Dialed In: Field Mag’s Graham Hiemstra on the Intersection of Good Design and the Great Outdoors

July 24, 2023

Graham Hiemstra is the founder and editor of Field Mag and an NYC-based photographer and writer with over a decade of experience covering style, design and outdoor lifestyle. He created Field Mag in 2016 to cover what other outdoor publications at the time weren’t—good design and the great outdoors from a style-focused city dweller’s perspective. 

Read on to learn more about Field Mag and get Graham’s insights on the best surfboard for embracing your inner kook, film photography and a very versatile spork. 

Tell us about Field Mag. 

Field Mag is a digital publication for lovers of good design and the great outdoors. Adventure photography, gear news and reviews, and cabins, cabins, cabins—that’s our bread and butter. The mission is to cover the outdoors from an aesthetics- and style-focused city dweller’s perspective—to make the outdoors feel more accessible and more approachable. While the other core outdoor mags speak to folks in Jackson Hole or Salt Lake City, we’re speaking to outdoors lovers in NYC, LA, Austin, Seattle and so on. 

What led you to launch a publication like that? 

I grew up very outdoorsy in the Pacific Northwest—snowboarding, skateboarding, hiking, spending summers on Mt. Hood at my family’s little forest service cabin. Then I moved to NYC in 2011 and fell into writing about design, architecture and fashion. After a few years of that I saw the first cracks of a culture shift and gambled on combining both experiences, assuming I wasn’t the only person who enjoyed the outdoors but lived in a major city. So in early 2016 Field Mag was born. And the audience is still growing.

Why is design important in the outdoor space? 

Because function alone won’t make an experience memorable. The best products blend form and function with equal emphasis. At the end of the day, if you look good you feel good, and having confidence in the outdoors is important for making good decisions.

What’s a typical day look like for you? 

Far too often it’s emails and zoom calls. But the beauty of living in NYC is I can hop on a train and be surfing at Rockaway in Queens in an hour flat. Fifteen minutes on a bike I can be in Central Park spinning laps or bouldering at Rat Rock. Or I can go trail running at Prospect Park over in Brooklyn. The best days I jump in the old jeep and drive four to five hours north to the six million-acre Adirondack Park, the largest publicly protected natural area in the lower 48. But most days it’s just emails, sharing those beautiful experiences other folks are having on fieldmag.com

Who makes up the Field Mag team?

Field Mag is really just myself and three other part time folks. The crew is based in NYC, Boston, Philadelphia and Burlington, VT. Everyone comes from a heavy outdoorsy background, with a lot of media and agency overlap. It’s a fun crew—shout out Tanner, Ellen, Bob and Chris. And all the dozens of contributors elsewhere around the world.

That’s a pretty small crew… are you ever not working? 

I’m pretty much always working, but that’s OK—it gives me the freedom to travel, surf, play hooky, etc anytime I want. Not having to ask someone for permission to take a day off or schedule a trip makes the long hours worth it. Plus, knowing all the rad content we make inspires hundreds of thousands of people a month is pretty rad.

Tell us about life before Field Mag… what was keeping you busy? 

A nice thing about working in the outdoor lifestyle space is there’s always new gear, new cabins, old natural areas to visit. So there’s always something to learn or experience. 

Where are you visiting next? 

Looking forward to hiking in Oregon with my fiancé, dad and cousins this summer. Also heading out to Tofino, BC for an old friend’s wedding—the raw, natural beauty there is unmatched. Otherwise I'm just happy to be in NYC where so much is within reach. I would love to visit the Faroe Islands someday though.

Stoked to see the photos from that trip. Speaking of… what led you to shooting film? 

Both my parents were hobby photographers so when I had an opportunity to take darkroom classes in college I had a camera available and just dove in. Learning with 35mm was really helpful for training my eye and understanding the value of a single frame.

What was your first film camera? Do you still use it? 

Some Canon Rebel 35mm camera I borrowed from my mom. It was manufactured just before the digital takeover though, so it was basically a digital camera (incredible auto focus, light metering, etc) that shot film, which was actually a really helpful way to learn. I could shoot on manual and then again on automatic and review the negatives later to see where I messed up with my own settings. Sadly it’s somewhere collecting dust at my parents’ house.

