Adventure Photographer for Outdoor Brands

Creating Travel and Lifestyle Photos In The Wilderness

Adventure Photography Assignments

Adventure photography is a term that means many different things, depending on who you ask. For me, adventure photography assignments involve planning a multiple day excursion into a wilderness setting with a group of great people. Often times, we are outfitted with clothing or gear by a brand or company with the goal of creating lifestyle images for their marketing and branding. Other times, the photos are commissioned by an editorial or media publication such as a magazine. And sometimes, the images are needed by a conservation organization or non-profit that will use the photos to help further their mission to protect biodiversity and life on this planet from threats such as the climate crisis and the current mass extinction crisis. The best projects always combine a little of all three.

Adventure photography projects are often some of the most interesting, demanding, and also rewarding types of projects. Heading off into the wilderness for extended periods of time requires detailed planning, a group of people you can trust with your life, and the ability to persevere through both physical and emotional difficulty. 

Some of our recent adventures have included: Trekking deep into old growth forests. Circumnavigating one of the last remaining tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes. Sea kayaking to a remote wildlife preserve in the Sonoran desert. Documenting the big wave surfers on the north shore of Oahu. Hiking through the slot canyons of southern Utah and packrafting in an extreme desert. Trekking along the Na Pali Coast in Kauai. Hiking and surfing the volcanic Canary Islands. Exploring the waterfalls of Whian Whian conservation area in Australia. A multi day trek along the Lost Coast in northern California. Yoga on lava rocks in Maui. And, sailing a trimaran deep into the Florida Keys. This post is a collection of images from those travel and adventure photography stories. My team and I are based in the San Francisco Bay Area and we travel world-wide for adventures and to tell stories with photography.

“Drew Bird and his creative team are excellent professionals. Their images are breathtaking. And their talent, work ethic and dependability is why I fly them all over the world to tell our story.”

– Rachele C. | Global Manager | Adobe

An Excerpt from a Recent Adventure Photography Story in Peru

The essence of our style of adventure photography is that the images feel real, like a day-in-the-life of a wilderness adventure. What we do is definitely not pure journalism. It’s more lifestyle with highly contextual product placement. The subjects are very aware of the camera. And there are also times where we craft a shot with the best setting and background and time of day to help the image look exactly right. For most of the images we do try to capture authentic and genuine expressions of what it’s like to live in wild and natural spaces. But sometimes we might also create images that feel more like creative portraits.

And, yes, many times the photos are used for marketing, branding, and advertising to help companies sell their gear or services. But, often times the images have multiple storytelling purposes. For example, our images are frequently used by magazines, media publications, and conservation organizations that are working to protect biodiversity or they are promoting other forms of environmental stewardship.

The photo needs of any project vary widely by client. And often times there will be multiple end uses for the photography. For example, we recently did a project in partnership with the outdoor clothing and lifestyle brand Ridge Merino. For this adventure, we planned a high elevation trek around one of the last remaining tropical glaciers in the world in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It was a six day trek during which we climbed above 17,000ft in elevation. (See image of the Mountain Hardware tents below). Here is an excerpt from that adventure story:

It was 3am when our alarm pierced the cold, dark calm. We were snug and bundled in sleeping bags, our orange tent sheltered by a small grass covered platform that was open on one side. I hit the off button and saw the night temp was a brisk 19F (-7C).

The world around was was eerily silent as I unzipped the tent and peered into the darkness, my breath visible in the waning moon light. A shot of adrenaline electrified the senses as a ringing crack thundered from the far above. It sounded as if the earth itself had been snapped in two by some angry giant. The shock wave froze me in place as I listened to the deep fracture reverberate across the canyons below. I’d learn later that this was the sound of thousands of tons of glacial ice breaking.

A thin veil of snow covered the ground. The sky was clear. Thousands of stars crowded the night sky as we packed and readied for the climb ahead on our fourth day of the trek: an additional 2,000 feet in elevation gain scrambling up the side of a mountain in total darkness. With a little luck we’d arrive at the high point of our trek, Abra Warmisaya pass (16,300ft / 5000m) by sunrise.

“Working with Drew Bird and his team is always a fantastic experience. He understands exactly what we need for our clients. He constantly strives to discover and create the best images that any setting has to offer, and has a skill for capturing the action in a way that feels natural yet reflects the energy of the moment and the essence of our branding and marketing.”

– Jess T. Chief Operating Officer | Firebrand Marketing, Atlanta, GA, USA

A backpacker stands in a slot canyon in Southern Utah surrounded by redrocks. Adventure photography for Alpaka Packrafts.

““Drew! These photos are EPIC!!! We love the photo story and can't wait to use some of the images in our branding and marketing.”

– JEFF RUSSELL. CO-FOUNDER of Ridge Merino, an Outdoor adventure & clothing brand.

“Remember - the camera is just a tool. What is more important is how you look at the world. Curiosity and a desire to explore, as well as passion, are a huge necessity when it comes to adventure photography."

– Chris Bukard | Adventure Photographer

Featured Brands and Publications

Here’s a few of the publications, organizations, and brands that we have either partnered with or who are featured in our travel and adventure photography. (Note: not all the brands are direct clients).

  • Ridge Merino 
  • REI Co-op
  • Patagonia 
  • Science Magazine
  • Jet Boil
  • Cotopaxi
  • Center For Biological Diversity
  • Heising-Simons Foundation
  • Volcom
  • Sea to Summit 
  • Marmot
  • Alpacka Raft 
  • Smithsonian Institute
  • The Guardian 
  • Mountain Hardware
  • Digital Photographer Magazine
  • Lufthansa Airlines
  • Hakai Magazine 
  • Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST)
  • San Francisco Bay Keeper
  • prAna

“We are always happy with the final images and with the Drew Bird team’s positive energy and enthusiasm. On top of all this, Drew is a genuinely engaging and intelligent person — an excellent communicator who is skillful at adapting to new challenges, Drew is not only a professional storyteller with the camera; he is a business professional as well. This is why we fly him all over the world to create photo stories for our clients.”

– Jess T. | Chief Operating Officer | Firebrand Marketing, Atlanta, GA, USA

Behind The Scenes With an Adventure Photographer

Below are a few fun images from behind the scenes. The adventures themselves are not always filled with the most glamorous moments (ie. the photos that our clients end up using). There is often quite a bit of trial and error. We once walked 4 miles the wrong way into a dead end canyon (with very little drinking water remaining) only to turn around and hike out – losing more than a half day of our time. 

There’s also the need to endure some pretty gnarly conditions such as extreme heat and cold or pouring torrential rains or super high winds. Recently we were kayaking in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico with the goal of reaching a remote wildlife sanctuary that one of our clients is trying to protect as wilderness. The winds were gusting to 40mpg and the waves were capping over six feet high. That might not sound like much, but when you’re in a tiny sea kayak that sits a foot above the water level and you only have paddles for power – six foot waves are intense. It was a battle to keep forward momentum into the wind gusts and multiple kayaks were taking on water so we had to make camp unexpectedly in a little cove in order to wait for the winds to subside. It’s all part of the adventure.

One of my favorite behind the scenes moments is from a backpacking trek we did along the mystical Lost Coast in northern California. There were a series of river crossings we had to do where some significant water ways emptied out of the Kings Range mountains into the Pacific Ocean. I had brought my cold water surfing booties with me anticipating the river crossings. In this moment I picked up one of our team members over my shoulder and carried her (with her pack still on) across the river (see image below). I laugh every time I see that photo. 

This post is about Adventure photography and lifestyle photography in wilderness settings for outdoor adventure brands, clothing companies, conservation organizations, and publications. The photos in this series have been made in locations all over the world including Australia, Peru, Mexico, Aruba, Spain, Portugal, California, Utah, Oregon, Vermont, Wyoming and more incredible places. There are so many sacred and beautiful wilderness adventures on this garden planet and so little time to explore them all.

Drew Bird is a lifestyle and adventure photographer, commercial photographer, event photographer, and freelance photographer based in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area. Drew and our creative team have photographed projects for clients throughout California, the USA and all over the world. The size of our creative team can be scaled to meet the size of any type of project. Have Cameras + Will Travel. Get in touch with Drew to chat about your photo project needs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *