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Outdoor adventure with Kaisa Tiivel

How to get the most out of your action photos.

Kaisa is a passionate action-photographer from Voss in Norway, and a single mom of four children. She has enjoyed photographing her whole life and started more seriously in 2015. After photographing everything from family to real estate, she has now found her niche in action- and wedding pictures.

In May, I was asked by Focus Nordic to write an article about myself and my photography, along with some pictures. I am 32 years old, and I am still not able to say no to things I can't do! So naturally I said yes, no problem at all!

My kids have vacation. I have four of those, small needy beings who are continuously bored. My two boys, aged four and six, are jumping on the couch. They have two nearly teenage sisters whom I cannot spot right now, but I realize that one of my plants needs watering, so I stand up and do it. I know that I am going to be distracted by my kids and myself a lot. I have ADHD, I am a mother of four, I skydive and I love photography. Well, don’t you think it’s a fun combination?!

The article: In July I decided to try for the twentieth time, and actually get it done in the end of August!

As a photographer I consider myself a visual person. I suddenly get an idea in my head and then try to figure out how, where, what equipment, with whom, when? I make a plan! But when photographing extreme sports, especially kayaking where you have only a few options to location and those locations are not always available, then you simply get what you get. Sometimes it feels like I hit a jackpot, other times it's just 'meh'... I have more ideas in my head than I have managed to get on photos, but I am patient, I have to be.

When I think back in time, I always remember those moments with the camera. I remember the weird excitement I got every time I was allowed to have one with me on school trips. But my first memory goes back to somewhere between 1993-1994. I found an old broken analog at my grandparents, it was silver colored. I played with it and pretended to take photos all the time. Until it was gone, my grandpa had thrown it away because it was broken. I got ice cream afterwards. In school I liked taking photos, but I never joined a photo group. I told myself that they were lame, but the truth is, I was too afraid to join. I took photos of a few of my friends and a little bit of nature.

Later on I took pictures of my own kids, macros, little bit of landscapes, riverscapes and nightscapes. And then I began with paid jobs like family photos, babies, a few confirmations and weddings. Then I added a drone! And I was like go big or nothing. I purchased a DJI Inspire, crashed it in the tree. It hit a rock and fell into the river. I sold what was left of it and got a new cooler one, black edition. Unfortunately, the third flight I had suddenly no control over it, and it flew towards a big mountain wall. It got stuck on top of a tall thin birch, still going at full speed. For a second I considered cutting down the tree but instead I climbed up, tingeling there, as soon as I crabbed it I got cuts in my arm. I had scars for a few years before they faded. The drone was in for repair and service for 6 months before they managed to update GPS. I sold it. Now I have Mavic 2 pro.

In 2018 I moved to Voss. Of course, I had to learn slalom skiing. So I went to the resort, borrowed skis and asked where I should go, I had never done it before. The guy pointed towards the kids area, I laughed, no way I am going there! I went straight to the top! Took me an hour or two, but I got down, bruised and disappointed. I forgot to figure out how to stop beforehand. So I went home, straight to the YouTube and added stopping and turning to my skills. Second time, I succeeded.

Soon after I went to photograph skiing. I got a weird happy sensation after every shot. It didn't take long before I was addicted and wanted more! I had a 5D mk2 and 85mm portrait lens. So I had to do all the focusing manually. But I did eventually change cameras and lenses a few times until I ended up with 1DX and 70-200mm. Still my favorite combination.

Early morning at resort with Cato Lægreid. Sometimes simple is best!
Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Tamron 45mm f/1.8
1/2500sek, f/4, ISO 100

Cato Lægreid. Sometimes there is no pow and you need to make best out of what you have, in this case I loved frozen detail formed by wind in the snow and used it on the foreground.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Samyang 14mm f/2.8 Fish eye
1/2500sek, f/5, ISO 100

Cato Lægreid. Again, hard snow, but flakes made photo look quite cool, even though I didn’t do anything with it before 2 years after taking it. Moral-never delete photos you can’t see potential in. Your editing skills and taste in photography will get better and change in time!
Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Samyang 14mm f/2.8 Fish eye
1/3200sek, f/2.8, ISO 100


In summer 2019 I took a skydiving course. I photographed lots of landings and we did many sketchy shoots. Speed is the keyword, as every 20 minutes a new group is landing so it’s a perfect place to practice capturing fast moving subjects.

Since I skydive, I spend lots of time at Skydive Voss, either skydiving, just hanging out or shooting landings. Professional skydivers are really fun to shoot, and they are very keen to do sketchy stuff! And so am I! One of the most fun things I have shot was swooping (aka highspeed landings), with me laying on the ground and Nick Reyes swooping over me as low as possible! Closest shot was so close that he didn't fit on the frame with the ultra wide angle lens. I would never do it with someone I don't know and trust!

