Growing up in a family of artists, Mike was always taught to appreciate the beauty around him. During his Junior year of college, he rode his bike everywhere, documenting each mini adventure with his camera phone. Eventually, he graduated to a more capable DSLR camera and became increasingly fascinated with shooting at night.
In nature, the light can change constantly. A quick flash of a headlight or a flicker from a campfire could light everything up.
Mike has a talent for capturing how a place feels, not just how it looks. He joined us at Sturtevant Camp to earn his Wilderness First Aid certification in 2016, and now we are excited to welcome him to the Shoestring Adventures family as a Triptographer!
Learn more about Mike in our interview below, including his favorite spot to take night photos near Los Angeles and his advice for aspiring adventure photographers!
Shoestring Warrior: Mike
Cape Cod, MA
Los Angeles, CA
What are your passions outside of work?
Going on adventures and taking photographs. Capturing those moments that are hard to find.
How would you describe your level of camping experience?
Shoestring Adventures Trip Completed:
Tell us about yourself!
I grew up in a family of artists and was always told to appreciate the beauty that you can find around you. Moving into my Junior year of college, I started to ride my bike everyday. As the rides grew longer, I chose destinations or hikes I could bike to and began to document each of these mini adventures with my phone. After college, I focused on what I was shooting and how I was shooting it. Rule of thirds, leading lines, light and color – I maxed out what my camera phone was capable of and moving on to a more expensive camera would let me get photos I couldn’t before. I’ve had that camera for a little over 2 years now, and I love the locations and experiences it has led me to capture!
When did you discover your passion for photography?
The initial passion for photography came from my parents and their abilities to capture life around them. My Mom taught me how to seek the adventure in my life – from the far ends of the world to the little trails we made through our backyard – and my Dad showed me how to capture those adventures through his watercolors and paintings. Photography was my way of telling the stories I’ve come across in my adventures.
What motivates you to document your experience in nature? What is your favorite setting to photograph?
I love the idea of capturing moments, not just regular photos. I try to capture how the location feels rather than just document it – trying to get a unique look. Being able to tell a story through my photos – and seeing that story play out when I go back and review them – gives me a lot of motivation to keep at it and discover more.
I’ve always been fascinated by how environments or locations look at nighttime. In nature, the light can change constantly. A quick flash of a headlight or a flicker from a campfire could light everything up. Currently my favorite place to photograph is Red Rock Canyon State Park – preferably during the summer to get those 95º nights. All the campsites are situated under this rock formation and there’s plenty of nooks and crannies to set up lights. The best thing is that it’s within 2 hours from LA which makes it perfect for a quick overnight shoot. In general, any place that’s dark enough to capture the stars – I’m interested!
Do you have any advice for adventurers wanting to improve their outdoor photography skills?
Light is everything and having a good balance of foreground, middle, and background elements is key. Try shooting different angles than your standard eye-level shot. Shooting just below eye-level or super low can sometimes bring a new perspective to an otherwise commonly photographed location. The key to better photography is simply putting yourself out there and discovering amazing locations and moments. To capture great outdoor photos – you’ve got to go on amazing adventures! Even if it’s someplace close by or something overly photographed – you never know what you might come across.
What is your favorite piece of camera gear to bring on the trail?
Aside from my tripod, my favorite piece of gear is the Capture Clip from Peak Design. It’s basically a metal clip that can screw down on any strap and let’s you lock in your camera securely. I keep it on my left strap so I can reach over one handed and grab my camera ready to shoot. It uses the same mount as my tripod so it can seamlessly go between each one. It has passed the test of time as I’ve taken it on every backpacking and hiking trip since I got it a few years ago. When I’m not outdoors it resides on my normal day pack – that is if I remember to swap it over…
Favorite memory from your Shoestring Adventures WFA Course?
The whole trip was really amazing but the nights after the courses really stood out for me. Making s’mores in the fireplace, forming new friendships and late night quesadillas. Sturtevant Camp was really beautiful at night too – the warm glow from the cabin lights looked amazing under and around the trees.
Where to next?
I’m planning a trip to backpack across Catalina again this coming year. I did it last year but we didn’t make it all the way due to my friend’s injury but we’re planning to finish it this year! Catalina is a beautiful place and it’s crazy something like that is only an hour ferry ride from LA.
The perfect s’more?
For me personally, I light my s’more on fire and let it burn for a bit. All this talk about perfectly golden brown s’mores is nonsense!
Photos © 2017 Mike Struna
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