Editor’s note: Self-taught and incessantly driven pro photographer Adam Swords doesn’t stand still very often. When he’s not shooting for clients like Honda, Sony, Canon, Dirt Magazine and Mountain Biking UK, you might find him training in Tang Soo Do (he’s attained a fourth-degree black belt in this form of Korean Karate) or documenting the creative, small business owners in his home county of Warwickshire in the West Midlands region of England. And he writes a very entertaining blog as well.
Adam used the Lowepro Street & Field System for a mountain bike shoot in the Forest of Dean – or as he would say, in his kind of environment ”out in the woods shooting sports”. Advanced Photographer covered the shoot and profiled Adam in a recent article.
We asked him how this modular system worked in a non-urban environment and a bunch of other questions about the day-to-day life and aspirations of a successful, active lifestyle photographer/videographer.
Tell us how your Street & Field System set-up helps with your workflow and shooting style.
I’ve always liked to keep things simple with my photography equipment and when I find a solution that works for me, I stick with it. I’m not one for keeping bang up to date with the latest gizmo and gadget and nerding out over the minutia. In my line of work, I need to be sure that my gear will allow me to focus on one thing, getting “that” shot.
The Street & Field System is perfect for me; it’s a no nonsense set up that allows me to carry the essential bits of kit with me when a backpack or roller case won’t cut it. I use mine in environments and situations that don’t lend themselves to laying a bag on the ground in order get in to them – muddy trails and busy pits at motorsport events for example.
By having the essentials on me and within easy reach it means that I can spend more time shooting and less time worrying about changing lenses or rummaging around for a fresh memory card. It’s not often I’m without James my assistant, but when it’s not possible for him to be prepping the next lens change, or handing me fresh batteries, the Street & Field System almost acts like a second pair of hands.
You often combine video with a still shoot. How do you capture content in both mediums and convey the same theme for commercial clients?
This is a request I’m getting more and more from my commercial clients and I’d say it’s heavily attributed to the state of the economy right now and everyone is trying to penny pinch where they can. Luckily for me, I shoot my stills on a Canon 5D MKII, a camera which just so happens to shoot beautiful high definition video. This means that when I switch from shooting stills to video, I’m often still using the same lenses and camera, so the moving images inherently have the same look as the stills. Plus with me directing, I can ensure that my ideas and direction remains consistent across both media, ensuring the aesthetic qualities of both remain congruent. That said, I don’t always shoot video on DSLRs and when we’re using higher end camera equipment on a shoot, I ensure that our lens choice, colour profiles and final grading keep our shots looking similar. Ultimately though, I’d say that my direction is the greatest contributing factor in ensuring the same theme is conveyed in both the stills and video.
What’s the best advice you ever received from a fellow photographer?
I was lucky enough to intern for Chase Jarvis at very beginning of my career and I learned so much from him and the team it’s hard to choose just one thing.
I heard Chase say “A rising tide floats all the boats” a number of times and it’s an ideology that resonated the most with me. I think sharing what we know and helping each other out is a powerful thing and can only serve to boost the quality of not only our own work and the work of others, but tighten relationships within the industry.
It’s an idea not embraced by all and people are often scared of revealing their secrets to other photographers in case they become competition. But the way I look at it is that if I find myself competing with a new photographer because of what I’ve taught them, I’d better be improving and pushing my skills to the next level – It’s healthy.
What inspired you to create your “We are Warwickshire” project?
I shot a lot of automotive work in 2012 and wanted to work on something completely different. I’m an advocate of supporting local independent businesses and thought that a film series showcasing the amazing businesses and interesting people we have right on our doorstep would be a great way to give back to the community. It also allowed me to give the films a slightly more artistic feel and dial down that “sell, sell, sell” knob that is often ramped up to eleven in the commercial sector. I’ve had a great response to the films so far and will be wrapping up the project in a few months’ time with a screening and networking event to connect more people locally. (Editor’s note: You can see the series here.)
Name a geographical place that you’d love to return to or go to for an assignment.
Easy. California. I was lucky enough to travel out there for a week in 2011 for a shoot and I fell in love with the place. Without sounding too hippy, I think it’s my spiritual home.
Favorite new accessory that thrills you each time you use it?
Do I have to choose something photographic? Because in all honesty my favourite new ‘accessory’ is my mini remote control helicopter that I’m learning to fly like a boss around my living room and land on coasters. If I have to make this answer more photo-nerdy, then as a result of flying that I’m actually really interested in trying out some filming using a quad copter for aerial shots.
Most unusual item you keep in your camera bag?
A moustache drawn in sharpie on a piece of clear plastic! We use it on shoots to lighten the mood by asking all of the people on set to hold it up and have their photo taken.
Watch Adam’s Street & Field System shoot.