Freya Fennwood has been paddling her own boat since she was a wee 5-year-old. And that makes a big difference when it comes to shooting action photos in some of the world’s most beautiful paddling destinations.
Freya works hard to capture authentic images of adventure—in the water, on land or in snow—and gets especially psyched about shooting women slaying it in the outdoors. While she’s no stranger to the soapbox about how female athletes are portrayed in the media, she’s not one to sit on the sidelines and complain. She has jumped right in, literally, passionately capturing imagery of women enjoying the outdoors.
You’ve probably seen her work in magazines such as Adventure Kayak, Backcountry, and Ski Journal, or in ads for NRS, Outdoor Research and other companies. We caught up with her to find out what she’s learned from life as a female adventure photographer.
Being a multisport athlete is actually a good thing—it helps make photos more authentic.
“I think it is very important you actually do the sports you shoot,” she says. “I can tell when some fashion photographer from New York was hired to try and shoot a sea kayaking lifestyle shoot. Sometimes the paddle is held upside down, or subjects aren’t wearing lifejackets out on the open ocean. These details make or break an authentic adventure image. I used to think my eclectic love of too many outdoor sports was a bad thing. Now the years of mountain biking, rock climbing, mountaineering, sea kayaking, snowboarding and surfing, to name a few, give me the background I need to capture all those sports. I know them intimately and bring that knowledge to my work.”
Sometimes it takes work to make sure images are natural.
“I like to capture a genuine smile or feeling from my subject,” Freya says. “It’s really important to build rapport with your subject, get them comfortable, make them feel like they’re not being photographed. I like to have people goof off and just have fun, and great moments come from that. My job is then to capture that moment. There is actually a lot of work that goes into creating that feeling. Often commercial imagery is a little stiff feeling; I try to take that away and make you feel like you’re out with your best friends.”
The life of an adventure photographer also has its share of office time.
“For every hour I’m out shooting I have hours of editing, and for every job I get I have hours and hours of marketing, emails and phone calls to get that job,” she says. “It’s not all fun and games, mostly a ton of self-motivated staring at a screen which is not why I got into photography, but it’s part of the job.”
Sometimes time out in nature is the best way to figure things out.
“I decided I wanted to be a photographer when I was 16,” Freya says. “I hiked the Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates Mount Rainier for 90 miles. Nine days on the trail gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do with my life, and photography and experiencing the world out of doors kept circling around in my head. I’ve been on this path ever since.”