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Adventure Awaits: Hiking, Cycling and Photographing with Leonardo Brasil

An outdoor adventure is always exciting. Bringing a camera along can make a world of a difference. Sometimes snapping a photo while out on a hike c...

An outdoor adventure is always exciting. Bringing a camera along can make a world of a difference. Sometimes snapping a photo while out on a hike can leave you with a lasting memory, a print to sell or a story to tell.

For Leonardo Brasil, seeing the Rocky Mountains changed the course of his career.

Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Leonardo is now a professional photographer based in Denver, Colorado. He is passionate about visual storytelling, good coffee and self-supported bike adventures.

We connected with Leonardo to learn why he loves photography, how his experience in the cycling and running industries impact his work, his go-to gear and more. Scroll on to read our interview and make sure to follow along on our Instagram this week (@photoshelter) as we share a handful of Leonardo’s stunning landscape, cycling and adventure photos.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. Cover image by Leonardo Brasil. 

How did you get your start as a photographer?

LB: I’ve always liked to take photos as a kid with my dad’s old film camera, but I guess I only began to take photography seriously just a few years ago when I moved to Colorado and had my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.

What drew me to landscape photography was the desire to tell stories about my adventures in the outdoors, but soon I realized that looking through the camera’s viewfinder was changing the way I was experiencing nature. My hikes began to take place hours before sunrise and ending way past sunset, but the pinnacle of my so-called “transformation” was when I saw myself carrying a 50lb pack into the mountains so I could sleep closer to what I wanted to shoot with the morning light.

My goal as a photographer is to inspire people to go out and explore this beautiful world we live in.

Leonardo Brasil

Deep in the San Juan Mountains, there is a sadistic, grassroot 100 mile race called the High Five 100. This was my second time photographing it. In this picture you can see Kent making his way up Wetterhorn Peak, the second 14er of the race.

Why do you love photography? 

LB: I love telling stories! The bulk of my work is based on storytelling and it has been like that since I picked up a camera for the first time. Photography gives me the excuse to go explore places and submerge myself in different cultures. I never thought I would be able to make a living out of my passion!

Your experience as a cyclist and trail runner certainly has an impact on your work. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

LB: Absolutely! Most of my assignments are in the cycling and running industries, and I believe the reason why that works is because before I became a professional photographer, I used to hang out a lot with professional runners here in the Front Range, and they began “marketing” my work to their sponsors, who in turn started to reach out for specific photoshoots. Community is everything in this industry, it’s all about who you know. 

My experience as a cyclist and trail runner allowed me to better represent both the sports in photographs as well as it gave me the fitness to chase athletes without slowing them down, and that’s an invaluable skill to have. There’s nothing worse than being the weak link on an expedition.

On this “photoshoot”, I was following the professional ultrarunner, Cat Bradley, on a 16 miles run in Nederland, Colorado, while carrying my full camera equipment on my back. Safe to say that I couldn’t quite walk for a few days following this run, but stoked I was able to keep up until the last 4 miles haha

Tell us about your gear. What cameras, lenses, tools and programs do you typically use on your travels? What’s one piece of equipment you can’t live without and why?

LB: My gear choice varies a lot depending on what I am shooting, but here’s what it usually looks like:

Landscape: Nikon D850, Nikkor 20mm f1.8, Nikkor 24-120 f4, Tamron 70-200 f2.8 G2, Benro carbon tripod, B+W polarizer filters.

Commercial & race coverage: Nikon D850 (main) D750 (backup), Nikkor 20mm f1.8, Tamron 70-200 f2.8 G2 – yes, there’s a big gap between 20 and 70mm, but I found that I rarely shoot in those focal lengths. Everything goes inside of either an Fstop Loka UL or Guru UL.

Adventure bikepacking trips: Ricoh GRIIIx – Portability is a must on multi day expeditions on a bike. I need something that I can reach without having to stop and swing a backpack or fanny pack around to grab a DSLR (or mirrorless). The Ricoh was the perfect choice. It has an APSC sensor, an incredibly sharp lens and it fits right at my Revelate Designs feedbag (I’ve shot multiple stories for big brands using this little camera and even have had images printed in magazines – it’s that good!).

I edit everything on Adobe Lightroom Classic.

One piece of equipment I can’t live without: a bicycle. I live a car-free lifestyle where I use my bike for 80% of my daily tasks and jobs. Most of my assignments are in the cycling industry and I try to avoid motor vehicles as much as possible.

I’ve been bikepacking since 2019, and it all started from my passion for cycling and backpacking. None of us three own a car. My bicycle represents freedom, health and is the optimum way for an introverted person to meet people. It breaks barriers and facilitate interactions among strangers. I made this image on my latest tour across Colorado in late September of 2022.

How long have you been using PhotoShelter? How does it help with your creative workflow and/or your photo business?

LB: I’ve been using PhotoShelter for 6 years I believe. It was the first platform I’ve ever used and never felt the need to change. It has everything I need in a single place, from effective templates, to backup photo storage. It makes delivering images to clients a much easier and pain-free process.

Anything else you’d like to add or promote? We’re happy to share!

LB: I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to share a bit of my story! I also feel the need to say that I’m not an ambassador/sponsored by any of the brands mentioned above, everything was bought with my own money.

If you want to see more of Leonardo’s work, follow along on Instagram (@photoshelter) this week as we share a selection of his photos for a dedicated Instagram takeover.

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