“Hi, I’m checking in for Terranova,” I say, half awake and lugging my copious amounts of backpacks hanging off my shoulder. My free hand already has my credit card and driver’s license outstretched to the attendant like clockwork. It’s 8:00pm and I’m finally arriving to my new hotel, a new location and end of a new day but the routine is exactly the same. With my key to my new ‘home’ I make sure to write the room number down on my phone because they all start to blur after a while (I’ve forgotten what number THIS time too many times). After waiting for the elevator to climb a few floors in what seems like an hour and shuffle my things through the heavy room door -- I finally arrived. It’s not until the door slams closed behind me do I consider my day DONE.
The life of a traveling photographer isn’t necessarily a glamorous one – and I take the term traveling to a whole new level. The social media posts of beautiful people, horses, and barns are just glimpses into my sometimes ten hour days of driving, shoots, and an unhealthy amount of stops at Starbucks.
I need a new term, because traveling just doesn’t cover it these days. Is traveling for three to four months straight actually traveling anymore, or is it the evolution into some sort of strange nomadic lifestyle made up of just horses, hotels, and photo sessions. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone else in this industry does quite what I do, and I’m not sure if that is necessarily a good thing.
That's it, the Nomadic Equine Photographer.
It’s definitely cool to say I have hundreds of sessions, that I drove over 20 hours at least, over multiple states and countless days. Is it cool living off of fast food, editing into oblivion, and never seeing family, friends, or even riding horses? Not really. It’s a sacrifice I have to make every time I book a new location and travel to a new state. I honestly wish that I could have two of me, preferably maybe four, that could get to every location, every shoot, and every equestrian that has been begging me to come for months, sometimes even years. I still get messages asking when I’ll come to this state and that state – and as much as I wish I could, I never even know if I’ll ever be able to consider it. Maybe I need five Giana’s….
The editing is the worst. There is nothing less I want to do after working all day than to get back to my hotel and start to work again. But with sessions piling up I have no choice but to keep on chugging through. Even taking a break to eat dinner or take a shower seems inconceivable. What is a quick twenty minute session with the horse is actually hours and hours of editing and perfecting the final image that you finally receive. I wish my turn around could be sooner, and that all of my clients could get their images immediately – but that is yet another sacrifice as the nomadic photographer.
Don’t let this be a letter of indignation – because I truly love my life. I work my butt off for a few months out of the year so that the rest of my time can be spent doing what I love – riding horses. I put myself into this situation all on my own – but let this be instead an insight. One for those wanting to “be me” and truly experience the nomadic photographer lifestyle, here are a few things I’ve learned.
01. Too many episodes of Law and Order – or perhaps not enough?
For the most part, I’m traveling entirely alone. On occasion a friend joins me on my journey, but it’s not for long. Sometimes I’m familiar with an area from visiting on multiple occasions, but other times I’m kind of in the dark. Being a 5’1’’ young girl, traveling alone comes with it’s own dangers. I’m always very cautious of my surroundings, constantly keeping an eye out for anything that looks suspicious and avoiding putting myself into situations that aren’t the best. Perhaps watching too many episodes of Law and Order has made me paranoid, but I still check under every hotel bed and inside every hotel closet, and practically live with the safety lock clicked on. Picking hotels that I can depend on is also super important, I’d rather pay extra for piece of mind than go for a cheap sketchy option just to save a few dollars. That being said, no place is truly entirely safe, so keeping your guard up is just a must.
02. I own stock in Starbucks by now
If you didn’t like Starbucks before (who are you??) you better like it now. The only resemblance of normalcy for me is that there will ALWAYS be a Starbucks. No matter where I go, that little green mermaid design will guide me to caffeine addiction no problem. Not only that, but it provides a safe haven of fast Wifi and electrical plugs that can become my temporary office at any point. Plus, it always seems to provide me with some form of entertainment, as seen by my chronicle of events fondly named #myofficeisstarbucks. Maybe one day I’ll put them together in one ironic coffee table book.
03. Harrington is my only true travel buddy
Yes, I’ve named my car. Harrington was my first car I purchased entirely myself and it’s one of the best things that happened to my Nomadic Photographer lifestyle. You are going to be spending A LOT of hours in a car, so you better have a vehicle that you will practically exist in. My little Subaru Crosstrek is pretty easy to drive with good gas mileage, has enough trunk space to fit my entire life – oh and an AUX cord to play music and Podcasts into oblivion.
04. Podcasts save lives.
Pure torture is driving hours and hours listening to the same songs over and over again. Music only provides mental relief for a half hour, at most. When you start to feel your brain dissolving into mush – try downloading some Podcasts. They are truly life changing on those long drives, and often times I don’t even realize that time has even passed. My personal favorites are My Brother, My Brother, and Me (a comedy advice podcast) and The Adventure Zone (yes I’m a dork, but it’s SO GOOD). Whatever your poison, there’s hundreds of Podcasts to pick from.
05. Ground Control to Major Tom
Don’t forget that your friends and family exist. Take some time out of your day to text and call the people back home so you can remember that home does exist from time to time. It gives you something to look forward to and take your mind off the days and weeks before you. I’m not ashamed to say I have hour long conversations with just my Mom alone, not really able to offer a lot of information myself, but just hearing how things are on the other side of the country is helpful for my psyche. I do have to apologize if I disappear off the face of the earth for months on end – I promise that if I miss your texts and never answer back it’s not because I’m ignoring you – I probably forgot by accident or I’m taking advantage of the few hours of sleep that I can get.
I hope this post doesn’t discourage anyone from become a Nomadic Photographer – in the long run, the way you run your life is entirely up to you. I’m young, with no real responsibilities or anything holding me down – so I’m planning on doing this for as long as I can; because I can. That freedom alone makes the long hours, days, and months worth it.