Taming the wilds: in search of the perfect outdoor adventure shot

From epic landscapes to remote camping, discover how adventurer and photographer Anna Blackwell uses Canon kit to capture the unique spirit of the great outdoors.
A person wearing hiking gear and a large rucksack stands on top of a rocky outcrop with their dog. In the background, acres of remote moorland can be seen.

Whether hiking clifftops, kayaking lakes or wild swimming, sporting activities in the great outdoors offer a world of opportunities for photographers with an intrepid heart.

One such creative is Anna Blackwell, a UK-based adventurer, image-maker, writer and speaker who thrives on pushing herself to the limit – in fact, she's made a career out of it, capturing stills and video for leading outdoor sports brands including Lowe Alpine and Peak UK. Her astonishing escapades include walking 1,000 miles solo across France and Spain along ancient pilgrimage paths, kayaking 4,000km across 11 countries and five capital cities, and scaling Mount Toubkal, the highest summit in North Africa.

"During one of my early adventures, I started taking photos and writing a blog – mainly so my friends and family could see how my long-distance trek was progressing," explains Anna, when asked how she turned a hobby into her profession. "I kept this up for a few years, sharing my adventures online through images and words, and this gained traction. Soon I was speaking about my adventures at events, festivals, and for businesses and schools. Then I started to approach brands to work with them on my upcoming trips, and bit by bit I was able to generate enough income from photography, writing, adventure filmmaking, speaking and social media to make it a full-time job."

Anna's most recent hiking and camping trip took her, her partner, Sam, and her dog, Bilbo, to the rocky landscape of northern Dartmoor in England with a Canon EOS R6 and two lenses – the Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM and the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM – for company. She shares why she loves getting away from it all, her best advice for trekking in the wilderness and reveals how to bring your favourite adventures home through spectacular photography.

The perfect location

A large tor rock formation on remote moorland on a sunny day.

"Dartmoor is the kind of wilderness where I can feel like a small, insignificant person," says adventurer and photographer Anna Blackwell. This upland area in England's southern Devon is famous for its remote moorland and proved the ideal location for Anna's first shoot with the Canon EOS R6. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM lens at 105mm, 1/320 sec, f/7.1 and ISO100. © Anna Blackwell

Beams of sunlight can be seen through a free-standing rock formation in this image taken in low light.

"The reason why I started going on these adventures is because I wanted to push myself," says Anna. "I wanted to test my boundaries, to find the edges of my comfort zone. But I just had so much fun, it was genuinely such a joy." Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/200 sec, f/22 and ISO100. © Anna Blackwell

Anna, Sam and Bilbo began their exploration of north Dartmoor at a village called Belstone because of its fantastic access to 'tor' rock formations. These large, free-standing rocky outcrops are something Anna has always been drawn to.

"It was a totally new part of Dartmoor for me, which was really exciting. You walk through this idyllic village and straightaway you're out on the moors," she says. "It felt wild and remote and that is exactly what I crave.

"My passion is hiking," she continues. "I love having a heavy rucksack on my back and meandering around. It's not about going anywhere particularly fast – it's about fully appreciating peaceful places. We hiked, then put the tent up, and had a night out in the wild."

Anna's outdoorsy nature comes from her family's love for walking and hiking, as well as her Swedish roots. "My mum is Swedish, and I think it's very ingrained in Swedish culture to spend a lot of time outside and to appreciate the natural environment. I grew up doing a lot of walking and exploring and, whenever we were in Sweden, we'd go canoeing and camping and eat outside. So I think from a very early age that was quite an integral part of my life."

Solo adventuring versus travel companions

Snow-capped mountains can be seen reflected in the still water of a large river in this dramatic landscape image.

Anna took this photograph during a solo trek of Arctic Sweden in 2020. "The hardest thing about my passion being my job is that the line between work and pleasure is often blurred, but most of the time that's okay because I still enjoy the process of shooting and creating content alongside the adventures," she says. "I am also very careful to maintain some boundaries. I go on smaller personal adventures which aren't documented in any form – not even for Instagram – so I still do it 'for me' as well as for work." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 33mm, 1/100 sec, f/8 and ISO1250. © Anna Blackwell

A medium-sized black dog with brown and white markings and wearing a red harness sits looking at the camera on a rocky outcrop.

