My favorite subjects to shoot are action and adventure outdoors. I feel like I never get enough opportunities to do this. I thrive on the unpredictable outcome of action work and love the challenge using all your photo skills at once and making lightning fast decisions. The best situation is when you are shooting from a participant’s point of view – that is, you are doing the same adventure/fitness activity that you are photographing! That puts even more skills to the test. For me it’s a perfect counterweight to soothing and slow landscape work.

Naturally, just like with landscapes, collecting my 20 favorite (and not necessarily best) adventure images out of thousands shot is both frustrating and enjoyable. The pandemic and the colossal drop off in stock photography sales really limited the number of times I got out to shoot adventure. Most of the time it was just Lauri and I, which is great. Luckily, though, we did get to see and do day adventures with a few friends here in the Southwest and in Alaska.

Our only big adventures were a few backpack trips of 6-8 days – the first two being on the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado at very high altitudes and our final trip of 2020 was a mid-November Grand Canyon trip that started off with a raw bite of winter. Other than that it was day trip hiking and paddling.

Action and motion photography really keeps your mind sharp and it’s a great exercise to have to think quick, trust your instincts and your vision while simultaneously executing camera operation and technique. I think shooting action and motion makes me a better landscape photographer.

Hiker on Floating Rock in the Narrows. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Lauri getting an elevated view from Floating Rock in the Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah.

Lauri and I hiked about 4 miles up river on a nice late February day. Though I have been here many times it never gets old and I always like to update my images and look for new or different scenes that I haven’t done before. Unfortunately, it was too warm for ice formations but the Narrows is usually quiet and beautiful in winter and it still gets nice warm reflected light in the middle of the day.

Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 16-40F/4 L lens
ISO 100, 1.6 seconds, F6.3

Couple trail runners in the Ruby Range alpine above Crested Butte, Colorado. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Just out for a stroll.

Ashley and Benton trail running in the alpine in the Ruby Range above Crested Butte, Colorado.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens,
ISO 400, 1/250th second, F5.6

Fog surrounding camp on Rendezvous Ridge above Eagle River and Anchorage, Alaska. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Lingering fog after a stout rain shower floats in front of the sun at camp on Rendezvous Ridge, about 4200′.

This was a drop of the hat mini overnight photo adventure to our familiar stomping grounds, the South Fork of Eagle River in Chugach State Park. Seeing a narrow weather window, we packed up for an overnight hike/camp/shoot in mid afternoon. It took about 1.5 hours to reach our dry camp with commanding views of the South Fork, the big peaks above Eagle River and Anchorage and Cook Inlet below.
Sunset light was nice as seen here. Unfortunately, sunrise was a bust but that’s OK. We got to camp at a beautiful quiet location and were back doing computer work by the next afternoon.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 200, 1/125th second, F9

Camp on Continental Divide Trail near Spring Creek Pass. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Camping in thin air. Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail.

This was our first night’s camp, southbound from Spring Creek Pass, on an 85-mile hike. This camp was at 12,800′ on a calm mid July evening. I like camping high and exposed. This is where the good light is.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/40th second, F9

Hiker on Peak 2 - one of many Anchorage area hiking trails. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Summiting Peak 2, Chugach State Park, looking at Powerline Pass below and left.

This was a 3-hour “workout” hike in Anchorage’s stellar and accessible backyard. We left in low clouds and a cold wind then a rain shower. When the rain shower moved on, as with many clearing storm scenarios, nice light happened.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/200th second, F7.1

Pack rafting around ice bergs in Spencer Lake, Alaska. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Pack rafting Spencer Lake, with icebergs from Spencer Glacier (seen in background) Chugach Mountains, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska.

This was/is a great overnight mini-adventure. Following the global weather models using the Windy app we saw a favorable weather window in this otherwise wet place. Take the Glacier Express Train and get off at the remote Spencer Whistle Stop. Hike in about a mile to the lake with stunning mountain views and the shrinking glacier. Most people do day adventures here returning back to the Seward Highway in the afternoon.

