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Nov 11, 2023 by Marc Peruzzi

Trade Secrets: Athleticism is Part of the Job


Home Base / Whistler, British Columbia.

Insider Knowledge

It helps that she loves it, because to ski and bike with pro athletes while hauling heavy camera equipment, Robin O’Neill has to train continuously. That’s true of most photographers in the adventure space, but it’s probably more true of Robin. At 5’4” and 115 pounds, as a proportion of her body weight, a camera bag is just heavier. “Women photographers just need to work harder in general,” she says. “The level of skills and fitness you need depends on the assignment. But at this level—working with the best athletes in the world—it never gets easy. In fact, it’s the easy assignments that cause problems. If you’re standing around for a week shooting big lines in Bella Coola or at Red Bull rampage, your conditioning can suffer. And when that happens the next trip is certain to involve ski touring for days on end or long distance riding. Either way, you need massive amounts of endurance training because you’re hiking and carrying a big pack.” 

Camera gear challenges your balance and positioning on bikes and skis.

“I race bikes in the summer to train for work. Strength training was never a big part of my regime, but now it’s essential. Camera gear challenges your balance and positioning on bikes and skis. The job is also about being an athlete.” 

It's tough flying drones in the forests of British Columbia. Robin O'Neill gaining perspective the old fashioned way.

Quick Tip:

“Be careful around new equipment,” says Robin. “Anytime I’ve hurt myself it’s been on new gear—the stuff we’re featuring in a shoot typically. As the photographer, you’re riding or skiing but you’re focusing on locations and athletes as you try to create images. You don’t have time to pay attention to new gear. After a few injuries, now I try to avoid hopping on new gear for a shoot. It’s a variable you can do without.”