Anna often takes her young dog Bilbo on her expeditions, who is always happy to pose for photographs. Her other constant companions are a Canon camera and lens. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/4000 sec, f/1.8 and ISO100. © Anna Blackwell

Anna had company on her trip to Dartmoor, but she often travels on her own, including a solo trek to Arctic Sweden in autumn 2020 (see left image above). "On a deeper level, I really love solo adventures because it's a unique experience," she explains. "I've gone for 10 days without even seeing another footprint. When you're alone, you have to deal with the highs and the lows. So, if you're having a really rubbish day, are lacking motivation and are tired and hungry, you are solely responsible for getting yourself through that. But by the end of it, you know that you got yourself from A to B in one piece."

Trekking with someone else can help photographically, though. "It makes it so much easier to photograph things because you've automatically got a subject," says Anna. "This applies to Bilbo, as well, as he is often the subject in my photos. Having a person or a dog in the landscape just invites you in, in a way that classic landscape photography doesn't."

Asked which came first, her passion for photography or adventure travel, Anna doesn’t hesitate. "Photography came first," she enthuses. "My grandfather was a fantastic photographer, so I grew up paging through his photo albums, and that instilled a love of photography in me at an early age. I got my first camera when I was 15 and studied photography at school. However, I didn't actually photograph my first few adventures. It was only after a few years that I combined these two things."

Telling a visual story

A person sitting outside their tent at dusk sipping a mug of hot chocolate, which is illuminated by a beam of light from their head torch.

The low-light capabilities of the EOS R6 enabled partner Sam to capture this image of Anna with her steaming hot drink during the blue hour, a photographer-friendly period of time each day just before the sun rises or just after it sets. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/160 sec, f/1.8 and ISO1000. © Sam Rogers

For Anna, documenting her treks means staying flexible, taking minimal kit and being inventive on the go. As well as sweeping vistas, she also suggests photographing or videoing the little moments, such as putting on your rucksack, fixing tent pegs or enjoying a mug of hot chocolate, which she feels can really add to your visual storytelling.

"I love the storytelling side of adventures," she elaborates. "I'm often in remote places completely on my own, but actually I really love sharing that and photography is just a fantastic platform to communicate those experiences.

"On this trip, during the blue hour, we got really fixated on getting photos of the head torch and seeing the steam coming off a mug of hot chocolate or the water that I was boiling, because it was a creative way to capture that time of day."

Kit that's ready for anything

A person wearing hiking gear and with a large rucksack on their back crouches down in long grass to take a picture with a Canon camera.

Weighing just 680g (with card and battery), the Canon EOS R6 is the perfect travel companion, especially for an always-on-the-go adventurer such as Anna. For those new to this type of photography, however, Anna advises deciding first what you want to capture and then letting that guide your kit choices. "As your skills and interests develop, and you work out what your style is or what you want to shoot more of, then your kit can evolve with that," she says. © Sam Rogers

In the middle of remote moorland, a person and a dog can be seen next to a blue tent, which is almost lost against the vast backdrop.

The all-purpose Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM lens is suitable for a range of shots, from tiny details to epic vistas such as this one. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM lens at 30mm, 1/320 sec, f/5 and ISO200. © Sam Rogers

Using features such as high-speed bursts and taking advantage of the image stabilisation system of the full-frame mirrorless Canon EOS R6 meant that it wasn't a problem when Anna forgot her tripod in a low-light situation.

"The stabilisation and the 20.1MP resolution in the blue hour were fantastic because we actually forgot to take a tripod. Turns out we didn't need it because the camera just dealt with that low light brilliantly," she says.

In line with travelling light, Anna usually only carries one lens that gives versatility for both portraits and all-encompassing landscapes, something the lightweight Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM excels at.

"I love a lens like this because it offers you flexibility. Having the 24mm was great for those close-up shots of Bilbo, but then I could also get a bit more compression on some of the landscapes. When I'm off on adventures, I'm very much in the headspace of wanting to be able to do everything with one lens."

