By Peta Owens Liston
For Troy Boman, surveying the river happened first as a river guide for Holiday River Expeditions in the nineties and second when he segued into the role of a professional photographer. Like a sports photographer who plays football can anticipate certain football maneuvers, Troy can read the river and plan for the image he wants to capture. He’s in his element. Below, Troy shares some of his photography experiences and tips for budding photographers (a.k.a. guests on these trips) gleaned from some half-dozen river trips. Troy’s images.
What was the trickiest river trip you’ve photographed so far?
It’s hard to say which one was the trickiest, they all give and take away different moments. Each moment has its own pace; it is a challenge to be in the right place at the right time.
I remember a few years ago on the Yampa River, it was a historical high-water year. unbelievable really. The speed at which the boats were passing by made me realize that I had to adjust my usual ways pretty quick. When the first boat flew by, I just got bushes. When the second boat came along, I was ready and got it riding some phenomenal rapids. As far as rapid shots go, these were some of my best.
What is it you are looking for or honing in on?
I’m really keen on the emotional piece that a photo can capture. To do this, I do tight shots, close to people’s faces, and always look for the eyes. I look for the peak of the emotion being experienced; it might be someone telling a joke and getting the laughter, the thrill of hitting a rapid, people engaged and animated around the campfire. On these trips, there are so many of these moments.
What is one of the best moments you caught on camera?
Well, on that high-water trip on the Yampa, I got some of Kevin White, one of the guides, navigating Warm Springs Rapid at an all time high. The series of images of him hitting the waves conveyed excitement, high action, and intensity.
It’s the simple stuff too though. There is one image I really like of a couple kissing in a meadow. It’s adorable really. They were packing up their tent and the light was beautiful, and they didn’t see me so it was natural. Of course, I gave them that photo.
As a photographer, has anything unexpected come up that was a good surprise or required some adapting?
Well, I’ve learned how unreliable the sunrise and sunset is; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woke up before the sunrise and it didn’t happen. I mean it rises, but there is no drama to it. You want sunrises and sunsets aglow with beautiful colors. When it works, it’s great, that’s what makes the good ones special, otherwise you shoot what the morning or evening gives you.
A heart-stopping moment was when my camera was on another boat and it flipped. I was a guide at the time and usually had my camera gear with me. I had just purchased a waterproof case from my neighbor, so I sat there hoping it really did work. It worked. Now my gear is all weather-sealed so it’s designed to be somewhat waterproof, for example I can shoot in the rain. The real culprit is the sand—sand on the beach, sand in the water, sand in the air. After each summer, I get my cameras cleaned professionally. And sometimes after each trip.
Why are these trips rich in photographic moments?
Like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. It’s scenic–I’ve always got an amazing backdrop. Plus everyone wants to be there. It’s not like you have to find fun shots while people get on and off a tour bus, these people are riding the river and having fun. The experience makes people more relaxed and open so that makes my job easier.
Suggestions for capturing our own river trip memories for the future or for Facebook?
Be fluid—there’s really no limitation on how many photographs you can take, so don’t be afraid to take lots of pictures. I took more than 3000 exposures on a six-day river trip. You can always delete what you don’t want.
Is it work or play?
I love being out in this element and capturing photos but it can be a lot of work. On one of the bike trips I photographed, I pedaled ahead to get the shots of the upcoming group. Then I’d pack my gear and pedal to catch up to them again. Then, once again, I’d pull ahead of them for the next set of shots.
When the sun starts going down, and everyone is relaxing and having a beer, that’s when it is time to go to work again. The lighting is perfect, people are easily accessible (not on separate rafts), and happy.
I also spend a lot of time looking for new angles or messages to convey through a photograph—when I’m gleaning through thousands of photographs, I’m looking for the ones that carry a strong feeling and message.
I’ll spend a lot of time composing a shot and I’m always aware of the where the elements are in the frame, how they relate to each other and what that relationship might mean, but I’m also looking for what French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the “decisive moment”* – you only get one.
*Henri Cartier-Bresson, known as the father of modern photojournalism, described the decisive moment in an interview with The Washington Post in 1957: “Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”
Have you been on one of Holiday’s trips? If so share a photo or written description of your own “decisive moments” from a river or bike trip.
Peta Owens-Liston is a writer and editor with extensive experience in magazine writing and marketing communications writing. Publications she has written for: TIME Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Women, Organic Style, Paddler, Redbook, Via, KUER/NPR affiliate (radio essays), Park City Magazine, Salt Lake City Magazine, The Salt Lake Tribune to mention a few.