Adventure through the lens: photographer Greg Funnell shares his tips and tales

From the lowdown on lenses to sticky situations on assignment, adventure photographer Greg Funnell shares it all.

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 23 Sept 2019, 15:00 BST
Maasai tribesman, Mara Triangle, Kenya.
Maasai tribesman, Mara Triangle, Kenya.
Photograph by Greg Funnell

How did you get into photography? 

I love being outside and enjoy learning new skills; I always relish the opportunity to spend time in the great outdoors. I also think I’m drawn towards inspirational people; those who push themselves and push what’s possible. Photography has become a ticket to some amazing experiences and learning opportunities. 

If someone’s interested in photography, where do you suggest they begin?

I think it’s always best to shoot what’s closest to you. Find something that makes your heart beat faster, something you really want to capture because it inspires you. If it really truly does this, then that will give you the energy you need to create great pictures. 

What do you recommend in terms of kit? 

The first item you need is a good pair of shoes! We photographers generally spend a lot time on our feet, so find shoes that are comfortable and practical. I try to distribute any weight I’m carrying across my shoulders and hips — using a harness and belt system keeps cameras accessible. I normally shoot with DSLRs, but if I have to spend a lot of time on my feet I might consider a mirrorless camera as they’re lighter to carry. I tend to use between 24mm and 70mm lenses on my SLRs, but if I’m shooting on smaller cameras I try to use prime lenses such as the 28mm, 35mm or 50mm. Sticking with one or two focal lengths will give your work consistency and allow your brain to start ‘seeing’ the frames as it gets used to those focal lengths. Exposure and shutter speed are totally dependent on the situation, but try and use them creatively to give some depth to your photos.

What do you look for when taking your shots? 

I’m always after real moments that tell a greater story. I’m also always trying to find creative compositions, something that’s dynamic and draws the viewer in. I love trying to create order from chaos: an image with a lot of elements that shouldn’t work, but does. 

Of all the places you’ve visited on assignment, where’s been your favourite?

I find some cities incredibly inspiring; the urban world creates a multitude of opportunities for photos. I’ve also really enjoyed working in Africa, especially Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania. Spending time with the Hadza tribe in Tanzania was a real highlight. Getting to witness a hunter-gatherer lifestyle first-hand, and see skills that have been lost by most other humans on the planet, was a very humbling experience. 

And do you have any out-there anecdotes? 

Some of the most memorable experiences of my life have been on assignment: riding shotgun in an L-39 Albatros with the Breitling Jet Team was certainly interesting, as was a journey through the wetlands of northeastern Argentina with gauchos. But I’ve had my fair share of mishaps, too: having my gear destroyed by torrential rain in Sierra Leone, getting stung by a scorpion in Guatemala, bribing our way through roadblocks in Senegal, and getting tear gassed in at least three different countries. There’s always going to be risk when you’re travelling to the parts where the best stories are!

Follow @gregfunnell

Published in the Adventure guide 2019  

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