ADVENTURE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHER, Christian Pondella, has traveled the world working for the likes of Red Bull USA, Powder Magazine, SanDisk and FSTOP Gear. Pondella has had the opportunity to shoot some of the world’s top athletes. He talks with us about his gear list and how he manages to capture athletes in such an intimate and natural way. Find more of his work at @christianpondella.

After a 4am wake up and climbing and ascending half the mountain in the dark, Jim Morrison emerges above the clouds and welcomes the first light of the day.

What’s your “essentials” list, the gear you need regardless of the location or assignment?

As far as an essential list, I have a lot of gear that varies depending on the type of shoot. I guess the only for-sure thing that comes every time would be one of my Canon DSLRs, a San Disk CF card, and some form of a Fstop bag to carry my gear in. I essentially have two Canon pro DSLRs, around 14 Canon lenses and a variety of lighting equipment to work with with depending on the type of shoot and location.

Charlie Barrett bouldering at the Buttermilks in Bishop, California.

Dave Rosenbarger leads the way on a rare ski descent on the North Face of the Aiguille Du Midi in Chamonix, France

Lonnie Kauk bouldering at the Buttermilks captured in the reflection of Chris Benchetler’s eye.

You shoot in some pretty remote locations and under harsh conditions. Aside from the logistical, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced lately?

It seems like the challenges can come in all different varieties and unpredictably when shooting adventure sports. However, most recently I have been on several shoots that required spending multiple nights in the backcountry approaching by foot and skis, and carrying all of our gear into the mountains. Carrying camping gear, food, camera equipment and everything else you need, my pack seems to be around 70-plus pounds. Carrying a pack that heavy for a 5,000-foot vertical approach seems to be a bit more challenging then actually climbing and skiing the peaks.

Chris Benchetler and Eric Pollard enjoy the serenity of the snowy dark night in Niseko, Japan as they head up the chair for more nighttime pow skiing.

Lonnie Kauk enjoys an evening lap at the Buttermilks, CA. A world-class destination with its beautiful granite boulders, the Buttermilks attracts climbers and photographers from all over the world to experience its stunning beauty.

What’s been the reward for facing those challenges?

A trip like this is incredibly rewarding on several levels. First and foremost I am with a group of friends spending time in the mountains and achieving goals together climbing and skiing several objectives. Producing great content for a client and our sponsors is very rewarding as well. Most importantly having a successful trip where everyone comes out of the mountains safe is ultimately the most rewarding part of any trip!

Eric Pollard catching some air time in Hokkaido, Japan.

Will Gadd climbing the first ascent on a mixed route, Overhead Hazard at Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC, Canada.

The sun has set, the stars have risen and the town of Chamonix, France lights up the beautiful Mont Blanc Massif.

Most of your shoots include other people — athletes, local guides — how does that collaboration impact the individual shots and the adventure itself?

Obviously I could not go on these adventures by myself, well I could, but then I would have no one to shoot. It is paramount that other people are on a shoot with me, athletes of course. Oftentimes there are a lot of pieces to the pie like having a videographer and a bigger production for the outcome then just shooting still images. For trips like this it is important to be with a group of people that work well together, are easy-going, and set some goals and objectives, and collectively work together to achieve these goals. Having a great group of people on a trip makes the experience that much better.

Sasha DiGiulian climbs the first female ascent of Viaje de Los Locos (5.14a – 8b+) in Sardinia, Italy.

What’s your next adventure and when do you head out?

I just returned from a great adventure and have nothing on the immediate horizon. I am looking forward to spending time at home in beautiful Mammoth Lakes, CA where I live and spending some quality time with my wife and son. After a busy winter it is nice to get caught up on some home life and office work and enjoy some outdoor activities.

Will Gadd ice climbing near the summit at 19,000 feet on the glacier ice on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa.