Last Sunday, I went to the Wild day of the Travel Photographer of The Year photography festival being held at the National Geographic Society in London. The Wild day was the second day of the festival focusing on photographing in remote places all around the world. There were a number of different photographers talking throughout the day that you could choose to go and listen to. First up was Martin Hartley.
Adventure and Extreme Photography – Martin Hartley
Although Martin seems to be much more at home in freezing temperatures in remote places of the world than stood presenting in front of a crowd, his talk was incredibly interesting. Early on in the talk, he distinguished between expedition photography and travel photography, and went on to show photographs taken on a number of expeditions he has been on such as to both the poles and the Indian Himalayas.
The main memories I have come away with from Martins talk were his descriptions of experiences in the Arctic and Antarctic. Surviving in ambient temperatures of -43C does not sound fun to me in any way but Martin seems to thrive on it. He talked about how at those temperatures you need to be constantly moving in order to keep yourself warm. You eat your evening meal and the heat your body generates from digesting the food will be enough to stop you shivering until 3am when your body will then shake uncontrollably until you awake at 5:30 for the 4 hours of preparations for the next day. He also talked about losing skin and eyebrows from them sticking to freezing camera bodies and the thoughts he had to give to just where and when he would breath to prevent frosting on the end of his lenses.
Photography wise, Martin mainly talked about the challenges of trying to keep your equipment in working order in these kinds of conditions. I think he said he has been doing this for over 15 years and he went through numerous stories starting with film cameras and then progressing to digital. For a Ninety day expedition, he said he’d now be carrying 16 batteries (which he had to try and make warm before using them), 3 bodies, 2 wide angle lenses and 1 close up lens for portraits. A statement made that amused the audience was that “Owning a Nikon or a Canon doesn’t make you a photographer. It makes you the owner of a Nikon or a Canon”.
Martin showed some amazing landscape shots but he said that for him it was more about the people he was with. This was an interesting opinion and he went on to answer a question about how he funds these expeditions. One of the ways was from big company sponsors who would provide money and in return would require images to be returned for PR and advertising. He said that this is an ever increasing challenge as sponsor and news agencies want more images to be sent during the expedition. One of the photographs shown was a piece of equipment used to transmit the images which if I remember correctly could send 1Mb an hour.
The final question to Martin was “Do you consider yourself primarily a photographer, explorer or both”. This brought a smile to Martins face to which he replied “I consider myself a photographer who will do whatever it takes”.