Photography Inspiration » Adventure Photography: Interview with Sandi Bertoncelj

Adventure Photography: Interview with Sandi Bertoncelj

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This time our photography interview series takes us deep into snow-covered mountains to discover what makes a great adventure photographer. Photography-RAW had the pleasure to ask Sandi Bertoncelj a few questions about his passion for adventure photography and what it takes to excel in this genre of photography.

adventure photography interview
Magic moments in the mountains – by Sandi Bertoncelj

How did you become interested in adventure photography?

It all came with my passion for ski touring and mountain biking. The great moments when you go out with your friends in the mountains. All this made me want to go out and create images that capture these feelings. I have been very fortunate to live in a beautiful country, Slovenia,  surrounded by some amazing places, which provide me with excellent opportunities to practice my interest in adventure photography.

Photo by Sandi Bertoncelj
Greeting to the Sun – by Sandi Bertoncelj

Which other photographers have inspired you in adventure photography and how did they influence you?

When I saw landscape photographs, I was deeply impressed by the way one can depict an existing scenery so accurately yet with such a personal and creative way. I added a rider or skier to the scene, which makes a photo more lively, and adventurous. I’ve gained inspiration from many photo masters like Max Rive, Paul Zizka, Dave Trumpore, Sterling Lorence, Brad Walton and many more …

adventure photography interview
Photo by Sandi Bertoncelj

How much of a dare-devil do you have to be yourself to be a good adventure photographer?

I love exploration, and the opportunity to pursue the adventure and challenges inherent to the wild. It gives me a sense of fulfillment I cannot easily obtain in a more structured and civilized world. It is an escape of some sort, but enlightenment as well. My passion for adventure is much about freedom. 

Fly for a While - by Sandi Bertoncelj
Fly for a While – by Sandi Bertoncelj

Did you have any formal training in photography, or how did you learn the craft of photography?

No, I have never taken any courses in photography or any other art form. Everything I learned came from my research. While you can argue that the Internet is like a Pandora’s box, it does allow you to find information about virtually everything. So, I gathered lots of reading material, watched videos and studied the works of other photographers. That helped me to understand the technical aspects of the craft, but I was struggling to materialize my vision.

High above the fog - Photo by Sandi Bertoncelj
High above the fog – by Sandi Bertoncelj

What set of skills is important to be successful in adventure photography?

I always shoot in extreme conditions that allow me to reach unique results. Only extreme situations with light, background, and motion make your shot special. This is, of course, a bigger risk, where the photos can turn out like trash, but I think that the fortune favors the bold. Don’t stop practicing and believe in yourself!

Backcountry skiing - by Sandi Bertoncelj
Backcountry skiing – by Sandi Bertoncelj

How do you prepare before going for a shoot?

Every time a location is planned and the weather conditions are checked ahead of the shooting date for that location. These days, with Internet/webcam, one can check it instantly.

How much is post-processing part of the images you create? And how do you approach post-processing?

Everyone has their own personal sense of visual appeal. For me, post-processing is very important.

After taking photos, I may begin to process them after a few days or so. I don’t know why but it seems this is my process.

I am very careful with the outcome and pay attention to details. I start by opening the RAW-file in Lightroom. First I crop the photo and then adjust the white balance settings until I am happy with the resulting overall color. Then I do some minor corrections to the settings such as contrast, highlights, shadows, and white balance if needed. It is important to use a calibrated monitor and check how the final image looks on phone, laptop, different monitors. There are big differences regarding colors, contrast, luminosity.

Sunset Ride - by Sandi Bertoncelj
Sunset Ride – by Sandi Bertoncelj

How important is gear for adventure photography? And what camera gear do you use?

I’ve been using Canon cameras. It’s not the smallest or the lightest, but the 5D Mark III is a great body for action pics and that’s what I use most of the time.

My go to lenses would be the Canon 16-35mm f/4 or Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM. I have also used some prime lenses, Canon 24 mm f/1.4, Canon 50 mm f/1.4.

Silent Moments before Descent  - by Sandi Bertoncelj
Silent Moments before Descent – by Sandi Bertoncelj

What is the one piece of advice that you feel has had the most impact on your adventure photography?

The best way to bring back almost nothing from an adventure is to have your camera in a hard-to-reach place. At all costs, avoid putting it in your backpack! I personally use ThinkTank Digital holster with a harness.

Golden hour biking - by Sandi Bertoncelj
Golden hour biking – by Sandi Bertoncelj

What advice would you give to someone who’s just getting started with adventure photography?

Shoot as much as you can, learn from your mistakes and push yourself to improve next time. Don’t be scared to try things – new techniques, challenging shots, unusual viewpoints, etc. Put creativity ahead of everything else. It’s the only thing that will keep you excited in a sustainable way. Have fun and shoot what you like. Don’t stop practicing and believe in yourself.

You can find more of Sandi Bertoncelj’s work at both 500px and 1x. He also shares many of his photos on Facebook and Instagram.

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