Posted on June 17 2020
Photographer, surfer, traveler, husband, and father… Peter Amend is a frequent contributor and collaborator for the One Eleven brand (since the beginning, in fact!). He’s provided us with beautiful lifestyle and product photography over the past few years and along the way, we’ve developed an affinity for his positive vibe and general outlook on life. This year, in honor of Father’s Day, we thought we’d take a deeper dive into what drives Peter as a professional and a family man.
111: What drew you to photography and why active and outdoor brands? How did that start?
Peter: My passion for photography started in middle school when my dad gave me an old German film camera on a family road trip through the western states. I remember photographing buffalo while driving through the plains, and shooting landscapes of Zion & Bryce National Parks in Utah. In high school, I started shooting skateboarding and punk rock shows, which quickly became my two favorite pastimes. As I grew older and became more interested in outdoor adventure, my love of photography followed me into new hobbies like hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and eventually surfing and water-based photography.
Initially, my main photography focus was adventure weddings and elopements. That shifted when I was inspired by a friend who was on a similar path. He was transitioning from weddings to commercial work and I loved the idea. Partnering with outdoor brands became a seamless integration into my lifestyle and allowed me to work with companies that have both a product that fits my lifestyle and a commitment to outdoor conservation.
111: What stands out as one of your most memorable projects?
Peter: Last year, I took a passion trip to the South Pacific to photograph humpback whales as they migrated through the warm waters of the Tonga Islands. Every day we free dove off a small boat to interact with singer whales, mamas with young calves, and protective escorts. It was an extremely humbling and striking interaction to be that close and intimate with ocean life. I’d never experienced anything like it and it’s definitely something I’ll never forget.
111: How would you describe your shooting style?
Peter: I’ve always been drawn to beautiful landscapes but often find they’re ‘empty’ without a human element involved. I love inserting a human connection into a beautiful landscape and making an image that evokes some emotion or connection to the earth. When I’m setting up an image, my goal is to make you understand how it felt to be there in that moment. That process generally carries through into post-production and an editing style that is hopefully timeless and lasting.
111: What is your “go-to” minimal shooting setup? Especially on locations that may be more difficult to reach?
Peter: Typically if I’m traveling/hiking, it’s a Canon 5D IV with a 50mm 1.2, 24mm 1.4, and 70-200 2.8. I'm a huge fan of prime lenses, shot wide open when possible, but the compression of a longer lens can be really compelling when you’re trying to isolate your subject. When I’m on location or vehicle based, I enjoy having the redundancy of extra camera bodies, spare lenses etc. since electronics are fickle in extreme environments. Sometimes I like to travel with a small Fuji x100V mirrorless camera, it makes me feel more like a dad than a working professional :)
111: Tips for somebody starting out?
Peter: Shoot what you know! Oftentimes people get into photography trying to do every single thing possible to make a buck, and while it’s a great way to get experience and find what your ultimate goal is, your best creativity will shine through photographing activities and interests that you already have an understanding of.
111: Ok, let’s talk about being a dad. How many kids do you have? Favorite thing to do with them?
Peter: Sarah and I have two sweet little girls, who’ll be two and four later this year. Right now, life is mostly just about keeping them safe and lots of snuggles, but I’m really excited to get them in the water to let them start to explore their own relationship with the ocean. We’ve been putting tons of miles on our baby backpacks, and kid trailer - doing lots of bike rides and hikes on the central coast of California, letting them take in the views while we pedal Highway One. Or hiking the trails in Sequoia National Park.
111: Has your photography changed at all since having kids?
Peter: I’ve really learned to find a lot more joy in the slow, quiet moments. Being a parent is sometimes exhausting and causes you to slow your pace a bit, especially when you’ve had the freedom to just ‘go go go’ and travel till you drop. I’m learning to be intentional with my time, especially if I’m photographing my family for an assignment, and trying to keep it light and make it fun. I’d hate to burn them out on something that’s so special and important to me.
