I am not a stunt man. I don’t own a mountain bike or rock climbing gear. Sure, I have leapt from a plane but I am no skydiver. Frankly, any parkour moves would break my bones. But this doesn’t mean that I am not adventurous. Far from it. Not all adventures have to be extreme.
As a portrait photographer and nature lover, I am often skipping across slippery rocks in creek beds and hanging off tree limbs for a shot. This is partially because I love to find unique perspectives. Though the main reason is because I love the outdoors just as much as I love photography. For me, getting dirty amplifies my experience behind the camera and invests me in a portrait shoot.
To be as intimate as possible with a location, I can’t pack a roller bag or have a large DSLR shoulder sling hanging off me. I need a bag that is compact, light, maneuverable and very durable. Needless to say, I was very eager to see how Manfrotto’s new stunt bag would handle during a typical, on-location portrait session.
Holding the bag, it was clear that the pack was specifically designed for those who are dedicated to the extreme. With specific GOPRO® connections for additional shooting angles and a storage pocket for a hydration pack, the stunt bag is an obvious choice for extreme photographers. Yet, with the bag in my hands, I could tell that it was equally crafted for photographers who, like me, are just as interested in getting outside for their own sort of adventures as the Evel Knievels of the photography world.
The Offroad backpack seemed to be the perfect size for my upcoming portrait shoot. The medium sized bag housed everything I needed for my planned location in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. I fit my compact Fujifilm kit (Fujifilm X-T1 and three Fujinon prime lenses) snuggly into the bag’s protective pouches. I slipped a single speedlite, receiver and trigger into the compartment right below the pack’s rigid, protective shell. I also easily managed to find a spot for a cellphone, swimsuit, extra shirt, insect repellent and some snacks into the bag. All packed, I headed out to one of the area’s many trails that runs over creeks and through woods.
At the trailhead I met my beautiful friend Casey and fellow photographer Micah Mackenzie. After hugs and high fives we started down the trail into the thick of the forest.
I immediately wanted to start making some portraits, an urge I experience daily. So, I effortlessly unzipped my bag’s butterfly opening (one of my favorite features) and pulled out my mirrorless camera from one of the two protective pouches. As we went on, I kept my camera out knowing that around every corner there would be an opportunity to click the shutter.
We leapt over boulders and romped like a bunch of hippies down the path. The deciduous trees wrapped us in hues of green and the nettles and dangerous ivy even had an acute beauty. Zigzag roots cut the trail but I felt at ease knowing the stunt bag would protect my gear from the inevitable tumble I usually take in the woods.
Before long we had worked our way down to a gently flowing stream. The mountain water was cool and I was relieved to be in the shade. Further downstream we found an area with some beautiful rocks and natural pools. It was a sublime spot, one that is seemingly made for relaxation and, in this case, for portraits.
I set my bag down on the rocks along the water’s edge. I knew that we would be in the creek bed for a while. I wanted to change lenses. But what I really wanted to do was wade deeper into the crisp water.
Forgetting that I had packed a swimsuit, I hastily grabbed a wide prime lens from the stunt bag’s secondary pouch and walked away from my bag. I couldn’t wait to get wet. Sloshing into the creek, I wasn’t worried about bag I left behind or the gear inside of it. With every step my body became wetter and I held my camera a bit higher.
Our thirty-minute respite was exactly what I had hoped for. We laughed, made some photographs and soaked in the summer sun that fought its way through the canopy. It was a superb way to end a relaxing adventure and reinforced my belief that you don’t need a lot to have a great portrait shoot. You don’t have to have a massive bag crammed full with a DSLR and an army of lenses. All you need is a small amount of well-protected gear, a stunning location and good company.
Learn more about my work at http://www.andrewfaulkphotography.com and Micah’s work at http://www.micahmack.com. For more portrait photography tips and tutorials, visit my blog at http://www.andrewfaulkphotography.com/blog.