Two months ago I started an internship with HagePhoto to learn what it takes to turn a passion for photography into a profession. Initially, I didn’t really believe it was possible to sustain a reasonable living as a photographer–at least not in the adventure niche. Shooting for big name companies like Black Diamond, Mountain Hardwear, or Patagonia seemed unreachable… a degree of improbability similar to serving in the Oval Office or winning American Idol.
Yet now, two months the wiser, that perspective has shifted. It no longer seems impossible or improbable even, just…difficult. When you first meet the Hages and spend a little time in their company, you get the impression that they live the good life. I’m not talking about owning summer and winter homes, a bottomless retirement fund, or even a private yacht (that’s the affluent life). Their version of good living is with a backpack, from hut to hut in New Zealand and throwing back a couple of brews after Fat Biking in the Arctic. Before I began this whole thing, I was introduced to that lifestyle at a slideshow for the Alaska Mountain and Wilderness Huts Association in Anchorage. As he clicked from slide to slide, Matt described the wonders and humors of trekking the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalaya, and I thought to myself, “man, this guy’s got it all figured out… making a living taking trips that I’d have to pay to go on.”
What I didn’t realize then, and now know, is just how much work goes into each and every photo they take. Behind the shot of the couple relaxing in a steaming pool or the guy about to jump his bike off an outhouse are hours and hours of work. You’re the first up, before sunrise. You’re never taking a break, because you’re taking that photo. And while everyone else kicks back for the evening, your stuck behind the screen of a laptop, processing all the footage, one shot at a time.
So I guess that’s the big question that’s arisen lately; do I love this photo-capturing thing enough to work my ass off to scrape by financially for awhile? On a scale of “no chance” to “bring it on,” how much do I want to carry around pounds and pounds of camera and lighting equipment for the rest of my career. It’s a self-deprecating endeavor. You’re the guy with the heaviest pack who has to keep up with and often move faster than the athletes you work with–unless you want to make a reputation as the photographer who’s really good at taking photos of people’s backsides as they disappear into the distance. Butt-jokes aside, it’s an easy question. Bottom line: you have to love what you do to commit to living this way.
Bring it on. -Will Day