111: How do you balance a career that requires so much travel and family life?
Peter: That is probably the hardest aspect of my career because much of my work takes me away from them. Lately, I’ve tried my hardest to involve them on projects that require travel, and while it’s sometimes hard to bring them along in certain locations, I’m trying to build more work that revolves around their ability to participate. Last fall we put together a little campaign for YETI and traveled to our favorite mountain cabin to shoot some images for a thanksgiving ‘family togetherness’ theme. It was so beautiful to be able to involve them in my work, and seeing pictures of them in the wild.
111: Where are some of your favorite places to go professionally and as a family?
Peter: In the last few years I’ve been really focusing on water-related photography and so we’ve really been enjoying anywhere that’s family accessible with warm water. Oahu is usually at the top of our list - easy cheap quick flights and beautiful ocean culture. One of my favorite mountain destinations is a tiny segment of Sequoia national Park called ‘Mineral King’. It’s a beautiful alpine wilderness spot with tons of hiking and places to explore. The Central Coast of California is another one of our favorite places to be. We’re actually currently in Morro Bay for a few weeks, surfing, cycling, and building sandcastles every day!
111: Any places that you’re dying to take your kids to?
Peter: One of our favorite places is Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Just this morning we had a conversation about how we’re dying to take the kids back to the place we got engaged and stay at the same family hostel we’ve stayed at multiple times before. We took our oldest daughter to New Zealand when she was one, which we would love to do again now that our family is complete. It was such a safe, friendly place to take an infant. We traveled for a few weeks in a motorhome and stayed at sweet little campgrounds all around the South Island and we can’t wait to get to do it again with both kids.
111: Do you have a yet untraveled place you’ve been hoping to go?
Peter: I have a huge longing for some time in South East Asia but it’s just not the right time for our family at the moment. I’m excited to make that a reality once the kids are a little older!
111: How has 2020 changed things for you?
Peter: The funny thing is, my wife quit her job as an RN at the start of 2020 so we could spend the entire year traveling together. Our word for the year was ‘togetherness’ - so even though COVID changed almost all of our plans for the year, it was still important for us to embrace a year of spending time intentionally as a family. Thankfully we had a good amount of savings put away, which ended up being really helpful since I lost a lot of work. But thus far, it’s been a wonderful time to connect as a family and spend time doing things we otherwise wouldn’t have had time to do like remodeling our side yard and making a cozy gazebo area, organizing the gear garage, selling extra stuff, and tons of other home projects that often aren’t prioritized.
111: You once did a journal post for Teva where you said we need a new word for ‘adventure’ and listed several international terms for the feeling of wanderlust and the restless need to travel. Do you have a favorite amongst them or have you finally found the new word for adventure?
Peter: I’ve always felt the word ‘Adventure’ was a little vague and diluted. I still haven’t found the right word that sums it up but I love the Swedish phrase ‘Resfeber’ the restless race of the traveler's heart before the journey begins when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together in ‘travel fever’.
111: What does success mean to you?
Peter: I’ve always defined success as doing the things that you love with the people you love. I’ve never thought success was defined by financial achievement but rather being able to involve your own loves, passions, people and interests, in what you do.
111: So what’s next? What should we watch for?
Peter: Haha! That question would’ve been easier to answer earlier this year. I guess I’m learning to embrace change, pivot to a new direction when necessary, and slow down expectations. I’ve learned to never take travel for granted and be aware of my privilege. It’s hard to say where the rest of the year will take us and I’m trying to hold my plans loosely knowing things could change any moment. I’m also trying to remember that, more than career success, adventurous travel, or a beautiful portfolio, my family and friends are more important to me than anything. And also that, in the grand scheme of things, my ‘job’ is just a job. Hopefully, you can watch for more long-term relationships with brands that I love. I think a great measure of success in my industry (or any industry, really) is having longevity with clients. That’s always been a value of mine, the long game, intentional relationship, rather than just chasing a buck as an influencer.