if that is part of the adventure.
  • Set up your own POV setup on a mountain bike or canoe, it’s not that difficult. For ideas on shooting POV of mountain biking check out Chase Jarvis Tech and how he rigs bikes for shooting.

There is plenty of markets for low risk adventure recreation photography and a little ingenuity and planning can provide some very marketable imagery.


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