Tom Keelan. This was my first time to try closeup photos with skydivers. Since they all know me well and I know them it’s surreal to go and shoot there. It’s like skydivers attacking me by flying over and close by. But if you are not known in skydiving community it’s important to get to know rules for safety and skydivers! I promise that they love to be photographed!
Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Samyang 14mm f/2.8 Fish eye
1/800sek, f/2.8, ISO 100

Karsten Langeland
Sometimes we are bored, and when you are bored then best ideas come around. Smoke-bombes are usually used in freefall or landing and fastened to the ankles. I like to think that I was the first one to add smoke on a landing field. Off course we needed permission due to flight traffic and let the pilot and other skydivers know of our plans with smoke. Only professional and experienced skydivers who work there were allowed to land trough the smoke.
Canon EOS 1DX with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/2500sek, 114mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

After I moved to Raundalen in Voss, by the one of the world’s best kayaking rivers, I got my first taste of photographing kayaking, I was addicted.

My first shoot was with Dag Sandvik who took Sasha Vales Toledano and Mia Derdau with him. I was excited and very confident about my skills. Well, it all went south! I lost one SD card with the better half of the photos, and photos I was left with were bad. On the positive side, I became close friends with Sasha, and with here we arranged many more whitewater kayaking trips for me to shoot!  Unfortunately, she has moved back to France.

Sasha Vales Doledano running one of the three highest waterfalls in Voss, Nosebreaker. Name, as you might expect, comes from broken and bleeding noses after dropping from this one.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/3200sek, 144mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Mathias De Ferrari Bøhme, Mjølfjell.
Canon EOS 1DX with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/1250sek, 74mm, f/3.2, ISO 100

Sasha Vales Doledano, Coffin drop. This is my first good photograph of kayaking.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/2000sek, 123mm, f/2.8, ISO 100


Photographing kayaking has become my favorite thing to do. I spent lots of time by the river, got to know many kayakers and, not least, the river. River is never the same as yesterday, water levels can rise and fall within an hour. Angle of the sun, no sun at all or rain makes it challenging to find a good spot for a perfect shot. Sometimes there are no possibilities to choose at all. The hardest part is running around, climbing up and down, pushing myself through thick bushes, going through swamps and forgetting myself eating berries... Well, that last one is actually quite pleasant!

I will continue with photographing other things though, as it is a good way to practice angles, lenses and gather new ideas to try on kayaking photos.

At the end of June 2022 I was photographing the Extreme Kayak World Championship in Voss. It is not the same as when planning photoshoots, but I did get a few photos I was pleased with.

Adrian Mattern, RedBull athelete playing after qualifications to Extreme Kayaking World Championships 2022 in Voss.
Canon EOS 1DX with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/2500sek, 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Fabian Tandler at semifinals to Extreme Kayaking World Championships 2022 in Voss.
Canon EOS 1DX with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/2000sek, 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 100


Usually I get a call to shoot 30 minutes to 1 hour before meeting at the 'put in'. Quick plan where we are going to shoot is made before everyone gets on the river. From there on communication is close to zero and kayakers own ''sign language'' is used. It took me a good while, with lots of error and trial, before I figured out what they were trying to tell me.

Milky Wave (surfing wave on the river) is a rare sight, it needs a good amount of water and lasts only an hour or two. I had one chance last year, but I loved the results even though it was pouring rain and it was quite dark.

Dag Sandvik playing/practicing on Milky wave.
Canon EOS 1DX with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/1250sek, 154mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Julian Stocker. Also Milky Wave. I am obsessed with how water hugs him in this photo. Dark areas as water itself or rocks make photos more interesting and pleasant to watch. This photo was taken on a rainy evening, and it was quite dark to begin with. I still didn’t use higher ISO than 200
Canon EOS 1DX with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/1000sek, 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 200


On May 17th 2021 (Norways national day) I was asked if I could shoot base jumping. It was my first time. Hiking up the mountain early in the morning in a good company and lots of laughs is an experience itself. But boy I was nervous up there, I am afraid of heights, and for me it felt like I am going to do my first basejump instead of photographing. I was shaking when I was done and had a really fast hike down to safer surface! If you wonder how I can skydive if I am afraid of heights, well, you kind of don't have same sense of the heights at 4000m, it's like watching google maps fly photo in the wind.

Base jumpers over a lake. I was asked to photograph May 17th base jump in Granvin. Lake makes photo very artistic/minimalistic.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/1000sek, 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Ludvig Felix Lorentzen, May 17th, Base jump.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/1000sek, 131mm, f/2.8, ISO 100


Photographing sports in action and unplanned is a very giving way to express myself. I feel excitement when I am on my way to the location. While shooting I am concentrated and capable of thinking fast, it feels almost like adrenaline rushes through my body. After the photoshoot I feel relaxed and happy, excited to see what I got on the big screen. Just like skydiving, but it’s more my kind of extreme sport.

Martin Vonheim and Dag Sandvik asked me to join them in January. After photographing them on Nosebreaker I saw those big ice cubes. This was a must to take photo!
Canon EOS 1DX with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/400sek, 200mm, f/2.8, ISO 400

Manu Vink Wackernagel broke his paddle when dropping from Nosebreaker. It was a scary moment. Without your paddle you are helpless, and waterfall can easily suck you under if you can’t get away.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/4000sek, 182mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8
1/2000sek, 70mm, f/2.8, ISO 100

Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Samyang 14mm f/2.8
1/2500sek, 14mm, f/5, ISO 100

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