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Adventure photography and the casual observer

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Instagram. People on mountaintops. That perfect cup of coffee from just outside a tent. Norway. Chris Burkard. Starscapes that seem too unbelievable to be true.

I sit and write and I ponder the abyss of infinitely epic frames of nature. All these photos of the great outdoors, what does it do to our brains, or further, the way we think?

The fear of missing out (FOMO), creates a vacuum. One that causes the average viewer to double-tap and indulge, if even for a few seconds, on what nature brings us; what photographers and adventurers, climbers, extremists or simply purveyors, seek to share. For the viewer, it’s an easy way to interact, but what happens when that ceases to be enough? The vacuum pops, and perhaps that ‘FOMO’ turns into the excitement of going out and seeking what we see on our mobile devices.

Positivity turns into passion, and the casual viewer finds them self on a hike, or a nature walk.

That quick view turns into a walk, and then, a few more days in the wilderness. An online community has now turned into an action. A tap on a phone is now a step in the woods. Has social media made some people’s lives better by turning passive views into headlong strides?

The Corporate Capitalization

For years social media has been the focal point of countless marketing campaigns. Large corporations long ago got smart and started using community involvement to fuel the next hashtag, the next weekend challenge, the next DIY adventure.

Follow any of the big outdoor distributors, REI, Backcountry, even the single brands of Arc’teryx, Patagonia, The North Face, all use community input for their channels. Garnering personal interest is key to spread the word. Even the original outdoor seekers National Geographic with over 25 million Instagram followers have made a fine transition to the digital, social platforms of today, though a large portion of their audience engages the traditional, digital way. Double-tap to like.

The largest community of adventure-seekers quickly grows and every tagged photo adds to that. Fear of missing out is now the fear of not being shared. For the viewer, social media gives peak to the love for the outdoors, if ever there was a valley.

Adventure with a Big Red Heart

Maybe as big as some brands are the personal accounts sharing with the masses the adventures they partake in. I will name but a few: Stian Klo, Chris Burkard, Circa 1983, Reuben Wu, Robbie Shone, Andy Best…

Gorgeous, sweeping views of mountains, swift clouds, thundering waterfalls, flora and fauna that amaze, underground caverns, all merely a portion of what these people photograph, and share, and garner massive numbers of followers and interactions. The viewers quickly engorging themselves are larger in number than the landscapes they capture and the ‘likes’  are seemingly endless. My biggest question is, “Do the ‘likes’ run out?”

View this post on Instagram

"I knew a little girl to whom someone gave a bunny rabbit. She was so delighted with it and so afraid of losing it that taking it home in the car she squeezed it to death. Lots of parents do that to their children, and to each other. They hold on too hard, and so take the life out of this transient, beautifully fragile thing that life is. To have life and its pleasure you must, at the same time, let go of it. Then you can feel perfectly free to have that pleasure in the most gutsy, rollicking, earthshaking, lip-licking way, with one's whole being taken over by a kind of undulative, convulsive ripple, like the very pulse of life itself. But, this can happen only if you let go, if you are willing to be abandoned." ~ Alan Watts … Photo: Cox Bay, Tofino … photographer's backpack by @filson1897 gifted to me by the lovely @upknorth

A post shared by Owen Perry (@circa_1983) on

What’s Next?

Will people ever get tired of the endless machine that is social media and that great, big group of people adding to it? There is no shortage of talent, but is there a shortage of those willing to submit to its grandeur? Yes, the ‘like’ is the easiest of things to enact, but does visual fatigue set in? See a million photos of sunsets and the sun flare loses its luster a bit. A stoic mountain range with swirling mists, but after how long does the novelty of that photo wear off?

I can’t begin to predict what is to come since I only got into the adventure part somewhat recently.

Before last year, I was seeing landscapes afar in digital, which made me miss them in real life. Perhaps an example of one person who made their way into the outdoors in part, because I hate only seeing them on mobile phone screen, I can only say I hope this happens more often, to more people.

Maybe the fear of not being ‘out there’ is one of the best motivators for social media; users seeing people and places they might not believe are real and getting out and exploring this big, beautiful world of ours.

I speculate on the grandest scale, that one of the best benefit may be an increased awareness and participation in the outdoors.

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2 Replies to “Adventure photography and the casual observer”

  1. Really interesting post. I have been thinking about this a lot recently as well. Personally, I have noticed that on hikes or trips, I become extremely focused on getting that one gold photo shot if I know that there is an online audience for it. I worry that adventure photography on social media might encourage people to focus only on that one epic vista. I worry it will make hikers less mindful.

    1. Great point! I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this online as well, people even risking safety for the image. I feel the same way and I’m even guilty of doing the same. I do try to be more mindful when I’m outdoors. Do you feel like it detracts from your overall experience?

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