The world’s best female action sports photographers
These women are leading the charge in capturing some of the best adventure photography on the planet
Following on from The world’s best female action sport’s photographers – part 1, we are stoked to publish the next installment. There are so many incredible women doing amazing things with their cameras but also overcoming mind-blowing physical and mental challenges to take these photos. These are their stories and it has been an absolute pleasure to tell them on Still Stoked.
It’s hard enough to fly a paraglider, but trying to fly one with both hands off the brakes with an expensive camera in your hands!
– Jody McDonald
Camilla Rutherford (formally Stoddart), is an award-winning photographer originally from bonnie Scotland. Taking a break from studying at the prestigious Central St Martins College of Art in London, she headed to NZ to satiate her love of skiing. New Zealand immediately stole her heart and several winter seasons later, she choose Wanaka as her new home. It was here she started shooting mountain biking. She quickly picked up clients in the bike world and loved the dirt as much as its white counterpart. Camilla lives for the 4 seasons, traveling the world shooting adventure sports, as well as travel, lifestyle and commercial photography. She is incredibly passionate about NZ and its unique and diverse landscapes. She recently became a mother and endeavors to continue life as an adventure travel photographer, mother and farmers wife.
Follow her Instagram adventures @camillarutherford_photography
I often remind myself, I’m not going to get good photos sitting on the sofa!
– Camilla Rutherford
What about your environment challenges you the most?
Weather… My biggest love and my biggest hate! It can make or break a shot. And it certainly keeps you on your toes! Sometimes the unexpected happens and makes a photo so wonderfully brilliant and totally out of your control. But sometimes it can ruin a shoot with months of planning. The below photo of a guy standing on a rock watching the sunset is one such example. It was pouring with rain. Torrential. So much so we nearly canceled the shoot. But we went out none the less, and through the grey clouds, the sun burst through, bringing the best sunset I’ve ever seen… It’s all too easy to sit at home thinking the weather is not right but you’ve got to be in it to win it!! I often remind myself, I’m not going to get good photos sitting on the sofa!
Can you tell us the story behind one of your favourite photos?
This mountain bike shot has become one of my favourites. The kiwi biker Kelly McGarry is no longer with us and was a super awesome guy. It was one of the first mountain bike shoots I arranged when I was quite new to the industry. Kelly was already a well-known rider and was amazing to agree to go to the middle of nowhere with a photographer he didn’t know to shoot (I could have been rubbish!). It is still one of my favourite photos to date. The clouds had come in and we were nearly going to give up and go home. But I had an inkling that the sky may go pink. And it did. Kelly had spent all afternoon building this wall ride and it was well worth it. He rode it over and over to get this perfect shot. He was a hero, and the kindest guy to take a chance on a female photographer he knew nothing about.
My other favourite is this shot is of NZ skier Fraser McDougall taken in backcountry NZ. I love the perspective and light in this photo. It’s unusual and moody.
Kirstin Scholtz really does have the dream job. She is the Senior Photographer and Photo Editor for the World Surf League. Her job requires her to travel for 11 months of the year and follow the elite men and women competing in the world’s best waves. Her journey to where she is today shows dedication to her craft. She graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism degree, specialising in Photojournalism from Rhodes University in South Africa. A year later, she began working for Pierre Tostee, the world’s first digital surf photographer and joined Tostee’s team in Hawaii that same year to shoot her first Vans Triple Crown. The rest is history. When home, Kirstin resides Jan Juc Australia, close to stop No. 2 on the WSL World Tour, Bells Beach.
Follow her Instagram adventures @kirstinscholtz
What is the hardest thing about your job with the WSL?
It is definitely the intense amount of traveling. It gets to you after a while. Being away from home and loved ones can be draining.
What was the best photo assignment you’ve been on?
Shooting the Code Red Swell in Tahiti, or the perfect swell at the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2014 and the C Cloudbreak tow-in session during the comp in 2012.
Jody MacDonald is an award-winning adventure sport and documentary photographer. For the last 8 years she was the resident photographer on a 60-foot catamaran on a global kiteboarding, paragliding and surfing expedition to explore the wildest corners of the planet. You can see her images in many international publications such as National Geographic, Red Bull, Outside, BBC, Patagonia, Islands, and Men’s Journal among others.
Follow her Instagram adventures @jodymacdonaldphoto
What is the one sport you find the hardest to photograph?
I photograph quite a few sports but one of the main ones I photograph is paragliding. It can be very challenging to photograph from a paraglider. You and your subject are both moving, sometimes violently at high altitudes, in very cold temperatures. You are at the whim of the weather conditions. It’s hard enough to fly a paraglider, but trying to fly one with both hands off the brakes with an expensive camera in your hands brings a whole new set of challenges. But like anything, you adapt and through trial and error you get better at it and make better decisions on when it’s more safe or less safe to fly and photograph.
Tell us a story behind one of your photos?
We sailed 600 miles across the Mozambique channel from Madagascar to an island group located off the southeast coast of Mozambique called the Bazaruto archipelago. This island group is considered to be one of the most beautiful destinations on the African continent. Upon our arrival, we could see a massive 20-mile sand dune on the island of Bazaruto. Everyone onboard just looked at each other speechless. We knew we had to fly it. The east side of the dune juts out of the Indian Ocean at a perfect angle for paragliding and is a few hundred meters above the sea. The downside we figured out, was that getting to the dune was extremely difficult. There is a huge shore-break that denies access to the beach. So we plotted our attack at low tide.
