The Trip: Selecting a Location

In Australia I spent a year photographing endemic birds like this Rufous Treecreeper (Climacteris rufa) - Dryandra Woodland Preserve, Western Australia

When I first begin to dream of The Trip, it usually has something to do with a major theme whether that is a location, a specific species, or a biological concept.  My time in Australia in 2006-2007 was all about endemic birds of Australia.  The first half of 2005 was all about photographing the Everglades region.  My past few trips to Costa Rica have been focused on the cloud forest and in particular, the canopy.  For every major trip and project there has to be a theme.

I’ve dreamed of numerous trips and even planned a few fairly well until reality hit and life got in the way.  I’ve planned nation wide, year long road trips.  I’ve dreamed of several months in Ecuador or Peru photographing birds.  I’m even currently envisioning a project lasting years that would take me across the globe.  However, the reason these trips haven’t happened is two main factors and they typically are connected: money and time.

If you work a “real” job full time, how can you justify to your boss that you are going to disappear into a remote jungle for a month or two and then expect your job to be waiting for you when you return? This is the United States after all.  You might be able to pull that in some countries with better vacation laws but chances are it isn’t going to work here.  I wish I had a good answer for you.  I don’t.  Will telecommuting work?  Will you have a good Internet connection where you will be?  Depends.  It’s really a personal ordeal and I wish I had a perfect answer for you.  Try reading the Four Hour Workweek for some ideas though!

So let’s say you get the time free and have the cash to not only fund the trip but cover your normal expenses back home like rent or a mortgage, insurance, etc, etc.  Where do you go?  For me, there are several different approaches.  First, you can spend a lot of time in one particular place becoming intimately familiar with the area and making new and different photographs because of your local knowledge.  I took this approach during my time working on Everglades Imagery.

Or, you can take the flipside and go somewhere where the diversity is incredible.  Pick a place where the diversity is so high that you can capture a whole bunch of different subjects and create an essay that way.  I took this approach for Of Emus and Fairy-wrens, traveling 40,000 miles to photograph nearly 400 species of birds in a single year.

Both approaches work and both are huge personal challenges.  Professionally, both have different marketing values.  In the Everglades, I took my photographs and my experiences and wrote a book exploring the intricacies of the science behind the Everglades.  In Australia, I have a few pictures of a wide variety of species and I am able to publish field guide type images, but not thorough species profiles.  I also have my experiences that will be compiled into a book in the near future.  The former project was all about a place, the latter about a theme, endemism.  It’s all about your approach.

Getting into the backcountry of the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp is my main focus for this trip.

For this trip, I am doing a bit of both.  I will be heading back to the Everglades for about a month.  During this time, I’ll be focused on spending time in some of the more remote areas of the Everglades, mostly backcountry locations seldom visited by most of the general public and photographers.  I’ll be hitting a half dozen or so locations and spending a few days in each.

Afterwards, I’ll be moving my way up the peninsula spending some time focusing on specific species.  I’ll be creating a multimedia species profile of Florida’s only endemic bird, the Florida Scrub Jay.  I will be focusing on not only the single species, but also the unique scrub habitat and the other species that live there.  This in depth focus on a specific species, even if only for a few days, will result in more than just a few field guide style photographs, but allow me to capture more behavioral shots.  After the Scrub Jays, I may move on to focus on a few other species like the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, but that will all be time dependent.

So, when you get the opportunity, where will you go?  What is your dream trip?  Why does this subject or location draw you?  Let’s hear about it!

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  1. I have so many ideas, I won’t even try to put them all here. Great post though. Tim Ferriss has some great ideas. Hopefully sometime soon you can travel to support material to post here!

  2. Drew, sounds like a great trip you’ve got planned and I have to say I’m a little envious. My dream nature photography trips :

    New Zealand – unbelievable landscapes
    Australia Outback – I’m intrigued by the rugged landscape and the Aborigines.
    Cross Country US – Northern Route – I’d like to photograph many of the small towns and sights along the way.
    Many more…. 🙂

  3. @SBE – that is my hope too! I think this spring will produce several months worth of blog posts!

    @Earl – New Zealand is on my list as well. I had hoped to get there while I was in Australia but decided I’d go back when I could really spend some quality time there. The Aussie outback is unreal so do everything you can to get there!

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