What does a typical photo expedition involve?
Man, I hate to sound so cliché, but there’s really no such thing as typical. Every year is different, and so is every trip. For example, 2016 was heavy on the international travel. I spent three weeks in Chile, six weeks in New Zealand, and in July I was in the Dolomites in Italy for a couple of weeks. And even though those were all international trips, each one was totally different in character.
It was my first time in Chile, for example, and my goal was simply to lay the groundwork for future photography trips. Unless you are extremely lucky or follow a well-trodden path it’s hard to scout a new place and come home with killer photos, because inevitably you’re in the wrong spot when the nice light hits, or you find an amazing location when conditions aren’t great. I prefer to explore areas that aren’t iconic, which means a lot more scrambling and bewilderment, and so my goals for Chile were simply to poke around some lesser-known spots and find places to come back to shoot. In three weeks of traveling (entirely by bus or ferry) I had four total days of good photography and maybe have 4 or 5 shots I’m happy with.
New Zealand, by contrast, was a chance for me to return to a place I know very well, and get a bit deeper beneath the surface. I spent as much time as possible in the backcountry, exploring areas I’d previously marked on my mental map. Since I knew I’d be trekking a bunch, I brought everything I needed to be happy in the wilderness for a couple of days at time. Which meant my pack was heavy on camping and camera gear, and light on just about everything else. And because New Zealand was a very photo-centric trip for me I tried to give myself every opportunity to shoot: renting a car so I could travel independently, paying for guides and excursions to get to unusual places, taking bigger risks with the weather, etc.
My trip to the Dolomites was an entirely different beast altogether because I joined a workshop there led by my friend Erin Babnik. Even though I know first hand that by spending a little time and doing a little research I could have easily set up a great trip on my own, sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do all the heavy lifting, especially when that person is already a Dolomites expert like Erin is. So for that excursion, I really enjoyed turning off my brain, letting Erin handle all the details, and I had a ton of fun shooting a place I’d always wanted to visit. Then after the workshop I spent another week or so exploring on my own.