Meet Adrian Mascenon, our final Explorer of the Month for 2017. Adrian’s a talented photographer and solo-hiking enthusiast who can’t resist a good quote. He’s an involved We Are Explorers community member having organised instameets, lead hikes on Explorer Project trips and recently ensured the smooth running of a Canoe Wilderness Escape.

We found out how he keeps his (human-powered) motor running.

aron hailey, adrian mascenon on the canoe wilderness escape, explorer of the month, kangaroo valley, nsw, paddle

Adrian Mascenon
Photo by Aron Hailey | @aronhailey

What’s your day job?

When a sweet gig comes around I work as a freelance photographer, but my bread and butter is made at BridgeClimb Sydney! I coordinate operations and safety up there on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as well as lead groups up and around the old grey lady. Either way, I pay for my passions by doing something I love.

What got you involved/ inspired in the outdoors in the first place?

Unlike some other outdoor renegades, I never grew up with a super outdoor upbringing being toted around on my parent’s wild escapades. It was during high school that I got into the rock climbing scene – and quite frankly became obsessed. I loved to compete and would do so with such a passion, eventually being carried through to a national level.

However aside from the glitz and glam (not really) that came with competition, the fondest memories from climbing were the days spent at the crag, away from the hustle of city life. Snags on a campfire, ticking projects on Sydney’s beautiful golden sandstone. Along with it came a thirst for adventure. Always wanting to explore what seemed out of reach… over that ridge, down that gully, along that river. Before long, the digital world that my life was/is saturated by slowly became less and less enticing and rather, I was drawn to places that remove you from it all and stand to serve as a reminder that humankind was built on a whole lot less.

adrian mascenon, newnes, slot canyon, nsw, wolgan valley

What continues to get you out the door to explore?

The single biggest motivator for me to get outdoors… IS the outdoors. It’s where we belong.

It seems absurd to me that people’s reaction to the outdoors is one of laziness and loathing… people often despise camping and are afraid of getting their head wet – yet will sit back in an armchair and gladly gawk at documentaries and say “wow, nature is so amazing and beautiful.”

Andy Goldsworthy so perfectly said “We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us.”

The ground on which cities are built, the stone from which they are made. The leather that holds our precious armchairs together.

My reason for getting outdoors, apart from the pure joy of exploring the beauty of the planet we call home – is to carry with me my camera; a tool that I can use to show the world “this is your home.”

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” – Sir David Attenborough

What’s an essential piece of outdoor gear you never adventure without (and why?)

The one thing that I never leave without is a canvas drawstring shoe bag that has a very 2000’s print of Cons with red laces on it, and “Adrian” painted just above it. It was gifted to me only a year ago by some overseas relatives that still think i’m 7.

It sounds silly… but a reusable shoe bag to keep things clean is really just the beginning. Laundry bag, rubbish bag, bag for kindling, spare clothes bag, cookware bag, tea towel… It seems every new adventure I find some new weird whacky way to use something I admittedly once scoffed at. The latest – a basic filter to screen out particulates from water before blasting it with a SteriPen or boiling it.

adrian mascneon, bombo quarry, nsw, coastal

Where’s your favourite place to microadventure in Australia or NZ?

I’ve always had a close affiliation to the Blue Mountains of NSW. Such a vast, Jurassic area has a such sense of spirituality to it. Be it the heaving landscape and towering golden walls, or the prehistoric caw of the Black Cockatoos that tease the lumbering canopy. Such variety and such extreme landscapes only a stone’s throw from home; however the more I spend time in the Australian Alps, the more I grow to love the unique and epic personality the Aussie snowy regions hold. Don’t make me decide on just one!

And what’s your favourite activity to sink your teeth into outdoors?

I’m the kind of guy that jumps from one obsession to the next… however the things I’ve really kept a passion for no matter how long of a break I take are snowboarding, scuba diving, climbing and hiking. Anything human powered excites me, and I’ll jump onboard anything new. My latest obsession is Canoeing thanks to the latest WAE Wilderness Canoe Escape, but I’m definitely feeling the allure of technical canyoning as well…

Those are the activities – however my biggest passion in the outdoors is taking my camera along with me. It all began when as a child, I picked up the old camera that my grandfather took with him in, and out, of World War II. Ever since then, photography became not just about capturing the way light creates a beautiful, never to be repeated moment in time, but how that moment in time can hold so much importance as to send a message powerful enough to move people.

Adrian Mascenon, wilderness canoe escape, kangaroo valley, nsw

Big question I know…what camera gear do you use?

Oooo here we go… I’ll keep it short.