We camped along the lake overnight. Then pack rafted out to the Seward Highway via the Placer River, which drains this lake. We had some magic soft morning light paddling amongst towering icebergs, thanks to the thin stratus clouds, before heading down river.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/800th second, F7.1

Skier skiing the powder at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico. aligncenter

Before my workshop schedule got crazy and before COVID shut Taos Ski Valley down early, we skied. And we caught a few weekday powder days, skiing the back side in the morning sun with virtually no other skiers the first hour. Magic. Powder was made for telemarking.

Except for some high mountain summer snowfields, this was the extent of our snowy adventures for 2020. The good thing about having a small capable rig is it’s always easy to carry whether skiing, hiking or pack rafting. Hard to make images if you don’t have your camera at the ready.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 320, 1/800th second, F8

Young adventurer on the trail in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Young adventurer, Kennedy, when not playing soccer, is out pounding the trails with her family in the Wasatch Mountains above Alta, Utah.

Another simple day adventure where I was practicing candids with a new lens.

Sony A6600, Zeiss Batis 85F1.8 lens
ISO 400, 1/400th second, F4

Hiking toward the outlet of South Fork of Eagle River, Alaska. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Hiking toward the outlet of the South Fork of Eagle River, Chugach State Park, Alaska.

These are our stomping grounds. Our first house we bought in 1990 is about 10 miles down valley from here and we’ve been hiking and skiing this valley for 30 years. However, this is the first time we pack rafted this river. Since this was an easy day trip, our Hyperlite Mountain Gear Portage 3400 packs were manageable. Raft, paddle, helmet, dry suit, river shoes, PFD with rescue knife, throw rope, an extra layer, some snacks, and a liter of water weighed in at about 20lbs.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/200th second, F5.6

Pack rafting the tight and technical South Fork of Eagle River, Alaska. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Lauri on the tight and technical South Fork of Eagle River, Church State Park, Alaska.

The river was tight and fast. We probably scouted 20 times due to the blind corners with rock garden challenges like this one. Though we never tire of hiking here, it was great to see it from a fresh perspective since the trail isn’t along the river.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/400th second, F5.6

Woman doing a head stand on a stand up paddle board. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Turn your world upside down.

Ashley showing how it’s done in Crested Butte Colorado. Not exactly an adventure but any time outside in a beautiful location using your body is time well spent.

Sony A6600, Zeiss Touit 12F2.8 lens,
Flashpoint speedlight, MagMod 1/4 cut CTO and 1/8″ grid
ISO 400, 1/500th second, F7.1

Couple hikers crossing snow field on mid summer hike near Crested Butte, Colorado. Photo © Michael DeYoung

On our loop hike/trail run near Crested Butte we stopped here to get water.

Fresh snowmelt was coming from high ridge tops. You can see the source. We filtered it anyway with the Sawyer Squeeze, the standard long distance thru hiker filter. We probably didn’t need to but it doesn’t affect the taste. You still get cold, refreshing clear, pure mountain water. Shortly after this first of two snow crossings we took an afternoon siesta at a still half frozen lake in mid July.

Thanks to our friends Ashley and Benton for showing us a place where we could distance ourselves from the tourist crowds.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F4 lens
ISO 400, 1/640th second, F16

Pack rafting through Big Rock Rapid on the Rio Grande near Taos, New Mexico. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Lauri going through Big Rock Rapid on the Racecourse Run on the Rio Grande.

This is our backyard run in Taos and this stretch of class II and III water is one of the main reasons we moved here. This summer the water was frighteningly low, in fact the lowest we ever ran. But with the small pack raft it was still enjoyable to be out here on a warm summer solstice evening where I could capture the warm glow of the sunlit canyon walls reflecting off the water and using a little fill light to stop the action.

