Tom Kahler: Photography and Adventure
Tom Kahler is a young Sheffield based photographer who uses his incredible pictures to celebrate the vastness of the outdoors and
his love of moving through it. Tom tells us how photography has informed his appreciation of the outdoors, and vice versa.
Q: What inspired you to get into photography?
I’ve always had a desire to travel and I’ve always had a bad memory, I started shooting photos simply to remember the places I’ve been. I then found myself getting more technical, trying to do the location justice through my photography. Over time i realised my photos were motivating people to get out and see more. This in turn strengthened my resolve to push myself further, technically and physically. I take great pleasure from showing people parts of the world they may never have seen before, motivating them to go and explore for themselves. Photography soon became my passion which then lead into a career. in the last 4/5 years not a day has gone by where I’ve not picked up the camera. I simply can’t get enough.
Q: You are clearly an avid outdoorsman – what are your favourite activities?
I love the outdoors, its my favourite place to be. One of my favourite outdoor activities is sitting in the silence in the middle of nowhere shooting astro photos looking up at the stars. Its a brilliant time to reflect and I love it when nature makes us feel small. I also love to get the crampons out and hike up a snowy mountain. Since the age of 14 I’ve being a keen mountain biker riding a trail and downhill bike which is another amazing way to enjoy nature, spending two summers riding alpine trails in whistler was a dream come true for me.
Q: Your most recent expedition was a photography trip to Iceland. At the risk of making us jealous, what were the highlights?
Iceland was such an amazing trip for so many reasons, not only was it one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been, we got so lucky with the weather. Due to a week of Sun and no cloud we shot sunrise, sunset, and Aurora almost every day, this took its toll after having an average of 4-5 hours sleep every night for a week, but it was worth it.
When on a photography expedition like the Iceland trip you get to know the people your with very well in such a short period of time. Over the 3200km we covered, the memories and laughs we shared will never be forgotten, the first night we saw the Aurora at Kirkjufell was a pretty magical night for us all and the trip only get better after that. We grew closer as a group after only meeting two on the way to the airport and I can’t wait to plan the next adventure with these guys.
Q: Your portfolio is very varied; everything from architecture, food, and model photography, does shooting in the outdoors influence these other styles?
There’s not much I’ve not shot over the years both personally and commercially. I think being a freelance photographer living in the north (Sheffield) you have to be able to shoot a range in order to make a living. However, now things are really taking off I’m trying to steer purely towards what I love, and Outdoor Adventure photography is a large part of that. Often on commercial shoots, I’m given a brief in terms of style and I shoot to the clients’ requirements. However, on shoots with more creative freedom I shoot in my own styl,e which defiantly reflects my outdoor work.
Q: Has photography influenced how you interact with the outdoors or provided another outlet for it?
Sometimes I have to remind myself to put the camera down and enjoy the view in person. It’s hard as a photographer to find a balance and not spend the whole time looking through a viewfinder, enjoying the images on my mac once I’m back in the office. Photography has been the main drive over the last 3 years to travel, and it’s pushed me to get out even more just to shoot content for my own portfolio / social media. I don’t think this is a bad thing as you meet lots of like-minded people on the way and go places you may never have gone. It’ss almost like a checklist which you tick off as you go. Photography is very rewarding if you get lucky with the conditions, however when things don’t go to plan its very frustrating as you know you will have to try again until you get the shot you had planned.
Q: What role do you think photography plays in our relationship with the outdoors?
I think most people like myself start photography to capture their outdoor experiences, but once the hobby takes over the experience the roles reverse and you end up being outdoors in order to fulfill your photography, never the less you enjoy being out there just as much.
Q: Do you have any favourite kit/equipment you always take on photography expeditions?
Kit is always an interesting subject, I often get asked what camera I have and what lens I shot an image on etc, the truth is equipment does help but don’t let it limit you. There are lots of photographers out there shooting amazing work on cheap old cameras because they put the effort into planning, locations, and improving the skills they have. If you can afford the kit then go get some juicy gear but don’t expect it to automatically make you a better photographer; use what you have and use it well. When it comes to outdoor kit it’s a little different, you don’t want to get caught up a mountain in harsh weather conditions poorly prepared as this is where you will get into some real trouble. In the last few years, I’ve realised how important it is to have the right outdoor gear – it can make even the harshest weather conditions comfortable. During our recent Iceland expedition, I became the envy of our group due to my Montane Deep Heat Down Jacket. Whilst stood around for hours shooting Aurora in temperatures between -5*C/-7*C (-15*C/-20*C with wind chill) most of the conversation revolved around them being cold, however with just a T-shirt fleece and my down I was toasty warm. I take this jacket with me everywhere I go, in the UK at least I don’t need to worry about being cold ever again. For the photographers out there that often want to know what camera kit I use:
Canon 5dmkiii (spare)
IRIX 15mm F2.4 Blackstone
Sigma 35mm F1.4
Canon 50mm F1.2
Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro
Canon 70-200 F2.8
Macbook Pro 15″
Lightroom Classic CC ( all shots edited using KAHLER – Presets)
Q: What next?!
Nothing’s set in stone. However, I have a plan to build another Campervan as our VW T5 SWB (no poptop) is too small for longer trips as we found out last summer during a 1 month trip around Europe. Aiming for the new van to be fully self-sufficient with enough room to stand and cook with a toilet shower enough power and water to be off grid for a while. the plan will be to reduce our overheads to almost nothing allowing us to travel Europe without a time limit and shooting purely outdoor and automotive photos for personal / brands on the road. It may not be the best decision for my career, but you only live once so I’d rather have fun and leave the stress of shooting 3-4 days a week back home. For anyone wanting to follow the adventure please follow my Instagram, where I post all my outdoor and personal work @tomkahler, and for those interested in my commercial portfolio www.tomkahlerphoto.com.