Stewart Mackellar Oudoor Photographer

Guest Post: Get out & explore it’s good for you!

Chelsea’s thoughts: This has to be one of my favourite guest posts so far – OK, I’m biased because I love photography and the outdoors but combine them both together and wow – huge admiration.  Is it big headed to wander if I’ll ever get chance to shoot my adventures with this awesome photographer one day in the future…? You never know! 😉

The Outdoor Photographer, Wales

My name is Stewart MacKellar and I’m a self-taught photographer based in Shropshire. My interest in photography started about 7 years ago when a friend of mine introduced me to the rather addictive sport of surfing. Traveling to so many scenic coastlines and wild surf breaks, I found myself pining for a camera to capture these beautiful places. I bought my first DSLR camera about 6 months later and have never looked back.

Stewart Mackellar Oudoor Photographer
A lot of my work is based in the outdoors, so normally involves some sort of scrambling, hiking, climbing, hanging or swimming, in all weather, to get the shot. Exploration is a big part of what I do in order to find what I’m looking for. I need to be prepared for anything. Living so close to the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia, the dramatic landscapes and coastline are a constant pull for me to get out and explore.
Stewart Mackellar Oudoor Photographer

Capturing the split seconds where a person is at their peak performance, mainly in action/ adventure sports, has become a fascination over recent years and I would like to share with you how I go about doing this and hopefully give you some useful tips for yourself.

It’s all in the detail

To capture those moments, it’s a great help to know the activity well. The deeper your understanding of what you are shooting is, whether it’s mountain biking, surfing, running or sailing etc, the more your message behind the shot will shine through in your photography. Through knowledge, you can put yourself in the right place at the time to capture that ‘perfect’ shot.

Stewart Mackellar Oudoor Photographer

Working in the outdoors can be challenging and you will find yourself in varying light and weather conditions. Nature will not wait for you so preparation is the key to succeed. Know the location you will be photographing, in detail. Make sure you take into consideration how the land lies. I have been caught out before heading to a gnarly location in Snowdonia with a mountain biker to shoot him riding down a rock face and once we got up in to the position, set up the shot, the sun had dipped behind the mountain leaving us in the shade. This can be very frustrating and can be avoided by knowing where the sun will be in relation to the location. This is a good example of knowing the details of your surroundings.

Keep an eye out for those interesting features that will give your shot that extra something. Certain scenic aspects, landmarks or anything that gives your image a bit more context can make your shot much more emotive. I find when I’m shooting that the subject is always the main focal point but subtle suggestions of scale, atmosphere, danger or beauty are elements that I will try to incorporate into the shot to give the image more power.

Be prepared

Stewart Mackellar Oudoor Photographer

Packing for the occasion is essential. If you are walking all day around the mountains, make sure you have packed as light as possible. Anything you don’t need, leave it. It is important to still be prepared for all weather conditions still as you don’t want to be caught out in the rain unprepared with your photography gear. Investing in some decent hiking boots and wet weather gear will make your shooting experience that much more enjoyable. Also invest in trail mix! Great for every adventure to keep your energy levels up; I could live off that stuff.

Let’s get technical

Stewart Mackellar Oudoor Photographer

Depending on the speed of the subject and light, you will have to adjust your camera accordingly. The amount of motion blur is completely subjective but to freeze the moving subject I would suggest a shutter speed of no less than 1/400. In varying light conditions your aperture and ISO will need to be adjusted accordingly. Personally I try and use as low an ISO as possible in order to keep the quality of the photos at there best. Also remember that the wider the aperture, the shallower depth of field will be. The two lenses I use most are my Nikon 24 – 70 f2.8 and Nikon 70 – 200 f2.8. The 24 – 70 is great all rounder lens, which is brilliant for capturing everything that’s going on and is so sharp. My 70 – 200, is a cracking lens for when you want to get right up close and personal to the action, which also creates a lovely bouquet effect.

The thing I like most about photography is…

Stewart Mackellar Oudoor Photographer

Being able to showcase the connection between humans and nature. Capturing those split seconds of heroism, I feel, is a great way to portraying this. I hope I have shed some light into what I do and why I do it and hopefully you can take away some useful tips to grab a camera and get out yourself. Now get out and explore!

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