Sony A6600, Zeiss Touit 12F2.8 lens, Flashpoint speed light, MagMod 1/4 cut CTO and 1/8″ grid,
ISO 400, 1/500th second, F5.6

Hiker on the Colorado Trail - Continental Divide Trail by Rio Grande Creek. Photo © Michael DeYoung

This is where a legend begins.

Lauri on the Continental Divide Trail, San Juan Mountains, Colorado. This is Rio Grande Creek, headwaters of the Rio Grande below 13, 478′ Canby Mountain that straddles the Continental Divide.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/500th second, F6.3

Hiker descending from High Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado. Photo © Michael DeYoung

The start of our descent from High Dune, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

Don’t let the warm light and colors fool you. This was a sub-freezing mid December day at 8900′. It had snowed 4-6 inches in the mountains and at home but by the time we arrived to the dunes the wind had blown most of it away.

It took about an hour to reach High Dune. Fortunately, we had layers and were prepared to stay warm waiting for sunset. The color ended quickly with the clear skies as soon as the sun set. We were able to make it back to the trailhead without having to use a headlamp. Moving at a brisk pace kept us warm as temps sunk into the teens.

I think winter is the most photogenic time at the Sand Dunes and even day adventures can be quite rewarding and productive.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 200, 1/60th second, F8

Hikers descend Bright Angel Trail for a winter backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Off to a cold start.

Dropping in to the Grand Canyon via Bright Angel Trail for a 6-day backpack trip. 4 inches of snow and about 14 degrees when we started. Our first camp was at 3800′, far below the frigid rim and the snow but still chilly. The plus side is that extra layers weigh much less than the amount of water you need on a hot day.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/160th second, F6.3

Woman hiking on the Tonto Trail west of Bright Angel Trail.  Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Jaymee hiking the Tonto Trail with the South Rim towering above.

This was a cold hike but there are advantages to that. The Tonto is much of the year a shadeless and brutally hot, harsh environment. Winter hiking meant some extra layers but you need much less water to stay hydrated. The downside to November hiking is the lack of light and 13 hours a day in the tent to stay warm. The trade offs are well worth the chance to be here in this magical time especially when we were greeted with a fresh snowfall at the start of the trip.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/100th second, F6.3

Couple cowboy camping on cold morning in the Grand Canyon. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Dean and Sheri cowboy camping on a cold morning on the Tonto in the Grand Canyon.

Part of shooting action or adventure involves trying to capture candids and a lifestyle component to the adventure. I’m always on the lookout for what happens before, in between and after the adventure. Sometimes it works and most of the time not. But I keep trying and am always on the lookout for a candid photo op.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/60th second, F4.5

Woman cooking up backpacker breakfast with view of Hermit Rapids.  Grand Canyon National Park, AZ. Photo © Michael DeYoung

Breakfast with a view above Hermit Rapids on the Tonto.

This is why I love dry camping in the Grand Canyon, out in the open, with sweeping views where the light comes earlier and stays later than it does tucked into some side canyon, or in the Inner Gorge, which is seen here down below.

We found a great spot with this idyllic ledge overlooking the rive for morning tea and oatmeal. This was the only morning out of 5 that we got direct sunlight before we started our hikes for the day. In November, the sun is just too low to clear most canyon walls until late morning.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 400, 1/80th second, F6.3

Stargazing from backpacking camp at Boucher Rapids along Colorado River.  Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. aligncenter

Jaymee stargazing at Boucher Rapids, Colorado River, Grand Canyon.

I’m usually good for one night on the beach on a Canyon backpack trip. I love the white noise of the river, but the sand gets to me after a while and the Inner Gorge starts to feel claustrophobic. With unseasonably cold weather, it was refreshing to have a warm night at the river level.

Even with a limited view of the night sky there is zero light pollution and the star gazing was nice.
On this trip this was one of two times I used the mini-tripod.

Sony A6600, Sony-Zeiss 16-70F/4 lens
ISO 1600, 30 seconds, F4