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Off to the Mountains: Interview with Photographer Philipp Klein Herrero
Photo by Philipp Klein Herrero

Off to the Mountains: Interview with Photographer Philipp Klein Herrero

Published on April 1, 2022
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Phillipp Klein Herrero is an outdoor adventure photographer and award-winning filmmaker based in Barcelona, Spain. His stories are those that unfold in the mountains, tales of adventure and action sports in nature captured beautifully in a rich body of work. Even from an earlier age, Philipp was the kind of kid that would join any outdoor activity camera in hand, returning home at the end of the day with plenty of photos and videos to show for the thrill he experienced. This very transmission—a feeling of aliveness when engaging with nature—is at the core of his work, growing more creative and masterful with each adventure.

Photo by Philipp Klein Herrero

Your work is dedicated to documenting skiing and mountain exploration. Could you speak more on how those passions came to intersect with photography?

I’ve been skiing my whole life (my parents are both passionate skiers) and I was always drawn to the mountains. Over the years I started getting more and more into mountaineering and climbing, as it became a way of experiencing the mountains when I wasn’t skiing. The intersection with photography actually came quite naturally: I was always fascinated by the individual stories that unfold in the mountains and I wanted to document that. Climbing a mountain is a real-life metaphor for the classic three-act story structure: you start with a big challenge of climbing a mountain, endure hardship as you get higher and finally have a resolution getting to the summit. And then there’s the landscape part: nothing inspires me like mountains do.

What kind of steps did you take to develop your skills over the years?

I’m always training, learning, and practicing both my photography and mountaineering skills. Photography-wise, you have to be able to handle your camera with thick gloves on, adjust it in the dark and be able to foresee the moments you want to capture. If an athlete makes a bold climbing move you can’t ask them to “do it again” as you have to keep moving for safety. And safety is a big part of practicing my mountaineering skills and fitness: you’re already carrying more weight than the rest of the group, you don’t want to slow anyone down, and need to be able to move efficiently through the mountains.

Are there any filmmakers, photographers, or artists that inspire you in your own work?

There are a ton! Seemingly every week I discover a new creator that brings a new creative approach to photography and filmmaking. But my icons are greats like Chris Burkhard, Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk, Ted Hesser, Alex Strohl, Casey Neistat, etc. 

Photo by Philipp Klein Herrero

Among your rich body of work, do you have any photographs (photo series) that stand out to you as a favorite?

What I’m most attached to are the stories behind them: you might see an image of a mountain with a climber in it, but to me it’s the story of someone determined to get up somewhere, waking up in the middle of the night, carrying a heavy backpack for hours and living the adventure. That’s why I feel attached to my images because it’s all stuff I am living too: I’m there and doing the same route and experiencing the same. My job is to condense those experiences into images and hopefully transport the viewer into the same adventure.

Out of all the gear you use, are there any you cannot go without?

Starting with a camera body, my first go-to lens for adventure/action is an ultrawide angle lens. If I can bring an extra lens I take a lightweight telephoto and maybe a compact prime. But the wide lens is always with me. 

 Your work includes breathtaking examples of outdoor photography. Do you have any settings you'd consider as go-to's?

More than a setting, the first thing to understand about outdoor adventure photography is that you’re always working with compromises. You can’t bring all the gear and need to choose carefully what you will work with. However, instead of a limitation, I see this as a way to boost creativity. Also, understanding how the light changes during a day in the outdoors helps to know how to approach documenting an adventure. The best light is usually early in the morning or late in the afternoon. During midday, the light is usually harsh and might make your subject appear less three-dimensional.

What kind of tools do you use for post-processing?

I follow a fairly basic workflow of shooting, transferring files to two different hard drives for backup (always back up!), and then editing the RAWs in Adobe Lightroom. Some special images get to be edited in Photoshop, but I try to make 99% of my work ready on camera.

Photo by Philipp Klein Herrero

If you were to give 3 pieces of advice to someone starting out as an adventure photographer, what would they be?

Go out as much as you can. Find a group of friends that also like adventures and just keep going out. It helps if those friends are a little more experienced. You’re never going to become great at it by only watching online tutorials or masterclasses. The theory is necessary but until you press the shutter in the field, there are many variables you need to learn to control. Do as much as you can and document it.

Study your inspirations. Take the work from your favorite artists and ask yourself “why do I like this?”, and “what’s so captivating?” And “How can I do this?”. It’s important not to focus on the gear or say “to create this I’d need a different lens or X product”. Thousands of great images have been created on very basic setups, so don’t focus on the technical limitation but on what makes it great.

Understand that the outdoors is a harsh environment (for your body and your camera) and you need to be prepared for it. Get educated, train with guides and learn how the pros do it. Your ability to move safely without compromising others will be a key factor in taking great outdoor imagery, as moving about will be easier for you

Your Youtube channel serves as a source of inspiration and useful information for fellow adventure-seekers. Could you speak more about how the idea for the channel came to be, and your journey on the platform?

My YouTube channel is a very organic and natural evolution of my adventures, mostly as a reminder for myself. I didn’t create it with a specific idea but rather to see my favorite adventures from time to time. It’s nice to share them with friends and family. 

During the pandemic I created a short film about skiing in my living room (“Freeride Skiing at Home”) and it went viral globally. This gave the channel a big boost! But I rarely have time to focus on those projects so I upload mostly adventure vlogs about different activities I’ve done.

Lastly, could you speak about your experience with stock photography (if you have any)? Are there any thoughts, comments, or concerns you have about the industry?

I’m a total newcomer to stock photography. Honestly, I was always interested but found it difficult to navigate all the platforms, choose only one, and dedicating it enough time. That’s why I was delighted to find Wirestock, as it allows to upload to many platforms simultaneously. This is my first foray into stock photography, so I might have a more elaborated opinion in the future. But so far, I love the ability to use the thousands of pictures I had sitting on my hard drive that otherwise would have stayed there forever.