Jeff Bartlett looks at his adventure photography as extension of everything he loves about living in the mountains. Cycling, hiking and skiing are synonymous with active travel and he uses these activities to shape compelling stories which light the fire of wanderlust.
Jeff sat down with Nomads on the Road recently to talk all things photography, life in the mountains of Canada and his love of travelling.
Growing up in the North East corner of British Columbia, in the oil and gas town of Fort St John, Jeff admits the region isn’t the pretty part of the province. But one advantage to living in Fort St John was Jeff was able to start travelling straight out of high school.
“Where I’m from its oil and gas town so I was able to work three or four months a year and then travel,” Jeff said.
It was through these travels that Jeff discovered a passion for photography and writing. After completing a journalism diploma in 2008, Jeff focused more on the writing side but this changed as photography became a reason to spend more time outside.
Jeff currently lives in Jasper, Alberta but before that he lived in Argentina, Jeff’s wife is from Argentina, but the Rockies is where Jeff feels at home.
“My wife is from Argentina so we were down for the better part of five years. Certainly I know the southern part of the continent quite well. Now I live in Jasper in The Rockies and can’t imagine a better place to live.
“I always laugh when a lot of photographers I know or Instagramer’s that take photographs every day really up there work for it. I just walk outside and it doesn’t take me a lot to get some panoramic views,” says Jeff.
Back in 2003 when Jeff visited New Zealand he didn’t even take a camera with him and it took him a while to start documenting his travels through photography
Jeff said: “I travelled quite a bit without a camera early on and then even as I got a camera I was always the guy I’d carry a camera around and only take 30-40 photos in six weeks in Norway. It wasn’t until about four years from when I started travelling that I got into it in a bigger way.
“A lot of it was just I use to be a diehard skier so I’d chase winters. Eventually I got talking to more and more people who were into action sports photography and I picked an interest up there.”
Despite a seemingly late start to life as a photographer, Jeff has established himself as a prominent photographer, especially on Instagram.
Jeff said: “Before when I was doing freelance work your name pops up once and a while at different magazines or websites. Instagram is definitely been the biggest tool I’ve been able to use to brand myself, and sort of have my own audience and presence.”
Jeff has been able to do what a lot of photographers strive for, take a social media following and leverage that to his own website and towards client websites.
“It’s absolutely huge. It has definitely changed the way I work and I feel it took years off the time it would take to get to the same place. I see tons of photographers up and coming now. They jump from an unknown to lots of work in the industry because of Instagram. It’s an awesome tool,” said Jeff.
Very excited to spend the next week exploring @travelalberta with @devinsupertramp and @funforlouis. Maybe it'll be enough to convince me to finally start shooting video! Rumour has it were in for an epic helicopter tour high above Banff National Park, so I thought I'd better share an image from the last time I flew over the Icefield Parkway! #explorealberta
The high point of Instagram, Jeff believes, was perhaps a year and a half ago. When there wasn’t the saturation of photographers with huge numbers of followers we see today. Yet Jeff thinks social media will continue to influence users for a good while yet.
“I think it will always be a diminishing thing but I don’t think the social media influence will ever go away. I was just reading today that something like 60% of people admit that they are influenced by Instagram and Facebook posts. So it’s definitely not going to go away from a marketing perspective.”
“I don’t think Instagram will be as powerful and as big simply because as new platforms come along businesses will spread the money around. There’s also more photographers to spread it around with. But as far as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram they’re sort of survived that throw away period where a lot of apps died. So I don’t think it’s going anywhere to fast,” he said.
While taking inspiration from photographers such as Paul Zizka and David de Chiffon, Jeff also looks beyond the world of photography for inspiration.
“I’ve always sort of had this blend of photography and writing just too basically go on cool adventures. A couple of British guys Tom Allen and Alastair Humphreys I look as being able to do a really good job at using photography and video and some writing to really get people on side I guess, and I think that’s the coolest thing. I’m looking at them as sort of examples of ways that I can continue to do better and get my audience involved more than just posting inspiring photos. But actually give them some tools to go out and fun on their own,” Jeff explains.
When it comes to what goes into making a great photograph, Jeff, like Kyle Hamilton in our previous photographer interview, says that light is key.
“I think light is always key. It means an awful lot of early mornings. You can make a beautiful photograph in a pretty crappy location with good light. And at the same time, Jim Richardson and his quote is ‘if you want to be a better photographer stand in front of more interesting stuff’. I think that’s so key, doing the work to get to these cool places.
“I shoot Pyramid Mountain (writers note, a stunning mountain in Jasper), it’s probably the main subject of my photos when I am at home. I shoot it three or four times a week it seems. But I go out and find different ways to look at it from different lakes from different viewpoints. And I think just exploring to make sure that you’re taking a different photograph than you know the same one that everyone takes,” says Jeff.
Staying motivated is often half the battle for photographers, but all those early mornings are worth it when you capture a stunning moment, this is a sentiment Jeff agrees with when asked about one of his favourite photograph he has taken.
“Geez I’ve got so many favourites I guess. It always seems to be the latest one’s your favourite. But I think this winner back in November we had a big snow storm and a friend of mine was in town. I went to pick him up at sunrise and it was just like soft and grey, snowing and we talked about not going out because we thought it would just be terrible.
“And then you talk yourself into it ‘oh we might as well go you get out of bed and drink coffee’. We went up to Pyramid Island and I just got this shot. It was you know because the conditions were so different. You couldn’t even see the mountains it was so greyed in and just making the most of it. I ended up with it was the shot that ended up being the most popular one ever on Instagram.
“Just by looking at Pyramid Mountain in fresh snow and looking at it differently because there’s not the mountain right behind it. So I held my camera on a tripod way above my head and shot the bridge leading into the island with the snow falling. I think it just worked out perfectly and it just shows I guess that it’s so easy all the time to say the weather’s no good I’m not going to go shooting. But just go and it results in great photos,” Jeff said.
Jeff and fellow Canadian travel photographer Brendan van Son run photography tours (Your Photo Adventures). They were in Morocco in February and have one more tour lined up this year, when in December they head a group going to Cuba.
The tours combine workshops and photography walks, where Jeff and Brendan will talk their group through exactly what they are doing and why.
“We’re both super talkative guys and we like talking photography and we also totally love making sure that people have awesome trips, and get out of their comfort zones. So whether we’re actually teaching them the mechanics behind taking a photo or just challenging people to ask the stranger for a portrait. I think we work really well together. Our first tour in Morocco was a great success. Everyone that was there had a great time and a lot of them are already signed up to come back to Cuba. So that’s got to be a good sign,” says Jeff.
More information can be found on the Jeff Bartlett Media website.
Jeff shoots with a Nixon D800 and a D750, with the 16-35mm F4, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm, while he uses a 20mm prime 1.8 for his night photography.
You can follow Jeff Bartlett’s adventures at the following: