Wild beauty: five tips to improve your outdoor adventure shots

Lifestyle photographer Jake Baggaley goes exploring in the ice and snow of Sweden and discovers why the EOS M6 Mark II is an adventurer's best friend.
Two men carrying backpacks skate across a frozen lake.

Outdoor and lifestyle photographer Jake Baggaley has a passion for adventure. As a competitive trail runner and keen mountaineer, he's also inspired by the rugged landscapes and dramatic scenery of the natural world. "I grew up in the New Forest [in southern England] and loved being outside," says Jake. "I've also always loved playing around with cameras. My dad is a photography lecturer – growing up we had a darkroom in our kitchen – so those interests came together quite naturally as I got older."

Trail running introduced Jake to new contacts and helped him to carve out a niche. "I never set out to be an outdoor photographer and most of my previous work had been social documentary, but that's how I started to get work in the outdoor adventure industry," he explains. Jake's clients now include The North Face, Another Escape and Adidas.

When an opportunity arose to photograph the snow-covered landscapes and frozen lakes of central Sweden on skis and ice skates for sustainable expedition company Do The North, it was Jake's dream project. "We visited the Dalarna region for skating and Fulufjället National Park for backcountry skiing. It was really secluded and I wanted to capture the sweeping ice and the vast, remote landscape," he says.

A lightweight camera was key, which made the compact Canon EOS M6 Mark II, with its 180˚ tilting touchscreen, built-in Wi-Fi, 4K video and a 32.5MP APS-C sensor, an ideal companion. Paired with the Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens, it offered a powerful specification in a small, portable package.

Here, Jake demonstrates how to make the most of your camera while adventuring, and shows that it's possible to capture breathtaking images of nature without travelling too far from home.

1. Get creative, whatever the weather

A man in a yellow jacket skates across a frozen lake. A white church in the background is reflected in the ice.

Playing around with reflections can deliver some interesting results.

A line of huskies curled up in the snow. A snow-covered chalet can be seen in the distance.

Photographing outside in winter can be difficult because of the brightness of snow, but this can help create interesting compositions and will make your subject stand out.

"Being in the mountains is a way of feeling connected to the environment," explains Jake. "Nature gets me excited about shooting outdoors. When I'm out running, I'm always thinking, 'where would be a good shoot location?' Exploring the outdoors in winter can provide unusual opportunities to be creative," he says. "Play around with angles, lights and head torches to make the bleak environment more exciting."

The gloomy Scandinavian winter presented challenging lighting situations ideal for pushing the low-light capabilities of Jake's camera, which has an ISO range of up to 25,600. "I was impressed with how the Canon EOS M6 Mark II handled low light and the wide aperture of the Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens made it easy to shoot when it got darker. In Sweden, daylight hours are quite short so we didn't have enough time to set anything up. It was a case of getting shots along the way."

In snowy, bright environments, Jake suggests switching to manual mode to avoid losing detail. "The camera's meter wants to try and darken everything because it's picking up white from every angle. It's better to shoot in manual mode so that you have full control over the brightness without blowing out the snow.

And why not have a go at shooting silhouettes? "The nice thing about snow is that you can get clean silhouettes of trees," he says. "Shadows on the snow give you different shades of white, which are great to play around with."

2. Streamline your kit

A woman carrying an orange backpack walks across a snow-covered landscape.

The EOS M6 Mark II was the ideal camera for Jake's shoot – because it is so lightweight and compact, he could access it with ease throughout the trip.

When adventuring, your camera needs to be easily accessible and quick to react, otherwise you could miss those spontaneous moments. The Canon EOS M6 Mark II weighs just 408g and can shoot up to 14 frames per second (fps).

"What excited me about the Canon EOS M6 Mark II was how small and lightweight it is," says Jake. "We did some intensive backcountry skiing and skated on frozen lakes. Having lots of bulky, heavy gear slows the process, but because we were shooting action, the fast frame rate of the Canon EOS M6 Mark II was ideal. I clipped the camera to the front of my bag and that suited the extreme conditions, because I didn't need to stop, take off my gloves or open a bag."

3. Add interest with people or details

A man in a yellow jacket hikes across the snow towards a triangular chalet.

Jake suggests including people in your images to introduce a sense of scale.

The legs of two skaters, their bodies just out of frame. The pair are reflected in the ice which is patterned with their skate marks.

The patterns and skate marks in the ice help to add interest to this composition, as do the reflections of the two skaters.

"I try and turn what could be quite a simple shot into something a bit more exciting by adding a human element," says Jake. "Having a person interacting with the landscape shows scale."

"I loved the reflections in the ice and the lines created by our skates. I wanted to use the skate marks to add to the composition and make the pictures more interesting."

Jake used the Canon EOS M6 Mark II's 30fps RAW burst mode to freeze skaters in the frame as they glided into view. "If we didn't have long to shoot but I had a really nice scene, I used the 30fps burst mode to make sure I had the skater's body exactly where I wanted it. That was really useful – and I could trust the autofocus."

4. Choose a versatile lens

Three skaters carrying backpacks traverse a vast frozen lake. Snow-covered peaks are visible in the distance.

The sharp Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens enabled Jake to shoot wide landscapes while maintaining detail close-up and avoiding distortion.

Detail and clarity are paramount for great adventure photography. The super-sharp Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM lens has a 50mm equivalent standard focal length and can capture dramatic mountain ranges equally as well as the intricate details on skates, boots and wheels. So, whatever your adventure brings, you only need to carry one lens.

"That 50mm equivalent focal length was my favourite for these outdoor shots because it enables you to capture the whole landscape with a small person [in the frame] without the super-wide distortion you sometimes see," he says.

"It's a nice cover-all focal length for wide landscape shots and close details with a shallow depth of field. You can use it for everything."

5. Use winter light to your advantage

Three cross-country skiers traverse a snow-covered landscape. The sun's rays illuminate a marker pole behind them.

Jake suggests playing around with winter light to make an otherwise bleak scene appear more interesting.

A photo taken with a drone of a man walking through conifers in a snow-covered landscape. A trail of footsteps in the snow can be seen behind him.

The golden light you often get on sunny days during the Scandinavian winter helps to cast long, atmospheric shadows.

No matter where you are – from forests to clifftops – the magic of a winter sunrise always makes for standout photographs. And there's a reason why the spectacle is favoured by adventure photographers such as Jake. "My favourite thing about a winter sunrise is that it happens at about 9am or 10am, rather than 3am or 4am. So you can be lazy and still go out and shoot a sunrise in winter. Often, on a sunny winter's day, the sun is low all the time, so you get that intense, soft light but with long, deep shadows," he says.

Incorporating spectacular golden light into 4K videos of your adventures is seamless with the Canon EOS M6 Mark II, and Jake found he could edit and blend his footage with 4K video shot on his full-frame Canon EOS R. "The footage from the Canon EOS M6 Mark II held up to footage shot on the Canon EOS R. I could use them together and it looked super clean."

Written by Lorna Dockerill

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