How Does A Professional Photographer Tell A Story? Overland’s Luke Madden in Switzerland

In this post, we’ve asked professional photographer, Luke Madden, to tell us a bit about some of his favorite Overland photos in Switzerland. For anyone who aspires to be a professional photographer, these photos and comments can show you how a seasoned pro does it.

I’m always looking for ways to show Overland groups (like this Alpine Explorer group here) fully immersed in another culture or a new environment. These Swiss huts are like nothing I’ve seen in New England (or anywhere in the States really). They stand out starkly against the bright green meadows and snowy peaks of the Alps. Showing a group enjoying a break at one of these buildings really places them in a country far from home as well as showing them connecting during a quiet moment of rest.

Showing the scale of a place is key to conveying the element of adventure on Overland trips. Alpine Challenge has some of the most dramatic landscapes of any Overland trip, and this day hike had the perfect combination of fog, sun, flowers, and snowy peaks. I asked the group to hike ahead of me and had to use hand gestures to communicate where to stand while I took this with a telephoto lens. The telephoto compacts the landscape giving it proper scale in relation to the group, but it means I have to be far away from the group to shoot it.

This is an example of me trying to fit as much “Swiss” into a photo as I could. The traditional wooden buildings of the Alps, the Matterhorn in the background, the Swiss flag, and of course an Overland shirt front and center. Hiking in the Alps means hiking through small villages perched on the sides of mountains, and that traditional way of living in the summer months is a spectacular backdrop and an inspiring lifestyle to witness.

Hiking the Mettelhorn is the coolest hike I’ve done. It starts with a steep uphill right away to leave Zermatt then levels out a bit (but not much) through a tiny mountain village and past a hut which was our lunch spot. When this Alpine Challenge group emerged into the snowy Alpine zone and the view of the Matterhorn opened up, I knew this was going to be a stunning peak–and it was just that: a literal peak of pointed rock. This is one of my all time favorite drone shots from anywhere in the world.

This is one of those photos I knew was a catalog cover shot the moment I set it up. I took this during my first trip to Switzerland in 2013, and was still getting used to the landscape and stunning views in every direction. When I saw this outcropping of rock, the composition came together in my mind quickly. Showing the single file line of Alpine Challenge hikers while also being able to see each face requires a certain angle and height above the group and this one lined up perfectly. 

Luke has been photographing for Overland since the role was created around 2010/11. Working with the Overland team, the role of Overland photographer has evolved into a critical means of sharing the Overland story with families, leaders, and the outdoor community. Luke has traveled across the country, to the Virgin Islands and Costa Rica, and throughout Europe to capture the experience of Overland’s students. During the rest of the year, Luke lives in Maine and does freelance work for a number of nonprofits which specialize in education and research/conservation.

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    Tom Costley

    When Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, he sought to create experiences for young people that were fun, where new friendships could grow, where natural beauty was embraced, where there were real and varied challenges, and where Overland’s students would achieve something of importance to them. Overland’s focus on small groups, carefully crafted trips, and superlative leadership has made it a leader in the summer camp world. Overland’s commitment to excellence in everything it does has led to its success: over the past four decades, Overland has served 40,000 students and 5,000 trip leaders. Tom writes about the outdoors and travel from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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