Keeping the dingy ashore wasn’t an option so we decided to anchor it 10 or so meters off the beach. With a gentle seabreeze, we proceeded to explore and fly the dune. We were in heaven… we had discovered this never-before-flown, 20-mile sand dune and we had it all to ourselves!
It is the stuff that even vivid dreamers cannot imagine and as a photographer, it just couldn’t get any better. The way the light danced and played along the sand was mesmerizing. I flew and photographed for hours. It was perfect until one of us spotted our dingy washed up on the beach. By the time we reached it there was no obvious damage we would have to wait again for low tide to make any attempt to leave. We ended up sleeping on the dune that night in our paragliders and awoke again to more perfect flying conditions. Being quite possibly the most playful and beautiful soaring site on the planet, we had to keep flying. Only after we were completely sunburnt, exhausted and dehydrated did we manage to get the dingy through the shore break and back to our catamaran. I love this photo because it reminds me of all the magic we experienced in that incredible place.
What is one of your favourite photos and what do you love about it?
When I was young I used to look through National Geographic magazines and dream of adventures. One dream was to train hop through the Sahara on one of the world’s longest trains. I had dreamt of the oceans of sand, the loud noises of the train, the cold, the wind, the scorching sun, the unknown smells and sounds of the desert, and the discomfort that goes with it. So when I was asked to dream up and photograph a trip in harsh conditions, a 700-kilometer journey through the Sahara desert in Mauritania came to mind.
After weeks of planning our journey began in the capital of Nouakchott. From there my brother and I moved north through the interior to board the Mauritania Railway. Our risky rail journey started from the iron-mining center of Zouérat in the Sahara. It then snaked through the barren dessert toward the port of Nouadhibou on the Atlantic. We wanted to get to the coast to try to find some unexplored surf breaks and capture the spirit of adventure and exploration through this incredible landscape. Having only a few minutes to hop on the train in the middle of the night, we spent 15 long hours slithering through the desert on the three-kilometer train that transports approximately 84 tons of iron ore across a country crippled by terrorism, slavery, and poverty. We were in search of unknown adventures that awaited us on the coast. This photo reminds me of the amazing adventure I was able to share with my brother and it’s one I’ll never forget.
#10 Mirja Geh
Mirja is an Austrian action sports photographer, or ‘sportogrpher‘ as exclaimed on her website. She has over 15 years experience shooting some of the world’s best athletes and has done it all: snow, skydiving, base jumping and portraits. She takes incredible portraits.
Follow her photography adventures on her Facebook page
You also take incredible portraits, really capturing the personalities of the subject. What is your secret to taking a good portrait?
For a good portrait, the surrounding is so important. The person you shoot has to feel comfortable in the environment they are in. A good cup of coffee, a little talk and some good music always helps :-)
Can you expand on the story behind of one of your favourite pictures and what you like so much about it?
It was one of those days when we went up to the mountain and the weather didn’t seem to be good at all. It was cloudy all over. But when the slackline was set up, finally the sun came out for 10 minutes and I took this shot…
#11 Re Wikstrom
Re Wikstrom has mountain-biked in Canada, rafted along the Idaho-Oregon border, ski toured in the Arctic and traveled to many a wild place -and all alongside strong, inspiring women. Her mission is close to her heart: to use photography to bring female athletes to the forefront of the outdoor world. With a BFA in Photography and Visual Media from RIT, numerous local and international publications, and her role as Photo Editor and Marketing Photographer at Backcountry.com, Re’s work is as much a product of her dedication and experience as it is passion. She counts fresh air and sunshine among her basic needs, and jumps at any chance to trade laughs around a campfire.
Follow her Instagram adventures @ReWikstrom
What is the one thing that challenges you the most when out shooting?
I feel so fortunate to have such an amazing network of like-minded, and incredibly intelligent women in my life.
Tell us about one experience that stands out and trumps all the rest?
Oh it’s so hard to choose just one! I learn something on every trip and every shoot. It feels like I am constantly learning and growing. Some of my favourites have been:
#1 An all-women’s trip to Norway where we found a local fisherman to take us up into the fjord. We then toured into the most charming backcountry hut for the next 3 days, and arranged for our new fisherman friend to pick us up on the way out. On our way in, we ran into a couple of guides leaving with their day touring group: one Norwegian and one French. The French guy was flabbergasted to think 4 women would dare to hike in there without a man in the group. The Norwegian, on the other hand, was quite friendly and helpful.
#2 Another all-women’s trip in northern BC Canada where we used a train as our main transportation between towns and whistle stops, to access some of the most beautiful terrain. The train provided the perfect venue for the 4 of us to connect and brainstorm about our various ventures in the world. It made me feel so fortunate to have such an amazing network of like-minded, and incredibly intelligent women in my life.
Thanks so much to all the 11 amazing female action sports photographers that were featured in this series. If you missed part 1, make sure you check it out as well as the other great profiles of photographers we have covered on Still Stoked.