The challenge of unpredictable weather

A person wearing hiking gear and pulling a sled laden with belongings wades through deep snow in a forest setting.

"This photograph is from a ski-touring trip of Arctic Finland in March 2022," says Anna. "Here, my friend and wilderness guide Chris is surveying our route ahead. I love this image because it captures the magical feeling of being surrounded by snow-covered trees and an expansive wintry landscape." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 65mm, 1/320 sec, f/2.8 and ISO125. © Anna Blackwell

A herd of reindeer look for something to eat in a frozen wilderness.

Another image from Anna's solo trek of Arctic Sweden in 2020. "I was able to react quickly to get this photo because my camera was clipped to my rucksack shoulder strap, despite the fact that it was -8ºC and snowing quite heavily," she says. "It was a completely surreal and serene moment, just me and the herd of reindeer trotting past. They were snuffling around in the snow trying to find something to eat – they couldn't care less that I was there!" Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 70mm, 1/320 sec, f/7.1 and ISO640. © Anna Blackwell

Having kit that can keep up with Anna and the unpredictable conditions of her adventures can be a challenge.

During a recent ski-touring trip to Arctic Finland, for example, temperatures plunged to -22ºC. "When temperatures are that low, everything becomes harder, from getting your skis on to stopping for snack breaks," she explains. "Taking photos becomes a military operation in terms of efficiency so hands are out in the cold as little as possible, and so you can keep moving again."

But, Anna insists, having those memories documented is worth it.

"The best thing about photographing outdoor sports is having those memories forever. I still look through photos from my early adventures and I can remember exactly where I was, what I was feeling, and who I was with. That's really powerful.

"The downside with the adventures that I do is that sometimes there is a pressure to get certain photographs. I've had trips where I thought I would have gorgeous weather and be able to get really inspirational content in incredible mountain environments and actually had 10 days of torrential rain. It can be a challenge shooting in those conditions, as you can't go home to change and dry out your camera gear. You're in a tent and there's no way of keeping things dry. That's one of the reasons I love Canon because my camera is so resilient."

Taking the first step

A person wearing hiking gear and a large rucksack and carrying trekking poles makes their way across an epic mountain landscape.

This self-portrait, taken during a 1,000km solo trek across Arctic and Northern Scandinavia, is one of Anna's favourites. "I was carrying around 30kg at the time, as my rucksack contained everything I needed for 10 days, including food. Carrying that amount of weight means it's often a bit of a mental battle to stop and get my camera set up, particularly in an environment like this. I was so pleased with how it turned out though – I think it captured the moment exactly how I hoped." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm, 1/640 sec, f/7.1 and ISO320. © Anna Blackwell

For those keen to go on their own unforgettable adventures, but unsure of where to start, Anna has this advice: "If it's lack of confidence that is the barrier to you going on adventures, don't be embarrassed to start small and build up that courage over time. For example, a night wild camping with friends, maybe someone who knows what they're doing, or starting with day hikes by yourself somewhere new to get used to being self-sufficient. Courses are also a great way of building skills and meeting new adventure pals. Finally, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Even us pros mess up from time to time – just as long as you learn from it then it doesn't count as a failure."

Ultimately, the leap into the unknown will be worth it.

"Adventures are still one of the best ways for me to reset and re-energise. Especially solo adventures, even if it's just a day away exploring somewhere new," concludes Anna. "Those are the trips that fuel my creativity and drive, so I'd need them even if it wasn't my job."

Written by Lorna Dockerill

Related Products

  • Mirrorless Cameras

    EOS R6

    Whatever you shoot, however you shoot it, the EOS R6 lets you be creative in ways you never thought possible.
  • RF Lenses

    RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM

    The ideal everyday lens for full frame mirrorless enthusiasts. Easy to use, the RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM is light, compact and ready to take your photography to the next level.
  • Standard Lens

    RF 50mm F1.8 STM

    A compact, quiet and lightweight 50mm RF prime lens, with a wide f/1.8 aperture, perfect for harnessing your creative vision.
  • Related articles