What’s your go-to camera right now? 

Fujifilm GA645. It’s basically a medium format point and shoot. The image quality makes me never want to shoot 35mm again.

Do you have a trusted spot to develop film? Local? 

Vista CRC in Lower East Side, NYC. I’ve been developing film there for over 10 years. Great folks and quality work. If you’re looking for a mail-in lab, check out our list of 10 dependable photo processing labs here.

Film photography is gaining popularity. Why do you think that is?

Because it’s the exact opposite of everything an iphone is. And in a world where we’re all increasingly anxious and stressed out, doing something that requires concentration, a methodical approach, and restraint, often helps people exist more in the moment. And because a good film photo just feels good to look at.

Any suggestions for beginners looking to shoot film? One camera you’d recommend? 

An Olympus MJU/stylus, Canon AE1 or Pentax K1000. Check out our list of the best film cameras and best point and shoot cameras for more ideas!

How does shooting film influence your outdoor adventures? Or vice versa? 

I like to pack as little as possible, so I know every product and its exact use case. Saves time making decisions and allows for more mental capacity to simply make due and experience the moment. Having a camera and 36 frame (or just 15 with medium format) means you’ll need to think carefully about every frame you make.

How do you choose the right film for certain weather conditions? 

I almost always just shoot Kodak Portra 400. It works. 

What are the challenges of shooting film outside in the elements? 

Cold weather drains batteries, which is the same for digital photography too. Light conditions in snow/winter are tough too. Just pack a weatherproof point and shoot and have fun. Don’t overthink it!

Can you tell us about a time you’ve braved the elements for a good shot? 

I sank my first ever Contax T2 while trying to shoot some cliche canoe photos a few years back. But for a better story, read this awesome article from Field Mag contributor James Barkman and his wild climb of Alaska’s Mount Denali. His Leica M6 did some heavy lifting that trip!

That’s a wild trip. How did you find out about Spot? 

I met Spot founder Matt Randall at a dinner in early 2020 before the Pandemic, and was instantly interested when I learned of the concept.

Why do you think having Spot makes sense? 

Because America’s healthcare system is broken, and working with Spot as a healthy outdoors lover makes sense. 

Which plan do you have? 

I have the Outside+ x Spot plan.

That’s a great option for someone like you who does a bit of everything. What other outdoor activities keep you busy? 

Ultralight backpacking, car camping, rock climbing, riding bikes around town, rooftop drinks and so on. 

How do you balance living in NYC with outdoor time? 

There’s nature everywhere, even in the heart of Manhattan! Also three international airports are within an hour train or cab ride, so when I need to travel to escape farther, it’s easy.

What are your go-to trails in NYC? 

Walk the streets anywhere before 14th street and you’ll see more shades of life than you ever thought possible. Prospect Park has some cool dirt trails to explore, too.

Name one camera you’re taking with you on a hike/walk. 

Contax T2.

Favorite NYC greenspace? 

Prospect Park is tough to beat. 

Go-to NYC beach for surfing?

Rockaway Beach in Queens. 

What board(s) are you bringing? 

Catch Surf Foamie because it gets so busy—better to be safe, have fun and embrace the inner kook. 

Favorite bouldering problem in Central Park? 

The Polish Traverse at Rat Rock is the park’s most famous and frustrating boulder problem. Good luck.

Favorite piece of “outdoor” gear that goes everywhere with you? 

Snow Peak titanium spork. As helpful for eating takeout in the city as while flying as deep in the backcountry.

Favorite place to snowboard out East? Out West? Internationally? 

Stowe in Vermont. Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. Central Hokkaido in Japan.

Where are you grabbing a beer on Friday? Bar? Beach? Backcountry? 

Beach during the day, then city rooftop at night. 

Sauna or hot tub? 


Want to chat about a Spot partnership? Collabs? The best snacks to pack with your spork? We’d love to hear from you.

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