Capturing the Spirit of Adventure: An Interview with Ian Fohrman
Ian Fohrman (@iandavidf) is a Denver-based photographer, writer, director, skier, biker, hunter and jack of all trades (master of most). Although Ian’s creative endeavors are vast, his greatest passions live amongst nature and embracing the spirit of adventure. He’s inspired and determined to make this world a better place – one story and one photo at a time.
You’ve been professionally shooting photos for 10 years now. What’s the best part of what you do?
I get to explore, capture, and share photos of some of the best humans I’ve ever met while they interact with this amazing planet. It’s also fun collaborating with groups of people (athletes, brand managers and other creators) to create something out of nothing.
What’s different between planning a big ski mountaineering adventure and a big bike adventure?
With skiing you have to be aware of avalanche conditions and know how to analyze snowpack, which is much more complicated than most bike trips. With biking you have to think about mechanical issues and always plan for something to go wrong. But backcountry travel, no matter what sport you’re doing, involves a lot of the same elements (weather, terrain decisions, timing, and route planning). From a photography perspective, the two are very similar. You have to think about light, timing of day, photographic angles, and terrain that plays to the subject’s strengths. In both cases it’s best to spend the night before with a beer in hand, staring at maps.
When going on a big, multi-peak mission, like your Bike The 14ers project, how do you plan and prepare for it?
Usually not nearly enough. Often times, Whit (@WhitBoucher) and I would meet at a trailhead at 1 a.m. because we were both working and/or biking all day. Generally, it’s not a good idea to be frantically packing your gear hours after you hoped to be at the trailhead. On the more complicated objectives, we would share route planning ideas via email using CalTopo.com in the days prior. In high alpine missions, it’s really important to know the weather, especially in Colorado with afternoon lighting being a big concern. It also sucks to be caught in an unexpected snowstorm at 14,000 ft with no winter gloves…which happened twice (you'd think once was enough to learn our lesson).
In any adventure, what are the most critical pieces of gear to get right?
If you’re planning on shooting, the camera, empty memory cards and full batteries should be at the top of the list. You should make sure your bike is rolling, your skis are sliding and your pack is full of things that will keep you from getting hungry, cold, wet or thirsty. For biking, a well-fitting hydration pack is key. And for skiing, a pack that carries well, with a-frame or diagonal ski carry straps is important. Either way, I choose the pack size based on the other essentials needed for the adventure. It’s also imperative that you have something to wipe your butt with, other than your sock.
What does it take to capture a great outdoor action shot?
The most important thing about any image is the story it conveys. Adventuring outside can be beautiful, painful, scary, and breathtaking. My job is to capture that and make the viewer feel it. My favorite photos evoke a strong emotion, tell a story, or put the viewer into a new situation.
Action shots, invariably involve teamwork. Sometimes that can mean a big production crew, and sometimes it can be myself and an athlete. In either case, communication is key. It’s important to know the athlete you’re working with, their abilities, and to communicate your vision. Often crafting a vision is a collaborative effort and it’s important that everyone’s on the same page.
Any advice for someone looking to make a career in biking/skiing photography?
Be nice and work hard. Be humble and ask questions. Study work you like and figure out why you like it. Do your homework and learn your craft. Get out and shoot as much as you can. Most importantly, be nice and work hard.