I’m a Nikon fanboy. I used to shoot with a Nikon D3, but when that died on me I opted for a D750. At the time (and even now) it’s a monster that’s been stuffed into the body of something that’s way more practically sized. Besides, I simply can’t pass up the incredible full frame bit depth of the raw files! (Nerd alert). I’ve got a whole swathe of gear since I started shooting professionally in 2012, but my go-to lenses are a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 14-24mm f/2.8, in that order. I try minimise the amount of gear I’ll be taking on trips by planning as much as humanly possible. I do research into the areas we’ll be venturing into to try and decide, “Do I need an ultra wide? Maybe I need the 200?”

adrian mascenon, girl in red

The one bit of camera kit that owns part of my soul is my camera bag. I own an FStop Loka camera bag. A burly, and nearly indestructible camera bag with interchangeable camera cells, stuffed into a fantastic hiking pack. Hydration compatible, highly water resistant, a bomber harness and a way of accessing gear without ever putting it down. Sounds like a plug I know… but there’s a reason these bags are suddenly now so popular! I had it before it was cool.

I won’t deny I’m definitely a gear nut; but I’m a firm believer of not letting gear, or lack of gear, get in the way of someone’s ambitions. I’m not one for excuses. If you have a passion and want to get out there and pursue it – get out there and start somewhere… anywhere.

“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have you had any disasters on any of your trips? What happened?

Let me set the scene…

It was one of my first solo overnight hikes, and I was on a mission to make it flawless. I triple checked my packing list and packed and repacked it half a dozen times to make sure it would be efficient and logical. Boots were by the door, the right socks picked out. Pack was loaded and water topped up. Dehydrated meals ready to go along with stove and pot. Sleep system. Camera gear. Maps. First aid.

Now just to pick a day to go!
Yeah I was keen.

One day I suddenly had a shift cancel at work just before I was leaving the house around midday, so I pounced on the opportunity. I grabbed my gear and made a quick escape. On the train down to the trailhead I ran through a mental runsheet of what I was doing and where I was going. I was certain it would be flawless. A perfect winter day, with the sun out and a light breeze… what could possibly go wrong?

You’ve all had it… that sinking feeling that starts in your gut, then squeezes you like a tube of toothpaste, up your gut and into your throat when you realise you’ve forgotten something really important.

Matches. Lighter. My entire fire kit was sitting on top of my desktop speaker by my computer at home… I could picture it! Now I don’t know if you’ve ever had to eat a dehydrated meal without boiling water first, but I was very quickly realising that I either had to hope another hiker at the site would have a lighter – or apologise to my palate, and stomach a cold sloppy meal. The only other dude at the campsite was giving some very strong “go near me and I’ll Ivan Milat you” vibes so I decided the cold meal was my fate.

Just after a quick loo stop.

“What’s this… a match?”
*Follows bread crumb trail of matches to about 20 matches strewn about*
“Well matches are no good without the box…”

*Realises the box may have been blown about by the 60+kmh breeze*

“No. It can’t be.”

It was. About 100m downwind I spotted a flick of red cardboard no bigger than a 50c piece, and lo and behold – not the box, but just the striker strip of the box, stuck in a tree. A few tosses of a stick got me that hallowed strip, and a toasty warm meal was on the cards!

I now keep a lighter in my first aid kit.

Adrian mascenon, the coast track, Royal national park, nsw

Why did you get involved in the Explorer Project?

When Henry first messaged me on Instagram about the Explorer Project, I was in the middle of a creative slump. I was shooting uninspiring photo jobs, and procrastinating about getting outdoors. A cloud of laziness had come over me, and Henry was Gabriel shining through the clouds.

We Are Explorers not only reignited my passion for photography, but dug up my dormant longing for the outdoors from my climbing days – pre four year injury hiatus. Now here exists a perfect marriage of the two – and I’m incredibly excited, and wondrously grateful for such an opportunity to share my passions with such a like-minded community.

What are you most digging about the Explorer Project?

We Are Explorers is doing an incredible job at inspiring a generation to get outside and truly appreciate what the natural world has to offer – and the Explorer Project is giving us contributors the opportunity to facilitate that.

Sure testing gear and going on cool trips is awesome, but it all pales in comparison to knowing that someone could be reading an article of yours, or seeing a photo you’ve created, or dipping into the knowledge you’ve shared and getting out of their seat to experience the same passion for the outdoors.

Adrian Mascenon, Yarrangobilly Caves, NSW, National Parks

What advice do you have for others living (or looking to live) an outdoor lifestyle?

Just go.

Where are you off to next?

I’m currently looking to expand my local knowledge. I want to comb every inch of my hometown National Parks, the Blueys and the Royal, and truly understand the depth of their wilderness. There’s so much beauty that passes right by us every single day; what a waste it would be to let it go unnoticed.Adrian Mascenon, newnes, wolgan valley, nsw, blue mountains

Adrian’s adventures so far…

The Coast Track // Royal National Park (NSW)

An Introduction to Adventuring Alone

Sugar Pine Walk // A Land of Giants (NSW)

Which Hiking Stove Should I Get? // Explorer Review


Feature photo by Tim Ashelford
Portrait of Adrian by Aron Hailey
All other photography by Adrian Mascenon