Sports - 09/10/2013

Meet ECCO Ambassador Casey McCallister

An adventurer, traveler and accomplished outdoor lifestyle photographer, Casey McCallister uses his camera to show the unending and sometimes challenging beauty of the natural playgrounds he loves. Since discovering a passion for photography in 2007, he has started countless hikes before dawn and seen enough “once-in-a-lifetime” sunrises to suit a hundred men.

First off, could you give us some background on yourself and your work? What sort of photography do you do?
I’ve always been a visual thinker, but I stumbled into photography when I moved to Colorado in 2007. My friends and I were constantly out there going on adventures and of course we wanted to document that. We’d all take photos but mine were the ones that everyone wanted to tag and share on social media. After a while, people started telling me I should become a photographer, so in 2008 I bought a DSLR camera and really got into it. I still don’t really consider myself a photographer per se, more just an adventurer and traveler who brings his camera along and happens to be pretty good at the trade.  

Were you interested in the outdoors before?
Growing up, my family took vacations to national parks to see the outdoors, but we never did adventures the way that I wanted to do them. We would drive up to the edge of the Grand Canyon, look down and say “Ok, let’s go see the next thing.” I wanted to go into the canyon and spend 10 days down there. So when I graduated from college I started spending more time in the outdoors and, like I said, the camera always came along.

Your images all seem to contain a certain mood or feeling, is that intentional? What goes into conveying that?
I always try to capture the scene the way I felt it when I was there. Sometimes that’s the way I see it with my eyes, but other times it may be a bit more moody. It could be affected by my experiences at the place, or the way I feel that day. I do tend to like more moody photos rather than just boring photos of flat scenes. I like to go when there is more dramatic weather; I think it makes for a better photo.

Some of your images have people in them, some do not, but they mostly seem to be about the places. Is this a fair observation? How do you decide whether an image of a place will include a person?
I almost 100% of the time would rather have a person in the photos. I think humans or even just man-made objects in general give a place a better sense of perspective and scale. I think it makes a place look more real than the kind of photo you would see on the wall of a hotel or something.

What is the most difficult image you’ve ever made?
There’s a photo I took recently in the great sand dunes of Colorado. Going in I knew I wanted a high contrast black and white photo of the dunes. I wanted a human element in the photo so I put the camera on a tripod and just started hiking out along the dunes. I wanted to be in a spot that was low contrast but I couldn’t figure out where that was. I was just hiking out across the dunes over and over again with the self-timer on and the camera shooting constantly, but couldn’t get it right. In the end it took eight or so tries, and when I got home I had to sort through like 1000 photos to find the perfect one.

If you could give one piece of advice to everyone who takes photos of their outdoor adventures, what would it be?
If the goal is to come back with awesome photos then definitely put in the research. You can never spend enough time preparing to go shoot. People always ask me how I got such awesome photos when they went there it just looked “bleh.” Watch the weather. Dramatic weather always makes for great photos. Do everything you can to find epic conditions if you’re going to head out looking for awesome photos.