Ian Finch: The Guide

Former Royal Marine Commando, Ian Finch, is an adventure and outdoor brand photographer, expedition guide and journalist who's been exploring remote environments for over 10 years

"The more experience you have of risky situations, the more comfortable you get with handling risk."

You’ve tackled huge expeditions in different environments around the globe. What motivates you to put yourself in such challenging situations?

For me, it’s all about storytelling - that’s what I’m most passionate about. Telling stories of people, cultures, and traditions from places far away. I’m especially interested in stories between people and their relationship to the environment, and their traditions. All of my trips have had a cultural thread.

Why is looking into the past important?

I believe in the importance of traditions and heritage - they’re a link to the past. If we don’t tell stories of heritage, we lose things, such as languages, for example. I have a romantic perspective of the past, and I love looking at old traditions and the ways that cultures engaged with nature and their surrounding environments. There’s so much we can learn from that.

How do you manage risk and minimise the chance of getting injured, or worse, on an expedition?

Risk is good and risk is necessary. I manage it with good preparation. While planning an expedition, I visualise all of the potential problems that could occur, and make plans to mitigate all of those risks. The more effort you put into planning, the risk drops. Of course, the more experience you have of risky situations, the more comfortable you get with handling risk.

©Jay Kolsch
"Fear is completely normal. It focuses you and switches you on."

What about fear?

First of all, fear is completely normal. It focuses you and switches you on - you’re hyper-focused when you’re afraid of something. So that type of fear can be a good thing, but then there’s the other types of fear that you can feel on a day-to-day basis: fear of being judged, fear of failure, not being good enough, etc. I definitely feel those - I fear how my expeditions will be viewed, not only by others, but also how I’ll view myself.

What’s your next mission?

I’m heading to Northern Australia to study, research and learn about aboriginal dreamtracks and songlines. The history of dreamtracks and songlines goes back many thousands of years in aborigine culture. When a member of a family passes, a song is associated with their death and this song passes up and down the dreamtrack for eternity, and hundreds of these permeate the Australian landscape.

The people walk the dreamtracks singing the songs to honour their ancestors. This year, I am going to walk two 60km dreamtracks with young aborigine tribal members, learning about the songs and land skills. These songlines themselves have not been walked since the 1940s (by aboriginal members, no white people have ever done it).

There are no trails or tracks visible on the ground, so there are a lot of unknowns. Along the route, I’ll be giving my photography and recordings taken on the journey to the local people to express my gratitude.

©Kev Merrey

Ian's desire to record, capture or lead expeditions in unfamiliar corners of the globe is driven by an urge to learn about traditions from the native cultures that call them home. Ian's major expeditions and creative journeys are linked with this cultural thread as part of his Traditions First lifetime project.