Share Your Story: Tips for Documenting Your Backcountry Experience (Introduction)

Copyright © 2014 Jared Manninen

In a day and age where it’s said that “if you don’t get a picture it didn’t happen,” there’s a lot of pressure to always be ready to document any given experience. But we’ve all seen someone stuck behind their camera or phone trying desperately to capture an experience at its zenith, but ultimately missing the moment because they were too busy fiddling around with their device or the device itself acted as a barrier between them and the event. In many respects it’s almost as if we’re now incapable of fully experiencing an event unless it’s through a lens or on a screen.

We all want to capture and share our experiences, though, especially when it comes to being in the backcountry. I understand this. I’ve had a lot of diverse experiences in my relatively short life and I simply can’t remember them all. Not that the point is to remember everything that we’ve ever done, because that would be madness and threaten to trap us in the past. However, in conversations with friends over the years I’ve been reminded of many fun stories and exceptional moments that I’ve experienced but would have never recalled on my own. A great reason to connect with friends, but what happens when they’re gone? What happens when I’m gone? As a famous on-screen android once said, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

So, I totally understand that you want to record your life experiences. But how do you strike a balance between being a part of an experience and being apart from the experience? How will documenting a backcountry trip influence or interrupt your experience? Can documenting an adventure actually enhance your experience? In addition to providing creative tips for documenting your outdoor adventure (and then sharing your story), these are some of the concepts I’d like to discuss over the course of this series of articles.

A watercolor painting I produced on-site way back in 2003 in Minnesota while on a backpacking trip. © Jared Manninen

Please note that it’s not my intention to post comprehensive essays on every detail imaginable about each lesson. Nor will I write these articles as a progression of techniques like you would find in a traditional classroom. Instead, I will create these articles as easily digestible, stand-alone lessons. Many of the lessons will be universal on some level. For example, considerations in composition will have overlapping aspects between photography, sketching, and capturing video. Obviously there are unique considerations to each of these disciplines, but always consider how one lesson will translate to another medium. This will aid in your assimilation of the techniques described.

To see all posts related to these articles, click the link Documenting Your Backcountry Trip under Lessons Learned on the main menu bar or the tag Share Your Story at the end of each article. To read articles about a specific medium, just select the appropriate word tag (photography, writing, artwork, or video) at the end of each article.

A close-up shot of Pinedrops used for identification purposes, as well as reference for drawing. © Jared Manninen

I don’t recommend going out and buying a bunch of brand new, specialized gear or supplies. Use what you already own for the time being. Then, while learning to maximize the equipment you currently possess, take notes on what gear you would like to replace or acquire to augment your artistic process. Plan to upgrade your gear over time, not over a weekend.

An example of marrying imagery with haiku, all based on an outdoor adventure. Click the image to order a poster. © Jared Manninen

One last note. I’m producing these articles in an effort to encourage you to deepen your outdoor experience versus showing you how to become an award winning artist or writer, or how to become instafamous and gain millions of followers on social media. If any material success manifests as a result of you learning how to take a better photograph or write a more engaging article, awesome, but don’t expect it. There are no special formulas, hidden techniques, or short-cuts that you can take that will result in you achieving long-term financial success through your artwork. According to Kody Chamberlain (one of my favorite comic book artists) there are actually only two things you need to do in order to make that happen: 1) produce great art, and 2) show your great art to the right people. Easier said than done, I know, but it really is as “simple” as that.

On top of Little Round Top Mountain on January 31, 2017. © Jared Manninen