Behind the shot: Jake Anderson

Serial mountain climber and landscape photographer Jake Anderson reveals the story behind one of his epic images.

Jake Anderson photography

How did you get there and why were you there?

To get to this place you hike about 10 kilometres along a huge glacial valley from a little town called El Chalten. I was there running a tour. Getting the chance to show people these places is such a joy.

What sort of preparation was there leading up to this moment?

Seeing this ice formation was actually just luck, overnight the lake had frozen on the surface but had also dropped in level, leaving this floating crust in places. I’d scoped out compositions the day before but could never have planned for anything like this.

How long did it take to get this photo? Were there many/any outtakes?

Well this is where things get a little embarrassing. I’d actually been here 12 months prior and happened to make one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made. After spending two days camped by the river waiting for the clouds to part and reveal Cerro Torres we woke on the last morning to perfect conditions. At some point I bumped my lens’s focus… caught up in the moment I didn’t even notice and continued to shoot. I can’t even think why I wasn’t paying close attention; I was just pressing that shutter. I then moved compositions and refocused to suit but the light had gone.

I returned home thinking I’d managed to get something pretty special, only to experience devastation when I saw what I’d done. Needless to say a lot was riding in my return this year. It’s one of my favourite mountains so I was going to make it count. We hiked in to camp as horrible weather closed in and bunkered down for the next couple of days. On the final morning (a bit like a Groundhog Day!) we were again greeted with amazing conditions. I sat in the dark shooting stars with the group, at a composition I’d pre-picked. As the light started to come I noticed some of this ice I’d not seen in the dark.

Was there something particularly memorable about capturing this image?

Most of the people I was with had never seen Cerro Torres, they hiked in with it shrouded in clouds and spent two days waiting for it to reveal; it’s pretty special to get to enable someone to experience that.

What camera gear and settings did you use and why?

I used my Nikon D800. My go-to lens when it comes to shooting landscapes is always my NIKKOR AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED VR. I just love what you can do with wide angles and in this shot, my focal length was 16mm so I could work the foreground as much as possible, essentially trying to make the ice feel as if you could touch it, as well as using the distortion in the lens to accentuate the mountains by putting the mountains in the top third. My aperture was set at f/13 to gain as much detail as possible out of the scene in a single frame.

What else was going on behind the scenes?

It’s freezing in the morning at these places and ice regularly forms on your tripods and cameras. I’m pretty used to this so take things with me to keep as warm as possible. On this particular morning I had shoved my sleeping bag into my camera bag. Shooting the stars and waiting for the sun to come up I was pretty stoked to have grabbed the sleeping bag; everyone was freezing while I sat snug in my bag.

Jake Anderson photography

After the storms that swept much of the east coast of Australia recently, Jake was in Sydney capturing the surfers taking on the powerful waves at the Red Bull Cape Fear event. This photo was taken on the new Nikon D500. “This camera is an absolute dream – 10fps, and the auto focus performed unbelievably,” says Jake. “It’s just received Nikon’s highest ever review on DP Review and I can fully understand why.”

Not surprisingly, Jake is excited about the Nikon D500 for its capabilities shooting outdoor activities. “It’s amazing how the continuous motor works with the autofocus; completely flawless. I can’t wait to get it out on a climbing wall.”

“This is going to sound funny, but what I like the most about it, with the auto focus and the 10 fps along with the touch/tilt screen, is that I just seriously loved how it felt to hold,” he says. “It sits in my hands so comfortably, and when you’re shooting all day that seriously makes it easier.”

For Jake’s line of work, the ability to tilt the screen is another convenient feature that means he no longer has to lie on the ground to get a lower point of view, and the high ISO means he isn’t as reliant on a tripod.

“The 4K footage on this camera is a huge bonus for me, being a partner in a small footprint production company. The ability to be able to toggle between stills and motion and get 4K is amazing,” Jake adds. “It will be a something I grab when I’m going on adventures and need a camera that is reliable with its auto focus and high ISO performance. The fps is just an added bonus but makes me all the more confident of securing ‘the moment’.”

For more on Jake and his tours, visit www.jakeanderson.com.au